eLife Ambassadors: Contributions start to bear fruit

Outputs from the eLife Ambassadors programme are beginning to emerge from projects on a wide range of topics – from reproducibility and peer review to mentoring and leadership.

Having connected nearly a year ago, the eLife Ambassadors continue to learn from each other and engage in discussions about responsible practices as a researcher, from research communication to integrity. This shines through in their presence as early-career researcher advocates, sharing their voices and experience in ecrLife blogs, articles in mainstream public science magazines as well as through journal articles. Since November 2019, they’ve collectively given talks in 13 countries as well as on the radio and online, reaching hundreds of their peers in public. Individual Ambassadors have also spoken to their peers over coffee, through institutional emails and on social media, to encourage sharing code, posting preprints, harnessing good practices for reproducibility and adopting sustainable science practices, as well as raising awareness of mental health and gender equality issues. Several Ambassadors serve the community as teachers and mentors, by translating English content into other languages and by developing tools.

A major way eLife Ambassadors share their voice is through the ecrLife blog. Introduced as a platform to amplify voices of Ambassadors and ECRs, Devang Mehta and team have recently relaunched the web platform with a new look, with updated editorial guidelines and accompanied by a move to better software to support editorial review. The relaunch was complete with a brand new twitter channel @ecr_life. The team now invites blog post pitches from anyone.

Working together, fighting bias, and staying well

The Collaborative Science initiative aims to help ECRs to succeed in their scientific collaborations. In the past quarter, they have conducted qualitative interviews of ECRs from a wide range of research fields to identify the benefits and challenges in establishing collaborations. They are currently analysing these interviews and plan to share what they’ve learnt in the upcoming quarter.

Since November, the Anti-Bullying initiative team have completed their survey about experiences with bullying, collecting over 360 responses, and are now writing blog posts about the result and to share recommendations for what institutions and individuals can do to combat bullying in academia. Plans are afoot for a broader campaign to raise awareness and continue to tackle bullying in academia!

The Mentoring and Leadership initiative continues to seek to improve mentoring experiences and leadership training for early-career researchers. With a large team of Ambassadors and contributions from many others in the programme, their work is rapidly coming together in the form of a manual about how to write meaningful recommendation letters for ECRs, to be accompanied by blog posts sharing tips on how to be a good mentee and managing work-life balance.

In addition, two new initiatives have sprung from this group in the last quarter: Gulcan Akgul and Renuka Kudva are taking the lead to focus on mental health and wellbeing for trainees and new PIs, with help from Adriana Bankston; while Amanda Hurley and Sundar Naganathan are investigating career development support for trainees and PIs. The latter team have opened a survey to assess accessibility to and satisfaction with institutional career development resources, the results of which will inform the framing of qualitative interviews they plan to conduct with people who work in career development offices around the world. They are also developing a workshop to deliver training on considering access to career development opportunities when selecting applicants.

Led by Sarah Hainer, the Intersectionality Initiative team aims to promote diversity and inclusion within sciences using an intersectional approach. The outputs coming soon from this group include an introductory blog post about the meaning of the word ‘Intersectionality’ and a report on the results of their survey about support for parents who are also ECRs. The team has also now finished drafting five single-page guideline documents, advising on hiring, writing reference letters and reviewing a grant, all with intersectionality in mind. Several ambassadors are helping translate these one-pagers from English into Spanish, Chinese and Hindi. In longer form, the team have also drafted a lab manual that includes advice on setting expectations for lab members and promoting diversity, inclusion and wellbeing in the lab. They are now welcoming input from other Ambassadors on all these outputs before sharing these with the world, including through a webinar in June to offer training based on their work. Meanwhile, the Intersectionality book club continues: in February, the team discussed Ben Barres’ ‘The Autobiography of a Transgender Scientist’ and they will discuss Angela Saini’s ‘Superior’ next. The Mentoring and Leadership initiative have also collaborated with the Intersectionality Initiative to produce resources for lab management as well as guidance on conflict resolution.

Improving reproducibility and supporting best practices

Bradly Alicea is joined by fellow Ambassadors in an effort to improve data reuse. The Data Reuse initiative team are surveying ambassadors to gauge how researchers reuse data and to what efficacy, from which they plan to understand and report on best practices. Their website includes resources about FAIR data standards, and they plan to update this more in the final quarter, as well as produce a video tutorial about archiving data with version control and using git. They also have a GitHub repository.

The Reproducibility for Everyone project aims to support researchers to conduct reproducible research. Already a major initiative when this Ambassadors programme started, the team develop and deliver educational resources for researchers, and they have been capitalising on their involvement in the programme this year by supporting Ambassadors to contribute to their resources and host their own workshops. Several Ambassadors are hosting reproducibility workshops soon in Spain, India and the USA. The team continue to give talks, develop their content and materials, and are also working on a paper to complement their efforts to stimulate discussion about reproducibility.

With the goal of helping researchers to use statistics well, the Statistical Literacy initiative team have developed a survey to characterise the statistical needs and literacy of researchers across different career stages and in different geographical regions. Having now tested this survey by piloting it with the Ambassadors first, they plan to launch it for wider dissemination soon.

Led by Tracey Weissgerber, a group of Ambassadors are conducting a meta-research study investigating reporting standards for images in research articles in physiology, plant biology and cell biology. The team has been ploughing through images in articles to see how well-described and annotated the experiments and results are. With the selected articles in physiology now done, work continues on plant biology and cell biology articles. Meanwhile, the team is preparing to share their results in a paper, with recommendations on how to better present images in papers as well as complementary teaching materials. In January, Aalok presented a poster about the Meta-research initiative’s work and the Ambassador programme at the National Centre for Biological Sciences’ (NCBS, Bangalore, India) annual meeting.

Supporting early-career researchers to advance their careers

The ECR Peer Review team continue to advocate for involving early-career researchers in peer review. They’ve recently posted a blog about why this is important and have another blog underway about how ECRs can get started as peer reviewers.

Meanwhile, Shyam Saladi has built a tool to help editors who wish to involve ECR reviewers but struggle to know who to invite; when a senior scientist is invited to review and suggests an ECR instead, editors likely pick them. With ‘Trusted Reviewers’, the idea is to capture these endorsements more systematically. The ECR Peer Review team has provided feedback and Shyam plans to launch the early edition of this tool soon.

Through the Fair Funding initiative, the Ambassadors continue to work on a white paper about factors that affect the fairness of funding in science and how ECRs can improve this situation. They have collaborated with the Intersectionality Initiative on guidelines on how to reduce bias in grant review, and continue to collate data on funding for ECRs, with thanks to Amreen, Hugo and Adriana for their help here.

ECRcentral (Twitter) continues to go from strength to strength. First developed in the previous Ambassadors programme to provide a resource for ECRs to find funding opportunities, travel grants and access useful information, the community around ecrcentral.org continues to grow with more than 1500 members now adding information to the database and with the website viewed by over 164,000 visitors from around the world. Aziz Khan, the project lead, has implemented a new feature that now allows users to filter travel grants by the career stage(s) they apply to.

Ensuring science is for the benefit of society

Samantha Seah leads a large team of Ambassadors interested in reducing the environmental impact of lab work. The #LabWasteDay twitter campaign they launched in September has continued to attract attention, with coverage in The Wire and ACS Central Science. The team is planning a blog and working on several articles to continue the conversation, including one led by Melanie Krause. Meanwhile, Rita Mateus has collated a database of companies that provide recycling schemes for labware, to help followers move from advocacy to action.

Theo Sanderson and Aalok Varma continue to lead the investigation into ways to improve the readability of science articles: they showcase various new features in their demo article and they are planning to deliver their final outputs in the last quarter of the programme.

Nearing the conclusion

In the final quarter of the programme, Ambassadors will work on completing their projects and some may plan how they’ll continue to work together after this year’s formal programme finishes. We expect to facilitate various training opportunities, including supporting Ambassadors to train each other based on their initiative topics, as well as arranging training on how to share outputs openly using Github and the Open Science Framework.

Materials produced by the initiatives mentioned above, as well as thought pieces from individual Ambassadors, appear online at ecrLife.org.

The teams with work featured in this piece include:

Anti-Bullying Initiative team: Nafisa Jadavji and Pawel Grzechnik continue to lead, accompanied by Renuka Kudva, Emily Furlong, Gyan Prakash and Sarah Hainer.

Collaborative Science: Started by Stephanie Moon, Susann Auer and Shawn Tan, this project team includes Ding He, Hossein Khiabanian, Laurent Paardekooper, Gosia Gazda, Natalia Bielczyk, Sara Ahrabi, Sarvenaz Sarabipour, Nnaemeka Nnadi, Helen Jiao and Sveta Chakrabarti.

Data Reuse: The team includes Bradly Alicea, Bhavik Nathwani, Marije Verhage, Huajin Wang and Sarvenaz Sarabipour.

ECRcentral: This year, Aziz Khan (lead) is working with Lotte de Winde, Juan Quintana, Cristiana Ferrás, Ding He, Juniper Kiss, Nafisa Jadavji, Ella Mercer, Sithara Wijeratne, Alex van Vliet, Sejal Davla, Elena Gómez-Díaz, Tomislav Mestrovic, Sarvenaz Sarabipour and Sara Ahrabi, as well as contributors outside the Ambassadors programme.

ECR Peer Review: Alex van Vliet, Renuka Kudva and Lotte de Winde are working with Patricia Resa-Infante, Ewoud Compeer, Asmaa Elkenawi, Nele Haelterman, Sarvenaz Sarabipour, Shyam Saladi and Steven Burgess.

Environmental Sustainability: Samantha Seah (lead) works with Arpita Kulkarni, Anzela Niraula, Bente Benedict, Francesco Baschieri, Galina Limorenko, Julie Teresa Shapiro, Lotte de Winde, Melanie Krause, Mischa Olson, Nele Haelterman, Nicholas Asby, Paraskevi Kritsiligkou, Rita Mateus, Sarah Hainer, Sarvenaz Sarabipour, Stephanie McKenna and Sveta Chakrabarti.

Fair Funding: Lotte de Winde (lead), Pari Kritsiligkou, Sarah Hainer, Nafisa Jadavji, Sarvenaz Sarabipour, Sejal Davla, David Eccles, Mansour Haidar, Alexandra Stolyarova, Tai-Ying Lee and Freyja Olafsdottir

Intersectionality Initiative: Led by Sarah Hainer, with contributions from Freyja Olafsdottir, Renuka Kudva, Lotte de Winde, Ashley Albright, Nick Leigh, Stephanie McKenna, Babak Momeni, Pawel Grzechnik, Sarvenaz Sarabipour, Feyza Nur Arslan, Alison Twelvetrees, Vera Dunlock, Stephanie Moon and Melissa Armstrong

Mentoring and Leadership initiative: Led by Sarvenaz Sarabipour, this initiative has received contributions from Lotte de Winde, Humberto Debat, Renuka Kudva, Sarah Hainer, Patricia Resa-Infante, Gulcan Akgul, Feyza Arslan, Shawn Tan, Emily Furlong, Hedyeh Ebrahimi, Natalia Bielczyk, Sejal Davla, Samantha Seah, Nick Leigh, Anton Nathanson, Ding He, Amey Redkar, Michael Sumner, Michael Bartlett, Nafisa Jadavji, Nicholas Asby, Pleasantine Mill, Xinchen Wang, Ziva Pogacar, Nelima Mumoki, Galina Limorenko, Juniper Kiss, Jack Nicoludis, Elena Gómez-Díaz, Chee Wai Chua, Amanda Hurley, Alexandra Stolyarova, Bente Benedict, Chaitra Prabhakara, Adriana Bankston and Aparna Shah.

Meta-research: Images study: Tracey Weissgerber (lead) is working wirth Alberto Antonietti, Aalok Varma, Tracey Audisio, Kaivalya Walavalkar, Mischa Olson, Susann Auer, Iuliia Ferling, Gosia Gazda, Hung Lo, Salem Yousef Mohamed, Tuan Tran and Chaimae Samtal.

Readability: Led by Theo Sanderson and Aalok Varma, contributors to the Readability initiative include Amanda Hurley, Chao Sun, Devang Mehta, Francesco Baschieri, Grant Kusick, Guillaume Lobet, Kif Liakath-Ali, Krishna Shrinivas, Lida Zoupi, Maiko Kitaoka, Nele Haelterman and Sejal Davla.

Reproducibility for Everyone (R4E): The Ambassadors involved with this project include Benjamin Schwessinger, Yila de la Guardia, Yen-Chung Chen, Susann Auer, Stephanie olivier-van Stichelen, Ana Baburamani, Anelda van der Walt, Angela Abitua, Hugo Carignano, Cristian Sandoval, Damar Susilaradeya, Darius Koester, Eduardo Rodríguez-Román, Estefania Mancini, Galina Limorenko, Haifei, Jeffrey Erlich, Julia Riley, Lida Zoupi, Mariella Paul, Martín Graña, Megan Sperry, Nafisa Jadavji, Nele Haelterman, Omar Adrián Coso, Santosh Phuyal, Rintu Kutum, and they work with many others outside the Ambassador program, including partners at Addgene and Code Ocean.

Statistical Literacy: Alex Stolyarova, Natalie Clark and Guido van Mierlo led the team, with contributions from Nafisa Jadavji, Anton Nathanson, Peter Linders, Hung Lo, Lin Wang, Bhavik Nathwani, Jain Prateek, Max Puelma Touzel, Alex van Vliet, Hedyeh Ebrahimi, Jeffrey Erlich, Yen-Chung Chen, Salem Youssef Mohamed, Tomislav Mestrovic.

Trainee & ECR PI Career Development: Amanda Hurley and Sundar Naganathan are working with Sarvenaz Sarabipour, Paraskevi Kritsiligkou, Michael Bartlett, Stephanie Moon, Natalia Bielczyk and Adriana Bankston.

Trainee and PI Mental Health and Well-being: Gulcan Akgul and Renuka Kudva are working with Sarvenaz Sarabipour, Klea Troka, Adriana Bankston and Feyza nur Arslan.

A complete list of ambassadors (including affiliations) is available here.


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