2022 eLife Community Ambassadors: Ready for action

After completing their learning, awareness and community-building phase, our global group of early-career researchers are now eager to make change across research culture.

eLife’s Community Ambassadors programme brings together early-career researchers (ECRs) motivated to create widespread change in research culture. Over the past four months, our current cohort of 128 Ambassadors have continued to learn and raise their collective awareness of the issues that their research communities face. They have reflected on their open science and responsible research learnings and experiences so far, in their own opinion piece on ecrLife, written by Ambassadors María Sol Ruiz and Nalaka Wijekoon, and are now preparing to set out on the next activism phase of the programme, alongside some of our extended network of Open Science Champions.

One key topic has featured repeatedly in the Ambassadors’ and Champions’ discussions: how a particular aspect of research culture can affect ECRs in similar ways, no matter where they are globally, but can also have a very different impact across continents and cultures within our Ambassadors’ communities. This discourse has illustrated why a diversity of voices and experiences is key to creating sustainable global solutions to these problems.

Being part of the eLife Community Ambassadors programme during the last months opened my eyes and gave me a new perspective to challenge the way we have learnt academia works and what is best for researchers across the globe. The moment for change is now, and we hope to contribute to it as part of the programme. Exciting times to come!

– María Eugenia Segretin

Learning to review equitably

In June and July, PREreview Co-Founder and Director, Daniela Saderi, led three workshops on how researchers can contribute to scholarly peer review, centring around issues of equity, diversity and inclusion. The Ambassadors and Champions learned how to write a manuscript review, how systems of oppression can manifest in the peer-review process, and how to identify and address biases in peer review. This ultimately led to the Ambassadors forming their own reviewing community on PREreview and reviewing their first paper together. The Ambassadors and Champions are also advocates of the need for reviewer training for ECRs, which will help ensure equitable and transparent research communication.

Image of the eLife Ambassadors with the PREreview team, learning how they can contribute to scholarly peer review in an equitable and inclusive manner.

Accessible and inclusive research

To create a culture that benefits all researchers, the research community needs to ensure that every lab, institute and university is an accessible and inclusive space. The Ambassadors heard from the following researchers and disability advocates: Amy Hassett, a PhD student at University College Dublin, who is also co-chairperson of Disabled Women Ireland; Dr Jazmin Scarlett, a Senior Research Associate at the University of East Anglia; and Dr Vivian Rath, who is a Research Officer and Lecturer at Trinity College Dublin, and Project Research Officer at AHEAD-RAPP, Disability Equality & Human Rights Advocate. The discussion covered the challenges that researchers with disabilities and chronic pain face in science, and how making a more equitable and inclusive environment benefits all researchers and therefore science itself. Watch the event here.

Lastly, a workshop organised alongside the Kindness in Science Collective – a community committed to growing a more accessible, inclusive and equitable science system – has greatly influenced many of the Ambassadors’ thinking about their upcoming initiatives. Watch their introductory video here.

Community-driven awareness and training

Each Ambassador's unique life experiences and community insights are crucial to the success of this programme and to future improvements to research culture across the globe. In encouraging each researcher to voice their communities’ unique challenges and through listening and collaborating, we want to demonstrate that we can bridge gaps that exist in academic training and drive innovative change together.

– Ailís O’Carroll, eLife’s Community Manager who is in charge of the scheme

Many Ambassadors voiced concerns on the need to reform research assessment. In June, they met with representatives from the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) for a workshop about how ECRs can work together to help reshape how research and researchers are assessed in their communities. Meta-researchers and previous Ambassadors Dr Iuliia Ferling, Dr Małgorzata Gazda and Dr Cristina Kroon also shared their insights into the potential power of meta-research to improve reproducibility in research by helping to avoid common pitfalls when publishing figures, such as microscopy images and Western blots.

On the topic of openness and transparency, the Ambassadors discussed the need for ECRs to understand the inner workings of a journal and so they met with eLife’s Head of Publishing, Chief Magazine Editor and an Associate Features Editor to ask questions about the publishing process. The Ambassadors also met with eLife’s Marketing and Communications team to learn tactics that will help them to promote their research culture awareness projects during the programme’s activism phase.

Already taking action to create change

During these events and with the developing foundations of their new networks, many Ambassadors are already taking action to create change towards the research culture that they wish to see established.

Six Ambassadors – Batool Almarzouq, Verena Haage, Renato Santos, Samuel Eziuzor, Nalaka Wijekoon and Lamis Elkheir – are, on behalf of this year’s cohort, organising a symposium this December on “Global Dynamics in Responsible Research” for the 2022 Einstein Foundation Award for Promoting Quality in Research. Their aim is to use this symposium specifically to raise awareness of the issues that ECRs face globally, and they are set to enable the wider ECR community to help shape the symposium talks and have their voices heard too.

Image of the eLife Ambassadors’ representatives in a meeting with the Einstein Foundation Awards team, organising the ‘Global Dynamics in Responsible Research’ symposium.

Our ECRs, headed by Roseline Dzekham Dine, are collaborating with the Data Science for Health Equity community on a project called ‘link23’ which aims to curate, build, implement and scale tools that make genomics more equitable. Roseline is driving forward the creation of a “How-to” guide which aims to initiate, encourage and enable collaborative biomedical and global health research activities across countries in Africa for all researchers, both local and international.

Across the continent of Africa there is so much incredible research and so many researchers working on solving, curing and discovering answers to human problems while others seek to gain skills in these areas, yet limited sound collaborative spaces exist. ...Thus this project aims to narrow the gaps identified.

– Roseline Dzekhem Dine

Our translation efforts after the awareness event on the importance of improving and embracing multilingual science communication within our global research community continue. Ambassadors are translating the abstracts for the paper ‘Recommendations for empowering early career researchers to improve research culture and practice into Dutch (Nicole Vissers), Japanese (Kazuya Horibe) and Portuguese (Margarida Viola). Three of our Ambassadors, Rachida Namoune, Salem Mohammed and Lamis Yahia (who is now one of the newest members of eLife’s Early-Career Advisory Group), have also helped translate PREreview’s Open Peer Reviewers in Africa Trainer Guide into Arabic, with Roseline Dzekhem Dine contributing the French translations. Many of our Ambassadors have also been busy writing articles for ecrLife, and learning about podcasting from Preprints in Motion.

As shaping the future of publishing, reviewing and curating research is a crucial part of our Ambassadors’ roles, they are now forming an Advisory Panel to guide the direction of Sciety, the home of public preprint evaluation. Ambassadors have also joined the eLife Innovation Feedback group to help guide the future vision of eLife.

As well as attending events over the past months, many Ambassadors, driven by their passion for their respective topic, have already helped organise and host events. Giovanni Salva hosted our ‘Science Communication in Social Media Discussion’ webinar with Dr Lana Sinapayen, and Nick Pokorzynski hosted our ECR Wednesday webinars in August – ‘Getting Involved in Global Science Policy’ – and this September – ‘Science Policy in Action’.

Image of two of our Argentinian Ambassadors, María Eugenia Segretin and María sol Ruiz, meeting up in person to discuss and brainstorm how to improve the PhD experience, as well as preprint recognition and rewarding in Argentinian research organisations via funding and evaluation.

The beginnings of activism

Now, each Ambassador has written a proposal based on what they want to drive forward as an initiative, sparked by their previous experiences and reinforced and shaped by our eight-month learning and awareness phase. The ever-growing networks and networking opportunities have resulted in many organisations beginning to work in collaboration with the Ambassadors. Our hope is that this will help our Ambassadors’ initiatives to build on the strengths of others and to create sustainable solutions that will outlast the 18-month programme.

As a hint at what is to come over the next year from our Ambassadors and their extended network, they will drive forward initiatives such as:

  • Reproducibility for everyone (in collaboration with R4E)
  • Empowering ECR networks for new PIs, postdocs, PhDs and young budding scientists
  • Mental health in academia
  • The ECR fair funding and collaboration initiative (in collaboration with ECRCentral.org)
  • A how-to guide for research collaboration – for example, across the African continent
  • A global science policy network
  • A rare disease initiative
  • Accountability from the top
  • Environmental sustainability in academia
  • Preprints and research assessment (DORA.org) – awareness across the globe
  • An international LGBTQ+ network and writing group
  • Career development (the ins and outs of a science career)
  • SciArt and SciSocial media

What an exciting time to be celebrating eLife’s 10-year anniversary, while driving forward initiatives that support eLife’s mission to reform research communication and assessment – which intricately depends on improving research culture.

Interested in getting involved? You can email Ailís O’Carroll, eLife’s Community Manager, at a.ocarroll@elifesciences.org and join the Open Science Champions Network.


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