Responsible Innovations Will Lead The Transformation In Saving Our Planet

By SalM on April 26, 2021 in News

The Earth Day was conceptualized by a group of environmentalists more than five decades ago with the primary goal of protecting and preserving our natural resources, wildlife, fauna and the biodiversity of our planet. They started with a mission to create awareness and collaborate with governments, experts and researchers, industries and the people in general to address the devastation caused to our planet, each year.
Experts estimate that up to 17 million square miles of land worldwide have been altered by humans for cultivation and then abandoned.
There are multiple reasons for the damage that is created, which has resulted in the imbalance of marine life, climate change, rising temperatures, locust attacks, earthquakes and hurricanes and poor quality of crops across the globe. It took until the year 2015 to establish the Paris Agreement which is a legally binding international treaty on climate change, where-in 196 nations agreed unanimously to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. But would this commitment be enough?

Limiting the carbon emissions and amount of industrial waste being discarded into the oceans may have had its impacts but surely not enough as it is still adding to the already deteriorating situation. This year the Earth Day is dedicated to ponder on this very phenomenon that while we are taking steps to restrict pollution, we also need to restore the damage caused. And this is where research and innovation need to play a leadership role rather than be a follower.

Industrialization, construction and de-plantation have contributed to the damage of natural resources and the quality of biodiversity. It is important that we invest in not just protecting it but also restoring it to its earlier levels. Research has proved that there are alternative ways to de-carbonize the industrial waste, regenerative farming that can help restore the impairment of the land and alternative fuels to help bring down the emissions.
Academicians and experts now believe that one of the critical catalysts to restore the imbalance is finding alternatives and solutions to our existing methods. The recycling of lithium-ion batteries is one such example. Recycling spent batteries instead of discarding them into landfills is a sustainable solution to reduce the damage to human health and the environment.  In recent times, adopting Aeroponics as a farming method is also gaining steam, as it allows the earth to recuperate and regenerate its nutritional and mineral properties.

Green investments made today to enable a “Green Economy” can help us restore the levels of oxygen in the air, and help attain stable temperatures. Governments and corporations will have to come together to invest in reinstating degraded lands from decades of farming and find alternatives. Regenerative farming can help this initiative with proven results. Methodological investments into Habitat Restoration divided in Land, Water and Wetland will aid in gaining results.

Technology will play a key role in finding long term sustainable solutions to minimize the damage caused; R&D and Technology – for a Sustainable world, though has to be embedded into the social, political and industrial fabric. What we need is a sociotechnical change where there is a burning desire, resolute will; a cultural adoption of the fresh attitudes towards environment conservation, backed by not just rhetoric but by the implementation of Science based Technology methods for Transformation.

Contributions of Women The Contributions of Women in Science During COVID-19

By SalM on April 22, 2021 in COVID-19, Women in Research

The United Nations observed the sixth International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The sciences still have a severe underrepresentation of women and girls. Women and girls also face more barriers in the field of science due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, they have made important contributions to the fight against COVID-19. The contributions of women also highlight the importance of science and gender equality for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Gender Disparities in the Sciences

About 40% of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce is made up of women, the majority of whom work in healthcare. Engineering and technology fields still have an underrepresentation of women. Gender gaps in the sciences form from an early age due to many factors such as socioeconomic status, gender bias and stereotypes as well as the lack of role models in those fields. When girls receive the same exposure to science and technology as boys do, girls have the potential to achieve similar or higher proficiency levels.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many setbacks for women in STEM and in general. Many adolescent girls had to drop out of school to take on household responsibilities. As schools and childcare facilities remain closed, women scientists have to take on the bulk of childcare duties and are limited in the number of projects they can take on and in their research time. This then limits how much they can advance in their careers.

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

In February 2015, the Royal Academy of Science International Trust (RASIT) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) organized the first High-Level World Women’s Health and Development Forum, which is when the idea for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science first came about.

Two months after the forum ended, the executive director of RASIT, HRH Princess Dr. Nisreen El-Hashemite, who is often affectionately referred to as the “Science Princess,” wrote a letter to the 69th president of the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of all those in attendance at the forum. She called for February 11 to be declared the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

RASIT collaborated closely with the Permanent Mission of Malta for the United Nations and the Maltan government to write a resolution that would include this day in the U.N. official Calendar of Observances. In December 2015, women in the sciences watched as the General Assembly adopted the resolution that made the International Day of Women and Girls in Science official.

Contributions of Women to COVID-19 Response

For this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, U.N. Women spotlighted women who have made significant contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. It notes that 70% of all healthcare and social workers are women. These women are working on the frontlines of the pandemic, risking their lives every single day to treat patients. Women have also been at the forefront of COVID-19 vaccine development.

  • Özlem Türeci is a scientist and physician and co-founder of BioNTech, the first company to develop an RNA-based vaccine for COVID-19. Katalin Karikó’s discovery of the therapeutic possibilities of mRNA made this development possible.
  • Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is a vital member of the U.S. government’s vaccine research, working on the team that developed a vaccine that is more than 90% effective. Additionally, a 14-year-old girl, Anika Chebrolu, identified a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19. This discovery could potentially inhibit COVID-19.
  • Furthermore, Thai digital product designer and front-end developer, Ramida Juengpaisal, created a tracker containing vital information about COVID-19, which helps to stop the spread of misinformation.
  • Lastly, to help people affected by domestic violence and abuse during stay-at-home orders, Megs Shah and Fairuz Ahmed founded the Parasol Cooperative. The Parasol Cooperative connects survivors and at-risk individuals with the necessary services.

Science and Gender Equality and the SDGs

Science and gender equality are important parts of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The partnership between RASIT, the government of Malta and the Permanent Mission of Malta is a perfect example of SDG 17 in action, strengthening global partnerships for the purpose of sustainable development. Many of the targets of SDG 4, ensuring quality education for all, are related to ensuring that both genders have the same educational opportunities from early childhood and beyond. SDG 5 calls for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

From affordable and clean energy (SDG 7) to conserving life below water and on land (SDGs 14 and 15), the SDGs all have science and technology woven into them. Inclusive societies that prioritize women steer technological and scientific innovation. Recognizing the contributions of women through International Day of Women and Girls in Science will encourage more women to join the field.

How Open Access to Journals Helps Students and Researchers

By SalM on April 14, 2021 in News

Over the past decade, there has been a rising clamour for more accessibility of scholarly journals. Those available in print are subscription based making it challenging for other researchers to access, verify, reproduce, cite or utilise research papers, further resulting in restricting the community from engaging in multiple aspects of research.

With technological advancement, students and researchers no longer have to sift through piles of physical research papers and journals. While the print form of such resources is still relevant in this digital era, online infrastructure has made these resources more accessible. Considering the present crisis, many institutions are setting up repositories or open access platforms to make paywalled research papers accessible across the globe. The Open Access platforms have become a movement around the world.

Increased accessibility

Usually in the publishing industry, ownership of the research work (known as copyright) stays with the publisher. This results in lower accessibility, as scholarly information can be accessed only by paying a subscription fee to the journal. This tends to limit the access of institutions and individuals with fewer funds.

Today, the open access model works differently from the traditional subscription-based model. It makes scholarly information available to the community at no cost. Numerous studies also show that such articles receive greater citations than other publications that are behind the paywall. Many high-tech platforms use the self-archiving mode, also known as Green Open Access, to make paywalled resources available.

According to industry data, around 81% of publishers formally allow some form of self-archiving in Open Access knowledge repositories. Estimates shared by Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), Europe, show that almost35% to 600% increase in citability can be seen by adapting and promoting the usage of Green Open Access.

Lower processing charges

Publishing costs are usually high based on the publisher’s choice and the journal’s reputation. prestige of the journal. Also, articles published exclusively in journals become the sole point of access for readers. This results in a higher cost of subscription for print publications. As per recent estimates, the subscription cost of journals has increased by 250% in the past 30 years.

To overcome the cost barrier, authors are finding better routes to get their research published in journals that require lower or almost zero cost. Open Access platforms integrated with AI are gaining huge popularity due to their publishing models. Since there is no print copy, the entire processing in open access journals is cost-effective. It also eliminates the cost of typesetting, and expenditure on dissemination that benefits authors as well as readers.

Improved visibility

Print publications have comparatively lesser visibility than digital media. One of the biggest contributing factors to increased visibility of open access papers is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Open access papers can be indexed at many platforms with good viewership on the Internet and search engine bots get far more meta data about the article and helps them to rank better for keywords.

Tips to optimise article for wider reach

Authors can add relevant keywords to the abstract and the complete content. This will lead the search engine to use various algorithms and processes to find the article relevant to a particular search query and showcases it on top of the results page.

They should also choose a short, descriptive title for their work that a potential reader can easily find online.

The presence of social media makes sharing research work further adding to its visibility.

Covid-19: What Are The Consequences Of The Unprecedented Rush For Knowledge?

By SalM on April 4, 2021 in COVID-19

Typically, the time between a research paper being submitted to an academic journal and it being published is 3-4 months. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many researchers have turned to preprint servers to make their work publicly available immediately, before peer review.

Despite the increase in early-career biomedical researchers supporting the use of preprint servers before the pandemic to gain timely recognition of their work, this field has been particularly slow in embracing these publications. Unlike physics, only a minority of all articles in life sciences and medicine are preprinted. This reluctance can be explained, at least in part, by the potential of flawed research leading to changes in clinical practice that could harm patients.

Since January 2020, around 30,000 preprints on COVID-19 have been published. Overall, only around 20%, of these preprints have been converted into peer-reviewed articles. This is mainly due to the time it takes to carry out peer review. The percentage goes up to about 50% when looking only at preprints that appeared in January-February.

Publishers have embarked in various initiatives to speed up the peer review process. These include the COVID-19 rapid review initiative, which allows the transfer of referee reports and articles between journals owned by different publishers, and developing online platforms that enable researchers to review each other’s work openly, such as Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 by MIT press.

Some publishers have also been able to invest in staff and/or artificial intelligence (AI) functionality to accelerate peer review and increase their output. This may not necessarily be beneficial.

Peer review isn’t perfect. It can fail to identify weaknesses or in some cases major flaws in a paper, resulting in a retraction. To date, Retraction Watch lists contains 37 retracted COVID-19 papers, including a couple in very prominent journals on the safety of malaria drugs and blood pressure medications for treatingCOVID-19 patients.

“There are lots of little changes we can make to raise the overall quality of the review system and of the outputs,” says Adam Marcus. He thinks that journals should be more diligent in checking reviewer suggestions made by authors (to make sure they’re real people and/or don’t have conflicts of interest with the authors themselves), and in detecting image manipulations or flawed statistical methods before papers are published rather than after.

According to Ludo Waltman, COVID-19 is changing the way we assess scientific literature: “The pandemic is forcing everyone, … researchers, journalists, policymakers to … gradually move away from the dichotomy between research in journals, that has been peer reviewed and is supposed to be reliable, and other types of work that don’t have this ‘stamp of approval’.”

Rather, readers face a continuum: from really low-quality research that hasn’t gone through any form of quality control at one extreme, to work that has been through a thorough peer review at the other, with research in journals that carry out a more superficial peer review and preprints that have benefitted from a certain level of quality control and expert feedback in between.

“We are still in the process of developing clear markers that inform researchers (and the public at large) about the level of trust you can have on a research output. We need to find a language that is easily understood, by doctors, journalists, policymakers…, and conveys different levels of soundness or trust you can have in the findings,” he explains.

“Further understanding of how research is organised and published will inform better ways of disseminating the information to different sectors of society,” says Waltman. And, as Marcus points out, electing politicians who value science and expertise is crucial for putting the emerging knowledge about COVID-19 into practice effectively.

Written by Monica Hoyos Flight.

This article has originally been published by the European Science and Media Hub and it is accessible here.