As biomedical scientists, we all have daily successes, frustrations, and often (very) late nights in the lab. We hope that our hard work pays off as publications in top-tier journals, which is the primary marker for success in biomedical research and academia . However, whether you are a graduate student, postdoc, or independent scientist, we undergo this training because we are passionate about doing research, advocates for biomedical research, and willing to promote biomedical science and its benefits within our society. Even though most scientists don’t stay in academia , training as a biomedical scientist is a worthwhile endeavor that opens doors for many other careers, either non-tenure track in academia or another industry. No matter our subfield or career direction, we hold dear to those nuggets of values we started with since the start of our training. In this respect, it’s very important as trained biomedical scientists to follow open science principles. But wait, what is open science and why is it important? How would following open science principles not only improve the quality of my research but also propel my career, no matter if I pursue academia or not? How would following open science principles benefit the biomedical research community? If these are your burning questions, please read on!
Open biomedical science
(Note: This article will look at open science as it applies to biomedical research.)
Open biomedical science promotes the accessibility of biomedical research, data, and dissemination to all levels of society. This way of doing research has wide-reaching benefits including for you the biomedical researcher, other biomedical researchers, the larger biomedical community, and the general public [3, 4].
Open biomedical science for you
Publishing open research, sharing data, collaborating and networking are basic tenets of open biomedical science to benefit you as the researcher.
Access to the latest research is facilitated by promoting open access to literature. Fortunately, universities provide researchers with journal subscriptions, making research articles readily available. However, at least in my experience as a graduate student, this access doesn’t solve all our issues. For example, I need to keep up-to-date on drug safety research, but, unless designated as open access, I am unable to access articles from the journal Drug Safety. In this and other cases, I can’t read, evaluate, or translate work that isn’t available or open access (asking the authors for the PDF of the article is an option, but this is still an additional barrier to doing your work). Moreover, if a future collaborator or employer could not access my publications, then this could influence researcher’s inclination to collaborate with me or obscure my skillset to get a job, respectively. Publications that are open access offer more advantages such as granting access to the latest research, promoting the integration and extension of your work, and making research more widely viewed and accessible [5, 6].
Open access increases uptake of published datasets. The reuse of data can make research faster [7, 8] and more efficient [9,10]. The Drug Target Commons is an example of a publicly accessible dataset I could use to further my own research . Additionally, data sharing lets us integrate multiple data types for new biomedical insights. The open and unencumbered sharing of data, following necessary privacy guidelines, can promote not only your research studies but help form new research studies.
Scientists working together promotes open dialogue of research, sharing of data and expertise, and new scientific and professional opportunities. These joint scientific endeavors can contribute resources to produce novel work and promote investigation of difficult research areas . Moreover, these collaborations can be great for networking among scientists to foster job placement, promotion, and advancement opportunities [13,14]. Sharing data or creating an accessible resource for the community can build notoriety and scientific credentials. Collaboration and networking are at the foundation of open science principles, which can establish you within the biomedical community.
Open biomedical science for us
Following open science principles promotes growth and sustainability of the biomedical research enterprise. Open access to research can foster more impactful discoveries . Also, establishing public databases and protocols enables the community to use and build upon existing resources. This open approach to science promotes transparency and reproducibility, as well as contributes to the growth and sustainability of scientific knowledge . This is exemplified through collaboration in large consortia projects such as GTEx and TCGA, where, for example, we have started to understand the variable impact of mutations on disease  and common patterns among different cancers , respectively. Outside large projects, other researchers have been able to explore new research areas by using their publicly accessible data . The promotion and practice of open science principles broadens the research arena and allows the larger biomedical community to grow, expand, and sustain new knowledge discovery.
Open biomedical science for society at large
Advances in biomedical science facilitate understanding of human biology and disease, developing useful and sustainable materials, and designing better drug treatments. Research projects, both large and small, are primarily funded through public and governmental organizations, and thus the taxpayers have a right to view and critically analyze all available and new research results. These can be better promoted through publishing scientific research articles in open access journals, making generated data publicly available, and also communicating current science and research with the general public. Science communication has increased with the explosion of science blogging, sharing posts on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and providing research activities and information on public websites. Also, public seminars, speaking events, and community events such as charity rides make the biomedical research enterprise tangible and a worthwhile pursuit in our society. For example, Columbia’s neuroscience outreach program Late Night Science Talks brings together biomedical researchers and community members to both listen to current research and see labs where the research is done. This openness integrates biomedical science and research activities, promoting its importance, growth, and transparency in our society.
How to be open in your research
I hope I started to convince you that following open science principles is important, but often it is much harder to implement the good things that we advocate. Below is a list of ways to practice the principles discussed here that will propel your scientific career and enrich the scientific community
Document your research process and products. Whether you do computational or experimental work, documenting your process is important for you and others to know your thoughts, protocols, and progress.
Publish in open access journals. It may be hard to forego publishing in traditional journals for a higher h-index, payment considerations, or other reasons, but publishing in open access journals is more advantageous. In fact, a european coalition announced a open access publishing requirement, called Plan S. Though many governments and publishers are calculating potential risks, the plan has been favorably, though skeptically, received.
Show off your stuff by building your online presence. You are amazing not just because you’ve entered an exceptional graduate program but are at the cutting edge of research progress and knowledge! People ought to know you and your contribution to biomedical research. More importantly, this will help you keep track of all your accomplishments and let future colleagues and employers look out for people like you.
Network at scientific meetings and conferences. These are what dreams are made of (for scientists)! Not only do you get a sneak peak into the latest and greatest, but you have the opportunity to interact with the people behind the scenes. The best part is most people appreciate meeting other scientists, especially if you ask them about their research!
Get involved in science outreach and community events. Your research area and your field is pretty awesome - share it with others around you! Get involved in a community outreach seminar or teaching series. This is a great way to better your science communication skills, build up your CV, but more importantly give back.
Be an advocate for biomedical science. I’m not saying go campaigning on capitol hill, but get involved in ways that shows you care about and recognize the value of biomedical science and research. Get involved in events like Velocity, March for Science, or even just sharing popular science articles and events on social media. Your network (friends, family, and colleagues) will take notice and hopefully see the value in the field and work you and biomedical scientists do.
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