Early-Career Advisory Group: Highlights of our work in 2022

Over the past year, the group has worked with eLife’s leadership and staff to develop and implement the new publishing model and to champion a more just, equitable and inclusive global research culture.

Written by ECAG members, Andy Tay, Divyansh Mittal and Regina Mencia- on behalf of the ECAG

The eLife Early-Career Advisory Group (ECAG) is a dynamic and diverse team of early-career researchers who are passionately driving the transformation of research communication and culture. Our mission is to provide advice to eLife on all matters related to publishing policies, representing the needs of young scientists.

“ECAG plays an important role in contributing to strategic decisions, through their involvement in editorial leadership meetings and interactions with the Communities team.” Damian Pattinson, Executive Director, eLife.

“As the Head of Communities, the ECAG offers my team and I a compass to navigate and understand the needs of the global community of researchers, on a firsthand basis from different parts of the world. My interaction with the group has been one of cordial shared passion through their demonstrable enthusiasm to champion the work of the Communities team.” Godwyns Onwuchekwa, Head of Communities, eLife.

“ECAG serves as both an important voice in decisions and an inspiration to stick to our guns and make science better for ECAG members as they navigate their careers.” Michael Eisen, Editor-in-Chief, eLife.

Five new members

We were thrilled to welcome five new members to our group in 2022, maintaining our commitment to global diversity and representation. Mariana De Niz (France), Lamis Yahia Mohamed Elkheir (Sudan), Laura Han (Australia), Regina Mencia (Argentina), and Divyansh Mittal (India) have joined our team to fill the places left by our dedicated former members (Hedyeh Ebrahimi, Devang Mehta, Shyam Saladi), who stepped down after completing their term last year.

“I joined ECAG because I'm constantly amazed by the incredible talent of early-career researchers around me who are deeply passionate about science. However, it's also disheartening to see that all too often, these talented individuals become disillusioned by the harsh realities of the academic world. I believe that by creating a more inclusive, equal, and healthy academic culture, we can help researchers reach their full potential and become the great scientists of the future.” Laura Han, current Chair of ECAG, University of Melbourne, Australia.

“Joining ECAG has definitely been a highlight in my journey as an early-career researcher. Through ECAG and eLife in general I found a platform where I can share my thoughts and challenges and hence be a voice for early-career researchers who come from a similar background to me. I was also able to learn how to work with an international team on projects that are aimed at emphasizing the concepts of equity and diversity.” Lamis Yahia Mohamed Elkheir, University of Khartoum, Sudan.

ECAG members at the 10-year anniversary event in London, UK October 2022
ECAG members at the 10-year anniversary event in London, UK October 2022

Advising and advocating

In 2022, our team was heavily involved in guiding the development of eLife's new model, which kept us exceptionally busy. We engaged in multiple rounds of discussions with eLife's editorial leadership and staff to ensure that the model was optimised to its fullest potential. Our ECAG representatives Aalok Varma, Facundo Romani, and Lara Urban attended weekly editorial leadership meetings, where they closely analysed and provided our input on the new model. We believe that the new eLife model has the potential to make the scientific publishing system more just, equitable and inclusive.

“The ECAG have contributed to many of the editorial aspects of how the new model will work, consulting with the wider ECAG team and making some really smart suggestions on how to improve these aspects. Their support of the new model has been invaluable both internally and externally and gives us, as an organisation, confidence that we are designing a system that meets the needs of a diverse body of researchers.” Fiona Hutton, Head of Publishing, eLife.

“ECAG have been a force for progress throughout the development of the new model. They have continually advocated for positive change. They were deeply involved in generating the new policies through taking some of the most active roles in our working groups, and through their presence on our leadership calls. They have scrutinised decisions and policies to ensure they serve the community and live up to eLife’s progressive goals. They have strongly advocated for the new policies both in public and private. In short, ECAG have been central to the whole endeavour.” Professor Timothy Behrens, Deputy Editor at eLife, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

Moving forward, we remain committed to collaborating closely with eLife to continuously improve and enhance the model. As part of our commitment to sharing our insights, we published a featured article that highlights our perspective on the importance of eLife’s new model for the entire scientific community, particularly early-career researchers.

“I plan to work alongside ECAG and leadership to further consolidate the uptake of the new eLife peer-review and publishing model, and will take part in related panel discussions, present the model at various institutions, and publish/review/edit for research submitted to the new model myself.” Lara Urban, Helmholtz Zentrum Munich, Germany.

“For this year we established clear priorities to monitor the new system in the journal. This creates a great opportunity to push forward more positive change. We will advocate to increase the diversity among editors and authors in the journal. We are also planning to improve the communication with the different areas of the journal.” Facundo Romani, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

ECAG members 2022: Devang Mehta, Facundo Romani, Shyam Saladi and Divyansh Mittal (left to right)
ECAG members 2022: Devang Mehta, Facundo Romani, Shyam Saladi and Divyansh Mittal (left to right)

Several members of our team were publicly engaged to promote the new model at meetings and conferences. Facundo Romani presented the model at events such as the Norwich and Cambridge Scientific Symposium, while Aalok Varma spoke about it at the event, "The future of scholarly communication", at the QUEST Center of the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité. Lara Urban presented the model at events held at EMBL, EMBL-EBI, and the White House Council on Governmental Relations meeting, and Florencia Chiappe organised a talk on the model for the Argentinean Society for Neurosciences. Additionally, several other ECAG members have scheduled presentations for 2023.

Equity, diversity and inclusion

In addition to our involvement in promoting the new model, we have also continued to actively promote diversity and inclusion in global science. Many of our members have offered support as evaluators for eLife initiatives, such as the Ben Barres Spotlight Awards and the call for Reviewing Editors for eLife in Latin America. Elizabeth Ochola, in particular, played an active role in updating eLife's Code of Conduct.

We take pride in our commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in scientific research and are honored to be able to contribute to such important initiatives. Various initiatives supported by different ECAG members over the last year include the eLife #ECRWednesday webinars, the upcoming 2-day preprint workshop in Latin America, speaking on the eLife/Naked Scientists podcast, managing and editing for ecrLife (a blog for early-career researchers to publish in a variety of themes ranging from peer review, scientific publishing, research funding, and life in science), advising the development of the preprint review curation platform Sciety, and supporting important events such as our March International Women’s Day and “Sense of Belonging in Science” events.

ECAG members 2022: Florencia Fernández Chiappe, Lara Urban, eLife staff member Emily Packer (Media Relations Manager), Carolina Quezada, Hedyeh Ebrahimi, Regina Mencia, Elizabeth Ochola, Lana Sinapayen (left to right)
ECAG members 2022: Florencia Fernández Chiappe, Lara Urban, eLife staff member Emily Packer (Media Relations Manager), Carolina Quezada, Hedyeh Ebrahimi, Regina Mencia, Elizabeth Ochola, Lana Sinapayen (left to right)

We are extremely proud to report that two of our current ECAG members started independent research groups last year: Dr. Lara Urban at Helmholtz Zentrum Munich, Germany, and Dr. Carolina Quezada at Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción in Concepción, Chile. We also want to congratulate Lamis Yahia Mohamed Elkheir who has been invited to join ASAPbio as a 2023 ASAPbio fellow.

In 2022, eLife celebrated its 10th anniversary, which was a joyful occasion for us. Many of the ECAG had the privilege of attending the celebrations in person, which marked a special moment as it was our first in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saying goodbye and opening applications

This year, we will be bidding a gracious farewell to three of our valued members (Andy Tay, Florencia Fernández Chiappe, and Carolina Quezada) who have contributed immensely towards ECAG’s vision for the past four years. As we prepare for their departure, we are excited to announce that we will be launching a call for new members shortly. Our focus will be on the Middle East/West Asia, Northern America and Southeast Asia regions to maintain our diverse global representation. We are committed to ensuring that our team reflects the diversity of the global scientific community and look forward to welcoming new members who share our values and mission.

It has been a very enlightening process in which I understood how similar are the realities of young researchers around the world, and how important it is to join forces to raise a voice and promote changes. It is beautiful to dream about a more inclusive and equitable scientific community, and it is a tremendous gift to be part of a group that puts so much energy into it.” Carolina Quezada, Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción in Concepción, Chile.

ECAG is one of the most diverse early-career groups I am in. Being a member provides me with the opportunity to learn about scientific culture from all around the world, and a global lens to evaluate policies and trends in publishing that affect researchers differently depending on where they come from.” Andy Tay, National University of Singapore, Singapore.

With our commitment renewed and our eagerness to effect change stronger than ever, we are excited to face the new year of 2023 with a host of new initiatives.

“I think every organisation should have an early-career advisory group and include early-career researchers at their decision-making tables. Hence, I would like to advocate for the adoption of such groups at different scientific organisations over the next year. I will also continue to contribute to the development and wider adoption of eLife’s new model and, perhaps, other alternative publishing models.” Aalok Varma, National Center for Biological Sciences, India.

“In the coming year, I would like to make use of my networking capabilities to encourage early-career researchers from sub-Saharan Africa to use of some of the initiatives that have been implemented at eLife; for example, forming preprint reviewing groups on Sciety, applying for the Ben Barres award calls (the awards are continually being improved at eLife to make them more equitable for disadvantaged groups) and also encouraging responses to the reviewing board open calls.” Elizabeth Ochola, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kenya.

We are dedicated to continuing our efforts in promoting diversity and inclusion in global science, and we look forward to collaborating with partners in the scientific community to achieve our shared goals. ECAG works very closely with eLife leadership, staff and eLife Ambassadors to create a synergistic group which is focused towards the betterment of the scientific community. As we welcome new members to our team, we remain committed to advancing scientific research and communication through our work at ECAG.

We are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and are eager to contribute to making a positive impact in the scientific community in the coming year.


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