Webinar Report: Becoming an eLife Community Ambassador

Watch back as our panelists discuss the role of an eLife Community Ambassador and hear all about the upcoming Ambassadors programme for 2022.
Inside eLife
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In our October 2021 #ECRWednesday webinar, we invited previous Ambassador alumni alongside our head of Communities, Kora Korzec, to discuss the upcoming Ambassadors programme, the new programme’s structure and mission, and the FAQs. This event was held twice on October 27 to enable applicants from all time zones to have the chance to attend.

The previous Ambassadors described their experiences of the programme and highlighted its impact for them in promoting responsible behaviours and catalysing change in research culture within their communities.

Participants learned about the mission of the programme and the recruitment process, as well as an overview of the upcoming programme – from the new phase of community building and training to the activism phase. eLife’s support for Community Ambassadors and details of past initiatives were discussed by the alumni members. Participants asked the panelists about their experiences, and received information about the upcoming Ambassadors programme, from tips about the application process, eligibility criteria, to the training opportunities, and more. Please refer to the FAQ section below for the full list of questions and answers.

6am UTC webinar

Chair:

Facundo Romani is a plant Molecular Biologist and Research Associate at the Department of Plant Sciences, Cambridge, UK, with his research focused on the evolution of transcription factors. He is a member of the eLife Early-Career Advisory Group (ECAG). Facundo is passionate about exploring more inclusive criteria to increase the visibility of scientific research around the globe without compromising the perception of “quality” or “originality”, and offering scientists from developing countries more feasible opportunities to publish.

Panelists:

Aalok Varma is a member of the ECAG and formerly an eLife Community Ambassador. In his research, he uses zebrafish as a model system to study the development and function of the cerebellum, with a particular focus on Purkinje neuron physiology.
Aalok described his Ambassador experience where he contributed to a meta-research project assessing the reporting quality and accessibility of images in published research articles, and worked on innovations to improve the readability of scientific literature.

Melanie Krause is a Postdoctoral Researcher at EMBL – Heidelberg (Germany), developing novel CrispR protein tagging strategies, as well as a founding member of the LMCB Greeners, and a former eLife Community Ambassador. Melanie completed her PhD in Cell Biology of Infection at MRC LMCB, University College London, UK, in 2020.

Melanie gave her experience as an Ambassador, where she was involved in the intersectionality and environmental sustainability in science initiative, raising awareness and increasing accessibility for researchers.

Malgorzata Gazda (nickname Gosia) is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute Pasteur in Paris, France. In her research, she applies omics methods to answer questions of general interest in evolutionary biology. She is currently researching the molecular evolution of menstruation using state-of-the-art comparative and functional genomic assays. Gosia outlined her experience as an Ambassador, where she contributed to the meta-research initiative, as well as the environmental sustainability in science and anti-bullying initiatives.

Tai-Ying Lee is a Ph.D. researcher in Systems and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, UK. They have served on various committees with a focus on empowering those with less resources, including being an organiser of the European Neuroscience Conference by Doctoral Students and the president of the Cortex Club, Oxford Neuroscience Society. Tai-Ying described their experience as an eLife Ambassador, where they were involved in the fair funding initiative for early-career researchers (ECRs), and how they continue to advocate for change in research culture.

4pm UTC webinar

Chair

Carolina Quezada is a Research Associate at the Bernardo O'Higgins University, Chile, as well as being a member of the ECAG since August 2019. Carolina is also the co-managing editor at ecrLife, which specifically aims to empower ECRs and create space for voices that are often pushed aside for more senior scientists. She completed her postdoctoral research at the Center of Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology, UNAB, Imperial College London, UK, and worked on the generation of biological solar cells using biomolecules from extremophile bacteria. The main changes she would like to see in science are more scientific collaboration networks, open science and gender equality.

Panelists

Aparna Shah joined Virginia Tech, US, as an Assistant Professor in 2021 after completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, Maryland, US. She received a PhD in Pharmacology from UT Health San Antonio, Texas, US. Her research interests focus on the neurobiology underlying psychiatric disorders and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Aparna gave her experience as an Ambassador, where she contributed to the reproducibility for everyone (R4E) initiative, as well as mentoring and leadership initiatives.

Emma Dorris is the public and patient involvement (PPI) Project Officer at UCD Research, and programme manager for the national PPI Ignite Network at UCD, Dublin, Ireland. Emma is a biomedical researcher by training and joined the eLife Ambassadors when she was a postdoc working in the area of molecular rheumatology. Emma described her experience as an Ambassador, where she led the public involvement in research initiative, and how she continues to advocate for responsible research and innovation.

Ewoud Compeer is a Postdoctoral Researcher, founder of the Dutch Academic Network in the UK and a former eLife Community Ambassador. He also co-led a team effort by the University of Oxford, UK, to peer-review Covid-19 related preprints. He is also an editor at ecrLife. Ewoud’s research focuses on immune cell remodelling that supports efficient intercellular communication using leading microscopy techniques. Ewoud gave his experience as an Ambassador, where he promoted and continues to promote the involvement of ECRs in peer review with recommendations and guidelines published in ecrLife and the Scientist (NL).

Patricia Resa-Infante is a Molecular Virologist and was part of eLife’s Ambassador crew in 2019. After two postdoctoral stays abroad, she came back to Barcelona, Spain, to continue investigating virus replication mechanisms as research associate at IrsiCaixa foundation. She is deeply interested in open science and collaborations in the context of responsible research. As an eLife Ambassador, Patricia described how she focused on different actions to improve peer-review and reproducibility processes, as well as the career development of researchers.

FAQs:

What is the aim of the eLife Community Ambassadors programme?

The Community Ambassadors programme aims to enable early-stage researchers to build lasting support networks and to help them innovate solutions and work together to overcome the many barriers and issues that their research communities face.

Am I eligible as an active ECR in life sciences and medical research?

For the purpose of this programme, we define an active ECR as conducting research in life science, medical research or a related field, as a graduate student, medical student, postdoctoral fellow, or junior investigator. You will have no more than five years’ active experience in an independent position. “Active experience” is intended to exclude time away for parental leave, health leave, or other reasons unrelated to research. An independent position is defined here as having secured funding to support a research group, for example in a Group Leader or Assistant Professor position.

What is the recruitment process?

The recruitment process can be found in detail here

What skills should I mention in the application?

Please include anything that you feel you’re good at, and that you can use and potentially pass onto others in the programme, such as skills related to good science conduct (for example, data management, reproducibility), as well as soft/success skills (such as public speaking, active listening), and other important skills such as project management or event planning.

What training will be offered?

The training programme will include a diverse spectrum of workshops, talks and resources covering open science, reproducibility, good peer-reviewing practices, advocacy and science communications skills. And we're open to your suggestions too.

Can I start my own initiative?

Yes, at the second stage of the programme we will support Ambassadors to develop ideas into initiatives and will operate a sign-off process for new projects. It will be possible to develop new initiatives and encourage other Ambassadors to participate in these, as well as building on the pre-established initiatives.

How will the programme support ECRs to drive change locally?

The programme will encourage Ambassadors to ”localise” their initiatives and to tailor their application to their communities. We offer training to aid in this, as well as helping to connect you with topic experts.

Can I apply in a transition stage, such as at the end of my PhD/postdoc?

Yes, you can, as long as you are an ECR at the time of the start of the programme and you are intending to continue a research career.

How is diversity being encouraged in this edition of the programme?

In the shortlisting process, we aim to include researchers from as many geographical regions and disciplines as possible and to give a platform to an ECR community representing a diversity of voices, identities and circumstances. We welcome applications from researchers of all genders, as well as researchers with disabilities, and those representing traditionally marginalised communities. Questions in the application are tailored to obtain this information so as to enable the inclusion and creation of such a community. We endeavour to offer a variety of participation formats and timings for programme events, to ensure fair chances to participate for all.

What is expected of an Ambassador?

What is expected of eLife Community Ambassadors is described in detail here http://bitly.ws/jeEo

What is the programme structure?

The programme will now take place in two phases. The first phase of training and community building will take place over the first 6–8 months. The second phase of activism will then occur over the following 10 months, with a celebration of the successes and progress of each initiative over the final month.

What is the time commitment?

The time commitment for the programme varies vastly – and depends on how active you decide to be. There will be training sessions to attend for the first 6–8 months and regular calls to join – most likely at least one a month. We estimate that 1–3 hours per week would be the average time commitment to the programme between January 2022 and September 2023. We are happy to consider candidates who are on planned parental or health leave, or can reasonably expect to be unavailable from their regular work due to fieldwork or similar circumstances for part of the programme, so long as the absence is not expected to last longer than six consecutive months between January 31, 2022, and September 30, 2023.

Are past Ambassadors still working on their initiatives?

Yes, the latest Ambassadors programme ran from April 2019 to June 2020, and now – more than a year on from the end of the programme – many former community Ambassadors continue to drive change, innovate solutions and advocate responsible behaviours across their research communities.

Can past Ambassadors be involved?

Past Ambassadors can get involved through alumni initiative handovers and in aiding with the training and community-building phases. For more information, please email community [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

How can non-researchers and science communicators get involved?

Individuals currently engaged in policy or science communication roles and similar, and who are not directly involved in active research, are not eligible to join as eLife Community Ambassadors. However, if you fall into this category and feel that your resources and expertise could benefit our volunteers, please email community [at] elifesciences [dot] org. We will be happy to discuss potential opportunities for connecting you with the programme.

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We welcome comments, questions and feedback. Please annotate publicly on the article or contact us at hello [at] elifesciences [dot] org.

Interested in our full selection of #ECRWednesday webinars, on topics such as preprints, finding funding and more? Take a look at the collection of past reports and recordings.