Meet the protocols.io Editorial Team!

Authors: Anita Bröllochs and Diana Curcio

Image credit: National Cancer Institute

Meet the protocols.io Editorial Team!

Have you ever wondered how our editors work behind the scenes to properly format and import protocols to protocols.io?

We asked three of our editors to break down their role as a protocols.io editor, what it means to them to be a part of our editorial team, and more.

Eileen Martinez, Editor, protocols.io

Eileen joined protocols.io in 2020. Eileen previously worked as a professor at a local university and prior to that was a scientist for nearly a decade studying neuroinflammation, neurotoxicology, and Parkinson’s disease. Eileen has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, a Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine, and is currently working on a Medical Degree to practice medicine in Texas.

Liz Brydon, Editor, protocols.io

Liz joined protocols.io in October 2019. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from Rhodes College. Throughout and after college, she’s participated heavily in research, including positions as a Lab Manager and Research Associate.

Emily Hasser, Editor, protocols.io

Emily joined protocols.io in November 2019. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and French from Cornell University, and is currently pursuing an MPH in Public Health Genetics at the University of Washington. Her research interests include cancer genetics, cancer prevention and control, and the ethical, legal, and social implications of emerging genetic technologies.

To get started, we asked our editors what it means to them to be a protocols.io editor, and Eileen starts off the conversation.

“I really enjoy being an editor. Being a former scientist, I know the importance of having a good record of every protocol, and more specifically, having clear and explicit protocols, so having the chance to be able to contribute to the success of other scientists brings me a lot of satisfaction.” — Eileen

Liz then goes on to say that she loves being personally involved with a company that shares her passion for opening research to all, and using her relevant experience to provide better protocols and products to clients. She expresses, “this, along with the amazing team, have really helped reduce barriers to researchers in such a way that protocols are available and easily accessible, with authors able to directly contribute to their own procedures and comments from others. It’s both humbling and exciting to work with pioneers in my particular field of interest and be able to contribute to their outreach via protocols.io.”

Emily joins the conversation, and discusses that she really enjoys helping researchers openly share their protocols in a way that a busy schedule would have otherwise prevented. She notes that collaboration is so important for effective research, and that she is happy to help streamline that process so more people can benefit from work that’s already been done.

We then asked our editors to elaborate on what the typical tasks of an editor at protocols.io looks like?

Eileen begins by stating that some of the tasks involve entering protocols from the scientists, technicians, and authors from a particular institution/laboratory. Other tasks involve checking the protocols that have been entered to ensure accuracy of that entered protocol.

Liz goes on to express in detail, “the typical work-flow as an editor includes: receiving a protocol or collection of protocols, going through them generally for formatting and making sure the protocol logically flows, detailing the protocol (entering the abstract, guidelines, materials, etc.), and finally entering the steps of the associated protocol. A second editor will then double check that every detail is correct and make corresponding edits if needed. The entire editorial process requires general knowledge of the procedures so that we can act as proper reviewers while entering.”

Emily then notes that other than the tasks highlighted by Eileen and Liz, one of the most important functions of an editor is to identify any phrases or descriptions that might need clarification in order to ensure that the content is understandable for the wider scientific community.

A frequently asked question that our team gets is — what is the criteria that is used when formatting a protocol? Could you explain that process?

Eileen expresses that it is very important to adhere to the formatting that the author wants. Other formatting criteria is to make sure that all equipment and reagents that are used are logged so that they are easily seen and accessible on protocols. Eileen then conveys the importance of keeping any formatting with diagrams and images that the authors provide.

“Each group or researcher we work with has vastly different expectations of design and how they want things to be portrayed, since the protocol published is directly related to them and thus a reflection of them through their work. As someone who takes immense amounts of pride from the work I do, I understand that portrayal matters and want anyone we work with to feel that all of the details were accounted for. For this reason, I spend a lot of my time entering and proof-reading protocols, but also formatting them to “line up” perfectly with their vision. This can include assigning each step a corresponding component, such as marking a step involved with spinning cells down with the “centrifuge” component or entering incubation times using the “duration” component, so that at quick glance the reader can understand what each step will contain in terms of machines, reagents, time needed, etc. Working with a visually appealing protocol greatly influences organization and efficiency when at the bench, and this value is not lost on the editors at protocols.io.” — Liz

Emily then joins in and says that formatting is also important to improve the visual appearance and increase the utility of an online version of a protocol. She explains that printed protocols with large chunks of text can sometimes be hard to follow. Using the component features to highlight critical steps or information, such as temperatures and amounts, helps avoid mistakes that could change the course of an experiment. Formatting also helps reduce interruptions to workflow through features like built-in timers or links to buy materials.

Next, we discussed what it was that specifically made them want to get involved with the editorial process on protocols.io.

“I wanted to give back to the scientific community and stay involved with it in some fashion. What appealed to me was being an editor because I can both stay up to date with the current literature and I can help other scientists by editing their protocols.” — Eileen

“I felt that the values of protocols.io aligned well with my own, especially the effort to expand reproducibility of research through the open-sourced availability of protocols and the ability to interact directly with the protocol authors. Working primarily in research and often performing research independently, I frequently had to read and find protocols to perform my own research. From the large amounts of literature reading, I found that even if a protocol was published, often it was either not the exact procedure that researchers followed or the specific details to successfully complete the assay were not fully listed. This, along with an interest in reducing access barriers, began my passion in opening protocols to anyone performing or reproducing research.” — Liz

I was intrigued by the idea of using open source protocols to increase transparency in research and improve reproducibility. After seeing the success of open source initiatives in other fields, I was excited to join the effort of combining research resources from around the globe. — Emily

Lastly, we asked Eileen, Liz, and Emily what the most exciting part about being an editor is?

“I love reading the protocols especially seeing some that directly relate to my area of expertise. I always like to see what research authors are conducting and the different experiments they are using to conduct their research. Although I’m no longer conducting research myself, I still find current biomedical research fascinating.” — Eileen

Liz goes on to say that being an editor at protocols.io enables her to personally work with leading researchers to open their procedures to interested parties. She expresses she’s always excited to work for a cause that she believes in, and with a team that is incredibly hard-working and overall great to work with. Liz concludes, “it’s definitely an interest to use my knowledge and experience as an “experienced-but-still-new” member of the scientific field to help researchers amend protocols so that they are easy to understand and reliable for others.”

For Emily, the most exciting part of being an editor at protocols.io is the exposure to so many interesting scientific fields. She notes that she has entered protocols on topics ranging from DNA extraction to vulture rehabilitation, and she appreciates the opportunity to keep her scientific knowledge well-rounded.

We thank Eileen, Liz, and Emily for taking the time to answer these questions.

If you would like to become a part of our editorial team, we are hiring! Learn more about the position here.

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