Community at PeerJ

Community and innovation have always been central to PeerJ. Last month Nathaniel Gore joined PeerJ as Director of Communities and formed a new Communities Team with Lead UX Designer Ali Adair. Here they share their aims for the new team and how they intend to keep community and innovation front and centre at PeerJ.


You’d be hard-pressed to find an academic publisher, or in fact many companies at all, that don’t talk about innovation and community somewhere on their website, to the extent that they risk becoming (if they haven’t already) empty buzzwords. That’s not the case at PeerJ, where our aim is to support the communities that want to publish and partner with us, and to innovate to make that experience as positive, developmental and frictionless as possible. We believe that community-led innovation is the best way to achieve those aims.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Build it and they will come? 

If you go with a “build it and they will come” approach you will likely end up wondering where everyone is. But ask people what they want you to build and you have a much better chance of them turning up to their own party. The most powerful communities are organic, formed by self-identification of its members; no one belongs to a single community, and at different times and in different circumstances people will identify as being a constituent of different communities; as much as communities are fluid, so are people’s self-identification as part of those communities. This is why attempts to “create” communities  fall flat as the imposition of identity and belonging – and pigeon-holing – is inherently off-putting. As a result, we won’t be trying to create communities, but rather we want to learn how to better serve communities who want to work and publish with PeerJ, whether they currently do so or might in the future. So how will we do this?

Engage / Advocate / Develop

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Engage / Advocate / Develop – these will be the three tenets of our approach to community-led innovation. We believe that it is our role to engage with communities and represent their viewpoints to ensure PeerJ develop programs, products and content that serve them. In this we see ourselves as advocates for communities.

Equally we see it is our role to represent PeerJ to those communities, ensuring that we broaden the understanding and awareness of PeerJ. In this we are advocates for PeerJ. So how will we ensure we achieve this dual function?

Engage

We intend to engage with communities by:

  • Listening. Using surveys, user sessions, desk research, analytics and outreach, we want to make sure we hear and learn as much as we can from as many people as possible. And if you don’t feel we’re listening enough or to the right people, please reach out to us directly.
  • Communicating. Via email, blogs, social media and in person, we intend to communicate what we are learning and how we are developing and building new tools, programs and relationships in response. It’s one way you can ensure we’re living up to our mission – and tell us if you don’t think we are!

Advocate 

We will advocate for communities by:

  • Learning, from our engagement, what different communities want from PeerJ and the scientific publishing process; where we are doing well, and where we could do more.
  • Promoting – and helping communities promote – who they are, what they do and what they achieve.
  • Understanding that every community is different and that what might benefit one community could be off-putting or even detrimental to another. Whilst there will be times where we can synthesize what we learn from our engagement into a single solution, tool or program, often it will be essential to advocate for different solutions, tools and programs for different communities.
  • Accurately represent what we learn from our engagement, and drive forward action and reaction. 

Develop

In partnership with the communities we serve and our PeerJ colleagues, we will develop:

  • Programs that recognise and reward good science, and promote positive community contributions.
  • Platform improvements and tools rooted in user research that make interacting with PeerJ and each other a frictionless, positive and friendly experience.
  • Publishing models that respond to the needs of communities and reduce or remove barriers to publishing and practicing open science.
  • Strong and lasting relationships with communities and partners.
  • Ourselves, to better serve PeerJ and communities.

Our minds are open. We’re not presenting solutions or innovations as we’re only at the beginning of an exciting journey which we hope to take with you, the communities we serve, and look forward to learning from you how best to drive innovation and, ultimately, open science. Please do reach out to us with any questions or ideas or to set up a chat so we can start to engage, advocate and develop.

 Meet the Communities Team

Nathaniel Gore, Director of Communities

I’m excited to join PeerJ in this newly created role, which demonstrates PeerJ’s commitment to developing and engaging with the variety of communities we serve. I’m looking forward to working with those communities and the PeerJ team to further open science, and to welcome new communities to PeerJ in the not too distant future.

For the last seven years I worked at PLOS where I led the development and publishing strategy of PLOS Collections and PLOS Channels. Before PLOS, I was a Senior Editor at ProQuest, managing digital humanities projects including launching Early European Books. Throughout my 15 years in publishing I have worked closely with community stakeholders to publish content and create products that best serve their needs, and have learnt that every community has their own distinctive voice that deserves to be heard. 

I live outside Cambridge, UK with my wife and two cats. I’m easily distracted by cricket and music, and spend a lot of time wrangling my garden and taking photographs. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and you can email me at communities@peerj.com  

 Ali Adair, Lead UX Designer

I’m also excited to form PeerJ’s new communities team, to drive our journals forward with renewed engagement with the communities we serve.

Our name – Peer Journals (PeerJ) – was chosen to reflect how central researchers are to our mission. Nine thousand peer-reviewed publications later, we are confident we’ve stayed true to this aim. Our new communities team represents an update to our mission, placing you and your academic communities at the heart of what we do.

After twenty years building digital products, including over 6 at PeerJ, my most successful work has been validated and guided by user input from the earliest stages. This has taught me that staying anchored in the reality of the user is everything. Designing solutions from this place of ‘radical empathy’ (aka radical ego suppression!), I use ideas from Gestalt and cognitive psychology, behavioural economics and recently new ideas from the world of predictive processing. Our design team works hard to learn from our successes and failures too, using this invaluable data source to improve our design process and the solutions we build. 

I’m London-based and open to in-person meetups to share our latest community features, ideas, or just a quick chat. You can reach me at communities@peerj.com or book a quick video chat.