Beginning my journey to nowhere

I have been gifted with a rare opportunity.

The next step in my life is what I’m calling my ‘Journey to nowhere’. (#JourneyToNowhere on Twitter and Instagram)

My PhD left has me quite mentally and physically drained. I wanted to do the best damn job possible, and sadly that comes at a cost sometimes. I wouldn’t advocate making this sort of sacrifice to anyone (see my previous post about mental health and your PhD), it was a decision I made myself.

It took me about 3.5 years into my PhD to recognise that I had achieved what I wanted, and done as much as was possible with my time. I’ve got quite  a successful social media presence, have campaigned relentlessly for ‘open science’ practices, have written a dinosaur book for kids, and have 5 more which I’m consulting on now as a result. I’ve become a freelance science writer for venues like Discover Magazine, and have published 11 research papers at the end. I’ve been invited to lead numerous workshops, give talks, and attend a variety conferences around the world. I don’t know how you measure the success of a PhD, but these seem like decent indicators if anything.


Decided to start keeping a notebook for the adventures 🙂

But at the end of it all, I have sacrificed relationships, and some times other aspects of my social life for this, so there has been a cost. And one which I don’t regret, but would not wish upon anyone, unless they thought deeply about it and recognised that this is the pathway for them. My ethos was always ‘work hard, play harder’, and the experiences of both have been unforgettable. But after several years of burning as bright as possible, I’m a bit out of fuel and need some time to recover.


Leicester Town Hall. Doesn’t look bad, but smells a bit dodgy..

My plan is to start at home, in Leicester. From there, to London for my PhD viva (eek!), then Budapest to explore, then Utah for a conference, Brussels for a keynote talk about Open Communication, London for a panel discussion on the future of peer review, Washington DC for OpenCon, Berlin for our OpenCon Satellite event, and then December-January in Thailand. After that it’s still a bit open, but chances are I’ll explore Cambodia and Vietnam alone for a bit, depending on visa things. I will be using these experiences to grow as much as possible in a personal and professional capacity.

So with this blog, I don’t know what’s going to happen either. I don’t want it to become another wanky ‘look how awesome traveling is’ blog, but if I do have some useful realisations or learning moments, I might share them if I believe they can help others a little. I recognise that the opportunity I’ve been granted is a rare privilege too – I’ve managed to save up enough cash to travel a bit (after being utterly skint for 10 years as a student..), and am lucky enough to have a flexible job that allows this. I’ll still be working for ScienceOpen on the way and hopefully freelance science writing/consulting, so am not completely disassociating myself from that part of life (also money is good).

It’s gonna be tough and bumpy along the way. I have no expectations of what will come, who I’ll meet, or what will happen at the end. All I know is that it’s needed, a rare opportunity that I have to embrace, and whatever happens I’ll emerge stronger and ready to take on the next big phase of life! I’ll see some of you on the journey too 🙂

Note: I realise that a lot of information about the potential catalyst for this has been shared by certain parties (*epic side eye*) around on various social media platforms. All I ask is that if you have seen these posts that you reserve any possible judgements until you have spoken directly with me, and I will be more than happy to answer any questions. I’m quite loathe to share sensitive personal information in public, and would rather keep it that way.


The social, economic, and academic impacts of Open Access – done, and done.

For the 3-4 regular readers of this blog, you’re probably aware that a while back we published a paper with F1000Research reviewing the evidence behind the societal, economic, and academic impacts of Open Access.

Today, we submitted what I like to think of as the ‘final’ version of that paper. We have taken on an enormous wealth of feedback from the community through formal peer review, comments, open discussion on social media, and personal conversations, and integrated all of this into the manuscript. This discourse has greatly improved the content, and I hope you all find it to be a useful basis for further discussions of Open Access.

I consider this to be the final version, as thanks to this extensive ‘peer review’ I feel there is little more which can be significantly altered. Of course there will always be future developments and debates in Open Access, but rather than adapt the paper fluidly with this, I’d rather consider it to be a good reference point on which to base these discussions.

That does not mean that everything in the paper is perfect. I strongly encourage further discussion and debate on the article itself, continuing the rich comment thread that exists already. If something major comes up that we have failed to include, then we will open up considerations for a new version.

Finally, please do share this paper with your friends and colleagues. It’s such a damn important topic, and well-worth being informed about. Remember, Open Access isn’t about policies, mandates and embargoes – it’s about freedom, equality, and democratic access to our core global knowledge base. That’s something worth fighting for.

Help us, we’re poor

Straight to it. Myself and Bastian Greshake have been invited to OpenCon this year. Sadly though, we were not awarded travel grants. Super sadly, we’re both poor too.


As such, we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGogo to help us get to Washington DC. All the details are on the page, including a video with some out-takes.. We’re nerds, not crowdfunders.

I’ve written extensively about how amazing OpenCon is before, for PeerJ, and personally for 2014 and 2015. I’ve also led a satellite event in Berlin, and am planning on leading another satellite this year too that will be even bigger and better! You can see my application here too.

If you can support us by reading, sharing, or contributing, we would both be eternally thankful.


Science: Disrupt

I was interviewed for Science Disrupt about scholarly publishing, academic reform, and the usual stuff. Enjoy!

Source: Science: Disrupt

The cost of knowledge is extraordinarily low and the cost of withholding knowledge is extraordinarily high

By Lawrence Yolland

Jon Tennant, a palaeontologist and Batman of Open Access sat down with us (over Skype) to discuss the value of open access and wade through the mud of scientific publishing. Jon is relentless, and there was never a sense of deflation over the current situation, only a drive to push for more transparency and actively pursue new outlets

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Top tips for building science communities with social media

So a few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to give a talk at the Nature Careers Expo in London about how to use social media to  build scientific communities. As part of this, there was a short panel discussion afterwards with myself and Sarah Blackford from the Society for Experimental Biology, and Nature have made a few short videos of some of the responses available!

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