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Month: September 2014

In:  Peer Review  

Where did our Peer Review Mojo go?

Peer 1: Brilliant! Accept with no changes; Peer 2: Groundbreaking! Accept with no changes; Peer 3: Reject.  Credit: the brilliant @LegoAcademics
Peer 1: Brilliant! Accept with no changes; Peer 2: Groundbreaking! Accept with no changes; Peer 3: Reject. By the talented @LegoAcademics.

Many researchers agree that for all its faults, Peer Review is still the best mechanism available for the evaluation of research papers.

However, there are growing doubts that Pre-Publication Peer Review, single or double blinded, is the best way to get the job done. Fascinating background reading on this topic includes the Effect of Blinding and Unmasking on the Quality of Peer Review from the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

In a 2002 survey performed by the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP1), 45% of the respondents expected to see some Peer Review change in the next five years – for example, journals moving to Open Post-Publication Peer Review. Although the timing of their prediction was off, it is true that there is now growing interest in this field and a few practitioners.

Driven by the fact that more and more scholarly publications are launched every year, the concept of Peer Review has been criticized for consuming too much valuable time. Moreover, Pre-Publication Peer Review and selection does not protect against fraud or misconduct. Other questions that have been raised about Peer Review include:

  • What does it do for Science?
  • What does the scientific community want it to do?
  • Does it illuminate good ideas or shut them down?
  • Should reviewers remain anonymous?

In this post, I want to explore in more detail what motivates researchers to evaluate the previously submitted work of their peers. If we can better understand the reasons why researchers review, we can also discuss scenarios which may improve both the transparency and quality of that process.

Let’s first consider what could boost the motivation of a researcher to review an article. At present there are a myriad of excuses that most of us use to put off this extra work, which usually claims several hours of an already tight time budget. The scientific community does not know or record how many hours scientists spend on Peer Review. Their institutions do not acknowledge this huge time commitment when assigning new funding. This effort is not acknowledged in a closed Peer Review system because scientists do not receive any credit for their work, as they would for a citable publication and it carries no weight when applying for a new position. This is completely different from the rewards which flow from publishing new research, in particular if that research has been published in a high-branded traditional journal.

Therefore we should ask ourselves:

Is peer review broken as a system? Yes, but many believe it is required to maintain a certain level of quality control in academia. At the very least, Pre-Publication Peer Review is a concept recognized by the scientific community as supporting rigorous communication. More coverage of the flaws within the Peer Review system is provided in this post by The Scientist.

Why do we review? A systematic survey by Sense About Science on Peer Review in 2009 represented the views of more than 4,000 researchers in all disciplines. It found that the majority of researchers agreed that reviewing meant playing their part within academic community. Review requests were hard to decline given their sense of commitment to their peers, despite the fact that they didn’t believe they would gain personal recognition for their work. The second most common motivation was to enjoy helping others to improve their article. And finally, more than two thirds of all the participating researchers like seeing new work from their peers ahead of publication. I will keep this latter point in mind for discussion later.

What sort of reward would researchers like? Having understood the main reasons why researchers agree to review, the survey asked what would further incent them to undertake this task, possibly in a timelier manner! Interestingly, almost half of the researchers said that they would be more likely to review for a journal if they received a payment (41%) or a complimentary subscription (51%, in the the days before the spread of Open Access). Despite this result, only a vanishingly small minority of journals provides any kind of payment to its reviewers. This seems even more amazing in terms of the 35-40% profit margins which are common place in for-profit scholarly journal publishing.

Given that these publishers can afford to pay, why don’t they? One acceptable answer could be that they do not want to introduce new bias into the process. Another answer is that given the number of about 1.5-2 million articles being published every year in STM disciplines as reported by Bjork et al and an average rejection rate of 50% (a factor of 2 for total number of submitted manuscripts to be reviewed) and at least two reviewers involved per paper, it would cost publishers a tidy sum to pay each reviewer a reasonable amount of money to compensate them for their considerable time.

Are there other ways to provide reviewers with credit? Acknowledgement in the journal or a formal accreditation as for example CME/CPD points could improve their motivation said a still significant percentage of researchers. However only a minority would feel motivated by the idea that their report would be published with the paper.

Half of all scientists felt that they would be rather discouraged if their identity was disclosed to all readers of the article. The other half did not feel discouraged and expected higher quality from a more open evaluation process. These findings have been reported in a study by Van Rooyen et al. who found that 55% of the responding scientists were in favor of reviewers being identified, only 25% were against it. More importantly, the authors concluded that Open Peer Review leads to better quality reviews. One reason for this conclusion is quite obvious: if both the name and the comments are disclosed to the public, it appears to be only natural that a reviewer will spend at least as much, if not more, effort to make sure that the report is as good as a scientific paper. Another reason is that the reviewer is aware that a useful report could contribute to scientific discourse much more efficiently than a short statement with a few ticks in a standard reviewers’ form which only two people can access: the journal’s editor and most likely the author.  These reviewers’ comments in an open report can be read in principal by all researchers in that field and may help them to improve their own work.

In another study, which analyzed the effects of blinding on the quality of peer review, McNutt et al2 reported that reviewers who chose to sign their reviews were more constructive in their comments. In principle all new concepts which motivate reviewers to submit a review on a paper and which are not simply based on a cash-value incentive will require a disclosure of both the identity of the reviewer and the report.

Should we continue to Review? 15,000 researchers have asked this question and subsequently withdrew their services in this regard. One reason not to participate in the review process is to protest the monopoly power within the international publishing industry which led to the Elsevier boycott.  Coverage of this issue can be found in the New York Times and the Cost of Knowledge.

Having asked a range of different questions above, I’d like to move on and describe the different types of Peer Review.

Disclosure of a reviewer’s identity to the public is called Open Peer-Review. This simply means that either the names or the full report for a paper will be published with the paper itself, after the peer-review process has been completed. Open non-mandatory peer review has been established for example by PLOS Medicine and the PeerJ.

Let us now imagine a more open evaluation system for research which has been introduced as Post-Publication Peer Review (PPPR). I have previously discussed the ethics of this topic on my blog Science Publishing Laboratory. Like the current system of Pre-Publication evaluation, the new system relies on reviews and ratings. However, Post-Publication Peer Review differs in two crucial respects:

  1. Journal editors and reviewers do not decide whether or not a work will be published – as the articles are already published
  2. Reviews take the form of public communications to the community at large, not secret missives to editors and authors. Post-Publication Peer Review is, for example, used by F1000Research. In addition, Public Post-Publication Peer Review:
  3. Invites the scientific community to comment, review and rate a paper. The journal editor does not select the reviewers but it is instead it becomes a voluntary activity for those who feel interested and qualified to do so.
  4. Has no limitation as to the number of reviewers, unlike other Peer Review methodologies.
  5. Imposes no artificial time limit when the reviewing is “over”. Even years have gone by, researchers can evaluate the paper and write a review

New publishing platforms which have adopted Public Post-Publication Peer Review have been recently established by ScienceOpen and The Winnower (on the same day!).

The advantages of the open evaluation of research are readily observable.  As Kriegeskorte, a member of the Editorial Board of ScienceOpen, summarized in his article entitled Open Evaluation: A Vision for Entirely Transparent Post-Publication Peer Review and Rating for Science:

Public Post-Publication Peer Review makes peer review more similar to getting up to comment on a talk presented at a conference. Because the reviews are transparent and do not decide the fate of a publication, they are less affected by politics. Because they are communications to the community, their power depends on how compelling their arguments are to the community. This is in contrast to secret peer review, where weak arguments can prevent publication because editors largely rely on reviewers’ judgments and the reviewers are not acting publicly before the eyes of the community. 4PR is a real discourse in science and the general research community benefit from it.

What incentives does an individual reviewer have when submitting a comment or review in a new open evaluation system?

  • Reviewers could be credited for their work, for example, how frequently they participated and to what extent they felt committed to playing their part as a member of the academic community. As we mentioned above, this has been a key motivation for the vast majority of researchers in terms of writing a review
  • Authors and Peers could comment on reviews to emphasize those which have been more useful for them than others. This establishes a rating not only for the paper itself but also for the comments and reviews which is a completely new concept in science. As a result reviewers get credited simply by the fact that peers acknowledge their work through (positive) feedback
  • Reviewers who contribute more frequent and constructive reviews than their colleagues within a certain area of expertise could be highlighted by a ranking. This ranking is a direct measure of the individual performance of a researcher which would be much more useful for evaluations of researchers compared to the Impact Factors of the journals in which they have published.
  • If a reviewer received direct feedback about the review, an open discussion could ensue which may lead to a more concentrated level of discourse, as, for example, during a conversation during a conference or a poster presentation.
  • And finally, if a reviewer decided to write a review, they are willing to read the paper because they are interested in the new research of one of their peers. And more importantly, they are free to decide when to submit the review. This straightforward situation is completely different to the present Pre-Publication Peer Review when a researcher is asked by an editor to 1) read and 2) review a new submission which they have never seen before.

Despite reports such as The Peer Review Process by the JISC Scholarly Communication Group that have indicated that the Peer Review process would evolve, new concepts have been introduced only rarely so far. Open Access and a transparent Open Peer-to-Peer evaluation are the prerequisites for a new peer review concept which provides more benefits for reviewers than the present review system in scholarly publishing.

With growing awareness of the dammage to the public perception of research caused by high profile retractions such as this reported in Nature, and an interesting recently observed correlation between a higher level of retraction and prestigious journals, it seems only logical that the momentum towards more transparency in research communication will grow.

Therefore we should support new ventures and publishing initiatives which have introduced principles of open evaluation and transparent reviewing. These new projects could help open our eyes to “an ideal world” as Timothy Gowers, Royal Society Mathematician and Fields Medalist summarized in his terrific vision to revolutionize scholarly communication and publishing. It will be interesting to find out how this will also improve the motivation of reviewers to do their important work of quality maintenance in academic publishing.

A note about the author:

Dr. Alexander Grossmann is a Physicist and Professor of Publishing Management at HTWK University of Applied Sciences, Leipzig (Germany). He has been working for more than 12 years in the management of publishing industry at major international companies before he co-founded ScienceOpen.

A note about future posts:

I wish to cover new services such as Academic Karma, Publons, Pub Peer and others in my next post, this one is already lengthy and I want to give their work due consideration.

References:

  1. (ALPSP) The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (2002): Authors and Electronic Publishing. The ALPSP research study on authors’ and readers’ views on electronic research communication (ISBN 978-0-907341-23-9)
  2. (McNutt) McNutt RA et al: The effects of blinding on the quality of peer review. A randomized trial. JAMA. 1990 Mar 9;263 (10):1371-6

 

Give the pioneers a chance – Open Access and closing the reputational gap for young scientists.

25th ESC 2014 Berlin
Impressions of the 25th European Students’ Conference 2014 in Berlin

Over the last few months I’ve had the privilege of chatting to many young researchers from different areas of science. Last week, I was delighted to attend the 25th European Students’ Conference 2014 in Berlin where I had been invited to organize an afternoon workshop entitled Perspectives on Scientific Publishing with about 100 participants. It was terrific to spend almost three hours with so many students which were keen to find out more about the future of scholarly communication.

My interest in this topic was sparked by a previous panel discussion on scholarly publishing when I observed that a significant part of the audience were Ph.D. students or post-docs. When one of the speakers talked about new opportunities in Open Access publishing, a very intensive discussion began. Almost all the young scientists in the audience were excited and motivated by the principles and vision behind Open Access. They said they would like to change the current publishing system and participate in a more open conversation about their research with peers. I was thrilled because that is what we are trying to develop at ScienceOpen.

However, “If I publish my work Open Access, I will have difficulties in my future career, I am afraid, because I need the highest Impact Factor (IF) possible” said one of the young scholars, dampening the enthusiasm, and in the end most of his colleagues agreed.

If I publish my work Open Access, I will have difficulties in my future career, I am afraid, because I need the highest Impact Factor (IF) possible.”

But how real is this risk for junior faculty who will have the most important impact on the future of academia? To find out more about the perspectives of grad students and junior researchers at institutions or universities, I tried to find arguments against active participation in Open Access publishing. Although younger researchers would like to have a public discussion about their science with their peers, almost everyone I talked to stressed that they have been instructed by their academic senior advisor to aim for a high-IF journal to publish their work. And most young scientists had the impression that there are relatively few quality Open Access journals and even many of these have a low IF, if any. Therefore I next asked some of their supervisors and professors for their thoughts. Amazingly, many of them emphasized that their graduate students and junior researchers themselves insisted on publishing in a “Champions League” journal, or at least, in a “Premiere League” journal with a high IF.

Who was right? I believe that we don’t need to answer this question in order to understand why young researchers are wary of Open Access publishing opportunities.

Let’s summarize the major reasons that motivate a researcher to publish her/his work:

(A) To record and archive results.
(B) To share new findings with colleagues.
(C) To receive feedback from experts / peers.
(D) To get recognition by the scientific community.
(E) To report results to the public, funding bodies, and others.

Next, let us analyze which reasons for publishing are more relevant to young researchers in comparison with others. Reporting results (E) is a more formal reason which is required when one has received a financial contribution by funding organizations. As for archiving (A), it is not a particular motivation for junior scientists. By contrast, sharing with colleagues (B) may have more significance for those groups that have just started to build up their academic network. We all agree that younger scientists must not only actively promote themselves by sharing new results of their work, but also to intensify dialogue with their peers. They therefore also depend on feedback from experts and peers (C) much more than a senior researcher who has established his or her expertise across decades. Both (B) and (C) will hopefully result in recognition from the scientific community and (D) has long been considered the conditio sine qua non in academia for all junior researchers if they want a successful academic career. Everyone I talked to agreed and most of my scholarly colleagues confirmed that this list appeared to be consistent and complete in describing the relevance of publishing for young researchers.

But where are the Impact Factors in my list? Where are big journal brands?

But where are the Impact Factors in my list? Where are big journal brands?”

Until relatively recently, recognition has been largely measured by citations. Today, with more frequent usage of social networks, we should broaden our view and associate credit for scientific work also with mentions, likes, or retweets. The latter attributes of modern communication in social networks is an immediate and uniquely fast way to provide and earn credit  in scholarly publishing. There are an ever increasing number of examples where an excellent paper was recognized within minutes after it had been published Open Access. Citations are important, but it is the article and the individuals who authored that work which should get credited. And there is growing evidence that papers published Open Access are read and ultimately cited more often. Impact factor is a “toxic influence” on science, as Randy Shekman, Nobel laureate and founder of eLife recently stated,.

“Impact factor is a “toxic influence” on science.”

Finally, we do not need big journal brands or an Impact Factor to evaluate the relevance and quality of research. Neither for senior scientists, nor for young researchers. The latter group, however, has a significant intrinsic advantage: they are much more accustomed to communicating with social media tools. If they continue to use these when starting their academic career, they will strongly influence traditional, old-fashioned ways of crediting academic research.

My conclusion can therefore be considered as an invitation to the younger generation of researchers:

  1. Substitute pay-walled journals with new open science technologies to publicly publish your scientific results
  2. Continue to use social network tools to communicate about and discuss recent research with others
  3. Adopt alternative metrics to measure scientific relevance in addition to classical citation

Liz Allen, who works with me at ScienceOpen, also recently wrote this blog post to encourage younger researchers to be part of the open scientific conversation and suggested different ways for them to get involved.

It will be your generation in a decade from now that will craft the careers of other young researchers. Nobody else. Therefore you should not be afraid of publishing Open Access or submitting your next paper to an alternative open science platform. The more people like you who follow that path of modern scholarly publishing, the less emphasis will be put on classical incentives for academic evaluation. Open Access and active communication about new results in science by social media and open science platforms, such as ScienceOpen, can increase both usage and impact for your work.

“We do not need big journal brands or an Impact Factor to evaluate the relevance and quality of research.”

And my request to senior scientists who are presently judging the quality of the younger generation of researchers: challenge yourself to look at their social networking record and their willingness to shape the new measures of recognition. And do not forget: Access is not a sufficient condition for citation, but it is a necessary one. Open Access dramatically increases the number of potential users of any given article by adding those users who would otherwise have been unable to access it, as Stevan Harnad and Tim Brody demonstrated already 10 years ago. Give the pioneers a chance – they are the future of research!

“Give the pioneers a chance – they are the future of research.”

Alexander Grossmann

In:  Announcements  

Save the date: participative Bay Area OA week event for Generation Open

Image credit: Rom Mader, Free Poster for OA week, Blue Sky Rural Mountains Version, Flickr, CC BY-SA
Image credit: Ron Mader, Free Poster for OA week, Blue Sky Rural Mountains Version, Flickr, CC BY-SA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATE September 24th 2014 – Dan Morgan (UCP) is joining the organizing team, a warm OA welcome to him and the University of California Press crew! For a free ticket to the event, please see this Eventbrite

A few Bay Area Open Access people – Liz Allen (ScienceOpen), Pete Binfield (PeerJ, with Georgina Gurnhill in the UK), Lenny Teytelman (Zappy Lab) and Laurence Bianchini (My Science Work), who are expanding to the Bay Area, welcome) – got together and brainstormed what our ideal OA week event would look like.

We agreed that we wanted to avoid a traditional format and so we settled on:

  • Moderated un-conference where the audience talks and asks questions
  • Simple event theme, we picked “#OpenAccess – it’s up to all of us”
  • “Lightning talks” that anyone can give, 5 image slides in 5 minutes
  • Time to chat and mingle over a drink and something to eat
  • Ideally, a cool venue with great views (with Disabled Access)

Not wishing to brag (but bragging none the less!), we feel that the program below achieves our vision and will support our goal of how early career researchers can make science more open. We ran it past our academic partners UCSF Library (Anneliese Taylor), UAW post-doc union (Felicia Goldsmith) and they liked it too. Now all we need is for you all to save the date and make this an event to remember.

Date: Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Venue: SkyDeck, Berkeley (one of the first research university startup accelerators)

Start time: 6.00pm

End time: 8.30pm

Theme: #OpenAccess – it’s up to all of us

Format (suitable for global cloning!):

8 mins – relax with a drink, a snack and “What is OA?” video by Jorge Cham (PhD Comics), Nick Shockey (Right to Research) and Jonathan Eisen (UCD)

10 minutes – un-conference OA topic selection by audience

20 minutes – topic discussion with moderation (your host for the evening, Lenny!)

10 minutes – grab another drink (alcoholic or non), stave off hunger with nibbles

40 minutes – lightning talks, “#OpenAccess – it’s up to all of us”

Last 30 minutes or so – greeting old friends and making some new ones

Slides for your lightning talk (5 image based slides) should be sent to lenny@zappylab.com no later than Monday October 20th. We will be taping them for social media (you have been warned). We have created an Eventbrite so you can RSVP.

Finally, in the spirit of “the more the merrier” other OA Publishers and Academic Partners who want to participate are welcome to email Liz.

How to make science more open – 7 ideas for early career researchers

Moreopen

Quick update: in celebration of Open Access Week 2014, we’re waiving publication fees for early career researchers until November!

Recently, we’ve noticed more and more calls for greater Open Access (OA) participation from earlier career researchers, post-docs and graduate students. Thankfully their voice is increasingly being heard on many issues.

Erin McKiernan, a researcher working primarily in experimental and theoretical Neuroscience, published an excellent piece in the Guardian newspaper in which she made several memorable statements – two of which are particularly so:

if you believe in openness, stand up for it”

“I am an early career researcher, and have pledged to make all of my work openly available”

Let’s also not forget the Open Letter to the AAAS, protesting the pricing and licensing model for their first Open Access journal led by Jon Tennant and Erin McKiernan (busy lady) and signed by 114 researchers, many of them at earlier career stages.

And finally, researchers such as Jessica Polka and Kristin Krukenberg, provide a great example of “post-docs doing it for themselves”. Togerther with a team, they are organizing the Future of Research Symposium, October 2/3 2014 in Boston, to ensure that the voices of junior scientists are heard in the ongoing dialog about policies that shape the scientific establishment.

With these words ringing in our ears, here are 7 different ways for interacting with the literature that provide earlier career researchers with more ways to shape their future.

1. Publish OA. There’s a great deal of young talent advocating for OA but research shows that when it comes to actual publication, multidisciplinary OA titles (so called “megajournals”) tend to attract more experienced authors. This is easy to understand since the current promotion and tenure system overvalues well-established high impact journals and doesn’t recognize that articles and individuals can have significant impact, regardless of where they are published.

So what happens to younger scholars when it comes to publishing OA? Firstly, they usually don’t get to choose the publication venue, that’s usually a leadership prerogative. In some respects, it’s probably easier for a senior author to persuade a junior one to publish OA than the contrary. This also helps to explain why early career researchers can appear very conservative because their career depends on acceptance by conservative authorities. Therefore, change needs to be driven from the top down, as well as from the bottom up of course.

Additionally, the down-sides of handing over copyright to a traditional publisher may only become apparent after restricted paid access has reduced the reach of their work. With OA, authors keep their copyright and content is free for everyone to read and re-use with attribution.

In the world outside of scholarly publishing, first achievements are not the last and there’s recognition that practice makes perfect. Even within scholarly publishing there’s a growing realization that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between being open and being successful.

At ScienceOpen, we believe that our system of publication within about a week of submission (after an internal editorial check) with DOI and Non-Anonymous Post-Publication Peer-Review provides a less stressful way for junior faculty to build their publication history.

We also offer additional support that earlier career researchers may find useful. We have free workspaces where authors can collaborate on their articles and submit them to us or elsewhere as they prefer. Unlike some OA journals, we offer proofs and an iterative correction process before publication which also includes complimentary copy-editing and language polishing if required. After publication, two minor or major Versions are included.

And, we have an active social media program that we use to advocate for OA and promote our author’s work. We enjoy interviewing our lead authors and are also happy to interview authoring teams or team members with a strong story to tell, just ask us. Naturally this effort works best if we join forces with your own personal social media streams.

Full and partial fee waivers are available to those who demonstrate need, for those in low or middle income countries and in less well-funded disciplines.

2. Choose more progressive forms of Peer Review. Anonymous Peer Review encourages disinhibition. Since the balance of power is also skewed, this can fuel unhelpful, even destructive, reviewer comments. At ScienceOpen, we only offer non-anonymous Post-Publication Peer Review.

Authors can suggest up to 10 people to review their article. Reviews of ScienceOpen articles and any of the 1.3mm other OA papers aggregated on our platform, are by named academics with minimally five publications on their ORCID ID which is our way of maintaining the standard of scientific discourse. We believe that those who have experienced Peer Review themselves should be more likely to understand the pitfalls of the process and offer constructive feedback to others.

3. Participate in conferences. As an early career researcher, paying to attend a large international event can cost upwards of $2000 which makes it a luxury activity often requiring travel scholarships etc. If you get the opportunity to go, we recommend reading this recent article about live tweeting from the event before-hand so you can bring those who are not there into the conversation. And, if you can’t go to an event, don’t despair, because the same article describes ways to ask remote questions. Also, let’s not forget that posters are a great way to get involved in a meeting, ScienceOpen even rewards the best with prizes!

4. Participate in journal clubs. These informal meetings offer a way to discuss the best new literature but they aren’t always run on inclusive lines. If your group is dominated by senior faculty, we suggest you politely make two suggestions to the person organizing the club:

  1. That the group leader rotates and is picked from junior faculty
  2. That the definition of discussion success = everyone participates

5. Participate in online Groups. ScienceOpen has aggregated over 1.3 million (and growing) OA articles from publishers such as PLOS, F1000 Research, BMC, peerJ, eLife to name but a few (from PMC) and physics articles from ArXiv. We’re intrigued to see what discipline specific conversations emerge when the literature is on the same platform and researchers form Groups to discuss it.

At ScienceOpen we welcome earlier career researchers to take these roles. They can start a discipline in their niche area, invite others to join their group from the over 2 million networked on the platform already or from outside, and use the Search functionality to curate existing content into themed collections based on criteria they pick (and explain using comments).

6. Become a Collection Editor. The natural evolution for a Group that is actively curating and discussing existing content is to call for new content so that the collection “grows and lives” and we invite applications for these roles from researchers at all career stages. Getting closer to the publishing process by managing and building a Collection is a great way to raise your profile in your community of choice and build relationships with others.

7. Keep advocating for change. Last, but by no means least, continue to advocate for change. Join ScienceOpen in signing open letters to reform journals that don’t “get” OA. Advocate for initiatives such as DORA (San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, sign it too) that works to break the stranglehold of the Impact Factor. Let’s keep up the pressure!

Above all, enjoy making Science more open and if you want to remind yourself why, watch this short and funny video from Sebastian Alers, a member of our Editorial Team.

In:  Announcements  

ScienceOpen speaking at 6th Conference on Open Access Scholarly Publishing (#COASP)

unesco5

CEO Stephanie Dawson (ScienceOpen) has packed her bags and travelled from Berlin to Paris for the 6th Conference on Open Access Scholarly Publishing (COASP) meeting from 17-19th September.

Although the 1959 stamp pictured above depicts the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (the conference location), we don’t suggest that Stephanie affix it to her postcard home to the rest of the ScienceOpen team (extolling them to work hard in her absence), since it is a rare collector’s item.

For those of you who are new to the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA), it is a journal publisher’s trade organization established in 2008. Many people ScienceOpen knows are also speaking at this conference including: Mark Patterson (eLife), Catriona MacCallum (PLOS), Phil Bourne (NIH) and Daniel Mietchen (Museum für Naturkunde).

On Thursday 18th September, from 4.15-5.30pm, as part of the Late Breaking/Show and Tell Session, Stephanie will give a presentation entitled OA Publishing 3.0: Beyond the journal, a redefined role in the research ecosystem“?

Stephanie’s presentation is under wraps for now but will be made available on the OASPA website as soon as possible after the conference. During her talk, Stephanie will explain how the term 3.0, which usually refers to self-publishing, also applies to the future of OA publishing and how ScienceOpen, the new research + publishing network, offers services to authors that enable this transition.

After this is done on Thursday, lucky Stephanie will have dinner at Le Grand Bistro de Breteuil! The rest of the ScienceOpen team are not jealous.

The Brazil: German OA connection – the secret of successful collaboration!

Joao Bosco Pesquero and Michael Bader standing next to a statue of Max Delbrück.
Joao Bosco Pesquero and Michael Bader standing next to a statue of Max Delbrück.

ScienceOpen Editor, Nana Bit-Avragim, interviewed Editorial Board Member Michael Bader, a Professor at Charité and a Group Leader at Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), Berlin, Germany and his 20 year collaborative research partner (and friend) Joao Bosco Pesquero, a Professor from the Federal University of Sao Paulo (UNIFESP), Brazil.

Their lasting connection is a great example of open, cross-border research originating from a shared passion for science that surpasses language barriers. Before we dive into the interview, here’s some background on their research interests:

Michael Bader (MB). Prof. Bader is interested in understanding the molecular and genetic mechanisms that regulate angiotensin, bradykinin and serotonin hormones and their role in the regulation of the cardiovascular, nervous and immune systems. In addition to the molecular and cellular aspects of hormone regulation, Prof. Bader’s research group is focused on the development and characterization of new transgenic techniques, e.g. the “knockout” technology for rats, the widely used animal model for cardiovascular diseases

João Bosco Pesquero (JBP). Prof. Pesquero’s research areas include molecular and cellular biology and physiology of the kinin–kallikrein system. Joao Bosco Pesquero has contributed enormously to research on kinin receptors and was the first to generate a transgenic model for kinin B1 receptor insufficiency in mammals in collaboration with Michael Bader. Prof. Pesquero’s recent project is dedicated to the idea of applying cutting-edge technologies underlying modern genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics to sports medicine. This unique project, Atletas do Futuro, is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to predict and modify a person’s ability and capacity for sport.

Q1. What is the “secret” behind your 20-year successful collaboration?

JBP + MB: We believe that the similarity of our empathy and character are the bedrock of our successful collaboration.

MB: We are fair and open and therefore trust each other. My advice would be: do not be selfish and tricky, but rather build up trust. Interestingly, having different points of view supports our collaboration.

JBP: We enjoy what we are doing together and always have fun at work. We are interested in more or less the same research topics and we trust each other.

JBP + MB: However, one of the essential aspects of our long-term and fruitful partnership relies on the PROBRAL initiative, a funding program of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Thanks to DAAD support, we were able to keep our research work running effectively and for the long term.

NB/ScienceOpen: I believe that the next generation of young scientists growing up in your labs will ‘inherit’ your genes of ‘empathy’ and ‘affinity’ and will keep up your good work.

Q2. As established researchers, what would be your advice for young scientists trying to navigate the scientific publishing landscape?

MB: We are living in a time of change, with lots of movement within the existing scientific system. To completely change that system might take several years or a decade. Unfortunately, at this very moment young academics who desire a position at a research institute still have to publish their results in journals that are measured by Impact Factors. To be realistic, I cannot completely advise my PhD-students or postdocs to publish all of their manuscripts ony with PLOS or ScienceOpen. In the evolving scholarly publishing environment, it is good to have new game-changers to contradict the existing rules and foster further development.

JBP: My advice to young scientists will be – try to do good science. Publishing is a consequence of doing research. No matter what scientific system exists and where the researchers live. The most important element to me is to perform high quality science that facilitates global discovery.

MB: The Hirsch-index is still not perfect but initially it shows the individual impact of each publication. It shows the individual scientist’s contribution.

Q3. Tell us about your interest in Open Access science and your opinion about the current state of affairs in science publishing. What has been your experience? 

MB: Closed journals are somehow old fashioned. Those closed journals like Nature, Science and Cell, which do select papers and consider themselves sexy and premium, don’t represent good science anymore. The closed journals also do not publish critical science. Some good work never appears in closed journals due to the hidden peer review process which sometimes also leads to bad quality reviews. This should have been overcome by now. In contrast, a better system would use a completely open peer review process. The novel open system is not yet established and sometimes presents weak reviews. So, both systems have many problems. But, I think it is good to have new alternatives. This is why I am participating in and staying with the new system of open science.

JBP: We are currently changing the way in which we view scientific communication. There is now some free access to information. And, we are getting more and more access. We are on the edge of changing our minds about how results should be published and evaluated. I like Open Access science and Open Evaluation of scientific results. Some journals have started offering Open Review. I think it is fair to know who is evaluating your work. We are at the beginning of new era, and I really embrace these changes. I believe that the current system will be improved and the quality of the science that it produces will be elevated too. It is heading in a good direction. The more openly we produce science and expose our work to criticism, the more it helps to improve what we do. I am confident about that – it is all for the good! By the way, last month I submitted a manuscript for BMC Medical Genetics and received the reviews signed with the full names of reviewers shortly thereafter. I was nicely surprised and pleased to read those comments and suggestions. That was my first experience of open peer review, and I am happy about that experience. 

Q4. Do you think an Open Access platform like ScienceOpen has a particular usefulness for translational research?

MB: I think that a quick and transparent way of publishing research will result in faster implementation of scientific discoveries.

JBP: This is a very important point. Quick publishing will foster technological innovations implementation, especially in patient-oriented research, that should speed up all translational research at the end. Interestingly, almost 75% of scientific knowledge is not published yet but rather is accumulating in patents. If we could apply Open Access to the patent system, that would accelerate knowledge translation and its implementation.

MB + JBP: There is another argument for Open Access which is to prevent and predict earlier failures and pitfalls in conducting translational research. As an example, there is the  history of Omapatrilat, a novel antihypertensive drug invented by Bristol-Myers Squibb, which was not approved by the food and drug administration due to some serious safety concerns at the end. If the data from the clinical studies had been freely available and published transparently, it would have clearly lead to a faster and better evaluation of this medication. 

Q5. Do you think more transparency and free exchange of data could support academic freedom and foster a new scientific culture?

MB + JBP: Basically, we have already commented on this point through the interview.  However, there are some other aspects we would like to bring up.

MB: In terms of building up a new scientific culture of communication, it is just about a different kind of behaviour. We cannot just ‘kill’ and hate people if they do not like our ideas. Indeed, we have to become more altruistic and loyal.

JBP: We have to start learning criticism. Criticism is important for us to improve our research and ourselves. We grow up by learning from failures. The same should be applied to science. Sometimes, a research project goes in the wrong direction and we do not initially realize it. We should not hesitate to speak out about negative results – it is really important. It will help to save intellectual energy, money and time and prevent others from repeating the errors.

MB + JBP: Our impression is that due to Open Access life sciences will become more transparent and faster at overcoming ineffective practices.  Every scientist can access the research results of his/her fields of interest more quickly and review them. It is a great practice!

Thank you very much for this interview and your excellent insights on Open Access and Scientific Publishing. Wishing you further success and many new successful Open projects to collaborate on.

Announcing the inaugural ScienceOpen Student Awards

25 years fall of the wall

It’s been 25 years since the “Fall of the Wall” (the actual date is November 9th 2014, the wall came down in 1989). I was living in the UK at the time and remember the excitement like it was yesterday. The European Students’ Conference (ESC), taking place from 17-20th September, is similarly celebrating its 25th anniversary.

One of the largest student-run biomedical conferences worldwide, the ESC was catalyzed by this poignant moment in history and was one of the first to facilitate the exchange of student dialogue between the West and East.

ScienceOpen, the new OA research + publishing network (short video), headquartered in Berlin, is delighted to be sponsoring and attending this conference (if you can’t be there, we will be live tweeting) and discussing how we make publishing better with this engaged audience. You can visit our stand and talk to Dr. Sebastian Alers, Senior Editor at Science Open (featured in this viral video) to learn more about who we are.

Students who are in Berlin for this event will be inspired by a varied and challenging program:

Scientific contest – those with accepted abstracts can prepare posters and compete in their discipline category to receive ScienceOpen Poster Awards comprising a cash payment and a voucher each for a free poster publication. Those who win the next oral rounds, qualify for a ScienceOpen Innovation in Publishing Award which gives each researcher a free article in ScienceOpen.

Workshops – includes ScienceOpen co-founder Alexander Grossman, Physicist and Professor of Publishing Management on “New Perspectives in Scientific Publishing”. Covers Public Post-Publication Peer Review, Altmetrics and other 21st century publishing topics.

Keynote speakers – features luminaries such as John P.A. Ioannidis, author of the OA PLOS Medicine article entitled “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”, which has over a million views!

Themed lecture series – “Rethinking Medical Research – how do we achieve innovation” which will look at the opportunities and challenges that are presented to researchers and physicians including Open Access (OA) policies.

We’re kicking off our focus on Earlier Career Researchers at the ESC conference and just made this announcement of 7 ways to make science more open and interact with the literature, each other and further your career.

You can also join us and find us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn. Welcome to the next wave of OA publishing.

In:  Announcements  

Beyond science, can one size of OA fit all?

The ScienceOpen team are pleased to announce some changes to facilitate the spread of Open Access publishing beyond the sciences, its traditional strong-hold. To encourage those in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) to try OA we are:

Image credit: Berlin Open Access Conference.
Image credit: Berlin Open Access Conference.
  • Lowering our HSS publication fee until such time as more OA funds become available to this community. Needs based partial or full fee waivers are available.
  • Exploring different publication formats, not just articles
  • Actively recruiting members of the HSS community to our Editorial and Advisory Board
  • Seeking recommendations for existing OA HSS content to add to our platform

The story of how we reached this decision is the result of interviews with digital HSS thought leaders (huge thanks to all of them) – Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Peter Brantley, Eric Kansa, Sebastian Heath, Leslie Chan, Ethan Watrall, Jessica Clark, Clemens Wass and Gemma Sou – some fascinating background reading and a healthy desire to educate ourselves on the different needs of those within the humanities and social sciences compared to the sciences and medicine, with which we were far more familiar.

When we launched ScienceOpen, the new Open Access (OA) research + publishing network earlier this year, we interviewed Advisory Board Member and OA guru Peter Suber. We asked him “How important is it that OA penetrates research disciplines beyond science?”. Here’s what he said:

“It is very important in my opinion. I have been arguing since 2004 that OA brings the same benefits in every field, even if some fields present more obstacles or fewer opportunities. For example, the natural sciences are better funded than the humanities, which means they have more money to pay for OA. In particular, there is more public funding for the sciences than the humanities, which means that the compelling taxpayer argument for OA gets more traction in the sciences than the humanities. In addition, books are at least as important as journal articles for humanities scholars, if not more important, and OA for books, while growing quickly, is objectively harder than OA for journal articles. The good news is that OA in the humanities is growing – not faster than OA in the sciences, but faster than in the past. More humanities scholars understand the benefits and opportunities for OA, and are answering the objections and misunderstandings raised against it”.

This graph from a 2010 PLOS ONE article (mirrored here on the ScienceOpen platform) digs a little deeper into this story and shows the relative balance of Gold Open Access (publishing in an Open Access journal) in areas such as Medicine and the Lifesciences in contrast to Green OA (self-archiving of journal articles in an Open Access repository).

 

Björk et al. PLOS ONE. CC BY
Björk et al. PLOS ONE. CC BY

After over twenty years working in scientific and medical research communication at Nature/PLOS and then recently joining ScienceOpen, which welcomes submissions from all areas of the Sciences, Medicine, the Humanities and Social Sciences, I realized:

  • How little I understood about the publication needs of those who work outside the Sciences/Medicine
  • How important it was for my new role that I made an effort to get up to speed

The solution to my dilemma? Run my own mini-research project on Open Access in the Humanities and Social Sciences to answer the question “can one size of OA fit all?”

For background reading, I spent the best part of a long flight from San Francisco to the UK (10 hours!) making detailed notes from a number of sources. Firstly, “Open Access: a perspective from the humanities” by Peter Mandler, Professor of Modern Cultural History at the University of Cambridge. A White Paper entitled “A Scalable and Sustainable Approach  to Open Access Publishing and Archiving  for Humanities and Social Sciences” by K|N Consultants (Rebecca R. Kennison and Lisa R. Norberg).“Open Access and Being Human” by Martin Paul Eve, co-founder of the Open Library of the Humanities and Editor of the OA journal Alluviun. “The Next Obstacle for OA Publishing in the HSS: More Costs? Or the License?” by Andrea Hacker, University of Heidelberg, Germany. Finally, Podcasts can ‘level the playing field’ for researchers looking to break the mould and share accessible findings by Gemma Sou, the Institute for Development Policy and Management at the University of Manchester, U.K.

As Martin Eve so eloquently wrote: “Open Access could give the humanities fresh energy and public appeal through visibility. It could give us the chance to reach a broader audience and to fulfill the societal function of which we dream”.

After completing my initial desk research, the next step was to interview some digital, open and influential HSS thinkers for myself to see if they corroborated or disagreed with the opinions expressed in my reading material.

Despite my interview subjects being extremely busy, I was delighted to find that I readily secured interviews with the following people: Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Peter Brantley, Eric Kansa, Sebastian Heath, Leslie Chan, Ethan Watrall, Jessica Clark, Clemens Wass, and Gemma Sou. I am indebted to them all for their insights and appreciate their time.

My interviews confirmed that, per my background reading, there appeared to be some hurdles to overcome if HSS is to fully embrace Open Access. As one interviewee said ““the knee jerk reaction to the notion that OA will work here, because it works there, is NO!”.

With that in mind, here’s what I learned during my research:

  1. “The Article” is not a universally shared unit of communication. In HSS longer formats such as monographs and books are the norm although interest in and acceptance of online articles is growing partly because there are no space limitiations in this format. Additionally, Reviews and other added value content are common place and not many OA journals offer this service.
  2. Similarly, “The Journal” doesn’t only carry the most important works and are less likely to be owned by huge for profit publishers but rather by socieites for whom they represent a valuable source of revenue. Profits from these journals can be slimmer with fewer longer articles without multiple authors to split the bill.
  3. “The Article Publication Charge (APC)”, which is typically paid by an author’s institution or funder in the sciences, is not ideally-suited to the varied publication formats of HSS.
  4.  Also, “Article-Level Metrics” aren’t necessarily a natural fit in HSS although there’s clear interest in how to measure the impact of digital objects.
  5. In terms of licensing, there’s concern over the suitability of the CC BY license given the prevalence of the use of third party materials from protective museums and archives. My solution, from a science perspective, would be to license the authors work CC-BY and to secure relevant permissions and credit them as such (admittedly a pain to undertake). However, during my reading I discovered that certain museums and archives charge more for permissions in an OA journal and that issues surrounding commercial re-use of painstakingly created materials and the historical requirement for accurate attribution abound. Life is never simple.
  6. Finally but very importantly, Article Publication Charges (APC) as priced for the Sciences are not readily affordable to those working in HSS because of their low level of funding and inflexibility in terms of using grants to pay publication fees. Also, there seems no possibility of reserachers paying APC’s from their own pockets because of  their frequently low salaries (and it wouldn’t be fair to expect this anyway).

These points are neatly summarized by K|N Consultants who observed “In HSS, articles are not the only publication type of value or even the most valued type of publication; external funding for research is minimal or non-existent; and societies often consider their publications to be the primary benefit they offer their members, and many find it difficult to imagine how they would support their society’s activities if their current publishing operations were to change”.

To conclude, we’re pleased to be able to offer full and partial fee waiver pricing flexibility to the HSS community, this is in addition to the following ScienceOpen features that are available to all:

We recognize that ScienceOpen can’t “solve” for Open Access in the Humanities and Social Sciences but we hope these overtures will be welcomed by this community. Please continue this conversation by commenting on this post, find us at @Science_Open or email me.

 

In:  Guest Blog  

Promoting Openness and Transparency in Social Science Research

Image credit: Transparency, Fay Ratta, Flickr, CC BY
Image credit: Transparency, Fay Ratta, Flickr, CC BY

We’re delighted to welcome Guillaume Kroll, Program Manager at the Center for Effective Global Action, California’s leading research institute on global development and poverty alleviation, as our first ever guest blogger.

That we have chosen to highlight the social sciences in this first guest post is not by accident! Over the last few months, we’ve been thinking carefully about how to achieve one of our goals which is “to broaden Open Access beyond the sciences”. You can read more about our research project here.

Now over to Guillaume…

In recent years, there have been significant efforts to enhance the rigor and quality of evidence in the social sciences. Most notably, there is a widespread shift toward field experiments that test policy interventions using randomized treatment and control groups, in a manner similar to medical trials. This approach, advanced in part by development economists, has increased our ability to identify causal relationships between interventions and their social impacts, yielding information that is useful for policy-makers, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector alike.

However, it is not clear that more rigorous research methods have directly translated into better policy, or into programs that improve people’s lives. In practice, social science remain highly susceptible to bias, over-inference, lack of transparency, and even fraud. Researchers argue that these failures result from distorted incentives and weaknesses in the institutions that govern social science. These constraints make it difficult for scholars to assess the validity of prior work, establish scientific consensus, and definitively answer questions of broad importance.

Failures in the integrity of social science research are especially problematic when study results are used for policy design, since a single policy can affect millions of people, over many years.

To address these problems, a group of social science researchers established the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS). BITSS is a network of economists, political scientists, and psychologists committed to increase the standards of rigor and integrity across social science disciplines. Since its inception, BITSS has supported collaboration among academic researchers, graduate students, journal editors, and policy-makers interested in improving the quality of evidence for decision-making. Central to BITSS efforts is the identification of useful strategies and tools for maintaining research transparency, including the use of study registries, pre-analysis plans, data sharing, and replication.

On December 11-12, 2014, BITSS will be holding a Research Transparency Forum at the University of California, Berkeley. The two-day conference will bring together academic leaders, scholarly publishers, and policy-makers to discuss recent innovations in journal practices, academic training, data sharing, and evidence-based policy in light of the push for increased transparency. BITSS is currently accepting the submission of papers to be presented and discussed at the conference.

Increasing the reliability and accuracy of scientific evidence requires well-defined standards of methodological rigor. At the same time, new tools and strategies to increase transparency must be integrated into existing research workflows to facilitate adoption. As the social sciences reinvent their practices around data, it is absolutely the right moment to build new channels of collaboration, cross-learning, and dissemination for innovative, open research practices.

To register to the Research Transparency Forum, please visit the BITSS Annual Meeting page.

In:  Guest Blog  

ScienceOpen Guest Blog Policy

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The ScienceOpen Blog welcomes Guest Posts from the Communities that we serve. If you have an idea for a post, please email Liz Allen (Moderator).

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