eLife Ambassadors: Going from strength to strength

From open science and reproducibility to diversity and career development, eLife Ambassadors remain active on a large number of projects.
Inside eLife
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As the eLife Ambassadors programme reaches the halfway mark, we review some of the progress made by a wide range of groups and initiatives. For example, thanks to talks delivered by various ambassadors, the programme has reached more than 700 researchers with messages about open science and reproducibility in the past three months.

Environmental impact of research

The Environmental Sustainability initiative was one of the most visible last quarter. On September 17, it published a blog post encouraging scientists to ‘Walk the talk for sustainable science’ and mobilised a social media campaign #LabWasteDay. Bente Benedict’s tweet alone was seen over 40,000 times. Building on the interest generated among the wider scientific community so far, the group has created a Slack workspace to liaise with others on environmental matters (please contact us on ambassadors [at] elifesciences.org if you’d like to join it).

Science communication and public engagement

The Public Involvement group has recently deposited a preprint from their research into barriers to wider implementation of public involvement in life sciences. They are now working on developing tutorials about public and patient involvement in research. In parallel, they are seeking to understand discrepancies between institutional strategies for engaging the public with their career development frameworks, which may discourage researchers from adopting more inclusive approaches.

In an effort to help tackle pseudo-scientific hype and fake news, the DIY Science Communications group is looking to facilitate public understanding of science by encouraging more sharing of results at their source. They are preparing simple, open-source templates to help researchers communicate their work with clear visuals and in plain language, especially on social media.

The Readability initiative is looking to create ‘lucid adaptations’ of published research articles, to develop an improved, user-friendly template for scientific publishing. They have now explored this idea by adapting Baier’s et al. 2019 article and the result so far can be viewed here. The group is now looking to start adapting another Research Article published at eLife, to explore their ideas in different scientific domains.

Funding

The Ambassadors are still looking to clarify and improve the funding landscape for early-career researchers. The ECRcentral.org database of funding opportunities is growing. Together with the Fair funding project, they are also asking readers to score fellowships for their inclusiveness with this form. At the same time, the Fair funding group continues the work on the white paper on fair practices, aimed at funders and universities, which they hope to complete by the end of the year.

From left to right: Materials from the Anti-bullying Initiative, Researchers taking part in #LabWasteDay and the first Intersectionality book club call and discussion forum.

Diversity, inclusion and working environment for career development

One of the most popular initiatives in the programme looks to promote diversity and inclusion within sciences using an intersectional approach, which focuses on the interconnected identities of individuals. The Intersectionality group is working on a number of template documents to help group leaders make better decisions and act in a more inclusive manner – such as a laboratory manual, conflict resolution guide, and assessment guidelines for grant and manuscript reviewers as well as hiring personnel. They are also developing training materials, which they hope to offer in the first instance as an introductory webinar about Intersectionality in early 2020. For more details and opportunities to get involved with the initiative, please visit their recent summary post.

Mentoring and leadership is a concern for a large group of Ambassadors too. They are currently busy analysing over 2,500 responses received in the mentoring surveys that have been running since March, to assess the quality of mentorship at different career stages. Faculty members and early-career scientists alike can contribute their feedback by following the links included here. They are also developing resources on tips for mentees and mentors, and are finalising workshops in key areas such as conflict resolution and work-life balance, in close collaboration with other projects.

The Collaborative Science group aims to create resources to help early career researchers engage in successful collaborations. They recognise that their peers are often unaware of the benefits of collaborations, and training materials to help early-stage scientists develop the soft-skills and techniques that make collaborations successful are not widely available. They are currently gathering input from the community on their experiences with collaborative projects to learn about tips for success and common pitfalls. More details about the initiative is in their recent post.

The Career Development initiative started a little later in the year, but is already making strides in assessing what resources are made available to researchers by different institutions, as well as whether these meet the needs of early-career researchers, to help them understand how to grow in their desired career direction. Learn more about their plans here.

The Community Ambassadors pointed out in their recent blog how bullying is an entrenched problem in academia. They have plans to support victims, and they’ve launched this brief survey to learn more about the prevalence and circumstances of such experiences from victims and by-standers. You can catch-up with the current activities of this group and get involved by checking posts under #AcademicAntiBullying on Twitter.

Best practice for reproducibility and rigour in science

In the last few months the Reproducibility for Everyone group has been perfecting the materials they now make openly available on their new website. In addition, they are looking to capture the key learning from and the effects of the workshops in a publishable manuscript by the end of 2019. The group continues to deliver in-person workshops as well and their latest event carried out by Aparna Shah at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington reached 250 participants.

Data Reuse initiative is looking to make open data sharing more accessible. Among other achievements, they launched two badges as part of their effort in providing microcredentials for data sharing during the Open Access Week. They are now looking to investigate how individuals and research groups reuse data. Amidst this activity, Huajin Wang gave a talk on novel and upcoming approaches for data reuse, as part of the SciLifeLab and eLife event on Reproducibility and Data-Reuse. Learn more about the groups achievements and plans here.

One group of Ambassadors pursues a science of science, or meta-research study into reporting quality for images in papers published in physiology, plant sciences and cell biology journals. The team has now finalised the data abstraction protocol, trained data abstractors, and abstracted data for most of the journals they targeted. They are also preparing sample images illustrating best practices, to accompany future publication of their results. You can learn more about their project here.

Most publications in life sciences use statistics to support claims about the results of an experiment. The Statistical Literacy team aims to more closely investigate the needs and levels of statistical education among researchers from different career stages and geographic regions, to inform the development of resources to address any gaps. They also hope to use this information in advocating for the wide-spread inclusion of statisticians as reviewers on life-science research publications. Read more about it here.

In the theme of improving the peer-review process, the ECR Peer Review initiative wants to see more early-career colleagues having opportunities to get involved in the process. More details about the plans they have underway can be found here.

There’s also enthusiasm in the programme to advocate for wider adoption of pre-registration in the life sciences. Specifically, ambassadors are keen to encourage more journals to offer Registered Reports as a publishable article format, in support of the Registered Reports Now! campaign from the Center for Open Science.

With more Ambassadors investing time in editing and writing for the ecrLife.org blog this month, we’re expecting this forum to flourish soon. The blog already includes a number of the latest updates from different initiatives in the programme, detailing further opportunities for others to contribute.

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

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For the latest developments in this year’s Ambassador programme and other opportunities for early-career researchers, sign up to the eLife Early-Career Community newsletter and follow @eLifeCommunity on Twitter.