Wednesday 11 September 2019, 3:15 PM-4:15 PM (1 Hour)

Part of the Internationalization & Diversity strand, this panel discussion featured female industry leaders.


Rebecca Asher
Deputy Director, Sense about Science
Rebecca joined Sense about Science as deputy director in May 2017, having previously worked in the media. She was a producer in television news and current affairs, the deputy editor of Woman’s Hour and an executive producer at BBC Radio 4, and ran a range of editorial standards projects at the BBC Trust. Rebecca has written two books on social policy – Shattered and Man Up – published by Penguin Random House. She is a trustee of Coram Family and Childcare.


Dr. Amy Brand
Director, The MIT Press
Amy Brand is director of the MIT Press and co-founder of the MIT Knowledge Futures Group, a partnership with the MIT Media Lab to develop open knowledge infrastructure. She has played a seminal role in transformative scholarly communications initiatives such as ORCiD, CRediT, and Peer Review Transparency. Previously, Amy held positions at Digital Science, Harvard, and Crossref, and she currently serves on the boards of Creative Commons, Crossref, the Authors’ Alliance, and the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Board on Research Data and Information. She studied linguistics and cognitive science, and is producing a documentary on women in science.

Dr. Sarah Greaves
Chief Publishing Officer, Hindawi Ltd
Sarah has over 18 years of experience within STM editorial and publishing. She was originally an academic researcher, completing her PhD at the MRC-Laboratory of Molecular Biology, before joining the editorial team at Nature Cell Biology in 1999. After 4 years working within editorial she moved into the Nature publishing team and was the Publisher for Nature for many years. During her time at Nature Publishing Group (now Springer Nature) Sarah also launched the first Nature branded title with an Open Access option, Nature Communications, and subsequently launched Scientific Reports. Throughout her career, she has focused on creating innovative new products and services aimed at solving key researcher pain points whilst ensuring the academic scientist remains at the heart of any publishing decision. Sarah is involved in numerous STEM outreach initiatives and is currently a volunteer with both InToUniversity and STEM Ambassadors.

Dr. Allison Lang
Publishing Director, BMJ
Allison has overall responsibility for BMJ’s expanding portfolio of specialist journals. She has lead the development and growth of the publishing programme for BMJ since 2016, and is a member of BMJ’s senior leadership team. In her 8 years at BMJ she has developed a series of new products and expanded BMJ’s partnerships to meet the needs of clinical and allied healthcare researchers. She is also a BNF Board member as part of her BMJ responsibilities. Prior to BMJ she spent 7 years at NPG where she was responsible for the launch of NPG’s first open access journal amongst others, and underlining her publishing experience is a 10 year career in medical research and science communication.

Lesley Yellowlees
Head of College, The University of Edinburgh
Lesley Yellowlees completed both her BSc in Chemical Physics and her PhD in Inorganic Electrochemistry at the University of Edinburgh. After completing research positions in Brisbane, Australia and Glasgow she returned to an academic position in Edinburgh in 1986 and gained a personal chair in Inorganic Electrochemistry in 2005. Her current research interests are inorganic electrochemistry and spectroelectrochemistry, epr spectroscopy, synthesis and characterisation of potential solar energy dyes, utilisation of CO2, public engagement of science and promoting women in science. Lesley completed five years as Head of the School of Chemistry at Edinburgh and Director of EaStCHEM (the joint research school of the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews) in 2010. Lesley has worked with the Royal Society of Chemistry for many years, chairing their Science and Technology Board, sitting on the Publishing Board, working with the Scottish Education section and chairing the editorial Board of Chemistry World. She became their first woman President in July 2012. Currently she is Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. She was awarded an MBE in 2005 for services to science and a CBE in 2014 for services to chemistry. She was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2012 and an Honorary FRSC in 2016. She has honorary degrees from Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh Napier, Heriot-Watt, The Open and Strathclyde Universities. Lesley is married to Peter and they have two children, Sarah and Mark.

View Transcript
[00:00:16.17] REBECCA ASHER: Hi. Hello. Thanks ever so much to everybody for coming along to this session on Female Leadership and Breaking the Glass Ceiling. My name’s Rebecca Asher. I’m the deputy director of the campaigning charity Sense About Science. Before I joined Sense About Science about a couple of years ago, I was a program maker. I worked at Radio 4 on Women’s House, and I also wrote a couple of books on equality between men and women in the workplace and at the home.
[00:00:42.01] So for all those reasons and more, I’m absolutely delighted to chair this panel on female representation, leadership in scholarly communications. And I’m very pleased to introduce a distinguished panel and to hear their excellent insights, which I know are going to be forthcoming.
[00:00:57.96] So beside me here is Lesley Yellowlees. Lesley is a Professor of Inorganic Electrochemistry at the University of Edinburgh. She was previously the University’s Head of College of Science and Engineering. And from 2012 to 2014, she was President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the first woman president in 175 years.
[00:01:20.09] [APPLAUSE] [00:01:26.54] Dr. Amy Brand is Director of the MIT Press. In recent years, she’s played a key role in initiatives such as ORCID and peer review transparency. She studied linguistics and cognitive science and is currently producing a documentary on women in science.
[00:01:42.77] Now unfortunately Magdalena Skipper, the Editor in Chief of Nature, who was due to join us has lost her voice so she can’t be with us although we do of course wish her a speedy recovery. However, brilliantly Dr. Sarah Greaves and Dr. Allison Lang have stepped into her breach. So we’ve got two amazing women who’ve joined us at very short notice, and we’re very grateful to them.
[00:02:06.59] Sarah is Chief Publishing Officer at Hindawi. Prior to Hindawi, she was the Publisher for Nature, where she launched the Women and Science Awards. Outside of her day job, she volunteers for inter-university and stem ambassadors, and she was a geneticist in her former life.
[00:02:25.69] Dr. Allison Lang is the Publishing Director at BMJ. Prior to the BMJ, she was a Senior Publishing Manager Nature for a number of years. She’s an immunologist by training. Welcome to all.
[00:02:39.89] So thank you very much for being here. And I know that Lesley and Amy, you’ve prepared some brief comments on the extent to which the context has changed for women entering the sector over recent decades. So I’d really welcome those comments from you and then Sarah and Allison are going to respond to those comments. Lesley, would you like to take it away?
[00:03:00.43] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: Thank you, I will, and thank you very much. During my career, I’ve had a lot of firsts. I was saying to Rebecca I always think people think you’re really bigheaded saying that but I hope don’t come across as that, and I have. And I’ve enjoyed those first positions a lot, but I would count myself as a complete failure if I was the last.
[00:03:24.08] So I’ve always been delighted in whatever role I’ve taken up being the first to have other women come along after me, but I have to say one of the advantages of being the first woman in doing things whether that be the President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, which was THE job in the world to have, let me tell you– it was great– or whether it was being Head of Science and Engineering at Edinburgh, the first woman doing that, or whether it was when I was Head of Chemistry before that and I was the first woman doing that, I think it’s always important when you do that is to help others come along afterwards. So I’ve always said it’s my mission in life is to throw down as many ladders as I possibly can to help people come up after me.
[00:04:12.93] But have I seen any difference over as you say the decades that I have been in academia, and I have to say I’m talking here from academia. So my experience of publishing is definitely in submitting you all with my magnificent works, but not everybody else always thought they were magnificent.
[00:04:32.85] But so have I seen change? Yes, I have seen change. Is it quick enough? No, it’s not quick enough. It’s glacially slow, and I think we need only to work together, men and women to get this agenda moving quicker. So people always ask me do you have some stories, Lesley, well I have stories. I don’t like to always remember them because that makes me feel very negative, but let me tell you a few that I think wouldn’t happen now that have happened to me.
[00:05:05.53] So when I started I was an undergraduate and I did chemical physics. And chemical physics is you do half physics and half chemistry. And I can remember after my second year of doing some physics courses, I was taken aside and said you are top of the year Lesley, and so you should get the class medal but we’ve had a lot of discussion, and we don’t really want to give the class medal to a woman because she’s not going to stay in science and engineering. She’s going to leave, you’re going to get married, you’re going to have a family, and it would be a waste to give you that medal.
[00:05:52.24] I have to say I was horrified when I heard that because that was the first time I had come up against that. But what was heartening for me was that my classmates were also horrified, and the younger members of staff at the time were equally horrified and said you can’t do that to her. You’ve got to– she’s won the class medal. She’s won it on the same grounds as everybody has won in years before. You’ve got to give her that class medal.
[00:06:22.45] And I got to class medal. Whether they would like to now hear that my children are using it– used it in the sand pit, I don’t know but– [LAUGHING]– I did get the class medal. I think that has changed. My experience in academia now is that has changed. That discussion would not be had now, and I am very grateful that’s not to be had now because I think it was a ridiculous statement to make.
[00:06:51.54] There are other things that have happened, but on the whole, I would say that I have enjoyed great support and will come back to that I’m sure from all of us. I think whatever gender you are, whatever if you’re from an ethnic minority, whatever your background is, how much easier it is to succeed with great support behind you, and I have enjoyed fantastic support. And I think I’ll leave it there.
[00:07:16.69] REBECCA ASHER: Yeah, yeah, well, great note to end it on. And Amy.
[00:07:20.54] AMY BRAND: I was really pleased to get the invitation to participate in this panel because I don’t usually have the opportunity to step back and think about my own leadership journey. But I have done a lot of work on diversity in science and diversity in publishing. About five years ago, I published on research in Learned Publishing on what the community of people within scholarly communications and scholarly publishing looked at– look like. And if you look around the room, you can see that a real issue has to do with underrepresented minorities and less so with gender.
[00:07:57.29] If I remember correctly, the stats were something like we’re 90% white as an industry. We’re about 70% female. In terms of leadership, as you move up that leadership ladder, obviously the large white female majority does tend to diminish. And I bet that those statistics probably have held up because there are challenges. But what I learned in the work that I did at Harvard several years ago on how do we think about tenure and promotion in a way that encourages more diversity both in gender and race. Because my interest throughout my career really has been on this interplay between publishing and academic careers.
[00:08:40.26] One of the things that’s talked about a lot in the academy that I haven’t seen talked about in scholarly publishing is this phenomenon of women opting out and, I’m trying to understand why they do. And a lot of it has to do with these very, very subtle slights. And so what we were hearing in academic science was women feeling like men talked over them or they weren’t given the same speaking opportunities or they would overhear locker room style conversation or they weren’t invited to participate in collaborative projects.
[00:09:14.90] And so what does that look like within scholarly publishing, and as in my current role, I’m been Director of the MIT Press for about four years, one of the most surprising things is there isn’t this equation between being in a position of authority and that’s stopping. So I just want to give you a few examples that were very, very surprising to me in my current role in terms of how men still feel like they can talk to women in authority in a way that they wouldn’t talk to men in authority because I think that those of us who are parents think about how you raise your sons.
[00:09:52.98] So here are three stories to illustrate that. Maybe about a year into my role, I decided that I had to let go of, make redundant, a senior male colleague, some tall white man who has a lot of seniority. And when I sat down to have this conversation, I said to him I’m sorry, but I have to let you go. And he looked me straight in the eye, and he said that is not acceptable. So he was questioning both my judgment and my authority. And at that juncture, I knew I had made just the right decision to let him go.
[00:10:24.92] Another really, really surprising example is when I decided to change the management board structure such that the staff who were invited would be only director level folks, my direct reports, and not senior managers. That meant that some people who had come to our management board were no longer invited. One male individual was extremely upset about this and actually went behind my back to my assistant and said “I know Amy’s going to tell you to take me off the calendar invite, but I want you to keep me on that invite”, which was sort of outrageous. I had just made this procedural decision and he thought that he could circumvent it, so that was fascinating.
[00:11:06.86] I went through something recently where we had a very controversial decision at the press, and I sent out an email about my decision and I invited feedback from the staff. And I got an email from a young male staffer who said I am very disappointed in your decision, and I think you’re being naive. And I really was welcoming his input and maybe I was being naive, but I couldn’t help thinking, wow, if I were a guy, he would never have sent me that email.
[00:11:33.74] And so when I think about mentoring women, I want them to expect this. I want it to change, but I also want to say that it can be very undermining psychically to experience that on a regular basis. And so don’t let it wash over you. Engage it head on so it doesn’t gnaw away at you because it is still an issue that is going to take time to wash out of the population. But I’d also like to come back in the conversation to how we support one another.
[00:12:08.34] Another observation I have that I think we could talk about is what is real authority and power. I think I learned the hard way that having control of your own budget is really important. I’ve been in management roles where that wasn’t the case, and it wasn’t really the kind of management that gave me power. But we can come back to that.
[00:12:27.87] REBECCA ASHER: Thank you. Loads of food for thought there. Thanks very much. Sarah, do you have anything to add.
[00:12:32.67] SARAH GREAVES: Yeah, so I’ve seen the world of diversity through different lenses. I’ve been an academic. I’ve been an editor starting off in publishing, and then I’ve moved actually into the publishing world. In academia, I think I never started off doing my PhD or post doc thinking I can’t do this because I’m a woman. It was just something that you were brought up to have equal opportunities and think we could achieve the same as the guys and off we went.
[00:12:55.92] And it’s not until you start moving through your career and moving onwards that you realize there are biases there, and you just perhaps weren’t aware of them and you have to keep challenging them as you go onwards. Moving into editorial like a lot of people I think like Allison, the life of being an academic meant you were forever getting new grants. It was impossible to settle down. You’re thinking of the long term. How do I settle down and have a family eventually. And a lot of women do move into editorial. Editorial is driven by a high percentage of women.
[00:13:24.87] And then as you move more into the publishing or business side of publishing companies, you see a higher percentage of guys getting promotions and the women staying not perhaps of the same sort of levels. And it’s not until you sit back and look at it that you are aware of it.
[00:13:40.45] I’ve seen my role and my job change numerous times when I’ve been away on maternity leave. And you feel you come back and you’re fighting against the system. Every time you come back, you’re like I have to show I can do this even better than I did this before because I need to re-establish myself back in the organization and the company that I’m in. And I think a lot of working parents, not just women, but working parents feel that. You have a career break and you come back, and you’re like I have to demonstrate I can do this. More, I have to work even harder.
[00:14:10.81] So I enjoy going out and doing the STEM ambassador work and the inter-university work that Rebecca mentioned, trying to get girls and boys interested in science and the power of having a science degree and scientific knowledge but then also trying to encourage those women and girls who come into publishing that challenge little things as you see them.
[00:14:28.92] Women are very good at sitting back and not stepping up. Like when Allison and I were asked to do this at 12:00 today, our natural reaction was, oh, no, we’re not doing that.
[00:14:38.90] REBECCA ASHER: Got nothing to say about being a senior woman obviously.
[00:14:41.03] SARAH GREAVES: No, absolutely. And then we looked each other and said you know what, if a bloke probably had been asked this question, they would naturally more likely higher percentage gone you know what, I’m in there.
[00:14:51.29] And I think women naturally don’t question things. They don’t challenge their job titles. They don’t challenge their pay rises. We don’t fight back in the same way that our male colleagues might, which sometimes lead us more on the side of not getting the recognition that we deserve. We often think if we just keep working harder and demonstrating our worth, someone will see that, and I will naturally get that promotion.
[00:15:17.74] And so I retrained myself and think what’s the worst that can happen if I bring it up and challenge that. And you have to retrain yourself. If you’re challenging a slightly more senior male colleague and I think for me it’s not been so the gender issue, it’s been more you are slightly younger than everyone that perhaps you are now more senior to. And how do you challenge that? What’s the worst that can happen?
[00:15:36.30] And it’s like flipping it around. What’s the worst that can happen if you bring up a difficult conversation? Someone’s going to get angry and walk out of the room perhaps, but that’s not going to be you. It’s going to be how the other person reacts to the situation, so you have to retrain yourself to challenge those things when you see them.
[00:15:52.65] REBECCA ASHER: Thank you. Allison.
[00:15:54.51] ALLISON LANG: Great. Yeah, so you see that I took a diplomatic approach and thought well we’ll handle this perhaps in a perceived female way and work collaboratively to do this actually, and I thought that was an interesting perspective actually, the way we choose to handle that rightly or wrongly.
[00:16:10.20] So, yes, I’ve had a fantastic career, and I’m really proud of what I’ve done actually in terms of breaking the glass ceiling however you want to define that. But really the story about the prize in physics actually entirely resonates with me.
[00:16:25.59] When I was at school, I was the only physics female in the class actually, and I was put at the back of the class and expected to fail. And actually I broke all the barriers and became top of the class actually. And I do think that has put me in good stead to actually keep challenging that as I’ve grown up, so that was instilled in me from the age of 15 et cetera, around that. I think that’s really important and to acknowledge that that should still be the case and, of course, has changed significantly. We’re talking about change, of course, that’s changed significantly in schooling and education, and I can see that when I visit my son’s school that that’s inevitable really.
[00:17:04.89] In terms of my career as a researcher, I can hand on heart say that I did find it almost entirely impossible to find a female role model who had broken the glass ceiling, and I was very aware that everyone who I had worked with in my environment who I could have perceived as role models with the nature of the research environment, the constantly applying for grants, they just did not come back after maternity leave actually. And I do believe that’s changing, but I’m sure that a lot more work to do in that. And if I’m brutally honest that was one of the major reasons that I left research. There were other reasons as well, but that was a huge reason.
[00:17:48.23] So when I entered publishing, I was absolutely delighted in those statistics around 70% female. And I think at BMJ, we probably hovered around that area actually, and we’re about 65% women in that respect. It’s almost getting to the stage, which I think is another important thing to look at where I possibly enter a room and there are no men in the room actually, and I think we should all be thinking about that as well in some shape or form.
[00:18:16.00] But, yes, we all talked just before the panel gathered for five minutes. Have we actually all experienced discrimination? And while I think I can put my hand on heart and say nothing overtly nothing to the extent that perhaps your exact examples are, but I think there’s a nuanced constant wearing drive after that actually is where I come from that makes me feel that I have to have at some point more resilience to cope with it. And it can be because perhaps I’m because I’m a working woman and I do think the men toward the women bear elsewhere in the environment. Or elsewhere actually plays a huge part in that and I think acknowledging that.
[00:19:01.43] So just as an example, my husband or partner works from home five days a week. I don’t, I work in the office five days a week. As yet the school is yet to acknowledge that he is the first point of contact, and it’s society. I think we are reflecting advancement of women in BMJ, and in the industry, I think that probably is very reflective here actually. But elsewhere I still find that a constant struggle that changing that mindset for me has been entirely unexpected if I’m honest that actually I would be pigeonholed in that way that I have been and that I find extremely frustrating actually, and it does have a bearing on your ability to perform and feel that you have to do better and put all those areas aside.
[00:19:49.67] The other point I wanted to make actually is that some of the organizations that I have worked with in the past are entirely male dominated, and that’s– in the clinical sphere– I’m apologizing in advance if there are any senior clinical researchers in the audience, but the work that I do often reflects that environment– the research environment. And as you know, international clinical research is hugely dominated by men. I would have often been the only female in the room actually.
[00:20:25.07] And there’s lots of anecdotal stories around. Although I may be leading the meeting, making the decisions, paying these people, drawing up the strategy, there’s an expectation that I will get the tea and that I will clear up the glasses at the end and that I will arrange the taxi. So again it’s that constant wearing attitude actually that I think is not an overt sort of discrimination, but it definitely, I would say, has had an impact. And we should all be aware of that actually and make sure through our mentoring schemes, which we have at BMJ and we happen to have been involved in through different leadership and channels make sure that that area is paid attention to rather than the very overt discriminatory actions.
[00:21:09.47] REBECCA ASHER: Yeah. It’s really interesting that you mentioned that because when I first saw the title of the session, breaking the glass ceiling, and that I was looking at the statistics in publishing, I was thinking, well, maybe there isn’t a glass ceiling. Maybe we’re going to have to step back at the very beginning of the session and interrogate that, but what I seem to be hearing from you is that it manifests itself in a different way within the publishing sector, that it’s more attitudinal and perhaps about the diversity of women coming into the sector, but in research, it’s still absolutely a numbers game. Do you think is that a fair enough analysis?
[00:21:41.28] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: No, I’m jealous when you talk about 70% et cetera. I come from STEM background, chemistry and if you look at that, the number of female professors in chemistry is less than 10% in the UK, and it’s not that much greater more fantastic in the rest of the world.
[00:22:09.30] All these science subjects– science and engineering, none of them have great senior people– numbers at senior positions. So when I hear all of you saying that you left research to go and take up publishing because your felt that here was a more welcoming environment is really what I’m getting the impression of, I just feel heartsick because I think that we shouldn’t hemorrhage any– whatever– if you’re from an ethnic minority background or you’re a woman or whatever, you shouldn’t– we shouldn’t be hemorrhaging people, in other words, to leave it as a male white bastion of something or other.
[00:22:57.05] And so that’s what gets me– so well done you. So we don’t want to change. Don’t change your welcoming environment that makes that possible.
[00:23:07.22] ALLISON LANG: Yeah.
[00:23:08.04] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: I’ve got to look at my environment and see what I can do with a lot help because I can’t do all alone. But what can we do to change it to make that different. But get yourself some senior leaders in there as well. I think you have got plenty, but could you do with more probably?
[00:23:26.79] ALLISON LANG: Plenty of senior leaders at BMJ.
[00:23:29.12] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: Good. Good.
[00:23:30.16] ALLISON LANG: Actually I think we’re very, very well represented in that respect, and that’s what made it attractive to me also.
[00:23:35.08] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: Even more jealous.
[00:23:36.88] ALLISON LANG: Sorry. It wasn’t my intention.
[00:23:39.34] SARAH GREAVES: Having a quiet word after the session now. I think the point you make, Lesley, is a valid one is about encouraging those girls and women to stay in science.
[00:23:47.61] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: Yeah.
[00:23:48.18] SARAH GREAVES: Consider science a pick subjects. And when I go out and do talks to kids in inner city London who are in secondary school and they’re not even thinking about science or the impact it has on their lives, you get them to think about how science just drives everything they’re doing on a day-to-day basis and actually the types of jobs and careers that science can lead to. It’s like it is that grassroots work to start to change academia.
[00:24:14.87] I remember hearing some stat about the lack of engineers in the UK. And if only some women were to go and study engineering, there wouldn’t be this shortage of engineers. The shortage can be solved pretty much overnight by just women studying engineering. And I think for us who’ve left academia and have moved into editorial and publishing, our role back into the academic community is to go out and say actually girls and boys but girls should really be engaged in science and scientific subjects because the amount of careers and opportunities that coming up with green technology is going to be vast. And that’s where all our passion from the success we’ve had in publishing could help perhaps go back in and drive changes into academia.
[00:24:55.58] ALLISON LANG: And also the changes that were discussed just in the earlier session the metrics around diversity and peer review publication authorship. Obviously, we’re all working on that as publishers, I think that there’s a very powerful presentation that all our editors we have academic editors less than 50% of women. We’re working on it.
[00:25:15.97] And there’s very powerful presentation from the Wellcome, if there’s anyone from Wellcome I’m sure they can chip in or has direct relevance to that, in terms of the investment that they’ve made in welcoming their diversity inclusion program in terms of funding grants et cetera and it being embedded at that stage and you know they’re hugely invested in that. If we could see that across all research councils et cetera internationally, that would be extremely powerful because we’re only getting it at the end. We’re only dealing with what we get to publish, but we are–
[00:25:46.89] REBECCA ASHER: That’s all you can do.
[00:25:47.62] ALLISON LANG: But what we are changing is making sure that we are recruiting editors, recruiting advisory board, recruiting peer review in a more equitable way where we can obviously so that can have an impact I think.
[00:26:02.08] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: And for me, the powerful message you can get out as well is that people’s manuscripts are reviewed, et cetera, irrespective of where their background is because when we see the research that comes out that says that that isn’t always the case. And so that is what we need to be able to do as well.
[00:26:22.69] SARAH GREAVES: Yeah, I think the issues around peer review are interesting ones. We occasionally see examples of comments that have been left by editors about peer reviewers who are female and you are left thinking why why is that even crossing the editor’s mind that that would impact on the ability of that person to do a peer review report.
[00:26:44.53] So you’re right. It’s like the publisher’s working with the community to try and change and address those issues and like Allison, at Hindawi, we’re recruiting chief editors and we’re working incredibly hard to ensure that we not only have a geographical distribution so we’re representative of our academic community but that we have as many women as possible in chief editor positions, especially in subjects where they’re not necessarily obvious candidates. In the chemistry, in the engineering world, what can we do to find those chief editors who will represent the communities?
[00:27:17.18] REBECCA ASHER: Amy, you’re in the middle, I think, of producing a film about women science, a documentary, and you very kindly circulated a trailer today, which was great, really whetted my appetite. You might think that this is a slightly absurd question, but I got to ask it anyway. Why does it matter that there are women in science? What difference does it make? Beyond the issue of it being, the minor detail of it being good for social justice. What difference does it make?
[00:27:46.03] AMY BRAND: Yeah, I think the real narrative grab behind the movie that we’re trying to make is what’s lost to the world and what’s lost– it’s not just the opportunities that are lost to women, but it’s the excellent science that’s lost to the world at a time when we need all of our good minds working on these huge challenges.
[00:28:08.62] And so, yeah, the story of the movie starts with these incredible women at MIT, some of whom were my professors and I was a student there and I opted out of academia, who discovered there were very, very few women– tenured women of science and in the ’90s at MIT. And they started comparing notes and discovered that if they went around and measured their offices, they actually had smaller offices and lab space than the men, not to mention salaries and grants and other opportunities. But they actually started a period of years amassing this incredible data.
[00:28:44.38] And so it was through this very effective collective social action and bringing it to the President of MIT that they actually got the President at MIT to say in 1999 that women were being discriminated against. And this had a huge ripple effect not only in the US, but around the world in terms of Universities beginning to develop offices of gender equity and beginning to look at the things that make it hard for women to stay in science. Immediately, the office lab space stuff was corrected. The salaries were corrected, that kind of thing.
[00:29:13.54] But the sense from women that I speak to you now in academic science at MIT is we’re sliding back again. You need an ongoing vigilance because there are these social factors that play into it.
[00:29:26.77] REBECCA ASHER: Yeah. Yeah, that you can’t assume that there’s your own jujectury and it’s constant progress that you have to be on it essentially to continue.
[00:29:35.89] So we’ve really ranged across the personal, structural, all the rest of it. And I definitely want to return to the structural and organizational stuff in a second. But I do also want to– if you’re prepared to drill down into your personal experiences a bit more because you’re four amazing case studies, and I just want to know more about you. Sorry to talk about you in slightly specimen way like that but I really want to hear about it.
[00:30:03.14] So Allison, I’ll start with you first. I just wonder if you could just tell us a bit more about your expectations coming into the sector. Interesting that you shifted from research into publishing. But at that point where you were stuck at the back of the classroom, were you– could you imagine yourself going into this field, succeeding in this field? Could you imagine being where you are now?
[00:30:25.97] ALLISON LANG: I think I always anticipated that I would be a scientist. That was right from an early, early age, so that was a given actually. But I was aware through my career in secondary school and probably even at undergraduate level that there were lots of comments about not enough women. And I suppose I maybe wanted to challenge that, so it was- again, it was a bit of a driver as well really.
[00:30:47.65] And life sciences is well represented I think with women actually, so also it felt comfortable from that perspective. But as soon as I started to try and pursue a post-doctoral career, which I did, I did 13 years in research if you like it, it was just that constant reminder actually of the insecurity around it.
[00:31:08.14] There were a few factors just generally not having any role models in tenured positions actually– level of tenure was shocking everywhere that I was, and that’s not an international. Scotland there are some– few specific areas really, so it’s just a shame there wasn’t somebody like Lesley there leading the charge at the time actually. And what I felt was that the scientists, the really good female scientists at the time were encouraged or it was suggested that they should be doing more teaching, and it was suggested that they should be doing more communications type roles in the societies, et cetera.
[00:31:47.79] And it was just interesting that that’s how somewhere somebody had decided that the good female scientists should go. And I guess what I’m saying is I’ve potentially followed that path actually, but at a time of when you’re looking for security and you’re about to embark on your 30s, I feel like by that time you are looking for security. So as much as I would have loved to have challenged that more and I would be in a better position now the challenge, of course, but at that time, that was quite pertinent really because there was definitely a feeling that the females would be not as valuable in the research environment however manifests really.
[00:32:24.15] REBECCA ASHER: Yeah. But, Lesley, carried on down the field. Do you– was there ever a point where you just thought I’m ready to just throw in the towel or were there times where you really had to draw on some very deep resilience or can you just describe the challenges?
[00:32:44.86] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: Yeah, there was the– of course, everybody has times in their career I think where they question what they’re doing and where they’re going to do next. And, in fact, I can remember– so I didn’t do my career– nobody ever– when everybody says– talks about the standard career, I don’t know anybody’s ever had the standard– everybody does it differently.
[00:33:03.35] So I got my first degree and then I left and traveled the world and did some research and went about and did all sorts of fun things for four or five years and then decided I would go and do a PhD. And I came back– I got the offer of a PhD position and went back. And actually I found that one of the most challenging times in my life because I was– most people do do a first degree and then they go straight away and do a PhD. I’d had five years out. I felt it was a different time in my life to many other people. And so not only was I a female in quite a male-dominated subject, but I was also at the wrong period of my– my experience was different from everybody else’s.
[00:33:51.79] And so I then did– that was the one time in my life I did question whether this was really for me because I didn’t fit in if you want. And perhaps that made me as well because I then discovered within myself I didn’t need to fit in. Actually I could just be myself and do my own thing. And as I was saying to you earlier, I do think it’s important that you find out– and this is going to sound– anyway let me say it.
[00:34:19.75] I think it’s important to find out who you are and how you can best operate, and once you can do that, then I think the world’s your oyster because then you know what you can fall back on, what you can rely on, and who you can rely on. And ultimately you have to rely on yourself, but do we could– I would think if we threw that question open to all of you, you would all say that some points in your life you’ve questioned where you’ve been.
[00:34:46.75] And it’s whether you– what resilience you have to do that. But bottom line is I think what got me– got through me, I– me through the whole thing was I am fiercely ambitious. I really wanted to do it. I wanted to do it for myself. And I saw no reason why I shouldn’t do it for myself.
[00:35:12.21] REBECCA ASHER: Interesting. Amy, Sarah, anything for you to add on, these flashbulb moments where you in the heat of the challenges there were you find an insight that takes you through.
[00:35:24.48] AMY BRAND: I’m finding my own voice now in a few ways through this movie and starting to do some writing myself. And when I thought back in writing a blog piece recently about my career, I realized that it wasn’t ambition for me. I’ve always been very curiosity driven, and that’s– it stayed in academia, scholarly publishing, communications, et cetera but moved around a bit.
[00:35:49.56] And it was I just was constantly attracted to really hard problems. And I was just in my zone when I was give me something really complex to figure out. And that led me up the ladder. So it’s a sort of– it’s a kind of ambition, but it’s not like I’m going to be the best.
[00:36:07.83] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: Yeah.
[00:36:08.48] AMY BRAND: Yeah. And when I left academia– so I was three years into a postdoc and I said I just– this teaching thing is not working for me. I have– in hindsight, I tell a very different story about that, which is why I wanted to talk about these death by 1,000 cuts. I experienced something I didn’t normally talk about, but, hey, it’s the Me Too era. Both my undergraduate and graduate advisors made unwanted advances, and I laughed it off. But I think that it was ultimately extremely undermining for me personally.
[00:36:38.31] And in my sense that the senior people in my academic career we’re not interested in me for my mind or my work. And that– you don’t think about it that way, but in hindsight, I think it was a big part of the decision. And I think that’s why I’ve come back to exploring what it was like at MIT at that time.
[00:36:58.80] REBECCA ASHER: Yeah.
[00:36:59.53] AMY BRAND: Yeah.
[00:36:59.94] REBECCA ASHER: You say you laughed it off. You didn’t talk to anybody about it. You just didn’t report it as it were. You just decided it was part of what might happen as a woman in that environment at that time.
[00:37:10.20] AMY BRAND: Do you mean when I left academia?
[00:37:11.31] REBECCA ASHER: No, no. At the time that it happened.
[00:37:13.00] AMY BRAND: At the time, yes.
[00:37:13.80] REBECCA ASHER: No, I do– I’m probably– a common thing I should mention.
[00:37:17.13] AMY BRAND: Yes, it is. And it’s still a common thing.
[00:37:19.96] REBECCA ASHER: Sarah.
[00:37:23.47] SARAH GREAVES: I think when– like Allison, I grow up knowing I wanted to do science and be a scientist. And I was like the only girls in the maths class, the only girl in the physics class. And I– you learn that resilience at that time, but you also learn how to interact in a whole group of males. And actually that’s been really useful because even now you can sometimes go into a meeting and you’re the only woman in the room, which is you sometimes are still surprised about. But actually you’ve learned those skills and that ability to deal with a room full of male colleagues.
[00:37:56.34] And I think throughout my career– when I moved into publishing, I was lucky enough to work in a publishing company– Nature at the time that was rapidly expanding. And there were a lot of women being promoted into very senior roles who were very inspiring and motivational and were willing to give quite junior members of staff like myself new projects to take on if you showed initiative. And they were prepared to say yes you go and do that. And you could showcase what you were able to do rather– based on your ability rather than who you were in the food chain.
[00:38:31.93] And I found that really motivational and inspirational and from that decided actually I could move out of editorial and move into publishing and get a career and I still see some of those women today and they’re still good mentors and they provide feedback and advice on different issues as you come across them. I think that’s been– that was really powerful for me seeing that there were senior women in these positions running companies and actually we could do that.
[00:38:56.02] ALLISON LANG: Very powerful.
[00:38:57.26] REBECCA ASHER: And, Allison, as a senior woman, I do wonder does it sometimes feel– I can imagine that it must sometimes feel almost a burden as well as a fantastic thing to have achieved that not only are you the person that you all doing the job that you’re doing but you’re somehow know seen as a figurehead, a representative for half the population in the field that you’re in.
[00:39:20.32] ALLISON LANG: Wow.
[00:39:20.59] REBECCA ASHER: Do you– have you thought about that or have I just [INAUDIBLE] that in your mind?
[00:39:27.67] I just wonder whether that’s [INAUDIBLE] [00:39:29.46] ALLISON LANG: I don’t feel it as a burden much. I think it’s just that an added perhaps responsibility to make sure that you’re not overlooking anyone else. And it’s certainly not the pull the ladder up, so maybe that’s the additional responsibility that I feel. I don’t feel overburdened by the sense of responsibility if you like because I know that that’s what I can do and what I want to do. And so there’s something about that and actually I’m making sure like Sarah said that our– young– opportunities for younger members of the team or at any stage of their career and across the whole company if you like that are being identified for what they want to do [INAUDIBLE] [00:40:07.15] SARAH GREAVES: And I think it’s also acting as champions for those maybe more junior members of staff or particular female members of staff. You might come across instances [INAUDIBLE] like you were involved in and recognizing them and giving them the voice to speak up of things are not as they should be and using your voice as the most senior woman in the company, whatever organization you’re in to say actually we shouldn’t be treating our more junior members of staff like this, especially the women. We should be treating everyone more equally. And I think that’s where our responsibility rests.
[00:40:37.77] ALLISON LANG: And having an additional voice as senior level has being able to adopt new policies and things, so I’ve embraced that if you like so the whole I was really inspired by the Me Too session this time last year actually and about revisiting the code of conduct and how it extends beyond not just everyone that works for our company but everybody that we interact with because I think there’s a lot that happens that’s not necessarily within their control and is about the adjacent relationships that probably could been better addressed.
[00:41:09.24] REBECCA ASHER: And, Sarah, you talked earlier about essentially having mentors through your career, women who have shown you the way, maybe some taken you under their wings slightly. But I’m interested in the role of senior men as well as women and what they can do to cultivate some supportive and nurturing environment. And I just wonder if any of you have any reflections on that, thoughts on that.
[00:41:34.34] SARAH GREAVES: I think often when you’re in a group with men and women together, you don’t appreciate how everyone operates, and you have to learn that. And I think sometimes we all don’t realize that perhaps it’s not just men versus women. It’s just a different personality types, what you bring to the table of how you present your ideas and how you receive feedback and how some people in your team might need mentoring this way and how you might need more feedback like that. So and I think that’s just a general point for managers.
[00:42:00.73] But you often see it more in a male-female level. Sometimes there’s this disconnect. You could be talking about the same thing and trying to get the right feedback, but somehow maybe women are talking in more collaborative way and the men are talking in a more direct way. And you’re somehow missing each other.
[00:42:18.25] AMY BRAND: In my experience of bosses, I would say I’ve had more men– more male bosses who have been supportive and elevating than female bosses. And so I think expecting just because you’re women you’re going to support other women–
[00:42:36.82] SARAH GREAVES: Yeah, it doesn’t always happen.
[00:42:37.69] AMY BRAND: Yeah, it doesn’t always happen.
[00:42:39.57] REBECCA ASHER: I think obviously various examples spring to mind as you say that– public figures or whatever. Yeah, quite. And, Lesley, I know that the Royal Society of Chemistry has done an awful lot of research into women coming into the fields and also then progressing through it and lots of kind of research culture issues but also government policy issues around things like maternity leave, flexible working, all those sorts of things. To what extent do you think that individual organizations, institutions can override or attempt to offset those broader policy issues that are driving the way that people work, that are driving gendered working patterns amongst men and women.
[00:43:23.60] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: So I think you need leaders. I think you need people to step up to the plate that will offer to adopt and to– I come from an experimental science so to do the experiment. And I’m proud that the Royal Society of Chemistry decided to do that.
[00:43:42.74] When I became their president, they said what do you want to run– what do you want to do as the president? What do you want to be known for? What would you like our backing– because you’re giving up your time to do this, what can we help you do? And I said, well, I’d be mad if I didn’t use this opportunity of being the first woman in 170 odd years of male dominance of leading the Royal Society of Chemistry to use that not only for women but for diversity as a whole.
[00:44:15.47] Let’s embrace it. Let’s show that the Society is prepared to change. And I was extremely grateful that they gave me that platform, and that platform at that time– now remember this was back in 2010, 2011, 2012, it’s moved on a lot since then. But I did get a political platform. I did get a social platform. I did get a platform within the sciences to talk about that, which has allowed me to go on and talk about it since.
[00:44:48.42] It’s– I’ve also been extremely fortunate because the president that came on after me– and there were two men before another woman became a president. Thank goodness. But the men also embraced that. And so it sometimes isn’t that you take forward a platform, and then when you step back that dies.
[00:45:10.40] And I was always extremely grateful that it didn’t die, that the men in that position then took it forward and it became part of their platform as well. And to that end, I thought that if I’m looking for a measure of success, and I think we all look for measures of success, that was my measure of success that other people were prepared to take it on afterwards.
[00:45:30.35] But I think it spoke to the climate of the time, and it still speaks to the climate of the time. And so part of you could say to me, well, I was lucky, and I probably was. I was in the right place at the right time, and people were prepared to listen and begin to explore.
[00:45:49.90] But I do think that individuals and societies and different groups of people have to step up and be the leaders, and then other people, if they find the empathized with it– and it’s our job to make people empathize with that– then they will follow on.
[00:46:09.22] REBECCA ASHER: Yeah.
[00:46:09.82] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: But don’t be afraid to be the leader. Don’t be afraid to be the one that stands up. And if you truly believe it to go for it because there’s such a lot to be won. There will be a cost, but you– people will win. Everyone.
[00:46:25.93] REBECCA ASHER: Want to bring in the audience in a second, but just before I do, Amy, you mentioned– I thought of a question which I was going to ask people about whether they’d noticed a generational change in terms of people’s attitudes, men’s attitudes to women’s in– women in the sector or women’s expectations of themselves in the sector. The anecdote that you gave about the much younger colleague e-mailing you and saying you’ve made a naive choice doesn’t perhaps give me a huge amount of hope. Was he a outlier, or do you think there’s– do you think there’s a generational improvement?
[00:47:00.72] AMY BRAND: I think that– I do not think that female members of staff would have done that, and it was very eye opening to me because I thought, oh, someone who’s 25 years old should not be treating a senior woman that way. I should know better than that. So I learned something about him.
[00:47:22.74] But I do think that it probably is more the exception than the rule. And I haven’t– yeah. You know overall I feel pretty solid in my authority over the staff. And for my particular style of leadership, I think it’s been very uplifting to the staff as well.
[00:47:42.67] REBECCA ASHER: How would you describe your style of leadership?
[00:47:45.14] AMY BRAND: Yeah, I just– I wrote something about that recently because I got angry at something published in The New York Times about the charismatic leader and I wanted to just blow that wide open about what really happens, which is being able to– being very humble and being able to step back and empower other people. As long as you have articulated your mission what the organization is doing and they understand that, you have to step back and give them that control to take ownership. So that’s what I try to do.
[00:48:17.51] REBECCA ASHER: Yeah. And I guess for lots of people, they wouldn’t see that as leadership maybe. It’s interesting, isn’t it. Maybe they see that as–
[00:48:28.22] AMY BRAND: Well, there were– actually there are two key ideas in the blog piece. One was that is the humility, the stepping back, and the other was the humility involved in saying what I’m probably not smarter than any of you in this company, but I’m actually getting paid to make the decisions and so I’m going to make the decisions. And I understand that that’s my job, and that’s why I get paid what I get paid.
[00:48:51.30] And because I do– I think stepping into owning having to make decisions is hard. And that’s actually another thing that I’ve seen with senior women in the publishing industry is it can be scary and you can feel very vulnerable, and they opt off of that. It manifests and sometimes I’ll watch how certain departments are being managed. And there’s an attempt at total democracy like let’s all just decide together.
[00:49:17.40] Well, that’s actually not how things move forward and change happens. So you really need to– you need to say you know what, I’m leading this project, I’m leading this group, and I will decide now that I’ve gotten all this input. So it’s both of those things.
[00:49:32.97] REBECCA ASHER: Interesting. Questions. I’m could you say who you are as you ask the question. That’d be great thanks so much.
[00:49:40.93] AUDIENCE: Sure. Hi, I’m Heather Staines from the MIT Knowledge Futures Group. Fantastic session but I want to ask about something that hasn’t really come up I think. When I look at obstacles in my career, in many cases, it was international in nature. And I think most of you have probably been in either with colleagues from different cultures or being representing your organizations abroad in different places. And can you say a little bit about how you may have encountered different reactions given the cultural norms and expectations that you encounter outside of your normal environment?
[00:50:19.36] REBECCA ASHER: Anybody?
[00:50:20.63] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: Sure, we can– as an academic traveled all over the world to conferences to meetings and then when I became president of the RSC, I was all over the place. Great.
[00:50:35.14] But I can remember particularly when I was representing the Royal Society of Chemistry, my husband often used to come along with me. And I’m sure we’ve all done it. I’m sure you’ve all seen it happen. You get met at the airport because you’re there representing– [INAUDIBLE] to sign some memorandum of understanding or something and you get met. And they all rush up to my husband and go, Professor, how wonderful to see you. Lovely to see you here.
[00:51:01.49] And, Peter, my husband would always go. It’s not me. It’s not me. It’s her, and they couldn’t get us into their head. And so they would still– still after he told them that– still be going, yes, Professor, it’s really lovely to see you. And so it happens. We just laugh about it and call my husband the professor now.
[00:51:26.53] AMY BRAND: What does he do by the way?
[00:51:28.20] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: My husband, he’s an accountant. He’s nothing– he’s nothing– he’s nothing academic at all, so he loves being called a professor.
[00:51:36.53] REBECCA ASHER: [INAUDIBLE] [00:51:41.29] Hi.
[00:51:41.58] AUDIENCE: Stephen Lustig. I’m now a consultant, but I’ve had over 40 years in companies of academic publishing of one kind or another. Very interesting presentations, but there was one point in my experience that hasn’t been mentioned, which is that in my experience and– of course, there are– this is a generalization– women are more emotionally intelligent than men.
[00:52:00.30] And very– and this relates to something Amy said– are therefore sometimes more humble. And I’m sure you’ve all heard that when a man sees eight points on her job description and he can do one of them, he applies for the job. If the woman sees that, she won’t apply for the job. And so I think that impedes women being ambitious for management positions.
[00:52:22.47] And so relating to something else one of you said– I can’t remember which– I think what women and men in senior positions can do to younger staff is management training to encourage younger women that they actually can manage. Because in my experience, I’ve offered management jobs to young women and actually they sometimes just don’t want to be promoted.
[00:52:49.30] ALLISON LANG: I think that’s inherent in succession planning and your duty as a senior leader to make sure that that is absolutely inherent. I agree. There’s probably been parts of my career where I’ve thought maybe I wouldn’t go for that actually, and that’s bitten me on the bum. And I’d like to encourage everyone that perhaps is a different label from me to do that within our organization.
[00:53:12.71] Somebody once said to me don’t miss your slot, and I thought that’s a very powerful message for me. It was a very simple message of just don’t miss your slot because the opportunities may be finite. And just to have that take home message that opportunity– they will keep coming but don’t miss that slot. Don’t be put off and don’t miss that slot that arrives at that time. Regardless of the eight points or the 12 points whatever it happens to be, do it, which is what I’ve done usually.
[00:53:41.18] [INTERPOSING VOICES] [00:53:43.70] AMY BRAND: We believe in ongoing training, professional development management training constantly being made available to staff. But it’s a little easier for us because it’s built into the university. So there are resources there.
[00:53:55.64] SARAH GREAVES: And what I try and do now is mentor younger women within the company either the company I work in or outside through other publishing organizations because I benefited so much from seeing senior women and chatting to them about maybe the issues I came across in terms of how to actually do my job or just in terms of dealing with the politics in an office. And I think it’s really important that we provide those opportunities.
[00:54:16.91] You see someone who you think, oh, actually that person could be exceptional. I need to embed within them that confidence that they can go on and do that.
[00:54:24.48] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: I think you can also encourage, particularly women I’ve found– young women– is to try and get over this humble. Humble’s good and fine, but when you’re putting it down on a piece of paper for a promotion, for example–
[00:54:40.81] AMY BRAND: Yes, that’s different.
[00:54:41.97] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: Exactly but people don’t get that difference. And I think you have to encourage them to understand that actually people are going to read that cold. And so you just have to be bold and say I led that project. And just say it because so often they don’t.
[00:55:08.03] AMY BRAND: We are so the question–
[00:55:11.83] REBECCA ASHER: We’ll come to you afterwards. Hi.
[00:55:15.84] AUDIENCE: Oh, hi. Sarah Ruhi at [INAUDIBLE]. Amy, lovely to see you. Thank you so much for this panel. I think the– we thank you as the next generation for the ladders you’ve thrown down, so I appreciate that.
[00:55:27.97] I have to respond to that comment before I come to my comment. If I may, I think these sort of reductive women are emotionally intelligent, men are more direct is a real problem. I have a–
[00:55:39.82] [APPLAUSE] [00:55:42.10] I have a PhD scientist mother who is essentially a robot and does not pick up on– emotional intelligence is like her tremendous weakness. Apologies to the PhD scientist women. You are not all emotional robots, I don’t think.
[00:55:56.69] But I think when you in a well-meaning way put that lens upon your efforts to diversify a community, you’re further embedding a whole sort of subset of internal structures you probably don’t want to embed. I think a lot of the diversity conversation misses the point that the point is not to get 50% of the panel to be women or 50% of the audience to be women. The point is to acknowledge that the diversity of viewpoints generates a richer conversation.
[00:56:26.80] So it’s– so the– my point I was going to bring up was I’m not concerned but I observed that there are no women of color on this panel. And in the– if you’ve followed the many waves of feminism. The third wave reacts to the second as a function of the fact that white women, particularly well educated white women in positions of power, AKA Sheryl Sandberg AKA lean in, they cannot speak to the experience of the women of color in the room, and from what I can tell I don’t know how many of us there are but there’s not a lot.
[00:56:56.20] That’s a component that’s really missing here. And the fact that we’re having this panel is what’s important, but that’s the piece that has to get mentioned. And so if you’re coming from the point of, well, we have binders full of women and half this room is women, the systemic issue’s still not being addressed.
[00:57:14.77] My third point and credit Ann Michael for this but I think a number of us were thinking this as well is we need to talk about how we mentor young men, and we need to talk about how we sit down with senior male colleagues, friends, bosses. I am always impressed– well, not always, sometimes mostly– at the– there is an inherent lack of understanding around these issues because the vessel is different.
[00:57:41.50] If you’ve never experienced what it’s like to have these encounters, you truly don’t know what it’s like to be there, and there needs to be a willingness on our part– and fortunately it’s always the minority that has to do this– to communicate that and educate that and not from a place of judgment or derision but from a place of genuine let me explain to you what that’s like when you assume.
[00:58:00.81] A perfect example, a colleague going to a young very beautiful junior employee at a pharma company and asking her, oh, yeah, you mentioned your boss. What’s his name? And her response is her name, and he literally face ponged. He’s like I’m really sorry. I should not have made an assumption about the gender of your boss. And that’s because I called it out to him after and was like you can’t– you got a flag that kind of thing.
[00:58:27.34] So there’s a it’s incumbent upon all of us to have those small micro moments because I think that’s the counter to the death by 1,000 cuts. I’m sorry I’m done.
[00:58:37.46] [APPLAUSE] [00:58:44.44] REBECCA ASHER: Other response to that. I’m interested in the two points there, the need for systemic change to improve diversity and also what you do with the workforce that you have as it were. Any thoughts on that?
[00:58:58.60] AMY BRAND: Well, something I mention before I came onto the model was when I’m recruiting and hiring and creating teams, I try and hire people who I think I could do my job better than me regardless of who they are, and I think that’s an interesting way to interview because it immediately makes you get an exceptionally good team. And most people don’t want to do that. You hire someone, oh, I think I can manage them.
[00:59:20.57] They’ll be fine there. But actually you need someone who could actually do your job better than you because then you do a better job and your team becomes better by having this diverse viewpoints within it. And everyone looks good, exactly. It’s been root of my success.
[00:59:35.91] But now I think it’s good to be challenged and to have an incredibly diverse team bringing different things into the room. You want people to be thinking a different way. If everyone– when you will sit around at a table and everyone’s virtually identical because you’ve hired like for like, you’re all going to be thinking the same. And so when a problem’s thrown out to you to solve, you’re all going to come up with the same solution, but actually that probably isn’t the right one.
[00:59:55.18] And you need someone who’s sitting there thinking a bit differently going, oh, you know what, have you thought about this? And then everyone starts, oh, that’s how you solve it. And that’s a whole diversity issue, not just male or female. It’s creating very diverse teams.
[01:00:09.14] LESLEY YELLOWLEES: So first of all, thank you for your passion because I do think it needs people to be passionate about it. And secondly, I think when I started off, it was always if you could just get a critical mass, it’ll be fine. Everyone’ll be sorted if you can get this critical mass, and this is when I was the only female member of staff. If you could just get a few more, then that’ll be fine.
[01:00:34.25] But I’ve come to realize, it actually– it’s rather the if we go along that, though, what’s the critical mass? So do you want 20%? Do you want 30%? But then what about all the other categories that you might want to bring into that.
[01:00:49.21] How do we– so I know I’ve turned it round and I like to think that I don’t want to have my team dominated by any one particular subgroup of a culture. So I don’t want one lot to dominate– so I don’t want 20% to be the winner. I’d rather that was maybe 30% was the maximum of any one type of if we’re going to class people and why would we want to class them. But if you want to, do it that way round, and I think that’s a more constructive way of doing it.
[01:01:25.03] AMY BRAND: I did want to add something, and this pertains more to academia than to publishing. One of the– I was talking about this group of women and now MIT was more diverse in science, and now it’s sliding back and more gender diverse. And part of the thinking is that this is all about diversification, but the issues for women as a gender or around gender are different than the issues around race. And so you have to figure out a way to address all of that but understand that it’s not the same thing.
[01:01:58.07] So I agree with you. This should be a more representative panel, but in dealing with the societal issues around what makes women opt out– we know where the biases come from– I think there is something very specific about gender.
[01:02:12.55] REBECCA ASHER: I promised that I would come to you, and it’ll have to be our last question. You’re deciding to resign from your question. Fine because we have come to the end of our time. And I want to thank you all so much for such insightful and honest and entertaining contributions so thank you all. A round of applause for all.
[01:02:32.74] [APPLAUSE] [01:02:40.58] I should add that the next session is starting immediately with the awards finalists.
[01:02:45.50] DAVID SOMMER: So good afternoon, everybody. It’s time for the ALPSP Innovation Awards finalist session. My name is David Sommers. I have the privilege of chairing the awards. I’m from [INAUDIBLE], and I’d like to once again MPS who very generously sponsor these awards for several years now, so thank you to MPS.
[01:03:04.07] This year’s awards have been really rather special. We had to almost 40 entries, which is really significant. And with each application, those of you that have applied in the past, you’ll know it’s quite an ordeal 10 to 20 pages of fairly dense documentation, graphs, impact, and so on.
[01:03:22.24] But we actually ask each applicant to also submit a statement of innovation, and this is a 100-word summary of why their application is innovative. And we’ve actually published all of those on the ALPSP website, so you can have a look at those. And also there are spotlight blog posts on each of our finalists as well.
[01:03:41.10] I’d also like to just take a moment to acknowledge our amazing judges. So we have a panel of 10 judges representing publishers, vendors, libraries, consultants, industry standards, bodies, and so on from the UK, Europe, and the US. And these women and men give three to four days at that time every year to go through every single word and every single application, score them, come up with questions, meet, agree to finalists, and so on. So it really is quite an undertaking. So could we take a moment to acknowledge our judges.
[01:04:11.59] [APPLAUSE] [01:04:17.54] So this year we have four finalists, and you’re now going to hear 10 minutes from each of them on their application. They’ll be presenting in alphabetical order, so I’m not giving anything away.
[01:04:28.22] We’ll start off with the BMJ Best Practice, which will be presented by Elin Goodwin and Jennifer Schivas from 67 Bricks. We’ll then hear from preLights Claire Moulton from the company of biologists, Ripeta from Leslie McIntosh, and then scite presented by Josh Nicholson.
[01:04:45.96] And to be nominated is the thing as they say. It was an extremely tough competition this year. Very, very hard to decide and compare. So the four that made it through to the finalists have done extremely well to get to this stage. So without further ado, I’ll hand over to BMJ Best Practice and Elin Goodwin and Jennifer Schivas, so over to you.
[01:05:11.04] ELIN GOODWIN: Hi, everyone. Oh, my god.
[01:05:18.11] Hi, my name is Elin Goodwin. I’m from BMJ. I’m a product manager for BMJ Best Practice. And with me is Jennifer Schivas from head of strategy from 67 Bricks. And we’re here today to talk to you about how we reinvented medical information for the digital age.
[01:05:41.67] So BMJ Best Practice is a clinical decision support tool. It’s one of BMJ’s flagship products, and it contains vital information and support for health professionals for them to help them make decisions at the point of care while diagnosing and treatment– and treating patients. And it’s important that it’s evidence based, and we have all of this amazing content. But it was all stuck in these long form heavy worded documents, and we needed to figure out a way to make it more user friendly and for users to actually find information that we’re looking for quickly and easily.
[01:06:23.11] And 2016 was quite a bleak year for BMJ Best Practice. We were losing market share. We were locked in a lot of technical debt that needed a lot of manual work in order for us to make any– even the smallest changes to the products or the content. So therefore, any product development or any improvement just stalled.
[01:06:47.02] And these are some of the feedback that we got. Our users were incredibly unhappy. And, yes, we needed to get it together.
[01:06:55.45] So we did. We created a brand new vision where we wanted to concentrate more on innovation and product development that have the users at the heart of what we do so that anything that we implemented was what the users needed and wanted.
[01:07:12.10] So we kicked off a project and had a lot of research done. We visited lots of sites and talked to thousands of health professionals around the world to see what they said and what they found most important to them.
[01:07:27.50] And this is some of the things that they said. I highlighted were the most important things. They wanted to have those quick answers, but they wanted it to fit into their clinical workflow so that they didn’t have to actively look and find information and search for it in a way that was complex and so that you can actually just have it on hand and have that quick answer while they were treating the patients at a point of care.
[01:07:54.58] And so we decided to take a look at BMJ Best Practice and say actually we’re going to start all over again. And so we decided we’re going to create a brand new website, a brand new app, and also look at how we do our own internal production tools and managing our content. And most importantly, we decided to look at the content and see how we could make that long form text into something more flexible and adaptable.
[01:08:24.98] And one of the key things that we did– sorry– was that we looked internally because we needed to be flexible and implement something as quickly as possible. And we need to find someone and partner with someone that could do this for us as quickly as possible.
[01:08:46.27] JENNIFER SCHIVAS: And that’s where we came in. So for those of you who don’t know us, 67 Bricks are a software development consultancy that partner with publishers to help them build data-driven information products. And we are incredibly proud to have partnered with BMJ Best Practice to put about this solution.
[01:09:03.59] The joint BMJ Best Practice and 67 Bricks team consisted of technology, products, content, and market experts. And we worked together as one combined team in an agile way, so we were developing, prototyping, testing, and gathering responding to user feedback on the go iteratively. All of this was made possible by copious use of online communication channels, daily joint stand ups, reciprocal code review between our development teams. And our development teams were able to talk very openly about priorities and how to implement features, so there was a real culture of trust and having this shared understanding of business objectives and everyone was pulling together in the same direction.
[01:09:51.74] Co-developing the system in this way has ensured maximum knowledge transfer from 67 Bricks to BMJ, which means that BMJ Best Practice technology team are now really well-placed to maintain and extend and further develop the system going forward. So they’re completely in control of their own destiny, and they’re not tied to [INAUDIBLE] in any way relying on us as a vendor.
[01:10:15.24] So one of the things that we actually most proud of is behind the scenes. As Elin mentioned earlier, a lot of Best Practice information was locked in these very long form monolithic documents. And that made it incredibly hard to repackage and reuse the information. But it’s now structured and managed in a much more granular way.
[01:10:36.08] In addition, we used content enrichment and entity recognition to add more value to the content so, for example, to automatically identify drugs and medical diagnosis. And so as you can see, it’s now much more standardized, much more structured, much more granular. And all that in turn makes it more flexible. So BMJ Best Practice are now in the fantastic position to be able to slice and dice that content, to re-visualize it in different ways, to repackage it, essentially to reuse it across a whole range of future products and services.
[01:11:13.27] In addition, BMJ’s internal staff now have a much improved content production system. It’s more responsive, it’s more collaborative, it’s collaborative editing experience, it’s faster, it’s more, efficient and it’s all underpinned by really powerful vested search functionality.
[01:11:31.37] And finally, of course, the most visible outcome of the project, BMJ’s relaunched point of care tool, BMJ Best Practice. This is now significantly more user focused with an updated more user friendly web product mobile app. We also created an API, which can be used by BMJ or by future technology partners to pair with new products, to integrate with new and existing BMJ systems, or indeed to integrate with third-party software solutions out there in the market that health professionals might be using at a point of care.
[01:12:06.96] ELIN GOODWIN: Thank you. Yeah, so relaunching BMJ Best Practice, it was not just exciting but also the impact that it had was so significant. We could now finally actually be able to enhance it to what our users needed and wanted such as we’ve now introduced important update alerts that actually helps the users being kept updated on the important new evidence. And that’s alerted to them as they’re treating and diagnosing so that they can actually make the right decisions for their patients.
[01:12:41.13] And another big thing is that we’ve also been able to integrate it as we’ve [INAUDIBLE] now it’s and their workflows, and we’ve integrated with electronic health record systems across trusts in the UK already.
[01:12:57.04] And we’ve had a 202% growth in traffic, which is amazing, and a 95% renewal rate for customers. And the app went from a two-star rating in the App Store to a 4.8 out of 5 star rating.
[01:13:18.44] And it’s a very different picture from 2016 to 2019. We’re now completely free from technical debt. We can improve and implement and enhance the products and what we’re offering to our users continuously and making sure that actually meets their needs. And as a result of our relaunch as well, we actually proud to say that we won important tenders, and it’s free for all entities health professionals in Wales, Scotland, and England.
[01:13:51.80] Excuse me.
[01:13:54.01] And more importantly as a heritage brand, we can now– we’re proud to say that we’ve been able to future proof our content, and we’re delivering products that our users actually need. So we went from being useless to the best thing ever created.
[01:14:13.67] [APPLAUSE] [01:14:15.17] Thank you.
[01:14:21.17] DAVID SOMMER: Great thank you very much, Elin and Jennifer. So that’s BMJ. Next stop then is preLights and Claire Moulton from the Company of Biologists is going to present. Claire.
[01:14:35.68] CLAIRE MOULTON: So thank you very much for short listing us for the award. The Company of Biologists is a fairly traditional not-for-profit publisher, putting money back into the community through grants and through hosting meetings. But more recently, we’ve been focusing on community building through blogs and websites such as preLights.
[01:14:59.60] I know that many of you will see– have seen this chart before, which shows the impressive growth of preprints in the biological sciences, especially through the growth of bioarchive. And so obviously this caught our attention. This is a very hot topic in our area.
[01:15:16.55] And as Stephen mentioned in his presentation earlier, there are a lot of benefits to preprint publication around the rapid release of research information, transparency, reproducibility, and so on. But the aspect that we were focusing on was that preprints are also supposed to open up the dialogue about the piece of work, and for the author, that’s supposed to provide early feedback on their work as they develop the next stages of their project.
[01:15:46.73] And we don’t really believe that that’s happening. John Inglis reported earlier this year that only about 8% of preprints in bioarchive have public comments, so obviously this is an issue. It’s not really happening. And while we can see this impressive growth in preprints, I think it’s also important to show this as biochart. If you look at the small red band at the bottom, it’s to show that the number of preprints are currently only about 2% to 3% of the publications in PubMed.
[01:16:18.11] So there’s significant room for further growth in the number of preprints, and we believe that at that point, it’s going to be difficult for readers to keep up with the current literature. So these were two aspects that we were– the two problems that we identified that we wanted to address, public comments and being able to keep up with the literature.
[01:16:38.77] And that led us to us launching preLights. So preLights is essentially a preprint selection and commenting service, and it’s run by a team of largely early career researchers. They select the preprints of most interest to them, write about them, and that’s what their product produces.
[01:16:59.01] So the first thing that we needed to do is to build a team. As I said, they’re mainly early career researchers, and we call them preLighters. They’re an incredibly enthusiastic and diverse group. We have a very interactive Slack group where we discuss ideas with them, and they are really the heart of this product.
[01:17:20.19] So I’m going to show you what they produce. This is an example of a preLights post, where we start at the top with information about the preprint and then link back to the preprint on the preprint server. We have a short tweetable summary, which is a good way of drawing attention to the highlight post. And we also, of course, feature the preLighter who selected this preprint and wrote about it with a link to their profiles so that we can help to promote them.
[01:17:49.64] In the post, they explain the background of the research that’s covered in the preprint. They then go on to cover the key findings. But what we were most interested to see was their personal take on why this was important, why was it so interesting that they selected it for comment. And that’s the bit that adds personality to the post.
[01:18:11.57] And it also led them to create a list of the sorts of questions that they would love to ask the preprint authors if they had the chance. And this is where the post is already looking very good, but it led on to adding something extra. And that is that the preLighters started to send their post to the preprint author saying I’ve highlighted your preprint, and obviously the author’s generally quite pleased about that.
[01:18:34.76] And we found that many of those authors then responded to our preLighters, answering their questions, giving more information about the research they published, and where it was going to go next. And so that really adds quite a lot to the service. It is generating discussion around preprints that we were hoping to see.
[01:18:54.98] And we know the authors have found this really beneficial because we have seen them revise their work based on preprint discussions– preLighter discussions. We’ve seen them post revised preprints. And also when they go on to publish their work in a journal, we’ve seen them site preLights in their published peer review reports.
[01:19:15.63] So preLights has been running for about 18 months, and it’s already gained a lot of visibility, which is very pleasing. We have a team of more than 150 preLighters, and we’re just approaching our 500th post. And as I said, around a third of the authors actually respond to the preLighters and provide additional comments on their work.
[01:19:37.73] We’ve gained a lot of traction. We’re seeing a lot of tweeting around our preLights. And the response from the community has been incredibly positive. We’ve also seen partners respond positively. For example, it was very useful that bioarchive very quickly introduced a feature so that when you’re reading a preprint, you can see whether it has been preLighted. And Europe PMC also wanted to index the preLights as well as preprints in their service.
[01:20:10.14] So we do believe that it’s going to– gained a lot of traction. We believe it’s a really important platform, and we believe that it is starting to change the way that scientists engage with preprints.
[01:20:22.69] So having done all the hard work, it’s important that we promote our early career researchers. We do a series of interviews and things like that with them. And I think it is really important that we’ve invested in a dedicated community manager to work with them, enthuse them, and encourage them. And I just give a quick plug for Marty’s talk tomorrow in a session on working with early career researchers if you’d like to hear more.
[01:20:47.23] So having brought together a group of enthusiastic early career researchers, they immediately wanted to meet up with each other and with us at conferences. Because we– preLights has gained so much attention, they’ve been invited to give a lot of talks, and they’ve really been keen to promote preprints and preLights. They’ve also come together to write commentaries and blog posts about open science, so they’ve actually become really great ambassadors for the project.
[01:21:15.70] And so from this group of individuals coming together, we’ve actually– a particular magic has emerged, and they’ve helped us to develop the product and come up with new ideas for its future direction. And so I’m just going to talk very briefly about two of those.
[01:21:32.53] So this is what we start with. We’ve got a preprint. We’ve written a preprint highlight, and we’ve hopefully received some author comments. And that’s the content of the preLights post. But that preprint usually goes on to publication in a journal, and our early career researchers say that it’ll be really useful for them to see how that’s– how that feeds back into education about the peer review process.
[01:21:58.45] So we’re going to go back to those preprint authors and ask what were the most important improvements in the manuscript as a result of the peer review and try to capture that back into the preLights post. And our team believes that will be useful in two ways. First, as they start their own journey as early career authors, they know what to expect from the peer review process and how to go through the revision process. And also as they become peer reviewers themselves, it gives them an idea of what is expected of them in the process and how important it is to publishing.
[01:22:31.64] The second innovation that we’ve added to the site, we’ve already implemented. We call this preLists, which is a set of curated preprint lists. This came from the team of preLighters wanting to be able to highlight more preprints than they were able to write about. And they come in two flavors.
[01:22:50.51] So the first flavor is an ongoing curated list of preprints on a particular topic, in this case on a particular technology. And the second flavor is a one off list which relates to the preprints being discussed at a conference that might be interested for those attending the conference or for those trying to follow it remotely to see what’s being discussed. This is already being very well received, and we found that members of the community were writing to us saying, well, I’m not a preLighter, but I’d really like to curate a list of preprints. And so we’ve actually decided to open this up so that any researcher can actually work with us on producing a preprint list.
[01:23:27.37] And because I’m addressing a publishing audience, I’m going to finish by saying that we already do have a preList on preprints in science publishing. So if you would like to take a look at our site and what it’s all about but you’d like to be looking at some relevant content, this is your way in.
[01:23:44.21] So just again thank you for the nomination from the team of preLighters who were absolutely thrilled and also from our in-house team. Thank you very much.
[01:23:54.23] [APPLAUSE] [01:23:59.01] DAVID SOMMER: Thank you very much, Claire. So next up then we have Ripeta and Leslie McIntosh is going to tell us about that.
[01:24:09.85] LESLIE MCINTOSH: Thank you so much for having me, and I’m very grateful to be here. So I’m Leslie McIntosh, and just for your information, Ripeta means repeat in Italian. And the dotcom was available, so that was very important to the company. And we’re the credit report for scientific publishing.
[01:24:26.98] So as most people know, there is a reproducibility crisis, or there’s still is one. And it has to do with billions spent on non-reproducible work. The causes I think are we’re still exploring and what we’re doing is exploring the solutions. And I want to tell you why I got into this in the first place.
[01:24:45.92] So here is a scenario of how you get from data into a publication. Now it could be from the bench. You couldn’t get data from a lot of places, but this was me. I was– ran the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Washington University, was a faculty there, and I helped curate all of the data that was in the medical record. We worked with people. We got it to these fantastic researchers that we worked with, and they got it into a publication.
[01:25:12.61] And then what happened was that publication pointed back to those researchers, and it really cut off and disconnected what we had done. And there were two issues with this. There were actually more than two, but I’ll just talk about two.
[01:25:26.53] So one is I knew that my career at the university was not going to last long in that because I wasn’t getting the citations that I needed, and we can– we heard earlier about the ins and outs of that, but it is what it is. But the other thing is that I worked with really good researchers. I really liked this people, and they were clinical researchers. So what I wanted them to do was to get back to doing what they were doing well and not have to think about that data pipeline and how to point back to the data pipeline.
[01:25:56.86] So being the informatician that I was, it was like let’s solve this problem. How do we solve it? Well, first let’s look at guidelines for reporting, which should be there. Well, there’s over 400 guidelines with about 6,500, 6,550 variables, and that’s a lot to think about. And with all of this, I thought about what would the researcher want to get back to doing their science.
[01:26:22.39] And then it’s, well, peer review takes a long time. And there are reasons for that, but how do we also shorten that and make it better. So how do we make science better and better science easier? And that’s what we ran into. And I founded the company Ripeta to improve scientific reproducibility with minimal burden on scientists and those evaluating the research.
[01:26:46.28] So what did we do? First of all, we looked at all of the variables that were critical in those guidelines. I also am part of the Research Data Alliance, which is a global organization to look– talk to people around the globe what’s important. And we boiled it down to what are the core elements to start with because anyone knows who starts a project, you have to scope it.
[01:27:06.10] So we scoped it to we needed a study of review, data collection, analysis, software and code, and supporting materials. And with these, we could get a footprint of reproducibility. We’re not looking at whether something actually has been reproduced, but we’re trying to say what’s the probability of it being able to be reproduced with these things. What’s the hygiene from the articles that needs to be there in order to do this?
[01:27:31.97] And so what we did is automated the process. Now, this is a fake journal. There is no Retrospective Study of Mount Doom and Orcs– and although we now have an article thanks to one of my interns if you want to read it– but the idea is that you can upload a publication, and in a few seconds, instead of a long time, you can actually find out could we find things within the study overview such as what is the objective of the study.
[01:27:59.44] And one would think that in publications, you would find a hypothesis, but actually that’s not necessarily the case. One would think that you could find a study objective, but that’s not always the case although it’s more likely. The other thing, though, in this world of fear is we needed both human curatable and machine readable. And so that’s what we’re trying to look at.
[01:28:20.65] Do they produce data collection, analytic software encode– do they report on it, excuse me, in supplementary material? And what happened, I’ll just give you an example of a real researcher with two real papers.
[01:28:33.07] Now 2017 was before Ripeta, and she ran her paper through it, and she was looking at it. And she said– it was published, and it’s a very good paper and she now has a very nice job. She was a postdoc at the time. And but she didn’t have everything in it.
[01:28:47.62] And the second paper, she did go through and run it through Ripeta, and it became a better paper very quickly. She asked for my feedback. I was able to quickly give it that because we were still in development with the product at this time, and she goes I should have had a hypothesis and I just put my aim. And I was wandering aimless. She didn’t cite her data. She didn’t cite her code. And so she was able to change the paper for the better.
[01:29:12.18] And so to do this, where do we then use this? Where would this plug into this whole process on this single report? So this is a simplified version of the process. Please bear with me on this. But what we look at is here are the areas that Ripeta could fit into.
[01:29:29.06] And this is– and I’ll talk about this in a minute– but we look at where the author presubmits. So give the author a chance to make it better and make it better quickly. Get that information back to them. Also perhaps give the information to peer reviewers. We haven’t tested that except with my friends who are around universities in the United States and some in Germany and Australia, but we’re looking at that and then look at it after– excuse me– a paper is done. But what we really want is for those papers to go in and be better before they ever come out, before they’re ever published.
[01:30:01.43] But wait. There’s more. Now what we’re looking at is not just looking at individual papers but looking at batches of papers. What we found is a need– is that people want an aggregated view of their– of how they’re doing. So take, for instance, a journal wants to look at how their journal is doing based on their policies and these guidelines.
[01:30:23.99] So we aggregate the results, and we present it. And we can present something like this. This is not from a journal. Again, we’re going to just say it’s the Journal of Mordor. But it is actually not too far off from one field, a policy that says, yeah, we want to make data available but a data availability policy doesn’t mean that data are actually available. And we can provide that information and give that assessment. We’re doing that both for publishers, and there’s also interests from national funding agencies within the United States who want to look at their portfolios of grantees.
[01:30:59.79] So to just recap, the three things that we offer are these automated assessments with the Ripeta report, portfolio analysis, and then consulting. And what’s the reason for this? The research shows that even adding a data availability statement adds 15 minutes to the review time, five minutes if you’re really quick, but it’s usually about 15 minutes, and we can do that within seconds now and have it automated. So that’s a time saver.
[01:31:24.98] It can enhance reputation for those journals who are very interested in adding this to their journal to make it a stronger case for reproducibility. And then from the scientific perspective, it’s just what we think is higher quality research.
[01:31:41.40] So our customers right now are researchers, although we’ll just admit that most researchers don’t pay, but institutions are interested in their researchers learning how to do that, so I’m talking with them– the publishing ecosystems. They’re not just publishers but content management solution systems and then also institutions and that’s academic and funders.
[01:32:01.61] And this is our wonderful team right now. We hail from Washington University originally and Cornell University libraries, so we’ve had a mix of software developers, biomedical informaticians, librarians, and now we have also a wonderful group, a little motley crew on the bottom, but they’re fantastic at doing some of the annotations. And that is Ripeta, a credit report for science. We’re trying to make science better and better science easier. I’m Leslie McIntosh. Thanks for having me.
[01:32:29.87] [APPLAUSE] [01:32:35.14] DAVID SOMMER: Thank you very much, Leslie. And our last presentation is going to be scite by Josh Nicholson. While he’s just sitting on his laptop there and he’s going to be including a live web demo with conference Wi-Fi during this. And for those of you that watched Yes, Minister or Yes, Prime Minister when it was on and the prime minister would come up with something quite risky. Sir Humphrey would look at him and say that’s very brave, Prime Minister. [INAUDIBLE] Or I hope all goes well, and this is a brave presentation. Say, Josh.
[01:33:02.23] JOSH NICHOLSON: Thank you. And thank you everyone for listening. I spent a lot of my time sending emails to get people to listen to me, so now you’re all forced to do this. I should say the live demo, everything’s cast, so even if the internet doesn’t work very well, it should still work.
[01:33:16.30] So I have a background in cell biology. I finished a PhD about four years ago. During the last five years, I’ve been involved in this space of academic publishing. And I’ve learned a tremendous amount. I launched a company called the [INAUDIBLE] that ultimately got bought by Authoria, and then Authoria got bought by Add Upon.
[01:33:31.90] And I didn’t leave science. I think I chose to come into this world because I think what we all do in this room is just as integral as doing the experiment itself. This stands the test of time. This is what other people build upon, and it’s very, very important. So that is that the impetus behind scite as well, and it’s actually a bit funny.
[01:33:50.32] We are, so we can’t get the dotcom because another company, which I’m not supposed to name, owns it. But the impetus is to really try to improve what I think is amazing. So if you take a second and pause, everything that we publish is arguably some of the most important stuff in the world. It tells you how to talk– stand when you give a presentation, this power pose study, to the cell phone in your pocket, to how you raise your children, to the cancer drugs, so on and so forth.
[01:34:17.90] But it’s inefficient, and it’s always going to be inefficient. And I think we’re always going to work towards trying to improve it in different ways. And that’s really the aim behind scite is that we’re not trying to accelerate science. We’re really just trying to make it more reliable. And I understood all the pressures that were spoken during the keynote.
[01:34:35.49] And I think it’s very hard. I tweeted out this thing you have to choose between your mortgage– which I don’t have, I have student debt– and doing what is like everyone knows is the right thing. And that difficulty is something that we all [INAUDIBLE] with.
[01:34:48.36] And so this is my work. So this– the way I like to show scite is to show it– the world as it exists today without scite. So here I am. I publish in eLIFE. So you’ve already made one judgment about eLIFE. Maybe you like eLIFE. Maybe it’s your competitor.
[01:35:05.25] I did my PhD at Virginia Tech. It was a collaboration with a hospital in Portugal as well as a lab at the NIH. It’s been cited 40 times and viewed about 44,000 times, and now I’m gaming this number up because I give more and more of these demos every day. Doesn’t have any annotations.
[01:35:21.03] And so these are what we all look at as proxies of quality. Do we want to join Joshua’s lab? Do we want to give Josh grant money? Do we want to give Josh a prize?
[01:35:29.11] And it’s human nature. We’re drowning in information, and I found this quote by Eugene Garfield talking about drowning in information 60 years ago. And if you think about drowning in information then, you’re in an ocean.
[01:35:43.05] And so what we want to do– and citations are critical to this environment– is to say they’re not all created equal. So if you look at mine, I have 40 citations. Think about that. Behind that is 40 different studies or review articles. Behind that is hundreds of thousands dollars– millions of dollars that by definition directly relates to my work. They’ve cited it.
[01:36:04.39] But in today’s world, it’s just a number. And eLIFE, if you’re in the room– this still drives me crazy– you cannot even click this number. You have to go dig through and go find those. Or if you go through Scopus– sorry– if you go through other groups, good luck trying to read past the first 10. And I think what we knew as researchers is that I would know from the grapevine which studies were good or bad and which had been supported or contradicted, and that’s effectively what we’re trying to do with scite is to classify these citations as supporting, contradicting, or mentioning.
[01:36:36.70] So we also– we introduced this plug in, which anyone can have– so we don’t have a partnership with eLIFE– that exposes this information. So if you look at my article under scite, the first thing you can see is we don’t have the same numbers, so we’re ingesting millions of scientific articles. We’ve only been around three months at least publicly available. We’ve been thinking about this for five years and working on it for over a year, but we have this entirely novel way of looking at citations.
[01:37:04.36] And so this is a nice story for me to tell because I have a supporting citation, and so what does that look like? And actually this is the true story. I didn’t know that this citation existed, so if you put this in front of researchers, almost 90% of the time they search themselves then they search their competitors. And I think there’s two actions that we want to leverage to– for– at scite.
[01:37:24.47] So what is a supporting citation, and how do we classify this? So generally we’re looking at citation statements, so there’s a limitation. Not everyone writes I refute Nicholson et al., or I support Nicholson et al. It’s very nuanced. Sometimes it’s away from the citation, and we may miss it. I think we have a lot of things ahead of us that we need to do to account for that.
[01:37:43.55] But if you read this– so this is a citation snippet, so this is the snippet of text from this article. So this appeared in molecular biology the cell. These are the authors, so they’re no affiliation to our group. It was published in 2018.
[01:37:55.88] Actually one innovation that we came up with just from listening to authors is where’s that citation coming from. So in this example, this text comes from the results section. And if you skip the first sentence and just read the second sentence, you can see why it’s classified as such. So an agreement with previous work, Nicholson et al., the trisomic clone shows similar aberrations albeit to a lesser extent, supplemental figure S2B.
[01:38:18.18] And so this was another important point that I want to bring up because a lot of people also test us by going to the Wakefield study, and they say, well, you don’t have all these contradicting sites. And I tell them that’s right. We’re not just classifying things that are negative in sentiment or positive in sentiment because this is really opinion.
[01:38:35.20] There’s some rhetorical function, and we support this or we contradict that. And most importantly behind that is experiments. It’s not just a bunch of scientists saying I support this person because they’re funny, but here’s my reputation and my experiments to back that up.
[01:38:50.12] And so to me this– let me get down here– to me this is– I like to say that this is something of a superpower. We went from– I presume none of you have read my study before– we went from just looking at where is it published, how many citations it have, and then affiliation to in a few clicks being able to say it’s been independently supported.
[01:39:11.72] But it’s not a superpower in terms of just developing it. There’s actually a lot of work. A tremendous amount of machine learning goes into this. And then beyond the technical capabilities, there’s also a huge logistical factor, getting access to full text publication. So we– it’s not sufficient enough for us to just have citations or to use [INAUDIBLE] science. And in that regard we’re much farther ahead of them because we have analyzed the full text publication.
[01:39:35.26] And so this is what it looks like. So we use 11 different machine learning models with 20 to 30 different features each just to extract the citations. So think about that. PDFs come in a variety of different qualities, and the citations are sometimes superscripts, parentheticals, reference sections, which we have to match against cross ref, again comes with a variety of different information. Some have DOIs.
[01:39:57.92] Other times they have abbreviated names, just journal of so on and so forth. And then a deep learning model, which is used to classify these citations, trained on about 40,000 citation snippets that two independent experts have done. And so there’s a lot of work going into this.
[01:40:14.51] And we thought this is an entirely novel idea, but it actually turns out it’s not. So Eugene Garfield in 1964 gave a talk probably very much like this and then published it behind it suggesting that in addition to citation numbers we show markers. And in his example, he says Mr. X is wrong or data’s spurious or a calamity for mankind.
[01:40:36.53] And so I think the idea has been there for a while. It’s just been technically very hard. There hasn’t been enough open content to get started. And I think we are lucky as a company to be doing this at this time.
[01:40:51.23] And so where are we today? So we’ve analyzed just over 10 million articles. That’s about 344 million citations statements, which is to me pretty amazing because we started doing this entirely manually where we would start from this shame list, which is just a private list that a researcher has, and then go through each citation as a human and read it and say is this supporting, contradicting, can we tell that as humans. If we can tell it as humans, do we think we can automate this?
[01:41:17.48] And so we are rapidly ingesting PDFs, so sign indexing agreements– which I’m not going to announce because I haven’t asked their permission yet and I’d like to respect that– but we signed indexing agreements with some amazing publishers to rapidly expand that. And then there’s still a host of open content that we just haven’t touched. And so I’d expect us to one day, hopefully very soon, cross the billion mark.
[01:41:41.30] To me, I think there’s a great utility as a reader. I think this is almost undeniable. If you can look at the context of the citation and then see if it’s supporting or contradicting, very quickly with a few clicks, you get just a wealth of information that’s out there that would otherwise require you to go read all these articles. So we’ve had some very nice things come from us, some not so nice things as you may expect.
[01:42:04.76] And where we are now is really trying to talk with publishers. So we like to launch pilots effectively where we put this information on your articles, give you access to our analytics, and hopefully work together as partners to improve what researchers are chasing. Maybe they shouldn’t just chase impact and cut every corner and move this experiment to tell a nice story.
[01:42:24.83] Maybe they should slow down, take a pause, and say, well, now we have a positive as well as a negative feedback loop. Let’s make that data open. Let’s be very clear in our things. We want people to reproduce us because now we’re being tracked by that.
[01:42:37.26] And so I don’t usually show this, but I think it’s relevant to the audience is that we’ve done some of these internal analyses where we look at our metrics versus what is the metric of today so the impact factor. And, in fact, the way when we started we wanted to introduce a metric of reliability, reproducibility, which has since dropped. But we still use some of these things internally. And so this is basically– I don’t want to say scite score because that exists– this is the scite, and effectively what it is is if you have a publication has 100 citations, 10 have tested it and eight of those support it and two contradict, you have a scite of 0.8.
[01:43:14.39] So we’ve compared that to impact factor, and I must admit this data is there’s all kinds of caveats. It’s probably a few months old, and this is why it’s not published because this number is constantly changing as we ingest content. So we’ve looked at this versus impact factor, and then we’ve looked at what are the journals publishing reliable work under us. Who’s getting a lot of things. And I think to me it’s not so surprising that some of the society journals, which are maybe not the most prestigious but publishing a lot of careful work, win out under our lens.
[01:43:43.40] And that is the pitch I make to journals. Here is this information that you can use to market. Maybe you don’t have an impact factor of 50 , but maybe under scite you can say, hey, we publish reliable things. Use that for your NIH grant, which is now a section that people are looking for. And the whole aim behind scite is to really kind of change the behavior of the scientists. I think it’s going to take a concerted effort with publishers, with us, with funders to move these things forward.
[01:44:10.45] So our team, all white males, sorry. Milo is this young amazing kid. He’s actually from Cambridge. He did his degree in classics where he did network theory analysis Homer’s Odyssey. Now he’s doing networks theory analysis of scientific articles. [INAUDIBLE] who ran a lab at Cold Spring Harbor for about 20 years and was one of my mentors and is author of a cult classic biologist [INAUDIBLE].
[01:44:36.70] We actually wrote this paper and said someone else should do this. We said Elsevier should do this. NCVI should do this. Thomson Reuters should do this. And, of course, no did it, so we decided to do it ourselves.
[01:44:45.49] Patrice, who has been working on the tool to extract citations out of PDFs for 10-plus years, and it’s open source– it’s called [INAUDIBLE]– is really amazing. I think we’re extremely lucky to work with him, and I’m sure a lot of people in the room use [INAUDIBLE] for many different things. And then Sean Rife who’s in Kentucky and is a psychologist is acutely aware of the problem. It’s great for this machine learning aspect as well. And so happy to take questions and love to talk over beers or anytime during the conference so come find me. And thank you.
[01:45:16.14] [APPLAUSE] [01:45:18.04] DAVID SOMMER: Thank you.
[01:45:21.86] Thank you very much, Josh. And thank you for saving us from a calamity for all mankind. And so they are our finalists, four very strong entries. I’m actually delighted following the previous session that four of our five speakers were women, which is pretty cool. So there can only be one winner, though, and this year indeed there is one winner, and I’ll be announcing that tomorrow night at the awards dinner. So you have to keep waiting until then, but that’s it for the awards session. I’m going to hand over to Wayne, who’s going to say a few words, but thank you all very much.
[01:45:49.78] [APPLAUSE] [01:45:55.78] PRESENTER: Well, that does bring us to the end of our first day, but I’m pleased to say that we start again tomorrow at quarter past nine. Just to remind you all that the welcome reception this evening, which is kindly being sponsored by CCC, will be starting at 7:00 PM across the way at the Hanover Patio. So I look forward to seeing you all then. Thank you.