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Isabel Thompson

Head of Data Platform, Digital Science


Can you tell us a little about yourself and your work?

I lead our cloud data offering at Dimensions. Essentially, I’m helping customers use data to answer strategic questions and make evidence-based decisions. Dimensions is a huge database of publications, grants, patents, and clinical trials – and you can use it to answer questions like “What are the emerging trends in microbiology?”, “Which journals do my authors publish in?”, “How many of my researchers are funded by cOAlition S?”. I work with universities, publishers, governments, funders, and industry – if it’s anything to do with research and innovation, we can usually help.

What inspired you to apply for the SSP Fellowship program?

As an early career professional, as I was at the time, it’s rare for your organization to send you to an industry conference. But if you want to grow and learn, you have to deepen your understanding of your industry beyond your own organization’s perspective. 

As a result, what most attracted me to the SSP Fellowship program was being paired with a mentor and the chance to go to the SSP Annual Conference. Both these things enable you to expand your understanding of the sector dramatically.

What SSP activities have you been involved in since your Fellowship year?

Straight away I jumped into SSP Committees, which are a great way to create useful resources for other members of the industry and meet people along the way. First, I joined the Education Committee. Next, the Annual Meeting Committee. After that, I helped co-found the SSP UK Chapter – and after a few months, I took over as co-chair of it.

After I won the SSP Emerging Leader Award, I was then very surprised and privileged to be asked to stand for SSP Board Member; serving on the Board was the most rewarding SSP experience so far. You get to see how much hard work goes into making SSP what it is.

What surprised you the most about being an SSP Fellow?

How incredibly friendly, warm, and welcoming the SSP community is. I was lucky enough to be assigned Heather Staines as my wonderful mentor (and we’ve remained friends ever since). She introduced me to lots of people and made me feel instantly at home.

I’ll always remember my first night in the hotel restaurant at SSP 2018. Robert Harrington (whom I didn’t know at that point), came in and sat down next to me and said “I love the SSP conference! You get to see so many friends!”. At the time, I thought he just happened to know a lot of people who were coming. I didn’t realize SSP was the reason for so many of these friendships!

Did your Fellowship have an impact on your career? If so, what impact? What kinds of things did you learn? What surprised you?

The SSP Fellowship program is a fantastic professional development opportunity. Not only does it offer the opportunity to build your network, but the content and insight at the conference are extremely valuable – especially since Fellows often haven’t been to a similar conference before.

The people I met via the SSP Fellowship led directly to my chairing my first conference panel at ALPSP a couple of months later; the knowledge I gained made me better at my job; it contributed to a promotion and new job opportunities. And perhaps most significantly, I learned how stuffed-full of wonderful people SSP is.

What would you tell those considering applying for a Fellowship?

Do it!

What would you tell those organizations that support SSP Fellows about how their contributions are affecting issues in scholarly communications? 

SSP Fellows are, by their very nature, members of the industry who are deeply committed to growing, learning, engaging, contributing, and – in general – going the extra mile. They wouldn’t have sought it out and applied otherwise. It’s a way to invest in a bunch of people who care about the industry and care about its future. And that makes the industry better for all of us.

You can support future fellows, like Isabel, with your charitable gift to the SSP Generations Fund.