Collaboration means fresh ideas. When you bring people together from different institutions, countries, backgrounds and cultures, it leads to new ways of thinking. It fosters the sharing of knowledge and best practices, meaning better solutions and faster progress.
But collaboration doesn’t happen on its own – researchers need the tools and support to build interdisciplinary teams that break down barriers in their institutions and beyond. Here are four ways to drive a more collaborative world of open science.
1. Helping the research community share data
Research data is incredibly valuable, and sharing it can accelerate the pace of research. Earlier this year, authors of largest meta-analysis of antidepressants made their dataset freely available. The paper was published in The Lancet, and the data from 522 randomized controlled trials with more than 100,000 participants is shared on Mendeley Data. One of the lead authors, Dr. Andrea Cipriani of the University of Oxford, told The Lancet:
As a group of authors, we strongly believe in open science. The data we have collected includes an unprecedented amount of previously unpublished data on antidepressants, which we sourced from pharmaceutical companies, original study authors, and regulatory agencies. By making the dataset available online, we encourage other researchers to replicate and improve on our work, in order to inform and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
2. Making science accessible to the public
The public is a crucial stakeholder in the scientific process. Elsevier’s Atlas showcases research that can significantly impact people's lives around the world, or already has. Each month, a research paper is selected by an external advisory board made up of representatives of some of the world's most renowned non-government organizations (NGOs), including the United Nations University and Oxfam; these papers are turned into easily comprehensible lay summaries that bring the public into the discussion.
For example, Dr. James Allan and his research team at the School of Earth and Environmental Studies at the University of Queensland, set out to examine the ways human activity was affecting Natural World Heritage Sites, They found that despite their protected status, many of these sites – designated as the world’s most distinctive and biologically important – were under threat, with some at risk of being destroyed forever. As he told the Atlas reporter:
I’m a passionate conservationist, and winning an Atlas award helps raise the profile of Natural World Heritage conservation globally. Sending a message to the public and policy makers about the danger these places are in was a key aim of our paper, and Elsevier has helped us achieve this. The award goes to show how much people care about their Natural World Heritage.
3. Sharing tools and resources on key issues
In the introduction to Elsevier’s Opioid Epidemic Resource Center, Dr. Leslie Die, Editor-in-Chief of Point of Care Content for Clinical Solutions at Elsevier, writes:
The opioid epidemic is taking lives every day. In the United States, where President Trump has declared it a national public health emergency, prescription opioids and heroin killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Opioid Epidemic Resource Center is one of several resource centers set up to provide bespoke tools and information to clinicians and professionals tackling some of the most pressing issues of the time. For example:
- Our Cancer Resouce Center includes the Lancet Oncology Commission report detailing the roadmap to deliver on the Cancer Moonshot’s Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations, aimed at accelerating research progress against cancer. Addressing a national gathering at the UN last November, former Vice President Joe Biden said said: “The work proposed by this distinguished commission … should bring hope, and I believe will bring hope, to millions of people around the world as they receive cancer diagnoses this year.”
- Our Gender and Science Resource Center centers around Elsevier’s Gender in the Global Research Landscape report, drawing on Elsevier’s information analytics capabilities to provide data that can be used – and built upon – by research leaders, stakeholders in government and funding bodies, and policymakers more broadly.
4. Sharing research among big interdisciplinary teams
The Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials places a lot of emphasis on practical, industry-backed research. That might mean prosthetics for Paralympians, or sprayable Polyfilla for people with extreme skin conditions. As Industry Fellow at BCFN and Dr. Duncan Casey put it in an article for Elsevier Connect last year:
There’s always a place for curiosity-driven research, but I don’t do much of that. I want to see a problem get solved. I want to hold something.
Working on cutting edge, commercially centred problems often means drawing on expertise from specialists across dozens of fields, so Dr. Casey and the teams he works with depend on Mendeley Groups to curate and share reading lists. “That was invaluable,” Duncan said. “In the Institute for Chemical Biology at Imperial, we had about 80 academics working together. If someone new joined, we could drop all the literature into their inbox: Here’s the essential reading list, here’s the recommended list, here’s the cutting-edge stuff – all in different subdirectories.”
Using Mendeley, information from many different publishers can be shared across sites without overloading everyone’s inbox with hundreds of PDFs or requiring researchers to log in to several different sites. “It’s a tremendous facilitator,” Duncan said. “It gives you the chance to have live conversations about an article with the annotations in front of you, and you know that everyone is working from the same, final version of the article.”