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Editor Spotlight: Ooi Pei Boon

This month, we talked to Dr. Ooi Pei Boon about her career in young people’s mental health, her advice to early career researchers, and her view on Open Science.

Dr. Ooi Pei Boon obtained her Ph.D. in Guidance and Counseling from Universiti Putra Malaysia. As a practitioner, educator, and researcher, Dr. Ooi believes in bringing research and practice into the classroom and vice versa. Her counseling practice broadly focuses on the relationship between human interactions and the planet, specifically the human-computer interactions leading to social issues and planetary concerns. She works on creating awareness and educating the public on the importance of taking care of their emotional health, as well as the planet.

Using the fundamental counseling principles, she collaborates with interdisciplinary teams to conduct research and counseling services to understand human behaviors and application of positive changes to allow personal growth. On a larger scale, she is passionate about working with vulnerable groups of individuals (e.g., visually impaired, elderly, and lower socioeconomic groups) to improve their overall mental health and well-being. Dr. Ooi serves as one of the 16 core members of the Malaysia Board of Counselors and the panel counselor for the Malaysia Bar Council Commission.

Can you share with us your career journey in mental health research? What leads you to work on young people’s mental health, especially related to technology use?

I am trained as a counselor, and as a counselor, I believe that everyone can and wants to be better. However, people can be entangled in situations beyond their problem-solving abilities and feel helpless or hopeless.

Dr. Ooi working with the youths on identifying cyberbullying cases

My work with young people started when I was working as a young executive with a clinical psychologist who impacted a lot of my work. I see technology use as a necessity for young people – just like we used to have books or Walkman when we grew up. We ought to help them live wisely with technology and make the best of it with sufficient digital literacy in mind. It also means equipping the young people and their parents with the knowledge of online safety to best support them. Mental health is never an individual’s battle but communities’.

You have held many leadership positions in both academic and non-academic capacities. What is your one piece of advice to someone who is just starting in the field?

Juggling academic and non-academic roles and responsibilities is always challenging but beneficial in the long run. We may sometimes forgo our initial intentions of why we want to be an educator or academic. For someone entrusted with the opportunities, I would say staying focused and being consistent would bring you far. It also means staying resilient when storms hit. It does not mean you must detract from your initial intention, but perhaps you must paddle even harder under the sea.

Your hard work may go unnoticed, but the experience will shape you into who you are and who you want to be one day. I find gratitude is essential in this process – you are as good as, if not better than, your team. Be a team player and be grateful to the people you meet along the way. Pay it forward when you can.     

What does Open Science mean to you and your field?

Open Science, to me, is the way forward. However, obtaining and achieving the main six principles of Open Science will require sustained efforts to create awareness and educate the community about its importance and contributions in the long run.

When resources are limited, we must join efforts to make the best outcomes for the community and humankind. We are in an era where no one is an island, and working on a silo mentality will not bring us far. Together, with transparency and collaboration, we achieve far more. We also need continued dialogue to ensure legal and ethical issues, especially when dealing with data protection challenges with technology adaptions on the rise.

For me, to adopt Open Science at our practice at the moment and in the field of counseling profession would require some refinement work- be it with the digital infrastructure, users’ mindset or at the policy levels. We need to safeguard the interests, especially confidentiality of our clients/patients and ensure that there is a governance code of practice or regulatory frameworks to guide the practitioners, clients, and community. While we welcome collaboration, increase of productivity and data sharing, we do need to work on models that best our industry, and this is an ongoing effort. 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by contributors are solely those of individual contributors, and not necessarily those of PLOS.

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