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My Internship at Publons

by Pablo Hernandez

Pablo was the first MacDiarmid intern to join us at Publons. He's quickly become an asset to our team and we've really enjoyed having him in the office. We'll be sad to see him go, but his contributions to the company will remain, and I believe the skills he has learned over the last three months will benefit his PhD. Thanks Pablo! - Andrew Preston


I am near the end of my MacDiarmid internship at Publons and I'd like to write a little about what I've learned during the experience. For those of you thinking of applying for the next round, I thoroughly recommend it.

I arrived at Publons three months ago, taking advantage of the awesome oppportunity that the MacDiarmid Institute provides to its enrolled PhD students. That was a good deal. My PhD was temporarily suspended but I got an extension for the same amount of time. I received the same stipend which required no additional paperwork at all. I moved from the biophysics and soft-matter group in sunny Palmerston North to Cuba Street in Wellington.

Here I learnt about the best coffees and beers in the city, understood the meaning behind the expression "The Windy City", and dived head-first into the world of startups. Wellington is becoming the hub of these fast growing, agile and adaptive companies. Publons, and our office mates LearnKo, both graduated from Lightning Lab about a year ago. (The Lab is a startup accelerator, providing the necessary tools and how-to's for young companies to get on their feet.)

Publons' mission is to speed up science by harnessing the power of peer-review. Publons partners with publishers to collect peer review information and turn into a measurable research output - something that can be used by researchers (ranging from PhD students to tenure-track professors) to build their research profile.

I think this is fantastic. The peer review process is a filter designed to ensure only valid research is published by checking methodology, testing for bias, and even reproducibility. However, even though peer review is generally recognized as one of the pillars of Science, nobody was giving credit to reviewers for their work. Until Publons came along.

During my time here I did a range of things, and in particular learnt a lot about coding and web development. I've mainly been using Django to develop software that integrates with open peer review sources around the web, and curates and standardizes the data for display on Publons. I also took a lead role in the data curation for the partnership with the open-access publisher PeerJ, and organized Publons' first birthday party, providing delicious spanish omelets, and proving my value as a proper intern. And of course I have also learn quite a lot about the business side of the world.

There is a second round at MacDiarmid with the same internship offers, including Publons! I can only recommend anyone to apply for it. You will be amazed about the skills that you already have and how valuable they are out there. The main one: your learning pace is outstanding! You have been learning full time in your first PhD year -and long time before that- , so you are absolutely prepared to absorb new things. You will just have to adapt to a slightly different perspective from our beloved academia.



I have to mention and thank Bill Williams, my supervisor, for being completely supportive about my Publons experience. He just told me: "Enjoy Wellington… and come back!". I have done the former, and now it is time to do the latter. I am extra motivated returning to my PhD full-time from this amazing experience. I will bring back the things I have learned in the start-up: the mantra "Get shit done!" is the main one, which involves better management of time and resources. Other thing to take home: expose yourself as much as you can, let others know what you are doing to get the most feedback as soon as possible from others. You learn faster and better this way.

And of course I have to thanks the Publons clan for this amazing experience. Rudi, Matt, Daniel and Andrew. I will miss those stand-ups in the morning, the sound of a new user from the dashboard, and the sparkles in github. I will miss you guys! Anyway you can expect me to walk into office at any time to check, at least, that I am still on top in the two ranking boards that we have in the office: the web scraping tasks run and approved, and the most important one: the darts ranking.


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