A year in the life: Ritu Dhand, Chief Scientific Officer

Research Publishing
By: Ritu Dhand, Thu Jun 8 2023
Ritu Dhand

Author: Ritu Dhand

Chief Scientific Officer

Working in partnership with the academic community is central to Springer Nature, and forms a core part of our commitment and mission to transform research communication so that all can read, share and re-use the latest scientific discoveries. One core group is our Editors - who play a vital role not only in the publication of high quality content, but in the integrity of that content and in the ways in which we can collectively drive forward research in the changing landscape of technology, solutions and open science. Ritu Dhand, previously VP Editorial for Nature Journals, took on the role of Chief Scientific Officer at Springer Nature working closely with our editorial community. Today she shares her insights from a year in the role, and how Springer Nature continues to work with the editorial community.

Tell us more about your role of Chief Scientific Officer at Springer Nature?

Springer Nature has 100,000 external editors and editorial board members (EBMs) and they play a vital role not only in the growth and future success of our journals, but in upholding editorial excellence across research publishing. They have a range of perspectives and valuable insights which we want to ensure we act upon and feed into our publishing offering. This is why we have the role of Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) - collaborating with, and championing and representing our editors within Springer Nature and across our departments. It’s a role I am proud to have. 

We also recognise that the research ecosystem is made up of many moving parts - broader issues such as integrity, impact, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a concern to our researchers - and I am responsible for making sure those that are driving our journals are as connected as possible with the work we are doing in these areas - feeding in where they can and getting feedback where they need. Having started out in cancer research this role has enabled me to get back to my research roots, drawing on that knowledge to further contribute to our commitment to providing the best possible service to the research community.

Why do you think having a CSO is important for an academic publishing company?

We know the world of scientific research is a fast changing landscape that can present a number of challenges and opportunities as we are seeing with advancements in tech and AI and we are continuously working to address that. With my focus on championing the issues that matter to the research community – standing up for science; taking a leading role in open research and being powerful advocates for the highest quality and ethical standards in research - the CSO role is one way in which we can ensure we are adapting, as needed, to meet the needs of the research community. 

Despite a shifting landscape, what remains vital is upholding research integrity, the value of collaboration and enabling researchers to have all the tools and support they need to be proactive drivers of change. There is no research without them or our editors, and providing them support so they can easily manoeuvre the research landscape is exactly why I was delighted to take up this role. 

What have been your key highlights from the first 18 months in the role?

My first year has focused on engagement, getting to know the editors and inviting their feedback on what we can do more or less of, as well as what we can do differently to ensure they have as much support as possible. As a result we have been able to introduce things we haven’t done before that have strengthened and enriched our relationships with our editors and EBMs, showcasing the value of working with Springer Nature. Our immediate focus has been to open broader communication channels for our editors with a helpdesk, monthly newsletters and webinars so we can provide better support and update editors on useful resources and training available. Another standout part has been the creation of our Be Curious event series. Specially curated for our editors and EBMs, the quarterly event programme brings together some of the finest minds in academia to debate the pressing issues of the day and the role research is playing in providing solutions. 

I am also particularly proud to have seen a number of other projects grow into life. This has included our pilot with a group of journals, putting forward initiatives that can support them with the challenges they are facing. This has resulted in offering more resources with support for peer review and recruitment for some of our journals and now being scaled up. We are also taking greater steps to recognise the work of our editors, including awards for editorial excellence and through events recognising those that have had remarkable achievements for their journals.

This has all been achieved in no small part thanks to the work of my colleagues across Springer Nature and the editors that continue to be a pleasure to work with, offering a huge amount of support.

What can we expect from the CSO going forwards?

Much of what comes next we are already seeing take shape now. For example, the continued growth of artificial intelligence (AI) in publishing. It is an incredibly exciting time for some of the projects we have in development and I look forward to seeing how AI will be able to support our journals and editors.

Where it can help us streamline work I hope we can embrace it. For example, tech that can produce summaries of research papers (with a human edit on top) aids us in our mission to make science more accessible. It would be amazing if we could do this for every research paper. Or using AI for editors to ask questions of research. Seeing where it can help them with technical verification. It is on us to use tech advancements positively and responsibly to make science better.

Ritu Dhand

Author: Ritu Dhand

Chief Scientific Officer

Ritu Dhand is Chief Scientific Officer at Springer Nature.

Ritu is responsible for representing Springer Nature externally, focusing on promoting and driving external editorial excellence, in partnership with all the journal publishers across Springer and BMC journals. 

Before taking on the role of Chief Scientific Officer in January 2022, Ritu served as Nature Editorial Director, overseeing editorial strategy and management of Nature, Nature Communications and the Nature Research and Review Journals. Ritu studied Genetics at Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London and undertook a masters in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University College, London.