Gareth O’Neill: “Make your voice heard!”

Gareth O’Neill – is a researcher in linguistics at Leiden University, a consultant on Open Science for Technopolis Group Belgium working on the European Open Science Cloud, and is an Ambassador for Plan S to support Open Access. President of European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers (Eurodoc) in 2017-2019.

Gareth, tell us about your path to science. Why did you decide to become a researcher?

– I have always been fascinated by language: how we use words to identify concepts and then build those words into sentences to express what we mean and understand each oither. So it was no surprise that I jumped at the chance to do a PhD in linguistics at Leiden University.

What are you researching for your PhD dissertation?

My research looks at how Irish systematically expresses experiences like emotions. Irish is quite unusual: where some languages like English express emotions as things you are or do (eg I am afraid), Irish expresses emotions as things that happen to you (eg fear is upon me).

Would you like to continue in academia or perhaps work in business or government?

I am finishing my PhD now and will leave academia to work in science policy. I have just started as a consultant on Open Science and will help to realise the European Open Science Cloud. So while I will not be working in academia, I will certainly be working for academia.

You have visited Ukraine before. What were your impressions and what surprised you?

Yes I have visited Lviv once before. I was very impressed by the city: beautiful architecture, a quaint old city centre, lively markets and cafés, and a very welcoming hospitality. Ukraine is often in the news and I was surprised with how peaceful and relaxed everything was in Lviv.

Do you see any differences between Ukrainian and European researchers?

I do not think there are major differences per se between scholars in Europe and Ukraine. There are of course differences in research budgets which can have an effect on the types of research done in Ukraine and how Ukrainian scholars can access and publish research.

Ukraine is trying to integrate more into Europe. What is your advice for our researchers?

Science should not recognize boundaries or borders. I think it is important that Ukrainian researchers actively communicate and collaborate with researchers in Europe. English, as the scientific lingua franca, is naturally an important language to help maintain this contact.

You were twice elected as President of Eurodoc. What were your main goals?

The goals for a given term are set by the members of Eurodoc each year. The main topics for my presidencies were career development, mental health, and Open Science for early-career researchers. I am happy to say that our teams worked hard on all these topics.

Were there challenges working with researchers from different sectors and countries?

I love working in a multicultural and multilingual environment. So working in Eurodoc with around 30 different countries was challenging and exciting. The biggest challenge was often trying to understand the many viewpoints and then synthesise them to make good policies.

You were head of a working group on mental health. What were you able to achieve?

Mental health of researchers was largely a taboo when we first started. I am proud to say that our activities helped raise awareness among researchers and get major stakeholders such as the universities to openly start addressing this crucial issue and help researchers.

What challenges do you see for academia in the coming years? 

I strongly believe in Open Science: we need to open up our research workflows including our research methodologies, data, and publications for better science and society. This is still a major challenge as there is not adequate support yet from universities to help researchers.

What are for you the most important aspects of Open Science?

Open Science is an umbrella term describing many different practices. Right now it is crucial that we make our research data FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) and that we open up our publications so that they are immediately and freely accessible.

What are the main issues you see with the implementation of Open Science?

Researchers are currently not being adequately trained or supported to do Open Science. It is also very time consuming for researchers to open up research data and is often financially very expensive for researchers to open up their publications due to publisher pricing models.

What advice do you have for early-career researchers who want to influence policy makers?

Make your voice heard! It is crucial that early-career researchers get involved in policy making at their universities and with their local and national governments. That way they can not only improve their working conditions but help to set the scientific agenda for the future.

Interviewer – Olga Romanenko (interview for scientific-analytical journal “Our Perspective” №32/2019 (Ukraine)