Recently, we’ve been running an ‘open science stars‘ series to highlight a range of great people from around the world working to advance open science practices. This week, we have something a little special for you. All previous interviews have been with students or researchers, but this story is from a physician in the United States Navy, Commander Jean-Paul Chretien! So sit back and enjoy the show.
Hi Commander Jean-Paul! For starters could you let us know a little about your background?
Thank you for interviewing me. Let me say first that throughout this interview I’m expressing my own views, not necessarily the official policy or position of the Department of Defense, Defense Health Agency, or US Government.
I’m a physician in the United States Navy, and my training is in public health, epidemiology, and informatics. I work on challenges at the intersection of health and national security, like infectious disease outbreaks and climate change.
I was drawn first to the military, before medicine, but I knew what life as a doctor is like because my parents are physicians. I wanted to be a military officer from a pretty young age. Service to country, the chance to lead, the adventure – all of that appealed to me. For college I went to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, thinking maybe I would command a warship someday. But while I was there, studying international affairs and national security, I learned that some of the most pressing security challenges were health problems like HIV/AIDS, at the time. And I learned that in many battles and wars, diseases crippled military forces and civilian populations in war zones. Infections often caused more casualties than combat.
So I decided to go to medical school, but not to be a doctor practicing in a clinic. I wanted to be a doctor for populations, and bring medical knowledge to decisions that impact military service members, the broader American public, and, well, everyone.
When did you first hear about Open Access and Open Science? What were your first thoughts? Has there ever been a case where lack of access to information has seriously compromised your work?
When I was a student working on my MD and my PhD in epidemiology, I didn’t think about Open Access because access wasn’t a problem for me. Through my university, I could access just about any journal article I needed. But later, when I began my global health work in the U.S. military, I saw how access restrictions constrained biomedical research, patient care, and population health around the world.
At that time, I worked in a Department of Defense program that partners with dozens of countries to improve their capabilities for detecting and containing epidemics. I had collaborators around the world, public health personnel and researchers in countries with limited resources, who could not read about studies on the diseases that burden them. How can they join the global effort against infectious disease outbreaks if they can’t always access the most current and best research on those diseases?
When I began my global health work in the U.S. military, I saw how access restrictions constrained biomedical research, patient care, and population health around the world.
Then, what galvanized my commitment to open access and open science in general was the Ebola outbreak that began in West Africa in late 2013, and spread to Europe and the U.S. It’s waning now, but infections are still occurring. There have been more than 28,000 confirmed cases with around 11,000 deaths, by far the largest Ebola epidemic ever.
Continuing our ‘open science stars’ series, we’re happy to present Dr. Julien Colomb this week! Julien is a postdoc in Berlin, and we’ve been working together (well, Julien has tolerated my presence..) at Open Science meetups here, which he’s been using to build an active community over the last 10 months or so. He recently published a cool paper in PeerJ and built a new ScienceOpen Collection, so we asked for his thoughts and experience with Open Science!
Hi Julien! Thanks for joining us at the ScienceOpen blog. Could you start off by letting us know a bit about your background?
Hi John. My pleasure to be here. [We’ve known each other for a year and he still can’t spell my name..]
I have been interested in neurobiology since my high school time; I got to work with Drosophila during my Master’s thesis and could then not leave the field. I worked about 10 years on the neuroanatomy and behaviour in the fruit fly larvae and flies in Switzerland, Paris and Berlin. In 2013, I decided to stay in Berlin when the mentor of my second post-doc, Prof. Brembs, moved to Regensburg. In the last 3 years, I have been jumping between different jobs in Prof. Winter groups, I have been wandering in the startup community in Berlin (founding Drososhare GmbH), and trying to foster open science and open data. At the moment, I work half time at the Charite animal outcome core facility, while we work on getting a beta version of the Drososhare product (a platform to share transgenic Drosophila between scientists). I also run the Berlin Open Science Meetup.
We’re continuing our series on highlighting diverse perspectives in the vast field of ‘open science’. The last post in this series with Iara Vidal highlighted the opportunities of using altmetrics, as well as insight into scholarly publishing in Brazil. This week, Ernesto Priego talks with us about problems with the scholarly publishing system that led him to start his own journal, The Comics Grid.
There was no real reason to not start your own journal as an academic, to regain control of our own work and to create, disseminate and engage with scholarship in a faster, more transparent, fairer way.
Hi Ernesto! Thanks for joining us here. Could you start off by letting us know a little bit about your background?
I was born in Mexico City. I am Mexican and I have British nationality too. I studied English Literature at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) where I also taught and was part of various research projects. I came to the UK to do a master’s in critical theory at UEA Norwich and a PhD in Information Studies at University College London. I currently teach Library and Information Science at City University London.
When did you first hear about open access and open science? What were your initial thoughts?
I cannot recall exactly. I think I first encountered the concept of ‘open access’ via Creative Commons. I was a keen blogger between 1999 and 2006, and I remember that around 2002 I first came across the concept of the ‘commons’. I think it was through Lawrence Lessig that I really got interested into how scholarly communications were incredibly restrictive in comparison to the ideas being discussed by the Free Culture movement. Lessig’s Free Culture (2004) changed things for me. (For more background I recently talked to Mike Taylor about why open access means so much to me in this interview).
We need to think about the greater good, not just about ourselves as individuals.
You run your own journal, The Comics Grid – what was the motivation behind this?
Realising how difficult and expensive it was to access paywalled research got me quite frustrated with scholarly publishing. When I was doing my PhD I just could not understand why academics were stuck with a largely cumbersome and counter-intuitive system. The level of friction was killing my soul (it still does). It just seemed to me (now I understand better the larger issues) there was no real reason to not start your own journal as an academic, to regain control of our own work and to create, disseminate and engage with scholarship in a faster, more transparent, fairer way. I’ve said before that often scholarly publishing feels like that place where academic content goes to die: the end of the road. I feel publishing should be a point of departure, not the end.
We’re running a series to showcase some of the different perspectives in the scholarly publishing and communication world, and in particular regarding the theme of ‘Open Science’. We’ve already heard from Joanne Kamens about her work in making open data repositories and campaigning for greater diversity in STEM; Dan Shanahan discussed issues with the impact factor and assessment in academia; Gal Schkolnik let us know about her research into Shewanella and experiences with Open Access publishing; and Israel Bimpe described his story as a student from Rwanda and global health champion. So quite a mix, and it’s been great to get such a variety of thoughts, perspectives, and experiences.
But we’re not stopping there! We spoke to Iara Vidal who is working on her PhD in Information Science at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and has plenty of experience with altmetrics and also in working as a librarian. Here’s her story!
Hi Iara! So can you tell us a bit about your background to get things rolling?
Sure! I had my first experience with scientific research in high school. I was in what we call a “technical school” here in Brazil, studying to be a meteorological technician. In 1998 me and some other students did a study correlating rain levels with the incidence of certain diseases whose transmission is somehow related to water. It was great fun to go looking for all the data we needed, and we actually got a poster accepted at the 10th Brazillian Meteorology Conference (pdf is available here, if you’re curious and can read Portuguese – there’s a short English abstract but that’s it). That was my first scientific event – and honestly, conferences are probably my favourite aspect of academia to this day. For college, I changed from Meteorology into Library Science. I joined a research group in my university and kept presenting papers in small scientific events and student meetings. It was an amazing experience, but when I graduated in early 2005 I decided to go work in libraries instead of staying in academia. I *love* being a librarian, but things became difficult when, through reasons that are too complicated to explain here, I ended up as the sole librarian in a federal agency. Much as I tried, I could not improve my situation. So, in 2012, I decided to leave and pursue an academic career. I got my master’s degree in Information Science in 2014, and have been working on my PhD since 2015.
When did you first hear about open access and open science? What was your initial reaction?
I think I first heard about open access in the early 2000s, maybe in one of the Library and Information Science student meetings I used to go to. But it was only in the past few years that I got more involved in the issue. In 2013 I attended a conference celebrating the 15th anniversary of the SciELO Network (http://www.scielo15.org/en/about/), which got me really excited not only about open access, but also about the role of Latin America and other peripheral regions in all this. As I researched more about open access I got to know about open science as well. My reaction to all this was of excitement (hell yeah let’s free knowledge!), but also questioning: how do we get people to change their behaviour? I think the answer lies in incentives, which increased my interest in research evaluation. I studied altmetrics in my master’s and am now moving to article-level metrics, but the end goal is improving evaluation.
How do we get people to change their behaviour? I think the answer lies in incentives, which increased my interest in research evaluation.
Continuing our series on getting different perspectives into the field of ‘Open Science’, we spoke to Israel Bimpe, a pharmacy student at the School of Medicine and Pharmacy of the University of Rwanda, and a youth role model and champion for global health issues as the Vice President (and Chairperson of the African Regional Office) of the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation. He spoke to remind us that Open Science is a global challenge, and I hope this interview helps to illuminate that.
Hi Israel! Could you tell us a little bit about your background?
I’m a Pharmacy Student at the School of Medicine and Pharmacy of the University of Rwanda, doing my final year, which is just an internship, and very excited to graduate in July.
When did you first hear about ‘open science’ and ‘open access’? What were your first thoughts about them?
I heard about Open Science and Open Access during the 68th World Health Assembly in Geneva where I met a friend who was calling for more Open Science and Open Access in a random hostel lobby group discussion. It was so interesting that I got to check about it and even registered for the conference in Brussels (OpenCon), for which I was unfortunately not selected due to my limited knowledge probably.
Open Access would then be very important for students and medical professionals here in matters of accessing updated and accurate information
You are very passionate about global health equality and social justice. Where do you see open access and open science fitting into this?
I have been thinking about ways of linking up my passion to my interest in Open Science and Open Access, but still struggling to bridge them. I feel like my passion is more of civic engagement and interest on open science and open access more into education and science. Moreover, I rarely read/hear my Global Health and Social Justice Role model refer to Open Access and Open Science. It is quite still confusing for me.
We do struggle very much, as we can only access very old, non-accurate research.
How important is open access to students and medical professionals in Rwanda?
This not only applies to Rwanda but Africa in general in order to advance education and science, we need to access recent and up to date information. A practical example is that, I, in my whole education never used a paper published in the past two to five years. Excuses are usually that it’s expensive to access them and how easy it is to access the platforms. Open Access would then be very important for students and medical professionals here in matters of accessing updated and accurate information, as well Professional Development for a better practice.
Last week, we kicked off a series interviewing some of the top ‘open scientists’ by interviewing Dr. Joanne Kamens of Addgene, and had a look at some of the great work she’d been doing in promoting a culture of data sharing, and equal opportunity for researchers. Today, we’re bringing you another open science star, Dr. Gal Schkolnik, who recently published a really cool Collection with us on the bacterium Shewanella. Here’s her story!
Hi Gal! So can you tell us a bit about your research background, and how you originally got interested in science?
I did my BSc in Chemistry at the Tel Aviv University and my MSc at the Weizmann Institute, analyzing the chemical composition of deforestation-fire smoke from the Amazon, where farmers and corporations yearly set hectares of rainforest on fire for agriculture and pasture. For my PhD at the Technische Universitaet Berlin I measured the electric fields at protein surfaces and self-assembled monolayers. Now I’m researching Shewanella, an electroactive bacterium that can transfer electrons across its outer membrane. As you can see, I always start on a completely new field, because my greatest passion in life is acquiring knowledge – so learning something new is my favorite kind of challenge. I’m basically just a kid who never got over the “why” stage, haha. Plus I had some very inspiring teachers at school – two wonderful women who nurtured my natural tendency to go deep in pursuit of answers to the hardest questions.
People who have no access to journal subscriptions can use ScienceOpen to gain more knowledge about electroactive bacteria and their possible applications.
Last week, we kicked off a series interviewing some of the top ‘open scientists’ by interviewing Dr. Joanne Kamens of Addgene, and had a look at some of the great work she’d been doing in promoting a culture of data sharing, and equal opportunity for researchers. Today, we’ve got something completely different, with Daniel Shanahan of BioMed Central who recently published a really cool PeerJ paper on auto-correlation and the impact factor.
Hi Daniel! To start things off, can you tell us a bit about your background?
I completed a Master’s degree in Experimental and Theoretical Physics at University of Cambridge, but must admit I did my Master’s more to have an extra year to play rugby for the university, rather than a love of micro-colloidal particles and electron lasers. I have always loved science though and found my way into STM publishing, albeit from a slightly less than traditional route.
Open science is a rapidly evolving field, with a huge diversity of actors involved. We want to highlight some of the superstars helping to spearhead the evolution of scholarly communication, who are real positive forces for change. The first of these is with Joanne Kamens PhD, who currently is the Executive Director for Addgene, a repository for the life sciences. We asked her about open science, the impact this can have on diversity in research, and the value of repositories. Here’s her story!
Hi Joanne! So can you tell us a little bit about your background to get things started?
After graduating University of Pennsylvania I went directly to graduate school in the Harvard Medical School Division of Medical Sciences where I received a PhD in genetics. For you historians, it was the first year that the Division existed allowing students to move around PIs in many departments. I defended my thesis while 6 months pregnant and had my son while still working in that lab. I had a great mentor in Dr. Roger Brent (now at the Fred Hutchinson Center in Seattle). I studied transcription using yeast and helped demonstrate that an acidic domain of the Rel protein was activating when brought in proximity to the promoter region. Again for historical perspective, PCR was invented while I was in grad school and I got to beta test the first MJ research PCR machine (M worked on my floor) which had no outsides. Roger Brent’s lab was one of the labs that created the yeast two-hybrid screening system and I have always been a lover of molecular biology technology which serves me well at Addgene.