Dear Sage Bionetworks,
I am writing to express my interest in your Assembly in Washington this coming April. I have just completed my PhD, which I guess classifies me as a ‘young investigator’. For the past 5 years, alongside my studies, I have been a pretty relentless campaigner for various aspects of ‘open research’. I understand an ‘ecosystem’ in the context of its constituent people, of the communities they represent, and the different perspectives they might have. Much of my work has been geared towards developing these communities, primarily in London and Berlin, but also in digital networks through social media platforms. I primarily focus on education, and perhaps the best example I can give of this is the research paper myself and friends published on Open Access last year.
As a palaeontologist by training, my understanding of health research is fairly limited – most of the things I study have unfortunately been dead for quite some time now. However, I have had crossover during a workshop on Open Science I gave at the Universities Allied for Essential Medicines conference last year. Here, I learned about some of the issues regarding access to medicines and healthcare, that were surprising in their parallels to that the Open Access movement campaigns for – free and affordable [ed: oops..] access to research/healthcare. Delete as appropriate, this is the core principle underpinning either movement.
In the last few months, I have talked about the various aspects of Open Science in 6 countries, invited as a passionate individual rather than an organisational representative of any sort. I care deeply about listening to and amplifying a diversity of voices, including those that we might consider as ‘peripheral’, so that we can build a more holistic view of the ‘open ecosystem’, or of research in general. One of my current projects is leading an evaluation of peer review, and a creative look at what it might look at in the future. Peer review something which is deeply embedded in our knowledge generation and communication systems, and I want to help make this something fairer, transparent, and objective. The project itself is completely open to contribution.
I also work in advocacy/marketing/communications at ScienceOpen. Here, we are dedicated to building tools that researchers can use to make their work more open, and I made sure here that we were one of the signatories for the Wellcome Trust’s data sharing for public health emergencies statement. I see open science as a mechanism. It is embedded for me in principles that should be default in research and knowledge communication anyway: fairness, equality, and freedom. Open science is the gateway to better research through accountability, inclusiveness, and transparency. No research ecosystem should exist without these embedded as core values, and I spend much of my time now trying to convey this at different scales.
In spite of this, I hit barriers to open science all the time. Researchers complain about incentives, imposed through skewed power dynamics and flawed reward systems. If you want to understand an ecosystem, you have to understand what governs it. And for research, it is all about evaluation. For me, aligning how we assess research and researchers with best practices for open science is the next big shift.
If invited to attend the Assembly, I would bring my skills and knowledge in open research, community building, and outreach, and hopefully find others to work with and keep making real change!