From working closely with researchers, we know that many go into academia to make a difference - to get science into society.
We share the research community’s belief in what research can achieve. Technological advancement and the data revolution have pushed the boundaries of discovery.
And we see that in Melanoma Awareness Month which runs throughout May. The tools and platforms we provide to help researchers analyse and evaluate large volumes of data give us a bird’s eye view on which countries and institutions are leading the charge in the fight against melanoma.
This fight matters. Malignant melanoma is the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer, with around 42 people being diagnosed every day, and the eleventh most common cause of cancer death in the UK. Around 2,500 people die from malignant melanoma every year in the UK, according to Melanoma UK.
Those figures are tragic, but the better news is that UK researchers are at the forefront of international efforts to improve survival rates in melanoma.
Taking the top 10 countries based on the amount of research papers published on melanoma 2013-18, the UK is the fourth highest nation in citation impact – an important measure that captures when research is called out and built upon, in other words has genuinely contributed to advancement in our understanding of a cancer like melanoma and of treatment options.
A key driver of this impact is the ability to collaborate – researchers reaching out to find partners overseas or in other disciplines to stretch their thinking. The UK ranks second in terms of the amount it collaborates, with 56 per cent of its published research in melanoma the product of international collaboration - only Canada does more.
In fact, the UK’s rate of collaboration has increased nine percentage points over the last five years, making the UK the fourth fastest growing nation in terms of its collaboration.
Countries with higher levels of collaboration tend to have higher research impact scores.
This trend also applies to the institutions that sit behind this country performance. Those institutions making the greatest impact are typically more likely to collaborate internationally.
Impressively, 41% of Harvard University's melanoma research output involves international collaborations. In the UK, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, University College London and Oxford University are all seeing a step change in their levels of collaboration.
Like many in the community, we believe in the role of collaboration to hasten impact. But we also know that for many in the research community, collaboration is something that happens by accident or by virtue of sharing a corridor.
We believe there are three steps that would help speed up the application of science to big societal challenges of our time, like melanoma.
One, data sets need to be interoperable. Too often they can’t talk to each other and the ability to move them into the cloud is limited, as an interdisciplinary team tackling prostate cancer at Oxford University recently shared with us. We are committed to making sure that as we enhance the information system that supports science, we build in this capability while safeguarding data privacy.
Two, we need to make it easier for researchers to find peers to partner with. We will continue to develop tools and platforms that make it easier for researchers to collaborate with people beyond their existing networks. We will work to enable them to break out of the bubble. To discover and collaborate. Platforms like Mendeley link researchers to content and data from any source for that reason.
Three, it’s vitally important that researchers, nurses and doctors work together to move research into clinical trials. Increased adoption of precision medicine, where technology serves up relevant treatment pathways to doctors at the point of care, is bringing together world class melanoma academic experts with real world doctors. We see this kind of collaboration happening to create recommendations on melanoma in the US for doctors using our Via Oncology platform. But we need to keep working at it and must take the opportunity to shorten the time it takes science to get into society.
More organisations need to play a part in serving researchers and doctors in their quest to minimise the devastating impact melanoma has on so many lives.
Maria de Kleijn-Lloyd is SVP Analytical Services at Elsevier