TWO Eastern Bay sons have found a way to help scientific progress
Childhood friends Andrew Preston and Daniel Johnston are helping knowledge move forward by covering an important base for the international scientific community.
The former Whakatane Intermediate students have come up with a method of finding enough smart guys to verify that clever writing actually makes sense.
Before scientific writing can be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world, the new theories ought to get checked by other scientists who understand the particular field, lest the writing is misinformed, shoddy or simply wrong.
This process is called peer review.
Daniel says peer review is the main method of quality control employed by scientific journals.
“By offering drafts of a manuscript to anonymous experts, the quality and integrity of published literature can be ensured,” he says.
“Breakthrough research is refined and enhanced, and careless or unethical research can be prevented from entering the public domain, skewing the facts, and potentially costing lives.
“The problem was that journal editors were unable to find enough capable, motivated reviewers,” he says. “That problem was slowing down science. It was delaying discoveries, causing issues with reviewer and research fraud, and undermining the public’s trust in research.”
To that effect, Daniel, together with his childhood friend Andrew, created Publons, a company with a mission to “speed up research by harnessing the power of peer review”.
The creation of Publons came after the pair studied at Victoria University in Wellington, and while Andrew was doing postdoctoral research at Boston University.
“We speed up scientific progress by rewarding researchers for an important part of their job, the peer review,” Daniel says.
Publons brings transparency, recognition, and training to peer review, which results in better reviewers and a more trusted research process.
“The company helps science happen faster, which is critical to things like developing cures, fighting climate change – and helping Kiwis protect themselves against deadly earthquakes.”
Andrew says Publons is helping researchers to track, verify and showcase their completed reviews as measurable outputs, which they can include in their CV, tenure and funding applications.
“We partner with 26 of the top publishers in the world, who together have integrated more than 1300 journals into Publons in order to better recognise and understand their reviewers,” he said.
“We also set up the Publons Academy to help train the next generation of peer reviewers, and help new academics build up their profile as an expert in their field.”
Five years after its creation, Publons has now grown into the largest and most trustworthy peer reviewer network in the world. “And things just got more exciting,” Andrew says.
In June, Publons announced it is joining Clarivate Analytics, a spin-out company of global media and information company Thomson Reuters, in a move that Andrew says will deliver novel solutions to problems in research.
He says working with Clarivate Analytics will further speed up the peer review process, ensure researchers gain recognition for the full range of their research activities and provide universities with tools to identify and recognise top research.
“Clarivate is the world’s leading objective data-driven research solutions provider, reaching researchers, publishers, and funders across more than 100 countries and 7000 institutions.”
Daniel says the combined strengths of Clarivate and Publons will address critical challenges in the US$1.7 trillion global research market.
“The challenges include fraud and lack of reproducibility in scientific research, inefficiencies that slow down research and the ability to identify top research.”
Andrew Preston and Daniel Johnston went to primary school together.
Daniel then went to Trident High School and Andrew went to Whakatane High School.
The next step was the Victoria University of Wellington, where Daniel studied history and political science while Andrew completed his PhD in physics.
Both Andrew and Daniel return to Whakatane regularly to visit their families.
- 1989: Daniel starts at Allandale School
- 1993: Andrew moves to Whakatane and starts at Allandale School
- 1995-1996: Both attend Whakatane Intermediate
- 1997-2002: Andrew and Daniel attend respective high schools
- 2003: Both start at Victoria University of Wellington
- 2005: Daniel graduates from Victoria University of Wellington
- 2010: Andrew receives his PhD in condensed matter physics from Victoria University of Wellington in 2010 and goes on to do his postdoctoral research in X-ray spectroscopy at Boston University.