The Science of Science

Last week, I was having lunch with a colleague and she asked me, “what is your research niche?” The answer did not come as easily because it was something I was struggling with before. Ever since I started my PhD, I was exploring various perspectives, not trying to settle with a specific scientific field. Working at the interface of many fields including pharmaceutical sciences, innovation studies, scientometrics, sociology of science and management, I did not want to settle with a field afraid that it would lock me in. After all, it is an important decision as it would affect the future career opportunities I could pursue in academia. The answer should be something that I am greatly interested in, something that I can stand exploring in for the rest of my academic career. At the same time, it should be something that would have an exciting future ahead of it.

Finding the field I identify with was a journey, picking up nuggets along the way. One is collaborating with a supervisor whose expertise is bibliometrics. This exposed me to journals like Scientometrics that always interested me whenever new issues would be released as various studies get creative in analyzing various texts.  I was also very interested in data science, curious about the new techniques people apply to analyze and present data. At the same time, I was  fascinated with how new academic fields started. This article by Hambrick and Chen, “New academic fields as admittance-seeking social movements: The case of strategic management” was one of the first that I read on the topic. With my interest forming in such direction, I had to read Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions which confirmed my interest in this field whatever it is called.

All of these nuggets seem unrelated at first but they were pointing towards something. The problem was I did not know what to call the field I was interested in. Fortunately, a review published recently in Science by Fortuno et al.  helped me. In their review, they were able to put into words what I was really excited studying in my future academic career. It is  called the “Science of Science.”  They viewed the science of science as “a transdisciplinary approach that uses large data sets to study the mechanisms underlying the doing of science.”

With what I am doing now, studying how fragment-based drug discovery emerged as a scientific field, I felt that this review deeply resonated with me. I encourage everyone else, even those not from my field to read it, as it is very fascinating.

Getting Featured in Nature Biotech

There has been more push for scientists to interact with the greater public. As a young scientist hoping to break into the field, it is important to take every opportunity to get exposure. Last year, I had a great opportunity to be featured in Nature Biotechnology. Although it ended up to be just one line in the end, the experience I had of being interviewed was a nice opportunity to understand how science journalism works and more importantly, to share the research I am doing to my target audience of drug discovery practitioners. In this brief blog post, I will share how it happened.

Last year, there was a drug that got approved from the firm Astex. Coincidentally, although the drug was not derived from the approach I am studying for my PhD, the firm Astex is one of the pioneers of in the approach called fragment-based drug discovery (FBDD). With this news, the person writing the article, Mark Peplow, was looking around for more information about Astex and FBDD. With some luck, he came across our consortium website (Fragnet.EU) and found the research that I was carrying out which was just about that – the development of the approach. He first reached out to my supervisor Peter. However, realizing how great of an opportunity it would be for me, my supervisor who was very supportive decided to direct him to me.

With that, a time was set for our interview. Before the actual interview, I prepared a little bit by reviewing the numbers I had with regards to collaboration in FBDD. At first I was a little nervous, since I had not experienced an interview before. However, with time, I eased up and just talked about all the things I knew about FBDD. It probably ended up to be a 30 minute call as I talked about various facets of collaborations. It was a really pleasant experience overall. At the end, he informed me when it would get published and said that he would inform me once again when it happens.

After a month of waiting, the article was live and I had my 1 minute of fame.