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'Confidence in Research' collaboration aims to help researchers navigate a rapidly changing scientific landscape

31 August 2022

For the Confidence in Research initiative, Elsevier is working in partnership with Sense About Science and leading science and research organizations in six regions: China, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the UK and the US.

Elsevier launches global collaboration to understand the impact of the pandemic on confidence in research — and how to best support researchers

Introducing our ‘Confidence in Research’ collaboration

By Anne Kitson

Ann Kitson, SVP and Managing Director of The Lancet and Cell Press, writes about Elsevier’s global Confidence in Research initiative.

Ann Kitson, SVP and Managing Director of The Lancet and Cell Press, writes about Elsevier’s global Confidence in Research initiative.

Science and its practice are making extraordinary advances at an accelerated pace. As the nature of publication and collaboration evolves, it’s becoming more and more challenging for researchers to judge the credibility and trustworthiness of research. To this end, we are delighted to announce that we will be collaborating with Economist Impact(opens in new tab/window)

The pandemic has transformed the scientific endeavor in a number of ways, giving it greater prominence and recognition but also creating higher expectations around pace and certainty.

The urgency of the global health crisis spurred open science and data sharing, with rapid assessments resulting in quick breakthroughs that saved millions of lives and made household names of previously unknown scientists. Researchers also took to social media in greater numbers to share findings, collaborate across disciplines and help unpack the complexities of the pandemic to a concerned public.

For researchers, heightened expectations have brought challenges as well: navigating huge quantities of information, finding relevant research, knowing what can be relied upon and tying together quality insights has become harder for researchers. The practice of science can be messy; research is about trial and error, testing and refining hypotheses — yet the public, policymakers and the media increasingly want certainty, simple stories and clear conclusions.

Dr Hugues Chenet(opens in new tab/window), honorary Senior Research Associate at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources(opens in new tab/window) and Scientific Collaborator at the Chair of Stress Test, hosted by the Ecole Polytechnique de Paris(opens in new tab/window), highlights the necessity and challenge of considering a variety of audiences when communicating contemporary research:

I think the question of being understandable by a broader public is primarily a question of ‘translation layers.’ Whatever the complexity or abstraction of a research work, a dedicated effort should be given to make the outcome multi-layered. From the one-line simple explanation for kids (really — they’re the next researchers or users of our research!) to the very specific details only a handful of peers will be interested in. The middle layer for the broader public and media is sometimes what will get more traction, especially on issues widely shared such as climate change. This can be frustrating, as the specificity and ‘value added’ by the research may be missed or hidden.

Julia Bingler, doctoral researcherMulti-layered communication is a new demand on researchers and a skill that doesn’t always come naturally. Julia Bingler(opens in new tab/window), a doctoral researcher at ETH Zurich(opens in new tab/window), shares her advice for those wanting to produce quality research with impact in the post-pandemic world:

Listen to the broader public to understand which topics are pressing and unsolved. If you identify a question that is relevant to the general audience, people will listen to what you say later on about the results. Always ask yourself the “so what?” question, not only at the very end of a paper when you conclude with the implications.

What helped me a lot was working for two years outside academia before I started with my PhD. In retrospect, I realized that this enabled me to understand two communities and translate what I did in research to people working on completely different daily tasks.

What remains unclear is the lasting impact increased public attention will have on how researchers conduct and communicate their research. Whatever its eventual influence, Elsevier wants to work with researchers to help them understand and navigate this changing landscape and co-create potential solutions that can support the research community in a way that ultimately improves research integrity and confidence in science.To this end, we are delighted to announce that we will be collaborating with Economist Impact(opens in new tab/window) to:

  • Assess the drivers of confidence in research for researchers.

  • Examine the extent to which the pandemic has increased public attention on science.

  • Explore the implications this has had on the researcher community and how researchers conduct and communicate their research.

We are also convening a group of world-renowned experts across several geographic regions, drawn from backgrounds including universities, NGOs, think tanks, policy-making organizations and our own editorial community. They will play a key role in assessing the implications of the research findings in different parts of the world, and in helping to create a set of actionable commitments and recommendations that will support researchers.

Ensuring that quality research can accelerate progress for society is at the heart of what we do at Elsevier, and we believe that supporting researchers in navigating this new and challenging scientific landscape is one way we can help.

We look forward to launching the outputs of this collaboration in the fall.

Community perspectives

6 key takeaways from the UK roundtable

Members of the UK research community concur that the pandemic has raised questions over the way scientists and researchers conduct and communicate their work. Dr Lesley Thompson, VP of Academic & Government Strategic Alliances at Elsevier, writes: "We look forward to working with the research community, both in the UK and globally, to think about how we can collectively support researchers and the research ecosystem in a way that harnesses the opportunities of that change, while managing the risks it has surfaced, to improve research integrity and confidence in science." The roundtable is part of a series taking place in the Netherlands, Germany, China, Japan, the UK and the US. 

Read Dr Thompson's story and watch the video.

The roundtable discussion, held in collaboration with Sense About Science, involved stakeholders from throughout the research community.

The roundtable discussion, held in collaboration with Sense About Science, involved stakeholders from throughout the research community.

From a researcher’s perspective

Political and data scientist Dr Michael Bossetta, research is bound up in emotion: he focuses on how social media audiences respond to the emotions politicians present through images. But when it comes to emotion, he writes, "peer review is it's own kinds of journey," Here, he explores the benefits and challenges of open access and peer review and the role publishers play in supporting confidence in research. Read Dr Bossetta's story.

Image Quote of Michael Bossetta, PhD

From front lines of public health education

As monkeypox spreads, what lessons can we apply from the last two pandemics? A microbiologist and infectious disease expert weighs in. Read Dr Rohde's story.

Image Quote of Rodney E Rohde. PhD

When being wrong is good thing for science

Can we be too self-righteous in the realm of research? Dr Lesley Thompson, Elsevier's VP of Academic and Government Relations, writes:

We often think of science as a fixed truth or a guaranteed fact. But it’s not. A lot of effort is rightly directed towards building public trust in science, but in doing so, are we forgetting or skating over the very essence of science and how we go about making discoveries that affect the world?

Read her commentary: When being wrong is a good thing for science. Then watch the related panel discussion at the Oxford Science and Ideas Festival and Dr Thompson's summary: Science is the business of uncertainty.

Events

Elsevier is holding roundtables with six Regional Convening Partners in the Netherlands, Germany, China, Japan, the UK and the US. We ask members of the research community what helps build their confidence in research and how researchers can be better supported as a result of the pandemic. You can watch the roundtables in the Community Perspectives section above.