On Friday 21 June, Monique den Boer from the Princess Máxima Center received the second ZonMw Open Science Boost. Radjesh Manna, director of programmes at ZonMw, handed her the prize during a surprise visit to Utrecht. Monique den Boer, Professor of Molecular Pediatric Leukemia, together with her research group, made a big contribution to the objectives of open science: responsive, transparent, and responsible science. With this boost, ZonMw wants to encourage her to continue along this path and be an example for researchers within and outside her research group.

Ambassador for open science

The ZonMw Open Science Boost consists of an award of 1500 euros that Monique den Boer can use for a visit to an international conference. ZonMw also asks her to be an ambassador for open science there. She furthermore received a trophy in the form of a crystal ball as a symbol for a future with transparent and responsible medical science.

Surprise visit to the Princess Máxima Center

The awarding of the ZonMw Open Science Boost was a surprise for Den Boer. On Friday afternoon, Radjesh Manna stood in front of her to award the second Open Science Boost 2019. Manna explained that she has received this encouragement because the final report for her Vici project "Challenging old dogmas: improved diagnostics and tailored therapy by unraveling biology of acute leukemia in children" revealed that she, together with her research group, makes open science possible in a structural manner. During her Vici project, she published 33 articles in open access form, as a result of which everybody has access to the results. With this, she made a big contribution to open access. She also realised a systematic review, as a result of which she had an as complete as possible overview of all previous research on her subject, made data from her research available, and also published the negative results of her research. The latter unfortunately happens too little, partly because the current publication culture is mainly focused on positive results. The publication of negative results ensures that the knowledge within a research field becomes more complete. By making all knowledge accessible, unnecessary research can be prevented.

Particularly impressive: how her research group works

For Monique den Boer, open science is more than just open access, making data available and carrying out systematic reviews. It is also part and parcel of how she leads her research group by encouraging collaboration and letting the group assume joint responsibility for responsible and transparent science. One of the ways she has achieved this within her group, which is also part of the Oncode Institute, is the introduction of an audit system for publications. Before an article from her research group is published, the researchers first determine, on the basis of raw data, whether the data and conclusions are correct. A colleague from the group performs this audit. This not only contributes to the transparency of the data but is also a learning exercise for the more junior researchers. Furthermore, she has ensured the systematic use of a digital lab journal. All researchers in her group use this system to archive the data in a clear, uniform and accessible manner. By regularly using this digital lab journal in work meetings, everybody can contribute ideas about the documentation of experimental data and suggest how this can be improved. This approach to archiving works so efficiently that other groups within and outside of the Princess Máxima Center want to adopt this approach too.[QUOTE van Monique] “Data stewardship is a team effort with high gains  in data transparency and reproducibility!”

Role model for Open Science

ZonMw is impressed by how Monique den Boer structurally embeds Open Science in her research and her research group. With this, she has made a big contribution to the objectives of open science and responsible science. She is a role model for her research group and researchers in the field of paediatric cancer. With the Open Science Boost, ZonMw endorses her efforts for responsible and transparent science and hopes that her example will inspire other researchers to realise the objectives of open science in the medical sciences.

More information

ZonMw actively supports Open Science. Open Science make science accessible for researchers, society and the economy. Collaboration and exchange of knowledge are key aspects of this. The aim is to increase the quality and impact of scientific research. See the ZonMw website about Open Science.

Monique den Boer has received various grants from NWO and ZonMw:

  • Vidi: "Biological role and clinical relevance of miRNAs in childhood acute leukemia"
  • Vici: "Challenging old dogmas: improved diagnostics and tailored therapy by unraveling biology of acute leukemia in children"
  • Programme Translational Research: "Proof-of-principle study of a new diagnostic test for classification and stratification of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia"

Monique den Boer was appointed as senior principal investigator at the Princess Máxima Center in 2018. With her group, she investigates paediatric leukaemia. Leukaemia develops due to changes in the DNA. This only happens in the leukaemia cells and not in the healthy cells. The research focuses on finding errors in the DNA that cause the leukaemia cell to divide and proliferate whereas this does not happen in healthy cells. With this research, the researchers hope to develop better criteria for the diagnosis and treatment of paediatric leukaemia and to better match the choice and use of medicines to this ("targeted therapy", also referred to as "precision medicines").  

Monique den Boer leads the Oncode research group "Acute lymphoblastic leukemia", one of the 62 research groups of the Oncode Institute. The Oncode Instituteis a network of more than 800 researchers from 12 institutes. Oncode consolidates the strengths of the Dutch research world and translates fundamental cancer research findings as quickly as possible into applicable methods for diagnosis and treatment.

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