My application to the Sage Bionetworks 2017 Assembly: Mapping Open Research Ecosystems

My application to the Sage Bionetworks 2017 Assembly: Mapping Open Research Ecosystems

Yesterday, Jon told me about this amazing opportunity to apply for the Sage Bionetworks 2017 Assembly (you can read about it here). He also encouraged me to apply for it, and surprisingly I followed his advice and wrote my proposal today. I have to say that just writing the letter was a really great experience, because it definitely pushed my self-confidence, and made me realize that I am doing pretty cool things at the moment. So, if you have a free afternoon, I can only recommend you to sit down and write the cover letter for that position you’ve been wanting to apply for, but have held yourself back! Continuing to follow Jon’s lead, I also decided to make my application open for everybody to read (you can read Jon’s application here. He also writes about other awesome stuff, like dinosaurs and scicomm).

Dear Sage Bionetworks,

I am writing to express my great interest in your Assembly in Seattle this coming April. I recently finished my Master’s in North American Studies, which focused on politics and culture. My research has focused on how partisan groups communicate their messages, and what leads to either successful or failed communication. In that, I gained a deep understanding of how communities are established, what holds them together, and what causes disruption, which can lead to the formation of subgroups, or even new communities. For me, communities are an integral part to ecosystems. Within an ecosystem different groups, each with individual backgrounds, ideologies, and interest, come together and interact with one another and their environment. On a smaller scale, a community itself can also be seen as an ecosystem in that it consists of individuals with distinct beliefs, experiences, and perspectives.

My recent work experience has led me to operate within the academic realm, and interact with several distinct communities. At PaperHive, a Berlin tech-science startup that wants to make research more collaborative, I was responsible for community outreach. This involved reaching out to junior and senior researchers from various fields like humanities, science, and medicine, all of which have very different needs and research methods, which needed to be addressed in the outreach strategy. Together with the Academic Mental Health Collective, I help to build a resource and support network for graduate students and early career researchers experiencing mental health issues. I also support Chronically Academic to grow their network and to raise public awareness for academics with chronic illnesses and/or disabilities. Alongside this, I work as an Assistant Editor of the Open Library of Humanities, where I engage with researchers wishing to publish their work Open Access. Fortunately, I can perform all of my current duties remotely, and so am taking advantage of this to travel while working, where I am also continuing my open advocacy by giving talks about Open Science, for example at Chiang Mai University in Thailand.

In being actively involved in these different communities, each exemplifying highly different needs and interests, I gained a greater understanding of how communities form and operate, and how to gain the attention and trust of their members. What all these different groups have in common, however, is that they benefit from and strive through ‘Openness’. Doing research in the open can lead to more collaboration and innovation, and hence allows us to progress faster. Likewise, opening up and raising awareness about health issues breaks isolation by connecting people as well as making them feel understood and heard. Connecting with people outside of our comfort zones and inviting other perspectives in is key to being open on a personal level. As such, I see travelling as the ultimate way to fully experience being open, and it complements the diversity of community-oriented roles I am currently working in. By leaving behind what we know and immersing ourselves in foreign cultures, we learn to see things from different perspectives and can develop our ability to be empathetic. I see leading an open life as a way to sharing freely, being passionate and honest, and forming deeper connections because of it.

Although, so far my only experience with health research has been from a political perspective, I strongly support an ‘open’ health sector as well. By connecting researchers, sharing data and experiences, and encouraging collaboration, ‘Open’ has the chance to become the driving force in health research.

I would be honored to be invited to the Assembly, and more than happy to share my experiences and skills with other passionate and progressive people to transform words into action to bring about real world change.

Sincerely,
Lisa Matthias

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