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Get comfortable being uncomfortable

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Get comfortable being uncomfortable

The complexities of the research ecosystem make it difficult to adopt widespread change. Those inherent complexities are further complicated by the varied stakeholders and industry-transforming mandates, like the recent Nelson Memo from the OSTP. We’re surrounded by point solutions: new ideas to solve this problem, pilots and experiments to relieve this pressure on authors. But where the industry struggles is on holistic change, cultural change.

To put it simply: we’re holding ourselves back.

The scholarly communication industry has lost track of our core values, and as a result we’ve built a behemoth industry that undermines those values at many points in our processes. We find ourselves in a place where public trust in science falters regularly. While much of this can

be attributed to forces outside of science’s collective actions, we don’t do much to help ourselves when we communicate with opaque jargon, or when failures in our review process result in expensive and embarrassing retractions.

The path forward isn’t a simple one, and we don’t pretend that we can solve it on our own, as a technology start-up. Instead, we propose a multi-stakeholder solution centered in strategic partnerships, and always grounded in two principles:

1) We have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

2) Science’s purpose is to increase our collective knowledge and apply that knowledge to solving the world’s challenges.

Let’s start with discomfort. Our current incentive structures, built on competition and perfection, are at odds with the nature of science as an iterative process. We don’t value negative results the same as we do positive results, creating an inherent bias. We also have researchers uncomfortable with sharing their work in-progress or in the early stages, which slows down our collaborative understanding of what’s happening in labs around the world right now. We need to align reward and recognition structures with holistic progress in science. Its not just the number of papers published, its the hours spent mentoring, the public outreach work. Career progression in academia and much of the research world is too narrow to give scientists the space to have the impact they want to have.

Early-stage research suffers as a result of these systems, and without a focus on early-stage research and other non-traditional research outputs before the published paper, science will never move forward as quickly or as thoroughly as it could. We often hear people saying its a risk to share science this early on, and while there are definitely considerations for patents or patient data, we say in general its a risk not to share. This work is too important: for collaboration, for improving quality by discussing validity earlier on, and for building communities across disciplines and geographies. Embracing this risk means embracing failure, which overall needs to happen much more. We’ve seen some changes to the peer review process, such as registered reports, to try and remove this bias, but at the root of it, we need a culture change.

Without this culture change, one that affects the connective tissue of the scholarly communication world from every angle, we lose so much potential discovery. There’s already public scrutiny of the science because of the lack of transparency, and we believe the

early-stage research segment of the lifecycle has a critical role to play in solving that problem. This sharing is not so the media can report on discoveries even earlier, but so the debate and discussion that’s the lifeblood of scientific conferences is recorded and globally accessible to the research community. Making sure early-stage research isn’t hidden away in the back corner of a poster hall will improve the quality of science over time.

We need to let go of our hold on the “permanent record.” Every day, scientists learn things that contradict or add critical nuance to things we think we know. That’s the nature of this industry: constant experimentation and collective knowledge leads us always closer to accurate, reliable results.

Our platform at Morressier provides the infrastructure for these cultural changes, but without everyone else moving in the same direction, partnering for much bigger change, we won’t get far. Share ideas with us, find solutions, and try new things that can help science achieve its potential.

Find out more about the amazing work Morressier do over on their website today:

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