Now on the Blog: Maximow Award Team Interview

Dear readers!

As mentioned in our blog post of February 1, the Maximow Award Team was interviewed by Roman Deev for the open access journal KTTI.
We now publish a shortened version of the original interview – it’s still pretty long, but we hope you’ll enjoy – read about phase I of the competition, about the purpose of the Maximow Award and many behind-the-scenes facts!

The audience is interested to know why you chose Alexander A. Maximow as the eponym of this award?
The Russian histologist and pathologist Alexander A. Maximow (1874–1928) studied medicine in Saint Petersburg (Russia) and in Freiburg and Berlin (Germany). In 1909 he formulated the concept of the hematopoietic “stem cell” in a groundbreaking presentation held in German at the “Berliner Hämatologische Gesellschaft” (Berlin Hematological Society). This contest is named after A. Maximow because no better eponym could have been chosen to represent a bilateral project which aims to support young scientists from Germany and Russia under the motto “Research Without Borders”. Furthermore, CTT has a connection to him as an author: in 2009 the CTT team produced the first-ever published English translation of his 1909 landmark article. Thanks to the journal policy of CTT, this article is now also available in Russian. Both versions as well as the original in German are today available open access in the Maximow Centenary edition, CTT No. 3 (2009).

What is the purpose of the competition?
We think that showing new opportunities to the younger generation of researchers means contributing to the wellbeing of a scientific community. If young scientists know their way around the Web, they are likely to use up-to-date technology for good networking about their research results. This contest aims to help bring down any barriers to such a vision of networking.

Why was the competition designed for young researchers?
Young scientists do not often experience real opportunities for funding that enable them to take part in meetings or exchange programs. Moreover, by working in teams with senior colleagues they do not always have the chance to demonstrate their particular contribution. This competition is designed to encourage young scientists to make their personal contribution visible by discussing their ideas in a forum with other young colleagues, prior to the submission of a scientific report. Next, successful contributions can be published under their own names, of course, and the prizewinners are invited to take part in an important international meeting.

What was the focus in phase I of the Award?
The participants were asked to discuss 14 topics, which had been suggested by a team of experts. The aim of this first debate was to encourage young scientists to come up with new ideas and approaches in stem cell research and maybe to reflect on possible implications for clinical work. Participants could work on any number of topics and gain 0–3 points for each online contribution, at the discretion of the moderator team. Participants and teams who accumulated 10 points during the discussion phase were asked to upload their Short Reports or Review Essays on any of the competition topics.

At the end of phase I, contributions were sent in for peer review by the jury. Which submissions were considered best?
The main winners of the Alexander A. Maximow Award 2011/2012 phase I are Ilya Ya. Bozo (position 1) for the Short Review “Restoration of bone marrow niches is the basis of optimization of HSC engraftment“; Sergey A. Sergeev und Ylia V. Khramova (position 2) for the contribution “In vitro models for stem cell transplantation“; and Konstantin G. Shevchenko (position 3) for the Short Report “Selected issues of the Duchenne muscular dystrophy gene and cell therapy”. These contributions showed excellent scientific approaches and discussion. Their quality is a good benchmark for any continuation of the Award.

How was the jury formed? Who were the jury members in phase I?
The Maximow Award was supported by well-known scientists who agreed to contribute in phase I by reviewing the contributions submitted and form the Jury, among them Prof. Dr. Boris V. Afanasyev, St. Petersburg, Dr. Alexey B. Chukhlovin, St. Petersburg, Dr. Roman V. Deev, Moscow, Prof. Dr. Boris Fehse, Hamburg, Prof. Dr. Hans-Jochem Kolb, Munich, Prof. Dr. Igor A. Lisukov, St. Petersburg, Prof. Dr. Axel R. Zander, Hamburg. The CTT editors-in-chief found these Jury members by asking around among their international colleagues.

How would you describe the winning research of young scientists?
Ilya Ya. Bozo’s essay deals with a crucial problem of allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) transplantation, namely efficient engraftment of the donor’s blood stem cells in the new milieu of the recipient. Particularly, he directs our attention to the important role of the bone marrow niche. His essay tries to systemize fundamental and current data on HSC engraftment and the causes of its low level in allogeneic transplantation. Also, he discusses novel trends in optimizing HSC engraftment, particularly relying on own data.
The essay of Sergey A. Sergeev and Ylia V. Khramova is devoted to the use of different types of adult stem cells (SC) in regenerative medicine. As the authors note, despite the broad clinical use of SC it is still very difficult to predict the actual effects of transplanted adult SC in vivo. In fact, many questions on SC behaviour in recipient tissue remain open, e.g. about the communication of transplanted cells with recipient tissue, the processes of functional contact development and the mechanisms of the new microenvironment on transplanted cells. To address these questions, the authors suppose the use of adapted ex vivo models that allow studying individual cell behaviour. To do so, they developed and applied 3D rat retina and organotyping explant culture models.

By what criteria were the submissions evaluated?
The review criteria were the same as for any article that is accepted for peer review in CTT. These reviewing guidelines are available on CTT’s website. The forum participants were informed about these criteria as well as the prospective Jury members in advance. The winners were rewarded because their short reports were based on a very good discussion and on sub-data from a larger study, the presentation was good and their works were appreciated for the important or interesting experimental concept/approach. A short report was disqualified because it had been largely copy-pasted from a published article. Other submissions were judged to be limited in originality and literature.

What prizes do winners receive?
The monetary part of the award in phase I of this year’s competition is 800, 700, and 600 EUR for the first three positions respectively. With this prize also goes an invitation to take part in the prestigious Wilsede Meeting, 16–20 June 2012. These three as well as three more submissions that were also considered very good by the Jury have been published or will soon be open-access published in CTT. Because of this, all six winning short contributions are taking part in phase II and may also win other experts’ attention through open peer review.

During the competition, which drawbacks and weaknesses became apparent?
Innovative projects usually attract “early adopters” first. Because the Maximow Award came in a highly innovative shape (on the web only, including a mandatory forum discussion, in two phases, in three languages), it was clear that this would be a rather experimental method for a scientific contest. From the beginning, the competition seemed to attract rather more Russian scientists. The announcement of an invitation to an international meeting in Germany for the winners was surely very attractive for them. The bilateral geometry of the competition was assured due to the multinational provenance of the Jury members and of the scientists involved in the open peer review phase.

Who are the people behind the day-to-day management of the Maximow Award?
We are a specially formed team of nine and none of us works full-time on this project. The concept comes from Claudia Koltzenburg, Managing Editor of CTT, who hired new team members as soon as the good news about the successful funding application came in; Cinzia Colazzo, from Italy, Education Science Advisor, and 5 others. Our scientific colleagues in the moderation team are Alexey Bersenev, who is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, USA, and well-known blogger, and Max Christopeit who is currently working as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Cell Biology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.
We all work web-based wherever we may happen to be: Australia, Scotland, Russia, Italy, Germany, and the US. The main web tool is a wiki platform plus a calendar function. Our activity goes on around the clock and everyone may choose his/her best working hours. So, as you can see, our motto is “project management and web cooperation without borders”.

What are your expectations for the Maximow Award 2012/2013?
We expect to offer another opportunity to promote acceptance of open science features. We seek to learn more about how openness on the web may be used in day-to-day scientific work across the globe.

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