Over 120 early-career researchers from 51 countries are participating in eLife’s Community Ambassadors programme, initially founded by the eLife Early-Career Advisory Group. In 2022, Ambassadors representing the global research community planned and committed to several ambitious projects to support reproducible science and to broaden accessibility and collaboration. Many of the projects are focused on advocating for improvements to research culture, as well as supporting researchers' career development and their mental wellbeing.
In the last 10 years, eLife has been committed to achieving its founding mission statement: to provide a “disruptive, refreshing new model for the publishing and dissemination of cutting-edge scientific research”. By publishing reviews, finding consensus between reviewers and editors, and supporting preprints eLife has pioneered a new approach to science quality control and communication. These efforts are now culminating in a new publishing model that reflects a new role for publishers in reviewing preprints rather than acting as gatekeepers of research articles. Many members of our research community, in particular our early-career researchers (ECRs), have been demanding change in the publishing landscape towards a more inclusive and transparent model for a long time. Our eLife Ambassadors and their fellow Open Science Champions have promoted open science and the importance of transparent and accessible publishing throughout the programme.
“eLife Ambassadors are a part of a unique platform that promotes open science, public engagement, reforming peer review and influencing science policy and diplomacy to have a positive impact on the world.
“My goal for 2023 and beyond is to use these learnings and my abilities to create collaborative partnerships among worldwide forums to advance sustainability, transparency and reproducibility within science.”
– Raimi Morufu Olalekan, eLife Ambassador, Niger Delta University, Nigeria
Towards the end of 2022, eLife Community Ambassadors took part in many exciting projects that promote open, responsible and reproducible science. One of these was the two-day Einstein Foundation Awards symposium hosted by The Einstein Foundation in Berlin. The event was organised by six Ambassadors and Champions – Batool Almarzouq, Verena Haage, Renato Augusto Corrêa dos Santos, Samuel Eziuzor, Nalaka Wijekoon and Lamis Elkheir – who worked hard to facilitate topics on the ‘Global Dynamics of Responsible Research’. Find out more about the topics covered and hear from speakers such as Leslie Chan (Associate Professor, Department of Global Development Studies and Director of the Knowledge Equity Lab, University of Toronto Scarborough, Canada), Chelle Genteman (Program Scientist, National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Transform to Open Science (TOPS) Initiative), Noorsaadah Abd Rahman (Professor in the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Malaya, and Chair for Malaysia Open Science Alliance), and Joy Owango (Director and Co-founder of Science and Scientific Communication, and Board member of AfricArxiv), with recordings and slide decks from the symposium accessible to all.
“Our involvement in the Einstein Foundation Symposium as co-organizers and members of the eLife Community was a unique experience. The impact of the conference was palpable, as evidenced by the interest from 40 countries around the world.
We are confident that the conference will serve as a catalyst for continued progress in the field of global responsible research, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact that it will have in the years to come.” – Batool Almarzouq, King Abdullah International Medical Research Center, Saudi Arabia
“ASAPbio shares eLife’s goal to promote engagement with preprints and preprint review. We recognize the value of our community members in raising awareness about preprints, and we run a Fellows program to provide training and practical experience for those in the research community who wish to learn more about preprints.
“In 2022, we were thrilled to work with a cohort of 31 ASAPbio Fellows, who included two eLife Ambassadors: Ruchika Bajaj and Kanika Khanna. Ruchika participated in ASAPbio’s crowd preprint review, helping to develop the project and contributing to many public preprint reviews. Kanika was one of the Fellows who spearheaded the competition to call for the use of preprints to share negative results with the community. Other projects by the ASAPbio Fellows included a series of blog posts to learn more about journal editors' views about preprints, outreach about the Publish Your Reviews campaign, and hosting preprint events at their institutions.
“The 2023 Fellows program is open for applications until March 24, so if you want to engage with preprints more closely, do apply now to join this year's cohort.” – Iratxe Puebla, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Community, ASAPbio
Our ECRs believe it is crucial that research culture and communication changes do not happen in a vacuum and that scientists engage with different organisations and those outside of research in public discussion about open and reproducible science. Over the past few months, several Ambassadors have been inspired to communicate their incentives with a broader audience.
Tala Noun, our Ambassador based in Lebanon, and Verena Haage, our Ambassador based in Germany, co-hosted an ECR community event as ‘An Introduction to social research for researchers’, that was presented by Kornelia Korzec, Head of Engagement and Communities at CrossRef. The aim of this event was to raise awareness of the importance of defining research questions and to give insight into the impact of cross-discipline collaboration between social and life scientists.
Emmanuel Boakye, our Ambassador based in Ghana, was invited by the Association of African Universities (AAU) to organise and present at the Africa Universities' Day celebration last year, working with individuals from organisations such as PLOS, UNESCO, SCOSS, and TCC Africa. The theme for the celebration was “Open Science - Bringing Equity to Research and Publishing for the African Research Community” and he presented on the "Global and Continental Perspectives of Open Science" —first looking at it from a global perspective and narrowing it down to the African continent.
Reproducibility for Everyone (R4E) is a community-led education initiative that emerged from the 2019 eLife Ambassadors programme to increase adoption of open research practices at scale. Many of our Ambassadors learnt from the R4E instructors and volunteered to run introductory workshops and share resources on tools and methods that accelerate research in their own labs and institutes across the world. Emmanuel Boakye aimed to run a workshop at his university, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, during the African University Week celebration. Kanika Khanna is currently organising a reproducibility workshop at UC Berkeley in association with both the postdoc organisation and the graduate student organisation this month.
Each of our ECRs have stated that training on research reproducibility is much needed across the globe, and some of our Ambassadors have taken a step further with their initiatives that aim to not only promote rigorous and reproducible research, but to enable it. Renato Augusto Corrêa dos Santos, our Brazilian Ambassador, is working alongside his team (Alícia Lie de Mélo and Thayana Tavares) in creating a website to share best practices in computational reproducibility for ECRs. These will be published in Portuguese to ensure their work is accessible to local Brazilian researchers, as well as the public. Access the GitHub repository here. Follow @reprodcomputbio on instagram here.
After the Ambassadors’ training and discussions on the importance of public engagement earlier in the programme, Ambassadors from Sri Lanka to Mexico have been inspired to start public engagement initiatives.
"No olvidemos que la "ciencia abierta" no solo debe ser para adultos que ya están en comunidades científicas y académicas. Debemos recordar que los niños tienen mentes con la mayor capacidad de asombro y miran con gran curiosidad los procesos biológicos, físicos y químicos. Es urgente que los científicos hagamos un esfuerzo coordinado para apoyarlos y generarles oportunidades desde edades tempranas." – Christian Molina Aguilar, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México.
Translation: "Let's not forget that "open science" should not only be for adults who are already in scientific and academic communities. We must remember that children have minds with the greatest capacity for wonder and look with great curiosity at biological, physical, and chemical processes. It is urgent that scientists make a coordinated effort to support them (the future of science) and generate opportunities for them from an early age."
Ana Paula, our Italian Ambassador, is creating a rare disease newsletter to connect researchers, as well as both patients and the public to these important topics. The initiative was created to solve one of the biggest challenges for scientists: translating complex terms into basic concepts that anyone can understand. It aims to share essential concepts to understand rare diseases, the diagnostics, the community and even the drug development process. Learn more and sign up to their newsletter here.
Members of our eLife Ambassadors 2022 cohort, led by Nick Pokorzynski and members such as Ankita Arora and Kazuya Horibe, are also working together to enable other researchers to get involved in science policy through their newly formed initiative, the Global Science Policy Network. Read more about it here. They can’t build this network without your input and support so please get involved and participate in their introductory survey here.
“Sound collaboration is necessary for the global research community to both enable and benefit from research, both in Africa and across the world. The issue of how to collaborate in an ethical and efficient manner has been probed by many voices. As Ambassadors from Africa we aspire to drive a more equitable research culture than what is in place.” – Roseline Dzekem Dine, Rwanda.
Led by our Rwandan Ambassador Roseline Dzekem Dine, alongside other Ambassadors, Open Science Champions and ECAG members based in Africa (Alex Mukungu, Raziah Mwawanga, Yahaya Yabo, Justice Kwadwo Turzin, Elizabeth Ochola, Michael Alemayehu, Femi Arogundade, Salem Youssef, Raimi Morufu Olalekan and Lamis Elkheir), seek to create resources that will bridge the collaboration-implementation gap and drive fair, inclusive and empowering research collaboration with both African researchers and the global community. They are currently working on a ‘HOW-TO-GUIDE: For Collaborating within the African continent for biomedical and health care research’. Upon publishing this guide, the Ambassadors will create events internationally to disseminate this knowledge. Reach out to get involved with this initiative via email below.
Our Ambassadors are preparing to help coordinate one of the largest ever benchmarks on mental health and wellbeing within the research community. Alongside the ‘Researcher Mental Health Observatory’ (ReMO) and the many universities involved, our Ambassador volunteers – Nalaka Wijekoon and Yoonus Imran (Sri Lanka), Lamis Elkheir (Sudan), Christian Molina-Aguilar (Mexico), among others – will be the regional coordinators of a large-scale survey that will provide a benchmark for the current state of mental health in academia and aid in understanding the mental health of academics against the background of their work environment. The data gathered will help identify measures that research institutions might already have implemented to improve wellbeing, and therefore identify best practices to drive concrete policy changes aimed at meaningfully improving the mental health of academics across the globe. They plan to launch the survey in June 2023. If you are interested in joining the survey dissemination effort, the team is looking for individuals who can help identify stakeholders in their countries and help reach as many people in your institutions as possible.
Ambassadors across the US, Asia, Africa and Latin America – Sana Nasim, Dinesh Natesan, Lamis Elkheir, Christian Molina-Aguilar and ECAG member Mariana De Niz – are also working to create support and resources for researcher wellness. Our first ‘Cultivating a healthy and productive lab series’ session organised by Sana, Dinesh and Christian will be hosted on February 15 at 5pm UTC – for ECRs to have an easily accessible, safe virtual space for discussions on the topic of wellness within research spaces. These sessions will be led by an expert within the field of mental health and wellbeing. If you are an ECR interested in this topic, you can register to join these monthly sessions via this link.
Sana Nasim; Harvard Medical School, USA, Tala Noun; American University of Beirut, Lebanon, and Raziah Quallatein Mwawanga; University of Bradford, UK/Tanzania, are working together to organise our Women’s Day event for March 27, and Adviti Naik, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, Qatar, is driving forward the creation of a video to raise awareness and celebrate Women in STEM. Vivia Khosasih, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, is creating channels and resources for ‘Mothers in Research’, where mothers (and fathers) in Asia, alongside those across the world can find support to not only survive, but thrive as both an academic and parent.
Fair funding opportunities, career development and community support is needed for the global research community to flourish. ECR Central is a community-driven platform which was started by eLife Ambassadors in 2018, to ensure ECRs have access to find and discuss opportunities, share experiences, mentor peers, and create impact through community engagement. Some of our current Ambassadors – Christoph Miehl, Valentina Gascue, Sajidha Mohammed, Kannika Khanna, Anuj Sharma, Lamis Elkheir, Kazuya Horibe and Nicole Vissers – are working alongside Ambassador alumni and co-founder of the initiative, Aziz Khan, to upgrade the platform and forum to re-engage the ECR community in much-needed funding, career and resource discussion channels. Browse the 700 funding and travel grant opportunities, and sign up here to join the community and follow the community on Twitter @ECRcentral.
Fatma Betul Dincaslan, our Ambassador from the National University of Singapore, joined the ASCS2022 Asian Student Council Symposium organisation team. They recognised the need for researchers to learn more about preprint use, review and curation. They organised ASCS2022 Asian Student Council Symposium in December last year, inviting Sciety, the home of public preprint evaluation, to present 'An Introduction to Sciety and the Value of Preprint Evaluation and Curation'. Ambassador Lamis Elkheir also chaired a 'New Approaches to Peer Review' workshop in December last year, which was hosted in conjunction with PeerRef and PREreview. Ambassadors across all parts of Africa and Asia are passionate about raising awareness on open science practices and responsible research. Their work will coincide with our Latin American Ambassadors’ plans for highlighting open science and eLife’s new publishing model in events throughout April 2023. David Ramírez, Universidad de Concepción, Chile, kicked off this drive with his presentation at the ‘Producing Science in the Global South: Open Science Tools and Challenges’ symposium last month.
PREreview, the preprint review platform and Open Reviewers training provider, have collaborated with AfricArXiv, Eider Africa, Training Centre in Communication Africa and eLife to develop a peer-review training workshop called Open Peer Reviewers in Africa, tailored to the region-specific context of African researchers. Ambassadors Roseline Dine Dzekem, Salem Youssef, Lamis Yahia and Rachida Namoune volunteered to help translate the materials developed (a trainer guide, slide decks and a facilitation template) into Arabic and French. To learn more about becoming a reviewer and to stay up to date with exciting new developments at PREreview you can read more here. If you would be interested in joining the PREreview community then you can sign up and give your input to help shape the future of the community.
Members of our Ambassadors, such as Anuj Sharma, have been working alongside the Sciety team to drive forward improvements to the platform, alongside raising awareness for the importance of preprints and peer review, which has led the journal club team he is a member of (Invertebrate Neuroscience at PNI, Princeton University) to change their review activity to reviewing preprints.
Founded by eLife Ambassadors and run by ECRs, ecrLife publishes submitted articles on a variety of themes ranging from peer review, scientific publishing and research funding to life in science. The incredibly hard-working ECR-led editorial team has been joined by a new co-managing editor – Angel Cisneros, a PhD student at Laval University in Québec City, Canada. Many of our Ambassadors have published articles under the guidance of the ecrLife team over the past few months, on topics such as ‘Learning how to change the research environment as an eLife Community Ambassador’, by Maria Sol Ruiz and Nalaka Wijekoon, ‘The Many Languages of Science’, by Kanika Khanna, and ‘Baby steps toward uprooting toxicity in academia’, by Rio Sugimura, Ruchika Bajaj and Suhaila Rahman. ecrLife is open to any early-career researcher across the world who wishes to submit a pitch.
In recognition of the lack of science writing training researchers receive, Pallavi Raj Sharma, our Ambassador based in the Indian Institute of Science, co-hosted a science writing workshop alongside Nele Haelterman, the co-managing editor of ecrLife.
Our Ambassadors have also experimented with writing their research for non-research audiences. Brian Spulock and Suhaila Rahman (USA), Margarida Viola (The Netherlands) and Béryl Laplace-Builhé (France) each wrote short articles for Hot Potato magazine, which aims “to engage young people in global affairs” and initiate conversations “between two types of people who wouldn’t necessarily choose to work together”, such as artists and scientists.
These articles were written for readers who do not understand electron microscopy or extracellular vesicles, but through metaphors and relatable explanations, could be brought into the worlds of research that our Ambassadors work on.
What a year 2022 was and what a year 2023 is shaping up to be! Lamis, our Ambassador who applied to become and was voted in as a new ECAG member, has acted as a bridge between the two eLife ECR groups, contributing to the ECAG plans for 2023 and, alongside the rest of the ECAG members, co-wrote the opinion article on eLife’s new model and its impact on science communication. Our ECR community members are acting as true champions of the need for change in the publishing landscape – giving talks on open science and the changes available to publish preprints, contribute to open peer review, curate evaluations and to recognise and reward responsible research and researchers. Many of our ECRs have already presented or are planning to present in their universities, institutes and labs. They include Lara Urban, Germany; Aalok Varma, India; Florencia Fernández Chiappe and Martina Radice, Argentina; Marioara Chiritoiu-Butnaru, Romania; David Ramírez, Chile; Saleh Omairi, Iraq; Ruchika Bajaj, USA, and many more to come.
We are aware that many readers of this blogpost might be interested in contributing to the work the eLife Ambassadors are doing. Please get in touch if you wish to give a talk at your own institution about the benefits open science, reproducibility initiatives and efforts to improve research culture bring to science and the wellbeing of scientists. To learn more about eLife’s new publishing model and how it ties in with our objectives, read the announcement or email Ailís O’Carroll, eLife’s Community Manager, at email@example.com.
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Written by: Matyas Bubna-Litic, Early-career PhD researcher and Ailís OCarroll, Community Manager.