Summary: Lynn Kamerlin Interview, Part 1

A free summary of the subscriber-exclusive interview about Plan S, research funding, and open science

Summary: Lynn Kamerlin Interview, Part 1

Lynn Kamerlin’s name may be familiar to you if you’ve been following the Plan S debate. She is known for spearheading an open letter outlining what her research community — chemistry — sees as problems with Plan S, including its complete ban on hybrid journals, its violations of academic freedom, and its one-size-fits-all approach. Her open letter may have already had an effect, with the first round of implementation guidance shifting away from a complete ban on hybrid journals to a more reasonable (but still flawed) policy.

This free summary consisting of selected quotes from Part 1 of an in-depth two-part interview that focused on Kamerlin as a researcher and scientist provides a view into what we discussed, including the Nobel scandal, research ethics, the changing research funding landscape, differences between US and EU (and global) research and funding trends, the role of societies in supporting scientists, and more.

A free summary of Part 2 of the interview will be distributed tomorrow. Subscribers receive full access to the entire interview, as well as to upcoming newsletters and the complete archive of “The Geyser,” which is expanding rapidly.

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On the topic of interdisciplinary research:

I . . . have a broad range of collaborators from very different disciplines (bioinformatics, computational biology, molecular biology, structural biology, molecular evolution, among others) which expands the scope of the problems my lab can address computationally, and also provides my group with excellent opportunities to visit experimental labs and learn new techniques.

On the topic of what intrigues her about science and research:

I like solving puzzles, and protein evolution is like a massive million-piece puzzle to me, which means my lab and I have a lot of work ahead, but it’s really fun when you start seeing at least bits of the puzzle pieces fall into place.

On participating in Nobel Week this year:

It’s been a tough period recently, because in addition to the scandal that rocked the Swedish Academy, and thus affected the Literature Prize, there was also the Macchiarini scandal at the Karolinska Institute, which led to the Committee for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine asking two members to resign. There were also calls for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to be temporarily suspended, with the money going instead to the families of Macchiarini’s victims. What has been positive in all this is that both cases caused substantial discussion and debate in Sweden, not just within academic circles but also outside of academic circles in daily newspapers and on Swedish radio.

On changes in the research landscape:

In Europe, the funding landscape has changed dramatically. . . . single digit success rates are no longer a rarity, and for example, looking at success rates for Horizon 2020, the EUs research framework program, in the current program they have been at 14% for the first hundred calls, compared to 20% for the entire previous period. This puts of course tremendous pressure on the research landscape and leads to unhealthy models of researcher evaluation for grants, and is a very serious problem we need as a community to address.

On differences between the US and EU research environments:

One personal difference I notice is that in Europe, we have big advantages that distances are quite close, and we are very well connected in terms of flight and train connections, so we can travel quite easily to see each other. There are outstanding researchers in Europe as well, and while we are perhaps not quite as international (depending on country and institute) at the individual institution level, we are well connected in terms of pan-European collaborations.

On differences in publication practices:

The sheer volume of research being published puts tremendous pressure on the communication of knowledge, on the peer review system that has to provide quality control for this research, and also on researchers themselves that end up being overloaded with information. . . . For me, quality control is the most important issue, in a rapidly growing and evolving scholarly communication landscape, how do we ensure that the majority of published research is trustable and reproducible?

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