By Samantha Hindle, Monica Granados, and Daniela Saderi

From individuals to a team

The PREreview team share their personal journeys from individual academic careers to co-leading an open scholarship project. What were we doing before PREreview? How did we decide to join forces?

Monica: I thought I had to perpetuate that model that has stood for over a hundred years. Research, write a manuscript, submit said manuscript and after rounds of peer review have the results read by a small audience of other academics.

Amidst 100% humidity in a city hundreds of miles from the species I studied, I learned of a parallel academic world where data, methodology, and results were available openly. Where science was not constrained by archaic publishing models. After participating in the NCEAS/RENCI Open Science for Synthesis workshop I became a staunch advocate of open science. I began conceiving and developing workshops for other scientists and academics to learn to work in the open.

Working at the intersection of open and my academic pursuits, I sought to work beyond making my research open and instead make open data more accessible. Through the Mozilla Open Leaders Program I developed a mobile application for the Guide to Eating Ontario Fishes from idea to minimum viable product. The program connected me with other open leaders and lead me to mentor the PREreview project in the subsequent cohort. My open journey began with someone from the open community exposing me to new ways of thinking, and in turn I now inspire others to work in the open with the support of other individuals, groups and organizations advocating for open.  

Sam: When I look back on how I got into the open science community, it strengthens the notion that you never know where an opportunity will lead.  My advice is to always keep your eyes, and mind, open.

My connection to this community emanated from meeting various Mozilla Fellows at an OpenCon satellite event who welcomed me to participate in a Mozilla mini-Working Open Workshop. This opened my eyes to the idea and potential of working openly. Going into this event, I had a misconceived notion that Github was only for hardcore coders. On top of this, the thought of generating and launching a project openly - in the public eye - from the very first word of our very first resource document, was frightening. What if someone reads it before it’s ready? What if there are errors? What if they think it is terrible? I quickly learned that IT IS OK and that working in the open is an uplifting, positive and supportive experience. I remember leaving the workshop being so energised that I spent my 5-hour wait at Portland airport working on our Github repo and trying out new markdown code; it was exciting and quite addictive! From that point on, I was swept up by a wave of open science programs, events, and inspirational people, and I’ve never looked back.

Daniela: As my Ph.D. career progressed, I saw and experienced the limitations of my training and the culture within academia. I learned a lot about experimental design and innovative techniques, but I often felt disconnected from the positive impact science can have on society. As I researched for new opportunities to engage with the scientific community, I came across the open science movement.

Thanks to Robin Champieux, Scholarly Communication Librarian at OHSU (amazing woman I today consider my “open mentor”), I had the privilege to attend OpenCon 2016 and meet some incredible people from all over the world, true catalysts for change. I arrived not knowing what open science really meant.  I left that conference inspired and with ideas about how even I, as a PhD student, could play a part in fostering change towards more open, inclusive and collaborative ways of doing science. I continued to engage with the open community, and helped organize local events aimed at raising awareness around issues of open science through hands-on learning and conversations with leaders in the field.

Thanks to Dr. Danielle Robinson, at the time Mozilla Fellow, I discovered the Mozilla Science Lab and their efforts in helping re-shape the landscape of academic research by empowering individuals to become open leaders in their fields. Through work with the Mozilla community, I met the two incredible women with whom I today work on the PREreview project, Sam and Monica. Mozilla has believed in us and our ideas since day one, and continues to support us today through my Fellowship. I look forward to learning from members of these communities, challenging my assumptions and seeking the perspectives of diverse individuals and groups to build scholarship that is open and inclusive by default.

PREreview’s Team Story

How did we become a team?

It’s more like our team found us. We were brought together and found that, as early-career researchers, we shared the same passions and concerns. While we don’t have a “dream team” formula that can apply to everyone, we are realizing what works best for us and learning along the way.

Since the beginning, we made the conscious decision to distribute leadership across the three of us because we believe that shared leadership is a more productive managerial approach for us to grow a successful project. We all bring different skills, experiences and personalities to the table and, as we grew as a team, we came to appreciate how those differences could be leveraged to strengthen the core of our team. We realized the importance of understanding each other’s personalities, learning how to recognize cues and behaviors in response to different situations, and finding channels of communication that work for all of us.

One challenge we face as a co-leadership team is that we are dispersed across three different areas of the world. Particularly as PREreview began as a “side project” to our three full time jobs, coordinating our spare time to juggle tasks and responsibilities across two time zones was tricky as we were not all available to work on tasks at the same time. In order for the project to move forward, we needed to trust each other to make decisions when others were absent, and to report back to keep everyone informed. Now that, thanks to Mozilla, one of us is working full time on the project, we are well-positioned to use the experience and trust we have nurtured over the past year of working together to accelerate PREreview’s mission.

Our recipe for a successful co-leadership boils down to technology, a shared clarity of our mission, and building friendship and trust within our team. For example, we rely on an organizational tool called Asana to organize our thoughts and assign tasks. This allows us to free ourselves from the instant feedback loop, where urgency and immediate responses are necessary for all tasks. Instead it facilitates a workflow where tasks are created, assigned, and completed asynchronously. Finding a rhythm of communication that worked for our team had a significant positive impact on our efficiency, management of work-life balance, and self care. Lastly, but most importantly, we made a specific effort to build empathy and trust. We do that by setting aside time to meet in person or on a call to discuss important issues, as well as setting an expectation for honest and open conversations.

PREreview is still a young initiative at just over a year old. We were therefore thrilled to announce at the end of 2018 that we were awarded over 100k dollars in funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to build a new platform and launch a partnership with Outbreak Science.  We are grateful for all the help and support we are receiving from our new fiscal sponsor, Code for Science and Society. Together we are ready to take on new challenges in 2019, such as navigating the complexities of managing these awards and supporting our community as PREreview continues to mature. Stay tuned on and on twitter @PREreview_.