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Alice Gibson’s Staff Development Award 2018 report

Alice Gibson, Research Publications Officer at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, won one of the two bursaries in the M25 Staff Development Awards 2018. She used the bursary to attend FORCE2018, held at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Here she reports on the experience and how the M25 award helped her professional development.

I am very grateful to the M25 Consortium for the Staff Development Award bursary that supported my attendance at FORCE 2018 at McGill University in Montreal in October 2018. FORCE2018 was a conference aimed at examining the future of research communications and e-scholarship, which focused this year on engaging with open research as a means of engaging with the future, run by a community collectively referred to as FORCE11 (who also run the FORCE11 Scholarly Communications Institute (FSCI)) and who strive to improve future research communication (see their Manifesto). I wrote a blog ‘FORCE2018: Post-conference Reflections’ in which I summarised my thoughts after the event in relation to the reward structures within Universities and reflected on how these might relate to mental health. At the conference, I also presented a poster, which is in the open access repository Zenodo, showcasing innovative uses of Creative Commons outside of Academia, for which I wrote an associated blog post.

Attending and participating in FORCE2018 made me feel proud of the work that we have done so far at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Making a tool (the Publishing Open Access Interactive Guide), compiling helpful open access guidance resources, signing the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), implementing a School Open Access Publishing Policy and establishing ourselves as a LinkOut source on PubMed are all aspects of working towards a more open future. This helps move towards a research landscape where outcomes of research, in their wide variety of forms, can be accessible to anyone to use and reuse, regardless of whether one has subscribed to content, individually or by virtue of their institution, or not.

Attending FORCE2018 allowed me to tap into a pool of individuals and groups whose commitment to improving the future of research has led to the creation of innovative and positive projects, like OpenStories and Get the Research. As a result, I feel more equipped than before I went with resources to draw on and look to for support and guidance of best practice in the future, and empowered to know where to turn to help resolve some of the challenges that are likely to arise. I also left the conference with a feeling that we need to direct our efforts, not to producing more resources, but instead to drawing on and utilising existing expertise to use our current resources more effectively. Melinda Kenneway, the executive director of Kudos, the service that helps increase reach & impact of research, articulated this well, when she pointed out that researchers mostly do their own dissemination of research with limited support. She presented findings that 23% of the 7000 participants in their survey conducted in July 2018 of professors, faculty, lecturers, research fellows and research associates, spend one day per week on such activities, and use a significant proportion of their grants on dissemination and impact activities, whilst 81% of these want more support. She made a compelling argument that narrow audiences are reached through most popular channels, access to centralised expertise or support was limited, and a significant amount of time, effort and money was going into ‘blind’ dissemination, which was leading to a detrimental ‘everyone for themselves’ approach to a shared challenge.

The ethos conveyed here was, it seems to me, confirmed by speakers at a ‘Better Science through Better Data’ conference I attended recently, which was organised by Springer Nature and the Wellcome Trust. Here Marta Perek, a Data Stewardship Coordinator at TU Delft, argued that it is more necessary to instate a culture shift than to reflexively respond to challenges by focusing on the provision of new tools and infrastructure. Marta’s talk was given in the context of examining the main barriers that prevent data sharing, and as such, it examined another that was dealt with extensively at FORCE2018 too, particularly in Dominique Roche’s presentation ‘Open data: nice people can’t share!’ (summarised in his poster). John Burn-Murdoch, a Data Visualisation Journalist at the Financial Times, also presented at the Better Science conference at the Natural History Museum last week. His talk, ‘Making beautiful clinical meaningful graphics’, responded perfectly to the themes of Melinda Kenneway’s presentation at FORCE2018, by issuing some practical tips, grounded in the paper ‘Beyond Memorability: Visualization Recognition and Recall’, to communicate research findings more effectively. He issued four main imperatives: use active titles, say your message twice, exploit colour and make the minimum legible font size 1/20 of the graphic width.

Attending FORCE2018 increased my confidence in diagnosing, understanding and responding to the challenges faced in the open scholarship environment today. It convinced me that there is more work to do, especially in terms of ensuring that researchers are equipped to prepare for the impending changes in the future scholarly communications landscape, particularly with the updated open access policy of the Wellcome Trust and Plan S. I feel more comfortable entering into conversations about the changing environment and the challenges that come with it, however, and equipped with a new community and a plethora of resources to turn to.


Alice Gibson, LSHTM

November 2018