Re-illuminating the manuscript

Posted Feb 28, 2014
    Kris Bishop
Kris Bishop
Marketing Manager, Wiley

The adage goes “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but as any illustrator or client of illustrators knows, a high-quality image is also worth a lot of money. This is as true today for scientific manuscripts as it was in the Middle Ages for illuminated manuscripts – or as we sometimes think of them, the original next-generation format.


Illuminated EExamples of the “illumination” in illuminated manuscripts refer in the narrowest sense not simply to the presence of illustrations, but to the application of actual gold, silver, and other often valuable pigments throughout illustrations, letters, words, and phrases, all meant to give the impression that the entire page of a book glows. The Western tradition associates this practice primarily with medieval Christian religious works in Europe, but it was paralleled by similar traditions in Persian, Ottoman, Mughal, and Mesoamerican cultures. Scientific examples range from the works of Leonardo da Vinci and Archimedes to the enigmatic Voynich Manuscript, with some of the earliest surviving examples dating to the Romans in AD 400.


Although these manuscripts are beautiful to behold, often bursting with color, scholars point out that illumination was also applied for the purpose of what we would identify today as the visual organization of data (De Hamel, 2001). Gold and silver embellishments surround the most important subjects, essential words are highlighted with the same color as other related words, small paintings of key characters mark the sections of text in which those characters feature, and different colors delineate layers of importance, including via headers and sub-headers. In many medieval religious calendars, feasts of varying importance even have assigned alternate colors – a “red letter day” is a special feast day. Such treatment does not seem so far removed from today’s search filters, thumbnails, menus, alerts, and azure-tinted hyperlinks.


Then along came the printing press revolution. The increased economy of scale drove machine design founded on the binary “INK?: Y/N” choice. A side effect of the explosion of machine-printed material was a sharp reduction in the use of page embellishment, the most noticeable of which was color. Even now, if you buy a book with color, it costs far more than its greyscale cousin. The printing distribution channel limit also translated into the practice of “flattening” images within files, in other words removing all non-essential data from the image file layers so that the file size is as small as possible while remaining viable as an illustration. This practice of flattening images was especially important in the early days of downloading.


But we now find ourselves in The Great Unflattening. The age of digital distribution has returned us to a model where two things are once again true: one single version of a written work may be carefully crafted, “unflat” images and all, while simultaneously, a distribution channel exists which is capable of protecting the investment in that more enriched version.


The launch of the Anywhere Article is an example of The Great Unflattening. The new HTML5 article format is referred to as the “enhanced” version, but our medieval counterparts might just as easily have identified it as the “illuminated” version, with its re-investment in the framework of clear and vibrant content presentation. The value that we (authors, illustrators, publishers) have begun to add and will continue to add in the years ahead is no longer applied with gold leaf or lapis lazuli, but it’s a similar investment in depth and presentation of content. (Rotating proteins, anyone?)


If you haven’t already seen an illuminated manuscript or haven’t taken a look at the figure viewer within Wiley’s Anywhere Article, or both, here you go:


Harley 4986         Figure Viewer screen


The figure on the left comes from an 11th century German manuscript. The figure on the right comes from a 21st century journal manuscript. Both are advances on humankind’s understanding of botany - the science of plant life, growth, and development through time.





IMAGE 1: Ricciardi, P., et al. (2012). “Near Infrared Reflectance Imaging Spectroscopy to Map Paint Binders In Situ on Illuminated Manuscripts.” Angewandte Chemie International Edition. Vol. 51, Iss. 23. Weinheim: WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co.


IMAGE 2: The British Library Blog. (2011). “Harley Science Project.” Original image ID: (Harley MS. 4986, f. 39r). London: The British Library.


IMAGE 3: Magney, T., et al. (2013). “Assessing Leaf Photoprotective Mechanisms Using Terrestrial LiDAR: Towards Mapping Canopy Photosynthetic Performance in Three Dimensions.”  2013 The Authors. New Phytologist  2013 New Phytologist Trust. Oxford: Wiley.


De Hamel, C. (2001). The British Library Guide to Manuscript Illumination: History and Techniques. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.


Porter, C. (1995). “The History of Scientific Illustration.” Journal of the History of Biology. Vol. 28, Iss. 3. The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.



    Jason Roberts 
Jason Roberts
Senior Partner, Origin Editorial 

To mark the forthcoming launch of Wiley Publishing’s second edition of its Best practice guidelines on publication ethics: A publisher’s perspective, 2ed., I have been asked to post an editorial office perspective on ethical challenges often encountered. After all, that standpoint is important (though not necessarily divergent from the publisher’s). Editorial offices are at the frontline in confronting all manner of unethical behavior, be it nefarious or individuals acting out of ignorance.


Back in 2007 I found the first edition of the Best practice guidelines to be a useful resource. At that time the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) was emerging as a renowned source of information, but for editorial offices the only other guide, couched in operational terms at least, was Irene Hames’ excellent (and still definitive) “Peer Review and Manuscript Management in Scientific Journals”.[1] Consequently, I welcomed the fact that a publisher was taking the matter so seriously that it decided to publish a resource for all stakeholders in the publication process. As a measure of increased interest and research in publication ethics, Wiley now feels compelled to provide an update to the Guidelines.


Challenges editorial offices face
Despite an emerging phalanx of resources and tools at the disposal of every editorial office, numerous challenges remain for editorial offices battling to keep on top of ethical issues. Liz Wager posited a notion of publication ethics as a sliding scale away from good behavior.[2] This summarizes aptly the dilemma many under-resourced, and over-stretched, editorial offices face: how serious is a particular ethical issue and how much effort is required to resolve it? Unfortunately, editorial offices are often not ideally positioned to give every potential ethical case the attention and depth of investigation it deserves, be it a resource issue or a simple lack of understanding of the issue confronting them. Some issues, such as fraud and plagiarism - and right there is an issue which itself has its own scale of dishonesty - clearly set alarm bells ringing. Others, such as dual submission or author contributorship, might not ruffle so many feathers. Resources and toolkits, therefore, can go some way to at least signposting the direction an investigation needs to take.


Apart from making judgment decisions on what constitutes unethical behavior, editorial offices, often with no training or prior experience, must learn how to: detect a problem; react to it sensitively (including using unerringly precise language in all communications on an ethical matter), and proactively educate their authors, reviewers, editors and readers on expected ethical standards. Problematically, ethical cases are typically unique and not “textbook”, and thus require much interpretation, research and continually discrete behavior. All of this is time consuming and, consequently, a challenge.


Other challenges a typical editorial office may face begin with simply encouraging authors and reviewers to take ethical matters seriously and not be so dismissive. More troublesome for an engaged editorial office is the passive obstructionism, or blatant disinterest, they confront when attempting to engage a particular party’s institution in more serious cases. Throughout my career, I have been confronted with habitual, and latent, institutional rug sweeping. Some authors are also guilty of playing for time, hoping that by dragging out an issue, even the most tenacious of journals will simply give up. You can add the plain old crazy people to that mix of challenges as well: the unreasonably litigious, the inveterate time consumer that attempts to grind you down and those seemingly displaying borderline personalities, by posting hate blogs/Youtube attack channels (yes, I have seen those!) Furthermore, as many offices will attest, there is no shortage of people ready to “advise” on the correct path.


Sadly, ethical issues are often political issues and, thus, unwittingly or otherwise, editorial offices, may find themselves dragged in to issues that are either beyond their control or a by-product of machinations being engaged in elsewhere (such as between powerful, rival, factions within a learned society). Editors may find themselves caught up in pressures to publish, pressures that compel authors to cheat, or external and often powerful financial/political interests intent on shaping the corpus of published, peer-review accepted literature in their favor.


Why address ethical issues in publishing?
Simply put, peer review and publication needs protective measures in place. Can readers trust your journal if you routinely waive content through to acceptance? To place faith in the literature we need to know steps were taken to validate data and corroborate authors and their claims. Otherwise, whole fields of study can be perverted by baseless, manipulative, or worse, false, claims. Furthermore, precious funding can be wasted and inappropriate elevation of evidence beyond its actual importance (lack of oversight during peer review, publication and then subsequent citation) can lead to distortions of the current understanding in a field of study. If institutions are incapable or unwilling to educate individuals consistently on good behavior, then this leaves journals no choice but to perform that role.


Why guidelines are needed
The best approach a journal can adopt is to devise and publish its policies on ethical issues with, at a bare minimum, a summary posted in their Instructions for Authors. Preferably, such an initiative should be supported by several questions posed to authors (and reviewers for that matter) within the submission system prompting stakeholders to consider a variety of ethical issues, of which conflicts of interest are the most evident. Shaping and informing such policies is, to me at least, a clear raison d'être for the Best practice guidelines. Such guidelines potentially enable more consistent policy setting across journals (which is ideal as authors in particular can get confused over variability between journals, one of the most evident of which is how long a conflict of interest is relevant). They can provide a framework for those offices unable to, or struggling with, bringing an ethics policy to fruition. They can serve as a simple educational manual to the many editorial offices lacking access to training. They certainly can serve as the basis of educational efforts for a journal’s author, reviewer and even editor constituents. Publicly accessible guidelines can be referenced by all stakeholders in the event of an ethics dispute, particularly backing up editorial offices that are unsure of themselves and under intolerable pressure to cave on their initially stated position on a matter. Wiley’s new Guidelines also account for the emergence of technological solutions, most obviously the text/content overlap plugin software accessible to most journals, and vitally important reporting guidelines (such as CONSORT for Randomized Controlled Trials) for detecting poor reporting standards and hidden bias in papers.


When it comes to publication ethics, editorial offices need to be vigilant, dogged and fair. Unfortunately, the more you look, the more you find. Furthermore, the processes for investigation that journals engage in should, to some extent, be transparent. Critically, editorial offices must remain resolute and not be coerced by outside interests. Wiley’s Best practice guidelines compiles information from a multitude of sources to create an easily digestible resource that should prove immensely supportive to most editorial offices. I know that with the publication of the Guidelines, I will now be prompted to refer back to my journal’s ethics policy manual and determine if updates are now required. I encourage other offices to do the same.


[1] Hames, I. Peer Review and Manuscript Management in Scientific Journals: guidelines for good practice. Blackwell Publishing, Ltd. Oxford, United Kingdom.


[2] Wager E. Ethical publishing: the innocent author's guide to avoiding misconduct. Menopause Int. 2007;13(3):98-102

    Anne-Marie Green
Anne-Marie Green
Communication Manager, Wiley

Our ‘Day in the Life’ series continues – this time with an interview with Kimm Curran. Kimm received her PhD from the University of Glasgow in 2005.She was the Chair of History Lab + at theInstitute of Historical Research from 2010-13 and currently Co-Chair until August 2014. She sits on the steering committee for The History of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland and is also the network coordinator for the research networks: Prosopography in Medieval Monastic Studies PiMMS-net and History of Women in Medieval Wales, Ireland and Scotland [H-WIMWIS-net].


Kimm Curran
Source: Kimm Curran

Q. What discipline do you work in and what is your research area?
A. I am a medievalist who works in the field of monastic studies. I am particularly interested in female religious in Britain and Ireland from ca. 1000-1600, the use of prosopography in monastic studies as well as how religious houses shaped medieval landscapes.


Q. You are an Independent Scholar. How do you define that and how did that come about?
A. I only define myself as such due to the length of time from my PhD viva til now. For funding bodies, I am no longer considered ‘Early Career’ and it was just the only other ‘category’ that I fit into. See my blog post on this subject posted for History Lab Plusfor more details and link to the definition of an ‘independent scholar’.


Q. What does your typical work day look like?
I currently work in university administration - commuting and working accounts for about 12 hours of my day. I come home and spend as much time with my son as possible and then de-clutter my brain from a stressful day by reading.


Q. What is the most difficult thing about working outside of academia? What is the most liberating thing?
A. The most difficult thing is not having a university affiliation which isolates me from funding streams and support without a university lecturer/department tied to a project, having to find your own way in the publishing minefield, having very little time for archival research (my summers are full with administrative work for a university), feeling left out of current debates in the field, and not teaching budding medieval historians (I love teaching!).


The most liberating is not being tied to university structures and pressures put on academics with their time and energies. There is more freedom to research and publish when I can, mentoring younger scholars and dedicating time to advocacy work for early career and independent researchers.


Q. What do you feel are the most significant challenges for new PhDs today? Are any of these challenges specific to your discipline, generation or gender?
The challenges for new PhDs are not being given the right support and information to make informed decisions about their future careers. There are more PhDs in History than there are jobs available; the competition is fierce and it can be soul-destroying looking for an academic post. There are also a lot of short term contracts that may (or may not) lead to a post, developments in Open Access publishing and difficulty in finding funding for research projects beyond the thesis. If you have a family or are a carer, it may be more difficult to be geographically or economically mobile - this can be difficult when making decisions to apply for posts. PhDs need to be realistic about their expectations after they finish - careers outside of academia can be fulfilling but also come with their own problems and pitfalls if you want to continue to research and publish.


None of these challenges are new to the discipline of history - or any other Humanities disciplines - and they are certainly not gender-specific. Women and men face the same challenges after finishing their PhDs and the decisions they make are based on their individual circumstances. However, once in academia, the experiences can be different depending on institution or department and perceived roles. The Royal Historical Societyis looking at this subject of women in academia in more depth - watch this space! History Lab Plusis also a good place to get advice, attend events and meet other PhDs who are going through the same experiences. I can say from my own experience as a Chair (and now Co-chair) that this network has brought historians together from a wide range of backgrounds and places, including those who research on different subject areas and time periods. Many of these historians support one another through networking at events, or via Twitter or Facebook. I have learned a lot from them and value the support and friendship offered - it is what is needed to keep my head above water while I reside ‘outside of the academy’.

The Anywhere Article Arrives

Posted Feb 19, 2014
    Marlo Harris
Marlo Harris
Director,  Digital Product Management, Wiley

If you hear the sound of corks popping in the general vicinity of a Wiley office this week, it will probably be the sound of our colleagues celebrating the launch of the Anywhere Article – the new enhanced HTML article on Wiley Online Library!

AA article IpadA Passion for Readability and Portability
As recent blog posts (Designing a Better HTML Article and The Challenges and Technology Behind the Responsive Anywhere Article) indicate, a great deal of user insight, technical expertise, and meticulous design considerations have gone into the development of the Anywhere Article. That effort is reflected in every detail on the page, from the clean presentation of content, to the highly functional figure viewer, to the unobtrusive yet easily accessible reference lists.


The strict focus on readability was supplemented by a strict focus on portability. The Anywhere Article does not discriminate against device or mobility. The responsive web design means that each and every feature is delivered with elegance and utility, whether you’re reading on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.


But it’s just the beginning
This week’s launch means the Anywhere Article team has a lot to celebrate! But, our work isn’t done. This first release is just a taster. There is a lot more functionality to add in forthcoming releases, such as citation tools, article level metrics, embedded video, related content recommendations, and much more.


Tell us what you think
The direction of future developments, will be driven by user feedback. We are very interested to hear what our readers think about the Anywhere Article; all comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated. We want to know about anything we can do – from a minor tweak to a major addition – that would make the scholarly research experience more efficient, productive, and enjoyable.


Now, we invite you to test drive the Anywhere Article. Try this example or go to your favorite journal on Wiley Online Library, find an article of interest (perhaps from the free sample issue), and click the “Enhanced Article (HTML)” link. After having a good look around, click the “Enhanced Article Feedback” link, and please tell us what you think!

     Victoria Baxter
Victoria Baxter
User Experience Research Manager, Wiley 
Danielle Reisch
Danielle Reisch
Associate Director, Digital Product Performance, Wiley


Danielle Reisch with researcher
Danielle Reisch, User Experience lead on the Anywhere Article project, watches as a researcher navigates Wiley Online Library.

Discovering the problem


The year was 2010. Our team gathered in a room in central London and watched through a one-way mirror as a chemist (let’s call him Thio) clicked around our new site. Thio was supposed to find his way to a chemistry article on Wiley Online Library, find the cool new features we were designing, and share his reactions with the User Researcher (let’s call her Ester) who was interviewing him.

This is a fairly typical exercise for Wiley’s User Experience (UX) team. We are responsible for understanding our customers’ needs, and ensuring that the digital products we design meet those needs. This means constantly talking with end users about the products we are designing.

We had several interviews with chemists set up that day and things were going great. That is, until Thio clicked directly to the PDF, bypassing the HTML version of the article and missing all the great new features we built. We weren’t prepared for that. And he wasn’t the only chemist to do this.

Ester asked each chemist to back up and explain why they chose the PDF, and after hearing their responses, we were left with a painful realization: they just didn’t like using the HTML version of the article. A look through our usage reports told the same story: given the choice, almost three out of four accesses to the article were to the PDF. This couldn’t be ignored.

So why bother with HTML?

The article is at the core of published science, and the PDF has long been a standard format for consuming, storing, and sorting articles. However, it’s not a technology that was built for delivery to the growing number of devices, platforms, and contexts in which research is consumed. As the needs of our customers change, publishers will rely on HTML as key to delivering research.

HTML allows for:


    • Flexibility to optimize our content for new devices and channels, such as our iPad app


    • Increased support by accessibility tools for users with disabilities or special needs


    • Better metadata and structure, improving findability from search engines and indexing services


    • Improved interlinking from articles to related content and commentary


    • Enrichment of article content with videos, data, and interactive graphics


None of this will matter, of course, if the HTML experience is bad enough that nobody wants to use it.


Getting to the root of the problem


Vikki Baxter with clinician
Victoria Baxter, who manages Wiley’s user research, observes as a clinician tests the Anywhere Article on an iPad.

And so our team started interviewing scientists around the world, trying to understand how to make the HTML article better. We designed and developed a prototype of the next generation HTML article, and showed it to members of many research communities. We watched over shoulders at a conference in Philadelphia, in co-working spaces in New York, via webcasts to Germany and Argentina, and in a lab in Beijing, until we were sure that we had built a usable, readable, enjoyable experience (to rival and replace the PDF).


Based on this research, next week we are delivering some exciting changes to our HTML article.  The release of our Anywhere Article, an enhanced HTML version of articles, will deliver:

Improved readability.  Content is now front-and-center, with distracting elements removed from the page.  There is a strong focus on typography and layout, ensuring the page is as pleasurable and easy to read as the PDF.

Improved presentation of information. Figures are no longer small thumbnails, but core to the body of the article. Important metadata is now easier to find. We extensively tested our content to ensure that complex information is presented accurately and effectively.

New tools to navigate the page. A fixed article outline allows readers to jump to the most important parts of the article. References are available in a side panel, allowing users to read an inline citation and see the corresponding reference at the same time. Our new Figure Viewer gives users a “presentation mode,” allowing them to flip through and zoom in on large figures in the article.

Portability. We designed the article around the principles of responsive design, allowing for optimal presentation across many different screen sizes and devices. (Look out for a blog post next week on the responsive design of the Anywhere Article to find out more.)

Keeping the conversation going

Our team is constantly seeking ways to continuously improve Wiley’s products.  With the forthcoming launch of the enhanced HTML article, we invite the community to send us your thoughts and ideas. You can share your feedback by:


    • Clicking on the “Enhanced Article Feedback” button on the enhanced HTML article, or going directly to the User Voice page.


    Zoe Cournia 

Our ‘Day in the Life’ series of blog posts by some of Wiley’s young science advisers continues – this time with a day in the life of Zoe Cournia, a Computational Chemist working as an Investigator – Lecturer Level at the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens.

I have always been fascinated by how the world around us works. Why is the sky blue? Why are bubbles in a soft drink spherical? How do we fall in love? What are we really made of? And when I got the answer, I always felt the urgency to explain everything I learned to others… (though they are not always willing to hear it!). Everything around us, what we hear, see, smell, taste, and touch involves chemistry and chemicals. Thousands of chemical reactions happen in your body when you smell a beautiful flower in a summer spring morning. I was pleasantly surprised when I learned in high-school that scientists called chemists could handle these reactions and even develop drugs that could save millions of lives worldwide.

Overwhelmed by chemists’ discoveries, I decided to study Chemistry. But soon enough I realized that although it is a really amazing science with its reactions, chemicals, funnels, pipettes, benches, and fume hoods, being a chemist makes a huge mess or at least I made one in the lab! Fortunately, I then realized that computers exist and they make things much cleaner. I discovered that today it is possible to build chemicals, study reactions, or even make drugs within a desktop computer by performing virtual experiments in a similar way as the typical chemists. This type of chemistry is called “computational chemistry”. So I became a computational chemist. Indeed, I literally live in a virtual reality world, where everything from chemical reactions to drugs, food, materials, cosmetics, electronics, and proteins is being modeled and simulated. And you won’t believe it, but, yes, I do have a job :-)

I am a group leader at the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens.  I specialize in “computer-aided drug design”, so the computer is my Virgil in the world of drugs (to paraphrase the original Nobel Committee tagline). The main activity of my lab is the design of anti-cancer candidate drugs. Employing software and high performance computing techniques, we predict the interactions of these candidate drugs with proteins that cause cancer. For decades, drug discovery was carried out using trial and error experimental techniques for screening large libraries of chemicals against a biological target (for example a protein), which is responsible for a disease. Recent advances in computer-aided drug design allow us to develop drugs specifically designed for a given protein, shortening the development cycle of new drugs. Understanding the detailed underlying molecular and atomic interactions involved in drug-protein interactions became central in guiding traditional experiments and therefore increasing the efficiency and decreasing cost in the drug discovery process.

In an ideal typical day of a computational chemist, there would be a lot of time for coffee and chatting since computers would do our job. But in reality there is absolutely no time to waste. Why? Because every time your computer gives you some results, you come up with tens of exciting new ideas that you want to test immediately. Many times though, we do not follow a standard protocol, which means numerous trial and error attempts are performed to get the right set up for the virtual experiment. So, a typical day starts off with lots of positive thinking, but ends with angry keyboard banging after a day of debugging!

Larger “in silico experiments” (as we call our simulations) are carried out on big computer clusters. Such specialized clusters, which put together thousands of processors, represent a powerful tool for simulating complex processes such as the binding and unbinding of a drug or reactions of drugs with enzymes. These calculations may take weeks if not months to complete. Accessing these resources requires writing research proposals upraising the merits of a research project in order to justify using these expensive computational resources.

As a group leader, in addition, I have to dedicate time for fundraising in order to ensure the financial resources for my group (salaries for my co-workers, travel money, hardware and software investments). Therefore grant proposal drafting represents a significant amount of my time. Other weekly activities include writing papers, keeping up to date with the literature, mentoring and coaching my co-workers, going to conferences, talks, and meetings, communicating our research results, teaching and of course dealing with the beast called bureaucracy.


Figure 1. The known small molecule inhibitor PIK-108 is shown in cyan bound in the human protein “PI3Kα” presented in white ribbons and mauve sticks. Hydrophobic interactions of residues Phe954, Phe960, Phe977, His1047 are shown. A hydrogen bond with Cys901 is also shown. Image created by Dr. Evi Gkeka, Cournia lab.

Too much reality after all for a virtual world! But please, don’t run away yet, there’s more to it! It is extremely rewarding and exciting when our predictions become the brick and mortar of a new thrilling discovery. Indeed, we, as computational chemists are members of consortia of synthetic chemists, geneticists, pharmacologists, medicinal chemists, biochemists, and biologists, and work together in a concerted effort in the war against diseases. Our predictions inspire and support the actual experimental work being performed on designing drugs for cancer. My routine entails meeting daily with experimentalists who test our predictions in a wet lab to verify that a candidate drug has the desired activity on cancer cells. For example, one of our designed chemicals against a mutated protein kinase, which is responsible for cancer, is able to kill cancer cells selectively, while leaving normal cells unaffected (see Figure 1 for an example).

Computational chemistry emerges as a key tool in the drug design process, however, this tool is not as simple as running a computer program; it requires chemical intuition and expertise in other disciplines such as physics, biology, and computer programming in order to conceive models capable to capture efficiently the complex reality of life. For this reason computational chemistry was wonderfully recognized for its contribution with the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Computational Chemists Martin Karplus of Harvard University and the University of Strasbourg in France, Michael Levitt of Stanford University and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. In the 1970s, these three researchers pioneered powerful models that are now being used to understand and predict chemical processes. Simply stated, "This year's prize is about taking the chemical experiment to cyberspace." as Staffan Normark of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences put it.

Quoting the Nobel Committee press release:

        “Chemists used to create models of molecules using plastic balls and sticks. Today, the modelling is carried out in computers. Computer models mirroring real life have become crucial for most advances made in chemistry today. Today the computer is just as important a tool for chemists as the test tube. Simulations are so realistic that they predict the outcome of traditional experiments.”

As the end of the day approaches, I exit the virtual reality world and enter the real one. “So what do you do for a living?” is a question that seems innocent enough, but one that I've grown to dread. I pause for a moment. “Eeerr I am a chemist. I design drugs with the computer” “Wow, you are really smart”, “A chemist, that’s something you don’t hear often”, “I was never good in science”. The downside of my job is that I need one thousand words to describe what I do to people who are not familiar with science to picture it. So to cut a long story short, when people ask what I do, I often answer: “Well, I model for a living!”… so then I can enjoy my drink :-) The truth is that since science (for some unknown reasons) represents a difficult subject for a lot of students, the society has grown to consider scientists as inaccessible geniuses (as far as I am concerned this is very far from the truth). But sure enough, my friends will pipe up and present me as some kind of genius and there you go: the magic is gone!

I often find that scientists are being looked upon as geeks spurting out of Doctor Who or The Big Bang Theory. The public is afraid of things they cannot understand, but the truth is that science is not all that hard and, honestly, it is pretty cool. Although scientific positions are in general underpaid, I believe that the contribution of science to the quality of our lives and to people’s well-being is of central importance. Therefore, it is our duty to perform our work with social responsibility and communicate our findings and efforts in a way that can be perceived by the general public. Part of our work and efforts should focus on making our science accessible to everyone without any discrimination.

So a day in my lab life almost always includes science outreach - aimed at promoting public awareness and understanding of science and making informal contributions to science education. I maintain two blogs (“Life is Chemistry” and a Blogging Corner at the NGO “Science Communication”) and their respective pages on Facebook and Twitter. I write for the Chemistry in Cancer Research Group Newsletter of the American Association for Cancer Research, co-organize conferences with scientific themes for the general public such as the TEDMED Live Athens conference, and promote activities like scientific cafes and scientific talks to the general public.

I could not resist finishing this blog post by quoting a woman that continues to inspire me by her lifelong dedication and contributions to science. Marie Skłodowska-Curie helped forever change how the world perceived women in science and set a shining example for the future generations of scientists. She showed that rigorous and determined investigation can lead to remarkable discoveries, which can have a direct and positive impact on people’s lives. As she said,

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

    -Marie Curie


Watch this video for the highlights of a day in the life of a computational chemist – you will get a real feeling of what it is like to work in a computer lab. It was shot by Dr. Thomas Splettstoesser when I was a doctoral student at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, under the supervision of Professor Jeremy Smith.


Zoe is a member of Wiley Advisors, a program for early career researchers and professionals to serve as a voice for their communities. For more information, please visit Wiley Advisors online or on twitter @WileyAdvisors.                                          

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