ASAPbio wants to support community members who want to learn more about preprints and share information and resources about preprints with their own communities. To empower our community members to be preprint advocates, we started a Fellows program in 2020, a dedicated set of activities around preprints that allows participants to learn more about preprints, and to develop their own preprint project or contribute to an existing ASAPbio initiative. This year we have completed a third cycle of the program with 32 participants. During the last eight months, the 2022 ASAPbio Fellows participated in monthly calls exploring preprint-related topics, exchanged ideas and experiences, supported outreach activities and contributed to ASAPbio activities such as #PublishYourReviews and the crowd preprint review program.
We caught up with one of our 2022 Fellows, Ruchika Bajaj, to learn more about why she joined the program, her experience as a participant and her takeaways from the program.
How did you learn about the ASAPbio Fellows program?
Prior to signing up this year, I had no idea about the ASAPbio Fellows program. Being a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), I knew about preprints and preprint servers like bioRxiv, however, I did not know about the existence of this program. I received an email in my inbox and decided to have a go at filling out the sign-up form and associated information. I simply wanted to learn more about the program.
What aspects of the program did you particularly like? Were there any things that you think could have been done differently?
The format of the Fellows program included calls with the ASAPbio team where we discussed preprints and associated developments. In addition, Fellows were invited to take part in different ASAPbio initiatives, for example, I chose to be part of the Crowd preprint review activities as it related to the evaluation of papers and thus, it was directly relevant to my activity as a researcher. I also like to read about different areas of research, so it has been a wonderful opportunity to get exposure to different studies. As part of the crowd preprint review activities, Iratxe (ASAPbio’s Director of Strategic Initiatives & Community) sent us cell biology or biochemistry preprints posted on bioRxiv every week and we reviewed them collaboratively with other participants on google docs. I also contributed by synthesizing the collective reviews, which involved compiling the comments and suggestions from the different reviewers into a single summary. This process needed me to understand perspectives from different researchers across the world and to evaluate the comments scientifically to create a synthesis.
A few things I would highlight about this program are 1) it is a global program so it is possible to meet or network with researchers from different parts of the world. 2) It is an opportunity to develop reviewing and editorial skills. 3) The crowd preprint review program provides a certificate for your contribution to the reviews. 4) Iratxe was very inclusive and positive in her interactions with the Fellows. As a possible future addition, I would suggest incorporating zoom meetings where the different reviewers can discuss the evaluation of preprints. These meetings could be facilitated by a qualified reviewer and even become a part of science education or scientific training programs. Providing a stipend for participants may also increase participation and appreciation for their time and contribution. From the perspective of preprint authors, receiving this type of feedback can be very valuable, particularly for researchers who are preparing to publish their first paper as first author (trainees) or as lead author (especially new Principal Investigators).
What are your main takeaways from this program?
The main takeaways for me are “be open” and “express yourself” in science. The program provided a platform where I could simply express myself and feel myself being valued and confident in science. I felt that I was given a welcoming space to share my own opinions and experience.
How does participating in the program fit with your professional activities and career goals?
I would like to move into a faculty position, and I seek opportunities to develop skills relevant for that type of role. Reviewing papers in this program helped me to learn about different areas of research and how to apply my scientific training in areas other than membrane protein biology. This program could also be beneficial for developing collaborations.
Would you recommend participation in the program, if so, why? Would you recommend it to particular groups/individuals in particular?
I would surely recommend the Crowd preprint review program to late stage postdoctoral fellows who are transitioning to faculty. It could be interesting to incorporate the preprint review activities as a recommended coursework with credits at the later stages of graduate programs.
How do you plan to remain engaged with preprints after the Fellows program?
I plan to continue engaging in outreach about preprints in my community and stay up-to-date with associated developments. As I enjoyed the preprint review activities as an ASAPbio Fellow, I would also like to organize a preprint review program at my institution so that other trainees can also participate and develop review skills while engaging with preprints.
The 2022 cohort of the Fellows program is closing this month. We thank Ruchika and all the participants in this year’s program for their many contributions. Collectively, the ASAPbio Fellows have helped host events with ASAPbio and locally at their institutions, developed resources, contributed public reviews of preprints, and fostered many conversations about preprints in the community. We are privileged to work with them in promoting the productive use of preprints across the life sciences and very much look forward to what they will do next.
Interested in the ASAPbio Fellows program? Reach out to Iratxe for more information or any questions, or you can keep up-to-date with updates about the next cohort of the program by signing up for the ASAPbio newsletter.