“the substantive findings of science are a product of social collaboration and are assigned to the community…The scientist’s claim to ‘his’ intellectual ‘property’ is limited to that of recognition and esteem…” proclaimed the American historian and socialist Robert K. Merton in 1942. He believed science to be a ‘communist activity’ and an institution where researchers share their work with their community for the common good.
This view that progress in science is reached via cooperation and collaboration between individual scientists, and between generations of scientists, is an idealistic outlook of an institution where competition thrives.
Unfortunately, competiveness is an inherent nature in science. Scientists are set up to fiercely battle it out for limited funding and grants. Dr Trudie Lang, Director of Global Health Network admitted this from her own research experience and there is the phenomenon of ‘the selfish scientist’. In an enterprise that has become increasingly business oriented, selfishness is just a behavioural default. The overriding desire to accrue professional esteem means that scientists are unwilling to share their work because of the winner- takes- it- all approach, whereby one gains recognition for publishing first winning praise from peers and improving their reputation.
“In Africa, research happens in silos,” explained Dr. Trudie Lang, “nor have they harnessed digital sharing.” Attitudes must/are changing as a paradigm shift has been set in motion. Last summer, the Global Health Network launched the ‘Process Map’, an open access research tool set to raise the standards of global health research in low and middle-income countries. This first digital toolkit is an internationally available online resource, which delivers a step-by-step guide to running a health study. The interactive format is free to use anywhere in the world and provides eLearning, questions and answers, expert guidance, links and tools.
Health and scientific research in resource-limited backgrounds can lack rigor as doctors and nurses do not have access to training on basic research skills and can also lack peer support. The ability to share their research methods via the ‘Process Map’ saves times and will hopefully raise health standards as researchers can learn from the experiences of previous studies, especially those working in similar settings.
The simple step-by-step procedure encourages health workers with little or no research experience to undertake research in order to improve healthcare quality, provided with information, support and training. In addition forums allow debate and mentoring.
To find out how to complete a step, just click on a step and read the expert guidance. Simple. There are also relevant courses and articles to further one’s understanding. It is easy to add your own comments too.
Open access is the perfect and only platform through which such a concept can operate. “Lack of access to research is one of the toughest challenges,” explained Ken Awundo, laboratory manager at KEMRI-Wellcome Trust, Kenya. He is ecstatic about this unique tool. “It’s bringing us together” he exclaimed, delighted at how it is transforming the way research is conducted and much prefers sharing to the usual isolated work ethic.
The importance of networking and connecting resonates with Dr Egeruan Babatune Imoukhuede who struggled to secure partnerships and find support. He is thrilled that he can know set up global partnerships between researchers, as the ‘Process Map’ helps researchers in low-resource settings and those with more support to learn from each other.
Dr Oluwagbenga Ogunfowokan, a family physician in Nigeria and WHO Clinical Research and Development fellow said “It’s like a one-stop-shop. Everything you need to conduct research is there.” He has used it to organize a workshop to bring together 71 researchers.
The ‘Process Map’, based on the underlying foundation of big data and data sharing, could revolutionize the current research process. It is an elegant solution that should prove successful in today’s world, one that is steadily progressing towards sharing and openness.