This week’s blog focusses on a topic that I am passionate about – scientific citizenship. Larry Goldstein, from UCSD, discusses scientific citizenship in this video blog and takes the broad perspective that this encompasses life and impacts of science both within the research environment and beyond, including society at large.
The aspects of scientific citizenship that I would like to concentrate on are those within the research environment. For me it is relatively simple – do to other researchers as you would want to be done to yourself and support the research endeavour. In other words, if you expect to receive 3 thoughtful, timely and well-reasoned reviews for the latest paper you have submitted, then it means that in return you will have reviewed 3 papers according to these same principles. Ask yourself – do I regularly achieve this?
The same goes for reviewing grants. Here at BBSRC we seek to secure a good range of reviews from experts for each grant submitted to us – something I am sure each applicant would expect. Ideally we will receive 4 or 5 high quality useable reviews (more for larger awards such as strategic longer larger grants and institute strategic programmes) – and often we do – but sometimes, despite repeated requests, we don’t. Our latest data for 2015 show that we receive usable reviews from only 48% of requests made. Close to 60% of those declining gave their reason as ‘too busy’ – I was quite shocked at this and I would be interested to hear if it surprises you? Now I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about this (as I did quite literally when cycling the other day) – As an active research leader I was very conscientious in reviewing papers and grants, because, knowing that I depended on others doing the same for me, I felt it was my moral responsibility to do so. This is particularly the case for public funders, where I feel it is a duty for all of those in receipt of public money (and that is the vast majority of researchers in UK universities and research organisations) to ‘give back’ to the system by being good scientific citizens. Perhaps there are ways in which reviewers could be incentivised – another area where I would be interested to hear your ideas.
Related to this topic is the work carried out by BBSRC’s Appointments Board. Recent discussions at the Board covered implementation of the current call for appointments, models for gathering strategic advice and ‘best practise guidelines’ for Chairs and Deputy Chairs of assessment panels. On the latter a former chair said chairing a responsive mode committee might be hard work but “it enriches life beyond measure” – and so it did for me when I was chair of Committee C.
Now is your chance to get involved – our latest call for nominations to BBSRC panels was launched on 4 May and is open until 30 June. We are seeking to appoint members to our pool of experts, strategy panels and follow-on fund panel and I urge colleagues across the community to consider nominating themselves, or sponsoring a colleague to be nominated. BBSRC are committed to equality and inclusivity in our appointments, aligning with the recently published RCUK Equality and Inclusivity action plan and it would be excellent to see the diversity of our research community reflected in nominations.
Please, stand up for scientific citizenship and step forward!