A conversation with Martin Delahunty
A conversation with Martin Delahunty
Jo: You’re listening to Access 2 Perspectives conversations. My name is Jo Havemann and I’m here today with Martin Delahunty. Delahunty is an Irish name. You’re based in London and you’re the CEO of Inspiring Stem strategy, communications and engagement consultancy. Welcome, first of all, very warm welcome, Martin. It’s great to have you here.
Martin: Thank you, Jo. And lovely to join you as well. And a fellow podcaster.
Jo: Of course, surely we are getting there to talk about the exciting conversations you’re having in your podcast show, which can also be found on our website under Recommended Podcast shows, all of which are in the realm of open science. Let’s get into our long discussion on the intersections of open science towards knowledge transfer. What can open Science and open access do? Or how can practicing open science allow researchers to have an impact on society or wherever the research is going to lead us? Because accumulating knowledge is one thing, and that might be very much true and beneficial for basic research, much basic research. As to where I’m coming from, Biosciences and evolutionary biology has eventually an impact on any research field, really, wherever it’s been taken up into. Maybe let’s get started by learning more about your background, what brought you to open your company, Inspiring Stem, and the kind of work you currently do, and what role the podcast plays in the work you do as a consultant and trainer and experts for research management research or science communication at large, and Open Science, where we all both have explicit interests and expertise.
Martin: Open Science is where it’s at the moment because it’s just the perennial discussion. And so my background is 30 years in scientific publishing. I started out as a copy editor and proofreader before the age of a computer, which is taking me back some. I had a red pen and a blue pen and hard copy manuscripts and an Intray and out tray. So I was there at the coalface very early on doing science editing and trained as a science editor, and then progressed through various different stages and iterations of the scholarly publishing industry. And I have to fully declare the fact that I’ve worked for many commercial publishers, Elsevier twice, Springer Nature more recently who was my last employer, and within that group, the Nature research publications. So my background is in scholarly and scientific publishing journals, publishing, a little bit of book publishing, but working very closely with academic institutions, professional membership associations involved in progressing science research, and really almost 15 years ago beginning to think about open access and explaining what open access publishing is and isn’t, and continuing to do that now as an independent consultant. So I’m in year five of Inspiring Stem Consulting. So we’re a private, limited company. We provide consulting services for a whole range of stakeholders in the scholarly publishing ecosystem, from yes, publishers, but also pharmaceutical companies. So all my clients are declared on my website. So, for example, I do work for Pfizer and the publications team in Pfizer in New York. I work for World Scientific Publishing in Singapore, which is great because then I get an Asia Pacific perspective on scholarly publishing. I work for publishing services vendors. Currently I’m a publishing adviser for a company called Amnest Systems in Chennai and they are developing an open access, Open science enabled publishing platform and peer review system. I also work for government agencies, so I’m doing some work now for the National Health Research. They have an open access publications program. So it’s actually very hard to find a piece of work that I’m doing or a client within my sphere who’s not currently challenged or interested or both around open access and open science, which is good. And then I think somebody asked me, what’s your greatest achievement? And I think in publishing, my proudest moment was developing the Nature Partner journals within Nature from literally scratch. It was myself and two colleagues who came together with management support to develop a new idea for a partnership series of journals with a flavor of Nature in the title Nature Partner Journals. But for the first time, launching open access Journal systems back in 2014, developing fully open access journals under a Nature brand, which has never been done before. This is when Nature Communications was still a hybrid Journal. So offered a subscription and open access route before it eventually became open access and then left Springer Nature in September 2017. Very happily both sides decided to do something different, as many people do in life. You’ve got a little focus on your health when you’re working 100 miles an hour and doing 100,000 flying miles a year and having a fantastic time being a publisher, and then your body says you probably should stop for particular reasons. So I had health incidents which stopped me in my tracks and thought, well, perhaps I should just sort of step back a little bit and do something maybe different. And consulting really has been a fantastic opportunity for me to connect then with a wide set of stakeholders within scholarly publishing and to then bring that perspective to bear and share that knowledge with people like yourself and through events seminars, which very nicely to present, that is just to share that holistic view from multiple stakeholders point of view, and then try and bring it all together into something that’s very practical. So that’s in a nutshell, what my career has been over the last 30 years in publishing. I did a degree in natural Sciences at Trinity College in Dublin. I worked for a couple of years as a medical researcher in Krumlin Children’s Hospital and then I came to London to do a PhD. Decided within twelve months that working in a laboratory was really not for me. And luckily my head of laboratory was married to a scientific publisher and she said, have you ever thought about publishing? I said, no, nobody’s ever told me about scientific publishing.
Jo: What is that?
Martin: The rest is history, but I’m still finding PhDs and academics and post grads who are thinking about transitioning out of science and they’re just not told about the opportunities within scholarly publishing or scholarly communications or science communications, which is your area. It’s just a fantastic career because it’s so diverse and there is so much need at the moment. And more recently with COVID, clearly there’s a massive need for effective science communications that are accurate, authenticated and cut through any fake news out there. So the role of Science communicators has been really, if it hadn’t already been validated in the post COVID world, has really been validated. The whole landscape around knowledge communication within science is a fantastic area to work with, and I spend a little bit of time promoting that to PhDs who are looking to transition out of science and just presenting those opportunities, what I call knowledge base careers, one of which is science scientific publishing, another science communications other areas of tech companies that are looking to develop workflow tools for scientific researchers. So an example will be Digital Science, a fantastic company, which I was very lucky enough at Nature to work alongside developing some incredible innovative tools like Figshare and Altmetric to support research and workflows. And many of the CEOs of those companies that came looking for seed funding, many of those were PhDs, so academics who decided they wanted to transition out. Mark Hahnel is a very good example with Figshare.
Jo: He’s been on the show, so the episode will be released by the time this one is released, for sure.
Martin: There you go. I didn’t know
This whole dynamic within science communications and a whole different set of perspectives that need to be brought together. And underpinning all that now is open science.
Jo: Yeah. I feel like many of the tools like Figshare have been rather recently over the past decade or a little bit more developed by researchers. And Mark also shared that he just wanted an outlet where he could easily share his data to prove and showcase what his research communication like the manuscript and the papers would refer to. And then there was no outlet really. And so he created his own, and that’s Figshare today and it’s been functional, up and running. And I think there was a quick uptake when I was a PhD student, when they launched and it’s grown into a massive super useful tool. I think it’s been piloting a lot of the repository services or kind of how do you say Repositories 2.0 and now others deliver. He’s also pushing for an increased interconnectivity between different systems. So that’s I think the current challenge, how to interconnect all these naturally and silos developed systems. How can we create access to all of the research work that’s being deposited in various systems to make that easily accessible for the researchers and other stakeholders? So just briefly, we can also dig deeper into the podcast shows and the guests that you had or maybe do that now? How do you feel the conversations you have with your podcast inform the work that you do as a consultant?
Does that give you a new perspective on your own work, having these conversations in this format? I can only say, for me, this is really uplifting. Like the podcast, primary is such a nice venue to bounce ideas and thoughts and experiences for experts and to learn massively with each guest on the shows. Is it the same for you?
Martin: It’s the same for me. I mean, it’s just you put two or three people in a podcast room and you learn something new. And the reason I continue to do it and I’m sure you continue to do it, is that at every point I learn something new, and also that I can share some insights as well from my perspective, by having a conversation. So as with your podcast, my format is very conversational. So I had Jamie Carrmichael, who is a senior director at the Copper Right Clearance Center, and so she has talked quite frequently around inequity and open access and how to address that challenge. So we had a podcast a couple of weeks ago, but it was almost the tables returned where she was interviewing me, which was fine, but it worked out to be a very productive conversation, which is what I like. So I always learn something new and hopefully people that I’m interacting with and who can use the podcast as a platform to share their perspectives also get value. Not all, but nearly all the podcast teams have been around open access and open science. So naturally, the podcast is published under CCBI license. So I encourage everybody and anybody to reuse the content. They can have the raw MP3 files if they want to use it through their own systems. But I’ve also focused on just because I’m inquisitive. And that’s my inherent sort of bit of science DNA that I have. I don’t have a huge amount of science DNA because I wasn’t a very good laboratory technician, but hence my segue into publishing. But that inquisitiveness is always there. So I’m just interested in talking to interesting people who are doing interesting things in publishing. And I’ve talked to Monica Mona at Cambridge University Press, and we had a great conversation around Research Directions, which looks and feels like a Journal, but it’s different. It’s a series of journals under a theme called Research Directions. And under that banner they have, for example, around One Health, which is a real challenge, is to bring together both human and animal health studies into more of a holistic view on health and global health, and tries to break down a traditional Journal article into individual components and to create more of a threaded story. So there’s a data article, there’s a protocol, and then a research impact piece. So those elements will be published separately.
Their impact can be measured. So I try to focus on people that are doing something new and innovative, and maybe slightly another example would be you and Adi. So he and I worked together while he was at digital science, developing alt metric very successfully, and then he’s now moved on to create another product to track policy influence within science and academia, which I think is that interface between research and policy. And Covid clearly has concentrated everybody’s mind on the influence of research, immediate influence of research on policy. And you have a case of Pre prints now coming to the fore by Archive and by your Met archive being very well established because of covid. And I think pre-covid, were still beginning to try and establish what they were and how they served a purpose within clinical biomedical scientific publishing, but they certainly justified their existence. But you have the case of code related research being published as preprints the week before then CTC making a policy change, health policy change based on those preprints, which is amazing. So the world of clinical biomedical science has woken up to be more understanding of preprints. Yes, they’re not peer reviewed, but to be more trusting of the scientific process. Whereas within the physics, mathematics and computing communities, Archive has been the sole, almost like the sole publication vehicle for the past 25 years. So it’s just well established in those fields. That’s how you advance science. It’s just not the case within clinical biomedical science. And you also have in clinical biomedical science the influence of the Glamor journals, the prestige journals, Nature Science, JAMA, Nijem, of course, they’re icons of scientific publishing, but they’re not the sole vehicles for great research. And I think there’s been much more of a leveling of the playing field with the likes of preprint servers. But before that, plus and scientific reports where you’ve got a platform for good sound science to be published, negative results to be published so that you avoid waste in the scientific system, because we know there’s huge amounts of waste both in resources, funding, and just time spent on replication of unnecessary replication of research because it’s just not been published and not being put out there.
We could talk for hours about all the challenges, opportunities, but really fascinating, interesting innovations that are going on. And that’s part of my business. That’s part of an element of the podcast series that I want to talk to people who also want to share a different view on what they’re doing as you do as well. And then if possible, provide an appropriate platform, then to raise any issues around policy and practice within science and how to address some of the challenges there, particularly inequity within the scientific system. And open access publishing has raised that challenge, where if it’s tied to, for example, article processing charges, then there’s a financial barrier to lower middle income countries to publishing in those journals, whereas under a subscription model. There wasn’t, but then there’s no access to that work. So there are some really great healthy discussions around equity within scientific and scholarly publishing and having access to that information. Just today, actually, my current podcast published this morning was with Knowledge and Cameron Cardan, who’s the CEO of Knowledge in Dubai. And they have a product called Zendi, which is about providing affordable access to scientific research and literature, particularly for those researchers that are not attached to large institutions and their scientific disciplines. Many scientific disciplines where the science is driven by individual researchers who are not attached to large universities and don’t have access to institutional repositories courtesy of those large institutions that are individual researchers.
When we got talking then about addressing inequity, we had a great conversation, just sort of prepping for this podcast talking about Africarchive and all the great work that you’re doing there to try and redress the imbalance.
Jo: Yeah. So I think there are several options. And you’ve certainly also learned and saw alternative models on how publishing can function. And a few publishers like plus and some nature journals have already adopted a preprint to Journal workflow to have green open access and therefore like self archive or non open access repositories like preprint repositories where many like in Africarchive, you can also as well deposit your data set. So it’s a one stop shop at the same time. And now I think it could be that some editorial teams fear. But then researchers might ask what’s the added value by Journal? Then why would we still consider Journal publishing if we can make our findings freely accessible at no cost? But I personally think there is still a need for curation. Isn’t that also the original purpose of having channels in the first place? Now that we produce so much output all around the world, there’s an ever increasing number of scholars and PhD students who run the same experiments, because so far there is some curation, but not serving the mass of output that’s being produced, I would guess or assume. Okay, that’s basically how I would argue where Journals still have an important role to play, and we have also considered doing some curation on our own end. But that would take a whole other workload. Add to the workload we already have with a small team. I think that’s where Journals would have a beautiful role to play.
Okay. And then the paradigm might also shift in the sense that researchers are not betting to be chosen for submission by the editorial teams or reviews. But the tides would change in the sense that journals that can bid for research outputs will be published in that Journal and not based on whatever. I mean, of course quality, but it’s also something we talk about, the quality assurance part, but that could then be based really on the scope of the Journal. And then they can use algorithms to find articles that are already accessible and then suggest for the authors to have those published in their Journal because it makes a lot of sense in the series of contents that they’ve already curated to tell the bigger story kind of thing to be the place for knowledge transfer to really happen because another aspect is not enough. With open access, that’s good and fine. It’s a good start. But knowledge transfer can only happen when there is an actual process of information and the language in which we present research outcomes. Currently, yes, it’s for most part probably mostly in the Biosciences in English, but irrespective of the actual language, there’s also a discipline specific lingo which is hard to understand even when you work in the same discipline. But on a different topic, there’s no way to understand what’s going on. So we need people to actually translate that into comprehensible information. What does that now mean for society and who is going to make those connections? Have you seen any solutions to these kinds of knowledge transfer challenges that we’re currently facing due to the amount of knowledge we are producing in the research and academic field?
Martin: Of course, the amount of knowledge being reduced is vast and increasing exponentially, which in one sense is a good thing, particularly for encouraging the publication of work that traditionally would not have been published, that would have been hidden.
There are the two things that will drive success in curating and interpreting data information and converting it into knowledge, where that knowledge then has action. So I would say knowledge is something that has actionable points to it, whereas information doesn’t have any application until you curate it. Now you can obviously use lots and lots of interest now in artificial intelligence and machine learning to process. But the good conversations I’ve heard recently and at the London Book Fair last week, which was the first book fair in a couple of years, were great. So people were very keen to meet and listen and learn. And last Thursday I attended the research and scholarly publishing session, which was really good as well. Lots of again learning something new all the time and bringing presentations from Hong Shu at Atticon. So he presented various different applications of artificial intelligence in scholarly publishing from an Atticon point of view. So data analytics expert point of view, but underpinning all of that is still the need for human interaction and human application of a curation process. And also the fact that the data out is as good as the data in, and a lot of the data coming in is terrible. It’s not tagged correctly. So metadata and applying metadata is happening. Applying persistent identifiers such as ORCID, obviously DOI for many, many years, but more recently, ORCID and other persistent identifiers that can be applied, but they’re not being applied consistently, which means that the data in and the data out, the accuracy is still only going to be 60/70% and that may be good enough with a human science curation on top of that, saying, well, in all probability this is of value or not. If you are relying on accuracy of data-in within a machine learning artificial intelligence application, if you’re self driving a car, you need 100% accuracy, otherwise you’re dead. With science I think we have to accept that there’s going to be a level of inaccuracy which will then necessitate an expert view, and that view will still be subjective. We know the peer review process for any Journal, whether it’s Lancet or whether it’s other Journal specialist journals. Within academia, peer review is subjective and it’s flawed.
Jo: Subjective is not necessarily a bad thing per se. It’s just a matter of being aware and therefore seeking feedback and review. And that’s also common practice from at least two or more reviewers to balance and normalize the bias.
Martin: But I think, again, Covid has really amplified peer reviewed publications. Where peer review was seen as the panacea for this work is just totally credible. Clearly we’ve seen mistakes being made with many journals and those mistakes have been corrected because those journals have been published open access, tagged with data. Where then other researchers within the field can find that, interpret it, interpret the data, and then very quickly say there’s some flaws in the data, there’s some fundamental flaws in the data. Now if that being published behind a subscription firewall in a prestigious Journal, that would have never been found and that would never have been discovered, perhaps for 10, 15, 20 years until somebody tripped over it, they’re really good examples during COVID of the value of metadata, persistent identifiers and making data underlying data alongside original research articles, accessible, fully accessible and inviting open peer review in whatever form that might be. So it’s either on a preprint server where it’s again not peer reviewed, but the community is reviewing that data and interrogating the data and pointing out flaws in the data. Similarly for peer reviewed articles that are made open access through Covid. So every publisher, there was no way that they could not make covid research open access. They had to make it open access, but by doing so, they also opened it up to interrogation and that identified some flaws. So we know the value of that community based curation and the validation of scientific publications through the use of persistent identifiers and through the use of metadata to give a level of assurity, but which still needs a human intervention, a human creation of that work.
Jo: Yes, I agree with what you said and also would like to add that what I’ve read from Archive, I think there’s been a study, there’s been many studies on the quality of peer review and the biases that come with it, and also the doubts or the concern that’s often raised for preprints. But what if then we have masses of kind of junk research out there on the Internet, but pure archive.org, they testify that what we’ve seen in 25 plus years like 90, I don’t know how much percent is of highest quality because no researcher wants to make a fool of themselves by publishing anything on the internet which can be kind of ripped into pieces in milliseconds once it’s online. And I think what’s needed and what I haven’t seen so far is that they still have kind of open access preprint level publication systems with commenting sections. There are many providers of peer review platforms and communities now when we closely work with them. And I think what would be nice to add and probably also difficult to set up technically is for the commenting and reviewing that’s happening on each item, like on each data set or manuscript or both, to basically have validation markings of some sort like a star or whatever rating system with comments to it to specifically express where any concerns might be mentioned, but also to testify the expertise of the individuals for comments because now that it has bibliographists who looks at the bioscience paper and expresses concerns but has no understanding of the science behind. And this is I think what we also often see in close peer review where there is a lack of reviews or reviews are usually researchers who are already overworked. So for most not all journals and editorial teams it’s super difficult to find reviewers or enough thereof and for them to make time to do a thorough review. But I think that’s the original idea with peer review to have an expert in the field to assess and verify presentation of results, some sort. So commenting here alone is good and there’s like the fact of commenting and then hopefully the crowd will have reasonable opinions about it. But then also from what I’ve seen, there’s very little of that happening unless it’s being curated again. And that again comes with a lot of work.
Martin: How have African researchers viewed Africarchive? What kind of feedback are you getting?
Jo: Well, there’s a lot of advocacy also across the continent. I personally thought the uptight would be much quicker, but as everywhere in the world, there’s much resistance because careers depend on publishing and people know that and anything new is insecurity in the trajectory. But for the reasoning of sharing outcomes free of charge. Of course that’s welcomed. People worry about is it an established system? Would it be accepted? Can I still publish to secure my career advancement? And there’s no answer to this. So today, I mean, we would say yes, of course, but then there’s so many decision makers along the way at the respects of University and the editorial teams of whichever journals where people are in between and they have an opinion of either or either they say yes, of course, we are totally for pre print publishing or no, we’re still transitioning. We don’t have clear policies around that, so maybe not. And we have too many applications anyway, so we just pick them where we have this novel, nowhere else published. So I think that’s the problem. Like in a transitional state where the rules are not clearly laid out for the researchers, uptake will be slow and difficult. But the reasoning makes sense for everyone. Like, here’s a place where you can show your work and that’s what we want as researchers. We would guess.
Yeah. So why do we do research to create knowledge and then what? And we spoke about this also prepping for this conversation. Let’s maybe give a few minutes to knowledge transfer. The researchers might not have to worry about that. But what do we do with all this accumulated knowledge when we touched on this earlier, do you see that in the publishing? Do you see responsibility for knowledge transfer into society and industry and all the stakeholders that could possibly make use of the research outcomes? Is that on the publisher side, or do we need to create new job markets to build bridges for knowledge transfer?
Martin: I think it will require a collaboration. I know you’ve written about collaboration amongst research communities and I think it will come from the research community themselves, not from the commercial publishers who have obviously a commercial interest in what they’re doing, a competitive interest. I think it always has to be communityled. And that’s difficult because it relies on individuals like yourself. And we talked previously about the great late John Tenant as well. So similar individuals leading community based action to try and change the status quo and taking the evidence based approach. I think what’s brilliant is that by taking that evidence based approach, you can counter any argument against doing something new or doing something different. And one of my mantras with clients is I say, well, my approach will always be evidence based. It’s not my subjective view. I will try and bring evidence to bear. If there’s no evidence, bibliometric evidence or market evidence, then it will be very difficult for me to make. I won’t make a recommendation without some evidence behind it and have some scenario testing. And that’s where we’ve got fantastic data Scientists building bibliometricians out there. Science literature experts within various communities are collaborating really well to bring together a consensus view of the right way forwards, the right way for a knowledge sharing, and to address all the challenges around, inequity, around waste within the scientific system, the lack of voice for certain communities within disciplines that are maybe not well supported or well funded. If you’re an oncologist or cardiologist, you’re going to have super funding for your voice, your research, and a platform for publication where you will have impact. But if you’re working in areas of biodiversity or in social Sciences humanities, it’s going to be much more difficult, isn’t it? So that’s just how it is. So I think community based action has already changed the landscape and open science. And I try now to talk more about open science around open access. And some of the editorial board members of one of my client journals asked me recently, isn’t open access and open science interchangeable? It’s the same thing I’m trying to say. Well, actually it’s not. Open science is the very broad umbrella under which open access publishing is just a mechanism to achieve open publication route. You have open data, open standards, you have metadata, persistent Identifiers, the whole range.
Jo: Open peer review, open source, software and hardware. There’s plenty. Citizen science. Again, the intersection to society and what role citizens can play to inform research, to have a dialogue with society. Really what many Sciences or science projects are about. That’s interesting.
Martin: Yeah, the taxonomy of open science is just so rich and diverse, but it’s not well communicated. And we keep coming back to open access publishing being, I think you said as well when we were talking before is okay, we understand open access because we are going to understand open access publishing. Let’s move on to talk about something else. But no, you don’t. That’s just a mechanism by which you can achieve a component of open science much broader. And it does come down to the societal benefit for science. So making that connection between research, policy and change and benefit for society, benefit for patient groups, whatever, but tracking the ultimate benefit and feeding back to them either repeating or not repeating work, there’s still a huge amount of work to be done. And being able to communicate data around that research policy interface is a big challenge. It’s been challenging for everybody. But I’m seeing much more conversation now. So I mentioned Yuan Adi before, who’s now developed a new product called Overton. Overton is looking at that science policy interface, working with the United Nations, with OECD, other NGOs, looking at the policy interface between science and application. It’s very interesting because that’s been lacking for so long. And if you can apply tools to measure and provide some metrics, that will help the conversation hugely. So data is everything. I think metadata, persistent identifiers, authenticators the more data that you can embed within research content and research output and research workflows as well. So there needs to be much more discussion around more efficient workflows within science. The interaction between scientific workflows within laboratory to repository to end user, all those infrastructures require a new expertise as well. And the evolution of data scientists as the new custodians of knowledge within University systems. I think it is a spectacular leap forward and really interesting as a career move. Again, I talked quite a bit about transitioning from laboratory and academia to knowledge based careers. And one of the career segues that I promote is becoming a data scientist and trained to be a data scientist who comes from a scientific background because there’s a huge demand to curate that data, to manage the data, to apply systems and processes to data to make it more efficient and effective.
Jo: That’s also what I personally could spend hours, days and years on just doing. Massaging databases, optimizing, cleaning up or conceptualizing. I think more of conceptualizing but also some of the cleaning because it’s so beautiful when you see a data set come to life, to then also be able to use data visualization tools and software and then to actually learn from the data is only possible after you clean it up. What does clean up really mean is not deleting unwanted data points, but to put it in order to make it human and machine readable so that the software can actually process it. Not to be confused with cherry picking data points, but just managing the data in a way that’s processable and then it can be of use. So therefore it’s again astonishing that for so much time there’s been publications of research outcome where there are surely underlying data sets somewhere available, but not so well curated and oftentimes not accessible to anyone really to use. I mean only once then bioscientists and I think numerically relevant examples when they leave academia to find placements in the industry and then they probably start their research from scratch again to produce a data set which then can only be used within the company for market share. I think that’s also something I’ve come across at some point.
Is there a way through open science to allow the universities to keep ownership of data sets and still make it available also for the industry and the industry to appreciate that and not fear that they will lose on market share and profit making possibilities, but see their purpose in adding to the value chain and being able to gain enough profit for sustainable business model through that and then the data can be open between the sectors. That’s what I’m hoping for.
Martin: The tension will always be between scientific data and advances in science to share that data within a commercial environment. Particularly where you’ve got an academic institution working with a commercial company to partner on research, an end point will be a patent on a product or patent on a drug or patent on some new innovation to generate economic benefit for both partners, including the University. So you’ve got many universities now that are setting up limited companies in collaboration with commercial companies to commercialize their output. In one sense that’s good because it tracks the necessary investment, but then it still will have to tread that fine line between open science and protecting innovation and being competitive because you will still have to be competitive to generate profits if that’s what many universities are looking at right now to generate additional revenue streams. And that’s a necessity. After covid you’ve got a dramatic reduction in the number of overseas students from many universities. Australia is a good example where they were highly reliant on overseas students. Once you begin to lose that revenue stream as a University to fund your operations, then you need to look at other areas. And if research innovation, innovation around new technologies like Quantum. The great pleasure of working with the University of New South Wales and developing a Journal on Quantum and having an insight into their strategic focus on quantum technologies as commercial benefits that would support the operations of the University. They’re really focused, really connected to industry and many other sectors as well. Where universities are doing that to offset losses in other income strains, particularly overseas students. That tends to be quite lucrative for universities.
Jo: I wasn’t aware of that dilemma as a result of covid, but it’s totally understandable when you talk about it. And do you see there’s also a chance for nonprofits and for profit entities to actually get together and collaborate on bigger challenges similar to Mark spoke also about a funding that they’ve received as a repository to work together with, for example, the center of Open Science and other stakeholders who specialize in repository services and clearly fix areas commercial also for reasons of being able to stay flexible, for being able to protect their business idea from being copied by bigger fish in the pond at the time, and because it works for them. And as well, there’s nothing bad about whichever taxation model, as long as the purpose is the focus of operations. So for them, and apparently at work, they now received grants from NIH, the US National Institute of Health, to collaborate and establish a repository system that is interoperable for medical research in the United States, which can then be modeled also for other regions and disciplines. And I think that’s a beautiful example of how different sectors, different taxation models for profits and nonprofits can work together to provide solutions at a larger scale, as we also need with these global challenges, we’re facing that’s only to address like health focused research, science communication, really to make that research output in health in the United States accessible and interoperable. And we also have climate change. We also have peace and conflict status. We also have no wars, not only in Ukraine, between Ukraine and Russia, but also other places around the world. So there’s a high need of societal actors to really come together and provide the solutions or the means for other entities, again to come up with the solutions that we all desperately need. In your conversations, did you see a tendency towards that, or do you feel hopeful that we will see more of such collaborations and meta facilitations of knowledge transfer and research accessibility?
Martin: Yes, I’m very hopeful because the keyword you mentioned there is their interoperability. And so interoperability will then force those knowledge based systems, commercial vendors and knowledge based systems to ensure that they connect. Because they don’t, then those systems will cease to be used. The real call to action from the research community is that if you provide commercial tools for which we will pay a competitive price for those commercial tools. They need to be interoperable with all the other products and services that we use and need to be interoperable with our repository, both nationally and internationally. So you’re beginning to see the development of international data repositories. Let’s hope that continues. Clearly, we now are moving from a world that was focused on globalization to a world that’s closing down to be more a set of nationalist agendas.
Jo: There’s a tendency. Let’s hope we’ll still find a way out of that tendency.
Martin: Well, hopefully through that the principle that science is a political, non political, it should not be influenced and that it should be truly an international endeavor. Clearly, that’s going to be challenged through nationalist agendas because of them, the underlying need to be competitive. And that’s a real tension. And you can see that already, not just with Ukraine, but what went on previously with the previous administration, the United States, that just creates that unnecessary additional pressure when there’s great collaboration, international collaboration going on. Great work to connect previously siloed knowledge based systems, to be more interoperable, to be more accountable, and to work to international standards as well. And international data standards are still challenging to find a set of standards that are internationally recognized. And I’ve been involved with conversations where I do quite a bit of work, obviously, work for the European Medical Rights Association. We have great conferences, great events. We’ve got one coming up, a little plug for Berlin from the third to the 7th of May. Place is still available. We’ve got the European Medical Rights Association’s first face to face meeting for two and a half years. Again, very exciting. And I’m running an afternoon expert seminar series on the real world impact of open science. It’s unavoidable that whatever I do is connected with open science. But in the past, we’ve been talking about the challenges around lack of interoperability of data and systems within, for example, pharmaceutical companies and clinical trial data. And the challenges there, about making data open and accessible, but without maintaining confidentiality and maintaining commercial benefit for individual companies. It’s a complex system, but there’s great work being done to advance a way forward to deal with all of those challenges within the pharmaceutical industry and to ensure that there’s less waste within clinical trials, because there’s past waste within clinical trials. There are many clinical trials that never get past phase one, where that data is then locked away. It’s never published, it’s not published in a clinical trial registry. There’s another big challenge for anybody who’s interested in that area. Ben Goldacre has been talking about the lack of transparency around clinical data for about 20 years. So he’s a good person to keep track of, very vocal around those challenges. But I’m very hopeful for the way things are moving forward because we’re seeing good discussions around open science, increasing understanding of what open science is and what it isn’t, and creating infrastructure and systems that will advance open science.
Jo: Yeah, that’s exciting together with my colleague Louise Preservenhot we also published a paper, I think it was two years ago now in 2020, around the digital open science, towards presumably open science, towards their limitations and also how they facilitate open science at large across the research workflow. And yeah, maybe we can end this conversation on this positive and hopeful note. There is a lot of an increasing scale of interoperability of systems across providers also. So providers have come to the same table to interconnect their systems, which naturally have evolved in silos and now are being interconnected increasingly so and as much as feasible, much as possible. And any developments on top will very much look into interoperability and ensure that to happen. So, yeah, like you, I also see things positively. We still have a few challenges to tackle. And there’s also many people working on these challenges and using AI, using research literature, discovery tools and algorithms. We still need human components to make sense of data analysis or to verify that analysis. And it says potential and actual biases, which surely are there no judgments. But as long as we keep aware and become increasingly aware of any potential biases in whatever system, I think that there’s a chance for keeping those minimal and to keep any negative side effects to the minimum, to, on the contrary, have a mostly positive effect.
Would you like towards the end of this episode and I very much enjoyed the conversation we had, and I’m sure there’s much more to maybe for a follow up conversation between us as well. How would you summarize or kind of final concluding statements, as they say also in Journal manuscripts? What’s your concluding statement or outlook from this conversation to conclude?
Martin: I would say, again, scholarly publishing at the moment is incredibly dynamic and interesting. You are seeing significant collaboration between all stakeholders, both commercial and academic, and we’re seeing tools being applied now that are being increasingly effective in doing what we intend them to do. And it’s just a broader understanding of open science that I’m really happy with at the moment that people are gaining a better understanding of what open science is. It needs to be continually discussed and perspectives shared and perspectives are important as well. So diversity of views around open science and how it works or doesn’t work for particular regions. Again, Africa is a really important region for science, where there are different practices around science and science funding, which needs to be understood in the same way with Asia Pacific or South America. There are different science funding ecosystems that come to play as well, which creates a diversity that sometimes is not accounted for. When we’re talking about bigger issues like open science that needs to be taken into consideration. But this is a very positive time, having gone through a very gloomy time with Covid and obviously Ukraine at the moment, you just think, could the world just have a break for a while but unfortunately we have to deal with Ukraine but I really want to believe that science can help us through all these dark times and good conversation around science is always helpful and so our podcast has been great to have an enjoyed our conversation. We will have to do this again on my podcast next week.
So we will continue the conversation and then should you like me to come back on your podcast sometime in the future, I’ll be very happy to do so. Yes. So for the moment thank you very much for allowing me to be your guest and look forward to our next conversation.
Jo: Me too. Like, great conversation had and very much looking forward to the next one. Also the one on your show next week. Okay. So off to the next episode, thanks for listening.
Martin: Thank you.