eLife sets up Communities team to improve research culture

The new team works to promote openness, integrity, and equity, diversity and inclusion in science and medicine.
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eLife is pleased to announce that it has set up a new Communities team to oversee and drive forward its work in all areas of research culture, including the promotion of equity, diversity and inclusion, and efforts to increase openness and integrity in science and medicine.

The team is headed up by the Head of Communities Kora Korzec and Research Culture Manager Stuart King. They are responsible for the annual Ben Barres Spotlight Awards, which support the work of researchers from underrepresented backgrounds, first started in 2019 and now accepting applications for 2021.

Korzec and King have been involved in many eLife initiatives, from establishing the Early-Career Advisory Group to publishing eLife digests and helping the organisation to improve the process of peer review.

“eLife has an ambitious agenda to reform research communication, which we hope will have positive effects on researchers’ experiences,” says Korzec. “As this goal depends on improving research culture, we recognise that close engagement of the research community in co-creating and embracing new policies is a necessary condition for sustained change.“

King adds: “While scientific research has improved our lives in countless ways, it’s not without its problems. Millions of people, all with their own ambitions, values and biases, contribute to science and shape research culture for better or worse. When research fields adopt a narrow set of values, it incentivises unhealthy practices that impact researchers’ wellbeing and perpetuate inequalities. An awareness of these issues and a shared language around research culture has emerged, however, and initiatives such as eLife are now recognising the role we can play, or have been playing, in shaping research culture for the better.”

As part of this wider research culture reform, eLife and other organisations have realised the need to do more to promote equity, diversity and inclusion across science and medicine. King has been involved in a number of cross-sector initiatives over the past year, such as the Joint Commitment for Action on Inclusion and Diversity in Publishing, and the development of trans-inclusive policies to support author name changes. He and the Communities team continuously work on developing greater understanding and sensitivity in this area, and hope to lead by example in the pace of delivery on these values.

The Communities team has also guided eLife in reframing its research culture programme around its three core values of integrity, openness and inclusiveness, with strategies that aim for progress in each of these areas. They encompass efforts to improve how research is conducted and reported, and to build and maintain healthy research communities. This work includes Korzec’s involvement in mentoring initiatives aimed at promoting greater diversity in peer review, such as those carried out in partnership with PREreview.

“Our Early-Career Advisory Group plays a significant role in shaping what we do,” Korzec says. “With their help, we have carried out a wide range of activities to identify and address the issues early-career researchers face in their work and to increase their involvement in the review process, and we developed the eLife Community Ambassadors programme together.”

Damian Pattinson, eLife Executive Director, adds: “There is a real need to improve equity, diversity and inclusion in research. Without it, valuable talent, expertise and perspectives that would otherwise benefit new discoveries can be lost. With the guidance of our team, we will keep working with the community worldwide to create a culture that benefits both science and scientists.”

To read more about the 2021 Ben Barres Spotlight Awards, which are set to be the most inclusive to date, visit https://elifesciences.org/inside-elife/da65c77e/ben-barres-spotlight-awards-applications-open-for-2021.

To view eLife’s updates from January 2021 and July 2021 on its actions to promote equity, diversity and inclusion, see https://elifesciences.org/inside-elife/89170bcd/elife-latest-update-on-our-actions-to-promote-equity-diversity-and-inclusion and https://elifesciences.org/inside-elife/8731145d/elife-latest-july-2021-update-on-our-actions-to-promote-equity-diversity-and-inclusion.

And to find out more about eLife’s work in research culture more broadly, see https://elifesciences.org/about/research-culture.

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eLife is a non-profit organisation created by funders and led by researchers. Our mission is to accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises the most responsible behaviours. We seek to promote a research culture that supports collaboration, diversity and inclusion, and openness, and we support preprints and open-science practices. eLife receives financial support and strategic guidance from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Max Planck Society and Wellcome. Learn more at https://elifesciences.org/about.