Melissa Harrison joins EMBL-EBI as the new Team Leader of Literature Services. We found out more about her plans for open access publishing and Europe PMC
Europe PMC is EMBL-EBI’s open science platform for life science publications. All publications and preprints found in Europe PMC are linked to supporting data, reviews, protocols, and other relevant resources. Melissa Harrison has recently joined EMBL-EBI as our new Team Leader of Literature Services. We found out more from Melissa about the pivotal role that open access to scientific literature plays in advancing life science research and her plans for Europe PMC.
What is your professional background?
Since completing a biology degree at King’s College London in 1998, I’ve been working in scientific publishing. The bulk of my career has been at the BMJ publishing group followed by eLife, a non-profit initiative set up by research funders to transform research communication through improvements in science publishing, technology, and research culture. I’ve mainly worked in production, managing workflows and processes, as well as external vendors, and in more recent years evangelising internally and externally about the need for machine readable content.
My role at eLife also involved working with other publishers and organisations to promote and convert open science initiatives into machine-readable solutions via workflows, XML tagging, and deliveries and cross-walks to other services and content indexers. Examples include Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reproducible (FAIR) data and software, and persistent identifiers such as the digital object identifier system (DOIs), the research organisation registry (ROR), and ORCID IDs. Much of this has been achieved via my roles as Chair of JATS for Reuse (JATS4R), membership of the Crossref Board of Directors, and various other working groups and conferences.
What does your role entail?
I will be leading the team that manages Europe PMC. This will involve keeping abreast of what’s going on within the publishing industry and open science community, and making sure that our data resource is regularly updated and always improving. My previous work as a publisher focussing on open science aligns very well with Europe PMC and EMBL policies in this area. The reproducibility of scientific research via article publication was a key element at eLife, so I’m keen to see what else I can do via Europe PMC to continue this, and FAIR software will be the first thing I focus on.
What motivated you to join EMBL-EBI?
After almost 10 years at eLife, I was ready for a change and a new challenge. In this role, I can bring all I’ve learnt and achieved so far in my career and continue to learn and grow.
I wanted my next move to be to another mission-driven organisation that is trying to make science open and accessible to everyone. It’s fantastic to work somewhere like EMBL-EBI where you can be a part of all the excellent science and research going on across the organisation. This is something I can feel proud to be part of.
What are some of the challenges in your new job?
A big challenge is the transition from a small start-up to the massive machine of EMBL-EBI and getting a handle on the processes I need to understand, from HR to budgets, facilities, and grants office. Another challenge is the post COVID-19 world, including navigating hybrid working to ensure the team is happy and enables effective collaboration.
What is your approach as a manager?
Collaboration is the most important thing to me, including respecting others’ expertise and what they bring to the table. This leads to the best solutions, and the more diverse the input the better. I enjoy talking to people to better understand their preferences, skill sets, and what they want from their role so that I can give them opportunities to excel.
What is one thing we couldn’t find out about you from an online search?
I’m a socialist, a feminist, and I drink loads of Diet Coke, which I know is bad for me. I read a lot and enjoy events associated with authors and books. I’ve seen Margaret Atwood and Mary Beard talk at Ely Cathedral, which I found inspiring. I enjoy going to art galleries when I have time and travelling when the pandemic permits. All the typical stuff really. In our household, we have a dog and house rabbit, and the rabbit dominates the dog!