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The Brazil: German OA connection – the secret of successful collaboration!

Joao Bosco Pesquero and Michael Bader standing next to a statue of Max Delbrück.
Joao Bosco Pesquero and Michael Bader standing next to a statue of Max Delbrück.

ScienceOpen Editor, Nana Bit-Avragim, interviewed Editorial Board Member Michael Bader, a Professor at Charité and a Group Leader at Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), Berlin, Germany and his 20 year collaborative research partner (and friend) Joao Bosco Pesquero, a Professor from the Federal University of Sao Paulo (UNIFESP), Brazil.

Their lasting connection is a great example of open, cross-border research originating from a shared passion for science that surpasses language barriers. Before we dive into the interview, here’s some background on their research interests:

Michael Bader (MB). Prof. Bader is interested in understanding the molecular and genetic mechanisms that regulate angiotensin, bradykinin and serotonin hormones and their role in the regulation of the cardiovascular, nervous and immune systems. In addition to the molecular and cellular aspects of hormone regulation, Prof. Bader’s research group is focused on the development and characterization of new transgenic techniques, e.g. the “knockout” technology for rats, the widely used animal model for cardiovascular diseases

João Bosco Pesquero (JBP). Prof. Pesquero’s research areas include molecular and cellular biology and physiology of the kinin–kallikrein system. Joao Bosco Pesquero has contributed enormously to research on kinin receptors and was the first to generate a transgenic model for kinin B1 receptor insufficiency in mammals in collaboration with Michael Bader. Prof. Pesquero’s recent project is dedicated to the idea of applying cutting-edge technologies underlying modern genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics to sports medicine. This unique project, Atletas do Futuro, is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to predict and modify a person’s ability and capacity for sport.

Q1. What is the “secret” behind your 20-year successful collaboration?

JBP + MB: We believe that the similarity of our empathy and character are the bedrock of our successful collaboration.

MB: We are fair and open and therefore trust each other. My advice would be: do not be selfish and tricky, but rather build up trust. Interestingly, having different points of view supports our collaboration.

JBP: We enjoy what we are doing together and always have fun at work. We are interested in more or less the same research topics and we trust each other.

JBP + MB: However, one of the essential aspects of our long-term and fruitful partnership relies on the PROBRAL initiative, a funding program of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Thanks to DAAD support, we were able to keep our research work running effectively and for the long term.

NB/ScienceOpen: I believe that the next generation of young scientists growing up in your labs will ‘inherit’ your genes of ‘empathy’ and ‘affinity’ and will keep up your good work.

Q2. As established researchers, what would be your advice for young scientists trying to navigate the scientific publishing landscape?

MB: We are living in a time of change, with lots of movement within the existing scientific system. To completely change that system might take several years or a decade. Unfortunately, at this very moment young academics who desire a position at a research institute still have to publish their results in journals that are measured by Impact Factors. To be realistic, I cannot completely advise my PhD-students or postdocs to publish all of their manuscripts ony with PLOS or ScienceOpen. In the evolving scholarly publishing environment, it is good to have new game-changers to contradict the existing rules and foster further development.

JBP: My advice to young scientists will be – try to do good science. Publishing is a consequence of doing research. No matter what scientific system exists and where the researchers live. The most important element to me is to perform high quality science that facilitates global discovery.

MB: The Hirsch-index is still not perfect but initially it shows the individual impact of each publication. It shows the individual scientist’s contribution.

Q3. Tell us about your interest in Open Access science and your opinion about the current state of affairs in science publishing. What has been your experience? 

MB: Closed journals are somehow old fashioned. Those closed journals like Nature, Science and Cell, which do select papers and consider themselves sexy and premium, don’t represent good science anymore. The closed journals also do not publish critical science. Some good work never appears in closed journals due to the hidden peer review process which sometimes also leads to bad quality reviews. This should have been overcome by now. In contrast, a better system would use a completely open peer review process. The novel open system is not yet established and sometimes presents weak reviews. So, both systems have many problems. But, I think it is good to have new alternatives. This is why I am participating in and staying with the new system of open science.

JBP: We are currently changing the way in which we view scientific communication. There is now some free access to information. And, we are getting more and more access. We are on the edge of changing our minds about how results should be published and evaluated. I like Open Access science and Open Evaluation of scientific results. Some journals have started offering Open Review. I think it is fair to know who is evaluating your work. We are at the beginning of new era, and I really embrace these changes. I believe that the current system will be improved and the quality of the science that it produces will be elevated too. It is heading in a good direction. The more openly we produce science and expose our work to criticism, the more it helps to improve what we do. I am confident about that – it is all for the good! By the way, last month I submitted a manuscript for BMC Medical Genetics and received the reviews signed with the full names of reviewers shortly thereafter. I was nicely surprised and pleased to read those comments and suggestions. That was my first experience of open peer review, and I am happy about that experience. 

Q4. Do you think an Open Access platform like ScienceOpen has a particular usefulness for translational research?

MB: I think that a quick and transparent way of publishing research will result in faster implementation of scientific discoveries.

JBP: This is a very important point. Quick publishing will foster technological innovations implementation, especially in patient-oriented research, that should speed up all translational research at the end. Interestingly, almost 75% of scientific knowledge is not published yet but rather is accumulating in patents. If we could apply Open Access to the patent system, that would accelerate knowledge translation and its implementation.

MB + JBP: There is another argument for Open Access which is to prevent and predict earlier failures and pitfalls in conducting translational research. As an example, there is the  history of Omapatrilat, a novel antihypertensive drug invented by Bristol-Myers Squibb, which was not approved by the food and drug administration due to some serious safety concerns at the end. If the data from the clinical studies had been freely available and published transparently, it would have clearly lead to a faster and better evaluation of this medication. 

Q5. Do you think more transparency and free exchange of data could support academic freedom and foster a new scientific culture?

MB + JBP: Basically, we have already commented on this point through the interview.  However, there are some other aspects we would like to bring up.

MB: In terms of building up a new scientific culture of communication, it is just about a different kind of behaviour. We cannot just ‘kill’ and hate people if they do not like our ideas. Indeed, we have to become more altruistic and loyal.

JBP: We have to start learning criticism. Criticism is important for us to improve our research and ourselves. We grow up by learning from failures. The same should be applied to science. Sometimes, a research project goes in the wrong direction and we do not initially realize it. We should not hesitate to speak out about negative results – it is really important. It will help to save intellectual energy, money and time and prevent others from repeating the errors.

MB + JBP: Our impression is that due to Open Access life sciences will become more transparent and faster at overcoming ineffective practices.  Every scientist can access the research results of his/her fields of interest more quickly and review them. It is a great practice!

Thank you very much for this interview and your excellent insights on Open Access and Scientific Publishing. Wishing you further success and many new successful Open projects to collaborate on.