Three Burning Questions with Lori Ferrins

First-hand thoughts and experiences on the Open Science Journey

More than a billion people around the world suffer from tropical and infectious diseases, but limited funding and fragmented research capacity are delaying treatment discovery. Prioritized treatment of the three main infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, unfortunately leaves a host of other diseases underestimated and neglected on the global agenda. For Lori Ferrins, Research Associate Professor at Northeastern University, Open Science is the necessary next step to ensure that no disease is left behind in the search for treatments.

Why is Open Science needed in Neglected Tropical Disease research?

Lori Ferrins: Neglected tropical disease research is the perfect candidate for Open Science because of the community of researchers who are all working towards solving these problems. Open Science is, by its very definition, collaborative, and this is vitally important when we consider the limited funding that is often available to support academic research programs. The diverse backgrounds of people that join these programs (from biologists, to chemists, to pharmacologists, and beyond) means there is a wealth of knowledge and experience available to drive programs further. Given the limited resources that are available, the collaborative nature means we are not duplicating each other’s efforts, rather we are working together to drive progress faster.

Embracing the philosophy of Open Science means we are often able to identify additional avenues to pursue, as well as the required collaborators. Ultimately, this will mean that the patients benefit from new drugs that are more effective, and have fewer side effects.

What have you found most difficult in shifting to Open Science practices? What have you found most surprising?

LF: The paperwork! Even though we collaborate widely and our work is open, companies and institutions that are eager to contribute still often require an agreement to be signed. The researchers who are doing the science are the ones who are most willing to share data, information and ideas, but the paperwork serves to slow that transfer down. I am optimistic that, with time and pressure from researchers, this mentality will change, or that we will have an open “agreement” that can be referenced in place of institutional agreements.

What advice do you have for others who would like to join Open Science?

LF: There are a lot of Open Science initiatives out there. I think the easiest path is to join in the conversation and start contributing to ongoing projects. You get to see firsthand how collaborative these programs are, and get ideas about how to run your own!


Join the discussion! Lori Ferrins will be at the Neuro Open Science in Action Symposium: Open Science and Tropical and Infectious Diseases session at 12:00 p.m. EST on Wednesday, November 24, 2021.

Learn more about the 2021 Neuro Open Science in Action Symposium. Registration is free! 



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The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) is a bilingual academic healthcare institution. We are a McGill research and teaching institute; delivering high-quality patient care, as part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre. We are proud to be a Killam Institution, supported by the Killam Trusts.



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