What drives us: Working together to advance science communication | Panda Anku

In our new interview series, we asked leaders at PLOS to share what motivates them to push the boundaries of science communication and support research and researchers. In today’s post from the PLOS Chief Publishing Officer, Niamh O’Connor talks about her role in building strong teams and a strong vision for PLOS

Please tell us a little bit about what you do at PLOS.


At PLOS I am part of the Executive Team and lead the Publishing & Partnerships team. As part of the executive team, my role is to be a strategic thought partner for the CEO and other team leaders. In leading the Publishing & Partnerships team, I am focused on ensuring that PLOS journals reflect the interests of the communities they serve, facilitating the collaborative creation of pathways to open science, while ensuring PLOS’ financial sustainability to support our mission to continue. This includes developing new business models to enable more equitable and regionally appropriate ways to support Open Access and Open Science, developing new publications that enable Open Science communities of practice, and developing our relationships and networks with communities in different countries and regions.

It takes a great team to do this work and my role is to both support the leaders in my group and offer questions and suggestions to help us work towards the best results. It’s important to me that we understand the challenges our communities face and listen so we can work with them to develop solutions.

During your time at PLOS, what initiatives have you been involved in to help others lead the way in which research is communicated?

Already a few! A few highlights come to mind. I have worked with Sara and colleagues at PLOS to develop our new business models that offer alternatives to APCs, remove barriers to inclusion in research sharing, while addressing cost inflation for research-intensive institutions, allowing for a greater diversity of voices and voices of crucial importance is to present research results. Another highlight for me has been the development and launch of new publishing venues to enable the co-creation of Open Science communities of practice in areas critical to addressing the challenges facing society worldwide, including climate, public health and sustainability. And I’m working with Roheena and the regional publishing leaders to build our networks in different regions so we can better understand the cultural, political, and economic contexts in which our communities operate.

My contribution is only a small part of each of these exciting initiatives, and it’s great to have the opportunity to be involved in so many projects that are not only reshaping PLOS, but have the potential to enhance our understanding of the needs of researchers worldwide to deepen and promote the need for change in science communication

Why do you think this is important for science?

From its inception, PLOS has focused on catalyzing large-scale systemic change. To achieve this, we need to address perceptions of objectivity and empirical research head-on by focusing on advancing open science and addressing the cultural and economic contexts that influence research and research exchange in science and medicine. Openness, while valuable in itself, does not address inequality in the scholarly communication ecosystem, nor does it increase inclusion. Without equal participation in knowledge sharing, hearing the voices that are missing, and willingness to experiment and research, we will miss the goal of open science to increase the benefits of research for society worldwide.

What does it mean to you personally to be involved in such work?

I believe that a great team or group can achieve more than an individual, which aligns very well with Open Science values. In an open science ecosystem, each individual contribution builds on and contributes to the entire body of knowledge that is greater than any individual person. And it is extremely important to make a real difference when it comes to addressing the legacy of devaluing knowledge from certain groups or regions. I also love science and am fascinated by the influences of culture and context on scientific research and I am very fortunate to be able to work on something that interests me and where I have many opportunities to learn.

At the end of your career, what do you hope people will think of your contribution?

I haven’t thought too much about what people will think, but I hope my posts have made a difference. I’ve been fortunate to work with some great people – both academics and publishing professionals – who I’ve learned a lot from and had a lot of fun with too! I have former team members who have developed their careers in ways they found rewarding while also being able to influence and drive change, and I appreciated the opportunity to work with them. And I hope that in some way I have contributed to addressing injustices and imbalances in the system – and maybe even helped us to take advantage of the opportunities that an Open Science-based system offers.

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