Feature Story | 2-Feb-2023

Writing the future: The aspirations of early career researchers

Personal reflections on a symposium. On 9 January, Dr Anke Beck, head of European public affairs and advocacy at Frontiers, helped chair a symposium for early career researchers at the Association of Publishing in Europe annual conference.


There is a profound cultural change underway that will transform the way science is funded, shared, and published – and thereby the impact new knowledge has on society. Open Science, backed by broader calls for diversity and inclusion, is now a strong and growing focus for governments, funders, institutions, and authors. And of course, it is finding voice and resonance with early career researchers (ECRs), whose values and beliefs on inclusion, transparency, and trust will drive this scientific debate.

In that context, at the start of the year I had the pleasure of helping to coordinate an intense and energizing symposium with ECRs. The Berlin Institute of Scholarly Publishing under the auspices of the 18th Academic Publishing Conference and the Quest Center for Responsible Research brought together researchers, publishers and platforms to listen, exchange views, and hack through new ideas, in person and online.

Over forty-eight hours, with 105 participants across 10 time zones in Western and Eastern Europe, North America, Iran, South America, India, Africa, and China, a compelling picture began to emerge. Let me share some broad-brush impressions.

First, ECRs want to shape the publishing industry. Proactive, engaged, and culturally driven to see fairer outcomes for all, they want to influence science publishing beyond single, designated positions on a journal’s editorial board. They would like to ‘co-edit’ with established researchers, both to learn and to offer new perspectives that may not have been captured. They want to see research institutions and publishers offer peer-review training. And they see the chance for journals to create informal ECR sounding boards able to kick the tyres on strategy, content, and communication. In short, a fuller and franker exchange would benefit publishers and avoid lasting impressions of a ‘kids table’ for new researchers.

Second, ECRs want to see the ambitions of Open Science realised. They are excited by the momentum Open Science is creating across policy and funders to grow the quality of research. They want to carry out that research, and communicate its outputs, in the most open way possible – by sharing methodologies, data and code; by publishing in open access journals that support transparency and full reproducibility; and by seeing the fullest possible cultural inclusivity (encompassing, amongst other things, sex and gender equality assessment in the writing, reviewing, or editing of manuscripts). They have spotted the chance to help drive structural change – and be the beneficiaries of it – with better science for all.

And third, they want the values underpinning Open Science reflected in a more diverse and inclusive industry – backed by formalized, organizational and government-backed policies on inclusion, transparency, trust. Publishers who have a compelling social purpose, who are tackling inequalities internally and externally, and who support authors with commitments on inclusivity – multilingual publishing for example – will be the first port of call when successful ECRs have established their publishing careers.

At Frontiers, we want to see all science open, so that scientists can collaborate better and innovate faster, for fairer outcomes in all parts of society. We want to achieve the fullest possible access to our collective knowledge. That’s our social purpose as a publisher. Meeting the needs and aspirations of early career researchers will be key to success.

About Frontiers   

Frontiers is the 3rd most-cited and 6th largest research publisher. We publish groundbreaking discoveries by the world's top experts. Scientists empower society and our mission is to accelerate scientific discovery by making science open. We place the researcher at the center of everything we do and enable the research community to develop the solutions we need to live healthy lives on a healthy planet. Featuring custom-built technology, artificial intelligence, and rigorous quality standards, our research articles have been viewed more than 2.4 billion times, reflecting the power of research that is open for all.   

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