“Connecting knowledge to grow a network−
growing a network to explore/share knowledge”
The Allostery in Drug Discovery (ALLODD) Training Program focuses on three pillars: Core research skills, advanced research skills, and transferable skills & qualities. The first ALLODD workshop took place in Vienna from the 3rd- 5th of April and focused on an ALLODD introduction and core research skills. This includes open science principles, communication skills, research integrity, and ethics, scientific writing, work-life balance, and innovation. The following report summarizes the main personal take-aways from the workshop.
After an introduction to the ALLODD program, the first workshop discussed open science principles. Scholarly publishing results in worldwide sales of more than USD19 billion for publishing and access of peer-reviewed papers (see article by Buranyi,2017). The profit margins are incredibly high e.g. the profit margin of Elsevier is 37%(see article by PAGE, 2019) and there is no market control. However, a number of promising actions are regularly discussed to tackle the current dependency on the big publishing houses. Suggestions include transparency in costs spent by the publishing houses, the usage of open-access journals, and delayed publishing, meaning that the article would get freely available after a certain amount of time. In addition, there is a push towards Findable Accessible Interoperable and Reusable(FAIR) data (Teverson,2013). In conclusion, the main root cause why the scientific community is still stuck in the current system is the impact factor. Unless there is a rethinking within the scientific community, open science will have difficulties advancing.
After a team-building event, the topic of the second workshop was communication skills. When communicating with other people, we are often dealing with an ambiguity in the meaning of our words and expressions. For example, the sentence “This project was well done.”, can be interpreted in many ways. On one hand, the recipient could interpret our statement as a compliment, on the other hand as an urge to perform better as "well done" is less strong compared to great or fantastic. How the message is sent out and received depends on the self-revealing aspect (how does the person feel in this moment?), factual level, appeal, and relationship. We learned that the following sentence structure is well suited to clarify misunderstandings or tackle tricky situations: “When I see A (observe), then I feel B (perceive/feeling) because I need C(recognize). That’s why I would like D (ask) now.“. The best way of resolving a conflict depends on the situation. Sometimes it is good to flight, fight, delegate the decision, compromise (win and lose), or find a consensus (win/win). We also learned another valuable skill on how to react in hostile situations, e.g., a competitor puts you on the spot during a talk by saying: “I do not agree with your statement...”. There are a couple of strategies to respond; (a) repeat what the person said, (b) use an emergency word such as O.K. or Aha, (c) reply with a paradox, or (d) change topics. All strategies give the person answering more time to think about the response and make sure that the insult does not result from a misunderstanding.
The second day started with a workshop on research integrity (i.e., good scientific practices, research quality) and ethics (research content). As a scientist, we are con-fronted with tricky and delicate questions, and the line of where misconduct starts are often not as clear. To be safe, it is essential to document the scientific work in a good manner, such as using an (electronic) lab notebook, storing data on cloud services, having a good organization e.g. folder structure, and writing meeting summaries to document decisions. The second topic discussed during the course was the subject of the authorship (who gets the name on the paper?). In general, a person providing a substantial contribution gets to be on the paper. A person can also sign an author-ship contract with a collaborator to define specific points that are necessary to receive authorship. In conclusion, thinking about integrity and ethics is a daily part of the research.
The topic of the workshop in the afternoon was work-life balance. The keyword of the course was “thoughts”. We learned that thoughts are not facts, that we need to question our thoughts and recognize loops. The loops are triggered by a thought resulting in a sensation or emotion, action, and in the end a consequence. There are multiple short-term solutions to long-term problems, such as stress, including exercise, box breathing, listening to music, cooking, and power nap. The way to tackle negative thought is to be first of all aware of the negative thought itself, to secondly create space (e.g. my reframing the thought “I am stupid.” to “I am having the thought that I am stupid). Thirdly, one can choose to react to the thought or just let it go e.g. a thought is like a bee, the more you try to push it away from you the more likely you get hurt. The fourth stage includes being curious to explore positive thoughts.
On the third day, we learned scientific writing skills. Research is published to communicate science and create an archive for future scientists to explore and expand ideas. This is only one of the many reasons why papers must have high quality. A paper should follow the OCAR structure - Opening, Challenge, Action, Resolution.A paragraph is the unit of composition. Furthermore, it is essential to understand the source of cited papers to be clear and concise. Other important writing principles include that we should write to inform and not to impress, write to our classmates and future-self, include evidence with all statements, and omit needless words (Campbell-Kibler et al., 2006). It is essential to establish a system of writing e.g., define a time of the week dedicated to writing and separate editing from writing. Once a text is complete, it is helpful to ask someone else to read the text out loud. This enables one to identify where the text is not yet smooth. The main message of the workshop was that writing is a continuous process, which starts early and includes multiple reviewing rounds.
The workshops in the afternoon focused on the future and included a workshop on innovation and further careers outside of academia.
To conclude, I think that combining research and the soft skills learned during the workshop is crucial to being successful in science. I hope that at the end of my PhD, I can be proud of my innovative, reliable, respectful, and creative work and that I could profit and contribute to the collaborative spirit of the ALLODD network.