How seemingly random encounters propel and excel humankind

This post is a story about the power of connections and how helping people outside your immediate network effects your network and beyond. It also shows how small actions and ideas can grow and be nurtured into things of beauty, with much wider and positive impacts. The post is told from three different perspectives and is meant to show the synergistic evolution and the positive effects of mentoring. Finally, this is a thanks and a celebration of the journey that we (Sharon, Roman and Adrian) have taken to date, and a teaser as to what may lie ahead in years to come — both for us and for you on your journey!

Q: Tell me a little about your background, current role, and previous history that lead you to be where you are now?

Answer Sharon: I’m Sharon Mattern Buettiker. I work at Reprints Desk, a leading provider of cloud-based research retrieval and intelligence, as the Director of Content Management and Publisher Relations. Prior to that, I was the Web Alliance Manager at Karger Publishers for 18 years. In previous professional incarnations, I’ve marketed languages, dental equipment and pizza.

Answer Roman: I’m Roman Gurinovich, I work at sci.AI where my primary role is Systems Architect in addition to being Jack-of-all-trades. My professional life evolved through telecom equipment design engineer, then systems integration, data analysis and management of a tech company/incubator Xpansa.

Answer Adrian: I’m Adrian Stanley, I’ve worked at Digital Science for four years, as Vice President in the publisher business development team. I also help promote and review the Digital Science Catalyst Grants, and in my non-day job, am the new President of SSP, the Society for Scholarly Publishing.

Q: Where are you from and where do you live right now?

Answer Sharon: I’m from the greater Chicagoland area. I moved to Switzerland 21 years ago and threw down roots near Basel, where I live, work and enjoy my family.

Answer Roman: I’m from Belarus and live in Warsaw, Minsk and at conferences at the moment!

Answer Adrian: I’m originally from the UK, and have lived in Philadelphia US for the last 14 years, developing my South Philadelphia ‘Rocky’ accent, and love of cheesesteaks.

Q: How did you hear about the SSP Mentoring program?

Answer Sharon: From you Adrian, of course. How could I say no to the incoming SSP president? (Laugh.)

Answer Roman: A newsletter from SSP. Great opportunity to learn so I applied the same day!

Answer Adrian: Being a serial volunteer for SSP, I was a Judge on the Fellowship Program, I was paired as a Mentor to an amazing Fellowship winner, and from this experience, helped encourage and organize SSP to set up a mentorship pilot scheme, which has now blossomed into a full member benefit Mentorship program.

Answer Sharon: I think this is very telling, Adrian. From your singular positive experience, you helped set up an entire mentorship program from which we’re all invited to benefit.

Answer Adrian: Well to be fair there’s a whole team who have helped set up the mentoring program, and I hope they too can know about all the hidden positive accomplishments, we often don’t get to hear about.

SSP

Q: What are the main things you have learned from the SSP Mentoring program?

Answer Sharon: I’ve learned that the knowledge space one inhabits can be very beneficial to others coming from a different point of reference. Call it interdisciplinary business expertise or universal truths as it relates to business development. Roman has incredible skill in the field of science and analytics. Who would have thought I could impart something he didn’t already read about or scrape from the web?!

Also, I was reminded once again how life’s less-traveled paths can lead to secret gardens. Investing in relationships in our increasingly fast-paced world seems impossible at times with our overbooked schedules and mission-impossible inboxes, but for me, it’s the only way to keep grounded. Spending time with others and sharing their vision helps us all to feel and actually be more connected to the world around us. As Ferris Bueller said at the end of his day off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you’d don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

And, it’s never too late to learn or teach. Roman insists that I’m the mentor in this relationship, but sometimes I’m not convinced of that. Simply by participating in the program, I’ve learned so much as well.

Answer Roman: As a mentor, teacher or parent: communicate new knowledge while taking into account the mentee’s interests and levels of expertise.

As a mentee, student or child: be the most attentive to the things that you don’t understand or are in agreement with initially.

Sharon, I’d echo your words: always take new paths, it will lead to great discoveries!

Answer Adrian: Mentoring definitely is a two-way benefit, to the mentor and mentee, and sometimes in cases like this, three ways. It feels sooo good to give back to the community, see people grow and develop, while also reflecting and learning on what you were doing, at a similar career stage. Making the effort to give back and support the community and peers, and in this specific example does feel like one has been touched by a butterfly’s wing ‘effect’.

Q: What do you know, and how did you find out about the Digital Science Catalyst Grant program?

Answer Sharon: The Catalyst Grant is a known grant opportunity in our industry. I was having lunch with Adrian at the Frankfurt Book Fair talking about the mentoring program and Roman and he reminded of the upcoming deadline at the time.

Answer Roman: That’s a dream-came-true story. Of course, Digital Science is famous for its support of companies that transform the way we communicate research, like Figshare, Overleaf and Altmetric to name a few! And there was a note in our Business Development backlog that says “Get acquainted with Digital Science”. I was thinking like “Ok, we are not in any position yet to approach those guys”.

And one day Sharon wrote an email to me saying “Hi Roman, perhaps you want to apply for this grant.”

So all the honors go to Sharon for the support, sharing wisdom and inspiring me to submit an application at exactly the right moment. And also huge thanks to SSP that matchmade sci.AI and Sharon at Reprints Desk in the 2017 Mentorship Program. It’s a fantastic experience for everyone in scholarly communication.

Answer Adrian: I’ve long known our Catalyst Grant program, and thankfully we have a supportive and collaborative team at Digital Science who were happy to have me involved in the promotion and reviewing of the Catalyst Grants. It’s such a great way to keep abreast of new technologies, and the problems the applications are trying to solve, for and by researchers. It was also great to see Roman on the interview, and connect him to Sharon for the first time.

Q: How would you like to see the next few years develop for sci.AI ?

Answer Sharon: I’d like to see Roman realise his dreams for sci.AI –  which, the last time we talked about it involves long-term space exploration. He would like his work to further advancements in synthetic biology to protract our lifespan. Apparently, this is necessary before humans can explore extended reaches of the cosmos. Think 2001: A Space Odyssey, but everyone survives.

Answer Roman: That’s what I’ve meant by ‘great mentor’! Sharon supports even the craziest ideas and helps to achieve them step-by-step.

Practically saying, we have two big directions and milestones in the works:

  1. Transforming formats of research communication to make existing findings discoverable and reusable, especially with the help of machine methods.
  2. Reinforcing scientists with the platform that will incessantly extract all relevant facts and reveal interplay between them. As a consequence, humanity will be able to survey global knowledge in an efficient and fun way.

Answer Adrian: I feel sci.AI is poised to make a real difference to research and researchers, uncovering unknown connections and research ideas, that will ultimately benefit humanity, so perhaps a Nobel Prize within 5-10 years for Roman and his team, definitely with an honorary mention for Sharon too  😉

Answer Roman: Sharon and Adrian, thank you for the kind words!

Q: What’s the most rewarding part to date of this story and journey?

Answer Sharon: I’m what one would call a connector person. I enjoy connecting people with one another and watching good things happen. Often there’s an exchange and sometimes a wonderful synergy results. I find this process highly gratifying and hugely motivating.

Answer Roman: Surrounding myself with people that MAKE changes. The further we dig into the research of machine methods and apply them to biological pathways discovery, the more we see two aspects:

  1. We are just at the very beginning of a long journey to understand all the fundamentals and laws of biology.
  2. Everything is technically feasible.

So it will be a fun, long and intriguing journey! And how far you’ll be able to go depends on people that will join and make these changes happen.

Answer Adrian:  Seeing the value of connections, friendships, new and old, and doing something for the good of others, with surprising unforeseen after effects, that have the potential to be something truly amazing. It all starts with a friendly lunch chat, and keeping in touch with well respected good friends, and from a small seed (acorns) a mighty oak tree is born. Something we can all be proud of in our own small way. This is only one example of the ‘butterfly wings’ effect mentoring can and does have throughout the world!

About sci.AI: sci.AI is a platform for researchers to uncover hypotheses and find new applications of existing biomedical discoveries. Its technology applies natural language processing to read scientific papers and reveals the relationships among points of interest with the help of AI reasoning methods. It also produces machine-readable versions of the publications in JATS (RDF/XML) and HTML+RDFa formats to make all research in the world re-applicable for the next discoveries.

About Reprints Desk: Reprints Desk, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Research Solutions, simplifies how organizations procure, access, manage, and use scholarly journal articles, patents, and other content in scientific, technical, and medical (STM) research. Organizations fueled by intellectual property choose Reprints Desk because of its collaborative business approach, efficient article supply system and services, and commitment to quality post-sales support. Reprints Desk has ranked #1 in every Document Delivery Vendor Scorecard from industry analyst and advisory firm Outsell, Inc. since 2008. For more information, visit www.reprintsdesk.com.

The next closing date for the Digital Science Catalyst Grant is June 30th, 2018.