Leaping into the future: Why I’m excited about what’s ahead

Heidi Becker
The following guest post was written by Heidi Becker, Digital Solutions Specialist for Altmetric and Dimensions at Digital Science.
a dark blue background with three circles dotted around

One day in a staff meeting, I listened to a fascinating presentation on a research project the foundation I was working for had funded. After the presentation was over, it was time for questions. One of the very first questions, from the back of the room, was “This is great – has anyone picked it up? Is anyone talking about it?” I practically leapt from my seat.

You see, three years prior to this question being asked, it would have taken me a considerable amount of time and effort to provide an answer. The research I conducted would have been centered on fairly general searches in Google, with a myriad of quasi-relevant results, which would in turn need to be qualified: Is this talking about the specific study, or the researcher? If it is about the research, what is being said? Hours of my life would have been spent on this relatively simple question.

But I leapt from my seat because we were now using Altmetric’s Explorer for Institutions. I knew that I only needed the DOIs, and I could provide an answer – and did – within minutes. This was precisely the type of question the foundation could now answer with a great degree of confidence, quickly, and with context. Having these answers could help us better target our engagement efforts, strategize about funding, and communicate to our stakeholders, among other things.

Knowing and seeing how the development of technologies is made in concert with principles I admire and aspire to makes me genuinely happy to be an advocate here.”

When I decided to leave the foundation and come to work for Digital Science, it was in large part because I became obsessed with the ways in which technology could help advance research and science in general. Think about how many institutions around the world lack basic resources for researchers – how can we collaborate to help bridge that gap with all of these amazing tools? How do we help accelerate the pace of research globally, while making it as inclusive as possible? How can we do this in an economically fair and sustainable way?

SIDEBAR: Am I a technical person? Absolutely not. I don’t and can’t code; I can barely wrap my head around algorithms. I just know that these things are rapidly expanding the world of what is possible in amazing ways that I can’t wait to discover.

How could having this data take the burden off of researchers when reporting on grants? How could this data help researchers win funding to begin with? How can this data arm funding institutions with actionable insights into the work they’re funding? What informal networks could be discovered that would help researchers connect with each other globally? How can funders use this information to help nurture these networks?

Now that I’m here at Digital Science, “behind the curtain” so to speak, I’m even more enthusiastic. The people who come up with these products are not only brilliant, but they aspire to the same goals: advance scientific research, provide useful (and gorgeous!) tools, and, perhaps most importantly, listen to the needs of the scientific community. Knowing and seeing how the development of technologies is made in concert with principles I admire and aspire to makes me genuinely happy to be an advocate here.

Not to mention that with the advances in natural language processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, our imaginations may one day be our only actual limits, to paraphrase generously.  

I could honestly leap from my seat all day.

Register here to receive the latest news and updates from Altmetric