Sometimes science can seem very linear and predefined. The steps on the career path are well-known and well-worn, even though taking each of those steps individually is hugely challenging. The route for sharing research results can be equally fixed. In both cases actions must fit a narrative; an academic career has to progress from graduate to doctoral to postdoctoral positions within research institutions, and in order to publish findings they need to be part of a compelling story that justifies a research article. This can mean that someone who does not, or cannot, fit the expected narrative feels excluded from science.
This was certainly the case for Amani Said who gave two talks at the MDC last month, as well as an interview for the. When her PhD research led to negative results there was no story to tell, and as such she became disillusioned with being part of science in academia.
Reducing Wasted Research, Improving Accessibility
In her first talk Amani Said spoke about her role as the Editorial Coordinator at a Swiss start-up publishing platform called. ScienceMatters provide a variation on the traditional publishing route.
It is an Open Access online publishing platform who publish papers on ‘single, validated observations’. The tagline for ScienceMatters is ‘Stories can wait. Science Can’t’, and this explains their approach. Research experiments can lead to important observations, however, these are often not published because they do not fit into a wider story about how the research area is progressing. This means that research time and funding is wasted.
Said also pointed out that what is being published is usually not accessible ‘despite one third of the global research being spent on publishing results, only one percent of the population have access to them’. She noted that, shockingly, ‘even an 1858 paper by Charles Darwin is behind a paywall’. ScienceMatters offer a place to share results that usually remain in lab books on an Open Access platform that is freely available to all.
They are part of a much wider movement to break down the established structures in academia that are seen by many as restrictive to science. A large section of this movement is driven by the Open Science agenda which seeks to make research accessible, transparent, and collaborative.
New Career Directions
These alternative paths in science are not restricted to publication options. In her second talk for the Career Pathway series Said also discussed alternatives to the conventional academic career progression. She spoke about how she followed her passions to change from a career in science to become a Swing Dance teacher in Berlin, then a science teacher in Sweden, and now an editor for ScienceMatters in Switzerland. Said calls herself ‘an idealist’ and believes in changing the future of science for the better, first through her work as a teacher and now by helping to build a publishing platform on the foundations of Open Science.
The last few years have seen an explosion of projects and businesses aimed at providing a different way of doing science. The Open Science movement has given birth to data repositories, MOOCs, workshops, publishers, pre-prints, podcasts, and more. In parallel with this people such as Amani Said demonstrate that there is more than one way to contribute to science. Said suggests that researchers should follow their ‘inner compass’ to find their path, so it is important to know that there are many different directions to choose from.
The ORION project at MDC interviewed Amani Said for the new Open Science Podcasts – Coming Soon!