2022 eLife Community Ambassadors: First months of activity

128 early-career researchers (ECRs) from 51 countries have been voicing their ideas and discussing global research community needs.
Inside eLife
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Based on feedback from former Ambassadors, this year's programme begins with an eight-month learning and community-building phase. The aim for these first few months is to enable Ambassadors to build crucial relationships with each other and with experts on the topics of responsible research practices, to hone their skills and confidence before we encourage them to take on opportunities for activism.

Building relationships

With two introductory calls (spaced eight hours apart) on February 2, eLife welcomed our third cohort of Community Ambassadors across all time zones. They met the eLife Communities team, the Early-Career Advisory Group (ECAG), and Ambassador alumni. Damian Pattinson, Executive Director of eLife, joined us to talk about the role of the Ambassadors in driving the reform of research communication and improving research culture.

A snapshot of Ambassadors, ECAG and eLife’s Community Manager, Ailís O’Carroll at the end of the Ambassadors Welcome call to kick off the programme in February 2022.
A snapshot of Ambassadors, ECAG and eLife’s Community Manager, Ailís O’Carroll at the end of the Ambassadors Welcome call to kick off the programme in February 2022.

After the Welcome calls and throughout the past couple of months, Ambassadors have met virtually, enabling them to begin building strong, working relationships with each other, forming bonds across the geographical barriers that separate them. The similarities of all ECRs have shone through in each introduction and discussion, from the unfortunate similarities in issues and barriers faced by ECRs across the globe to the common interests in food, music and sports. The Ambassadors have also begun to build relationships with our speakers and the extended eLife Ambassadors network, from the multilingual seminar series speakers to the Reproducibility for Everyone (R4E) team.

Honing skills and awareness

The Centre for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement (CSCCE), a research and training centre that supports scientific community engagement, worked alongside eLife to create an interactive first workshop for the Ambassadors, where each Ambassador could discuss and uncover the community that they represent and how to interact best with them to create impact. Alongside these tips and tricks, Ambassadors worked together in breakout sessions to start brainstorming on the issues each of their research communities faces. The common issues that came to the fore were mental health and leadership in academia. Verena Haage, an eLife Ambassador and Co-Founder of the Sustainable Leadership for Science initiative, went on to lead the discussion on the topic in a global context alongside Nicholas Outa, Mentor at Eider Africa, Moderator at AfricArXiv, and Founder and Director of WritingHub Africa. The call has spurred the Ambassadors to brainstorm ideas on how to create resources and a support system for researchers from all career stages that will cross culture and language.

These are systemic problems requiring systemic solutions! We need to invest in a training system for ECRs, providing the tools and structural support for mental wellbeing and leadership training. As Ambassadors our work will help shape a sustainable research culture for future generations of researchers.” – Verena Haage, PhD

Another issue that our Ambassadors voiced on behalf of their research communities at the CSCCE workshop was reproducibility in research. To hone in awareness and develop skills to make impact, our Ambassadors joined a workshop held by the R4E team in March, where our former Ambassadors Susanne Auer and Nele Haelterman, and current Ambassador Ruchika Bajaj, presented alongside R4E’s Executive Director, April Clyburn-Shein. The workshop introduced reproducibility practices, simple reproducible workflows and a range of tools along with themes of research organisation, documentation, analysis and dissemination to support practical adoption of the new skills.

On April 22, our Ambassador and ECAG alumna, Tracey Weissgerber, introduced Ambassadors to meta-research, or the science of science. This enabled the conversation on reproducibility in research to continue, with a focus on improving data visualisation, transparency, rigour and reproducibility in scientific publications through meta-research practices. Interested Ambassadors are currently brainstorming ideas on how to implement these practices into their work, and consider a collaborative initiative.

Championing Open Science

In March, Chi Kuan, our Ambassador from Taiwan, began raising awareness of our Open Science (OS) mission through the organisation of an "Open Science + Cocktail Competition" event with the Young Investigator Association (YIA) and the Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology, Academia Sinica (IPMB). Researchers discussed open access, preprints and more with a m/cocktail in hand.

Thanks to the support of the eLife Ambassadors program. I hope this event can be the dawn of discussion and shed some light on how Open Science can impact our research and scientific community.” – Chi Kuan

Chi Kuan and the IPMB members at the Open Science event.
“Mocktails in hand and a great sense of research community in mind.” Chi Kuan and the IPMB members at the Open Science event.

This year we also launched the Open Science Champions network to work alongside the eLife Ambassadors programme in supporting researchers to learn and encourage open science practices. This global network is a response to the appetite among researchers to learn the latest best practices for making science accessible and equitable, demonstrated by the growing group of 200 members.

Now within both initiatives, we want to enable each researcher to consider their role in creating a more open and inclusive global research environment, and to facilitate a space and community for all those interested to voice any questions or ideas on promoting OS practices in their local research communities. On April 12, our eLife Community Ambassadors and the Open Science Champions heard and discussed strategies to sustainably advocate for Open Science from our experienced panel of OS advocates: Stuart King (Research Culture Manager, eLife), Hannah Hope (Open Research Lead, Wellcome), Emmy Tsang, (Engagement Lead, Invest in Open Infrastructure, and Co-Director, Open Life Science), Batool Almarzouq (Founder, Open Science Community Saudi Arabia (OSCSA)), and Iratxe Puebla (Director of Strategic Initiatives and Community, ASAPbio).

The intersectionality of issues that prevent OS and other responsible research behaviours from being practised were highlighted by Ambassadors, leading to the organisation of an event in April to introduce the topic of public engagement with research. The event aimed to enable ECRs to understand the importance of effectively advocating, communicating and engaging not only with their fellow researchers, but with the wider public. During the webinar, Emma Dorris, (Programme Manager for the national PPI Ignite Network at UCD, Ireland, and Ambassador alumni), alongside Estelle Raveloartiana (Postdoctoral Researcher at the Sustainable Agricultural Systems and Engineering Lab, Westlake University, China), discussed the importance of conducting ethical research through considering and consulting with local communities, as well as the many different forms of practising public research engagement.

With over 90% of our eLife Ambassadors speaking a language other than English, a big issue that our Ambassadors have highlighted is the struggle to communicate research in their own language. Jessica M. Vélez (the Membership, Engagement, and Early Career Programs Manager at the Genetics Society of America Engagement Department), Abdullah Abood (PhD candidate, bioinformatician and data scientist at the University of Virginia School of Medicine), and Marah Wahbeh (PhD Candidate in Human Genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) were co-organisers of the Multilingual Seminar for Arabic-speaking scientists, and discussed the importance of improving and embracing multilingual science communication within our global research community. The event has already inspired Ambassadors to begin to take action, with Christos Gkogkas, Kanika Khanna, Lamis Elkheir and Lei Zhang translating our introduction and Code of Conduct live during the event and Lamis Elkheir volunteering to aid in organising the 2022 Arabic Multilingual seminar. The Ambassadors discussed their experiences and are continuing to brainstorm ideas on how to embrace and communicate research with their colleagues, the public and through publication in their own and other languages. This was followed up with an influencing skills event 'Empowering Underrepresented ECRs to Effect Change and Broaden Participation' from Fátima Sancheznieto, President of the Future of Research, that has inspired many of our Ambassadors going into the next phase of the programme to take action for Open Science and participate other initiatives in their communities.

Following the initial training and with the developing foundations of their new network, we see Ambassadors already taking actions to create change towards a research culture they wish to see in science. Many are involved alongside the GreenLabs NL organising team for the 2022 SureSymp (Sustainable Research Symposium) to promote the integration of sustainability in science through this symposium. They’ve also been invited to work with the Einstein Foundation Awards programme to create an awards ceremony that will raise awareness of the issues ECRs face globally.

In the coming weeks we will have workshops from Co-Founder and Director of PREreview, Daniela Saderi, on how to contribute to scholarly peer review, centring around issues of equity, diversity and inclusion. The Ambassadors and Champions will engage in a number of science communication events They will discuss disability and inclusion in science spaces with researchers with lived experiences of disabilities, as well as the future of research assessment with the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) and the pioneering team of Young SiTs. To get involved with the next chapter in our eLife Community Ambassadors journey and learn alongside them to drive change, innovate solutions and advocate responsible behaviours across science, join our Open Science Champions network here.

Discuss it all on our Twitter, using #eLifeChampions and #eLifeAmbassadors @eLifeCommunity

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