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“In The Spotlight” with Amy Brand!

30th September 2014
 | Katy Alexander

On Sunday evening, Digital Science’s Amy Brand took part in a web interview with as part of their popular In The Spotlight series.

Amy began by discussing the dual nature of her role at Digital Science, as both VP Academic & Research Relations and VP North America. The former role is focussed on cultivating and maintaining relationships with Digital Science’s institutional collaborators on initiatives within the field of scholarly publishing; the latter role involves running Digital Science’s North American office and operations.

The discussion then went on to Amy’s research background and her move to a career outside of academia. Amy highlighted the ways in which her PhD in cognitive science from MIT helps her with her current role at Digital Science. Her academic background means that she is highly familiar with the research process, what motivates academic scientists and how they think about disseminating and publishing their work. Understanding all of these issues is crucial to Digital Science’s mission of helping researchers work more efficiently.

Amy then spoke about her career move from academic research to scholarly publishing. In her words she simply followed her nose towards those things that struck her as the most compelling challenges to be working on. This has led her into the general realm of scholarly communications. For Amy, part of the appeal of a career in publishing was the opportunity to work on a wide range of topics within cognitive science, beyond the narrow confines of a particular research specialisation.

Next Amy discussed her work at Harvard developing policies and programmes to help support women in managing an academic career alongside having a child. In Amy’s opinion US academic institutions have in many ways become more progressive than a lot of commercial organisations on this issue.

The conversation then moved on to advice for young and early career researchers. First and foremost Amy stressed that doors open and job opportunities materialise when you take a deep interest in an organisation or project and pursue that interest by networking.

Amy also offered some great advice to researchers about publishing and strengthening their own scholarly record. Examples of ways to improve this include presenting your own work as often as possible, proactively managing the public online record of all your research outputs (not just articles, but data and code too!) and developing your own speaking and writing skills. According to Amy, this is something that universities are increasingly supporting and coaching researchers with.

“… digital tools allow women to take greater control of their own record of scholarship and how it is presented.” Amy Brand

Finally the discussion turned to ways that digital innovations in scholarly publishing might challenge existing gender trends. The key point Amy raised here was that many digital tools allow women to take greater control of their own record of scholarship and how it is presented. One useful way is to do this is by using a tool like the ORCID to associate yourself with as wide a range of research outputs as possible, for example presentations, datasets and computer code. Another tip from Amy to was make sure you use institutional repositories to maximise online access to your work. Researchers should also be monitoring alternative metrics of their work’s online impact and incorporating these into their scholarly records. As another piece of advice, Amy recommended that researchers make use of alternative channels of dissemination, for example by blogging and using social media.

Amy also discussed her involvement in a new innovation that could have a big impact on gender issues in science. This initiative is designed to introduce a new contributor role taxonomy for multi-author research, as an alternative to the orthodox and dysfunctional system of name order. The idea is to use a set of standardised tags that capture different forms of contribution, for example conceptual lead, methodology, computer programming, curating the data and so on. The ultimate aim is to neutralise the politics of authorship by creating a more democratic and transparent system of crediting contributors.

Wrapping up the discussion, Amy’s final word of advice to young researchers was this: be careful about planning your career too precisely or too far ahead. It’s better just to cultivate your deep and intuitive interests and see where they lead you!

You can watch the full event below.