Month: March 2015

With the current system in flux, quality remains the highest priority: Interview with Editorial Board Member Johannes Boltze on Scientific Publishing


Johannes Boltze is an illustrious member of our Editorial Board. A translational scientist with a research focus on development of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for cerebrovascular ischemia, Dr. Boltze earned his MD in 2008 and Ph.D. degree in 2012 in Neurobiology at the University of Leipzig, Germany. Since 2010, Dr. Boltze has been leading the Department of Cell Therapy at Fraunhofer* Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology in Leipzig. Johannes Boltze is a member of Loop, Frontiers Research Network and an Associate Faculty Member at F1000 Prime. He also worked at the Stroke and Neurovascular Regulation Laboratory led by Professor Michael A. Moskowitz at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA from October 2012 to October 2013.

This interview was conducted by Nana Bit-Avragim, Editor and Open Access Outreach Manager at ScienceOpen.

In October 2014, I attended 15th Fraunhofer Life Science Annual Meeting in Leipzig where I met many inspiring international colleagues, translational scientists, working on emerging technologies in stem cell research and regenerative medicine. The meeting took place at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology (Fraunhofer IZI), a beautiful masterpiece of eco design. There I met Johannes Boltze and conducted a short interview on Open Access and the current state of scientific publishing. Here is the essence of our conversation, which I would like to see as an invitation for the ongoing open discussion.

Q. The current academic publishing system is in the midst of big changes. There are many concerns about the present publishing models as science essentially depends on communication of its results. The internet, emerging digital technologies, social networks and a need to get faster and free access to knowledge are transforming the global scientific community. Tell us a little bit about your interest in Open Access and your opinion on the current state of affairs in scientific publishing.

A. Open Access stands for full availability and unrestricted usability. This is an important point for scientific publications since it makes research output immediately and ultimately available. This helps to increase the visibility of your particular research and fosters scientific discussion.

Immediate access, however, also raises a number of critical points, especially in cases in which results are already publicly available before the review process has been completed. For instance, a biomedical research paper that still has some flaws or is not well thought out, will probably receive a numerous suggestions and comments on what one could do better. While such constructive feedback is valuable in principle, repeatedly publishing incomplete (or even untrusted) results will impact the author’s personal reputation. From the perspective of the journal, quality of individual contributions is something to consider. While Open Access and immediate publication is a good idea per se, the journal will probably wish to find ways by which the quality of individual contributions is guaranteed. This is the only way to stay competitive, given the sheer numbers of newly launched journals penetrating the scientific publication market. It also helps to receive good citation rates.

Another issue comes with the evaluation of research. I think that the Impact Factor is more important in the biomedical field than it is in other fields. For instance, in the field of physics, research results become publicly available first by posting them in arXiv in most cases. Publication in one of the “conventional” journals is a secondary option and a considerable part of the scientific exchange takes part via the arXiv.

Next to the Impact Factor, other “sciencometric” measures such as the H Factor have become established. While all come with certain advantages and disadvantages, such measures are in people’s mind and ultimately contribute to the value of a publication. I think this is something Open Access journals have to face and adapt to. Potentially, the number of citations an individual publication receives is more important than the overall impact factor of the hosting journal since citations rates indicate how well an individual publication is received by the scientific community.

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

 A. I think it clearly could. If it comes to the free exchange of data – of course – we have to consider things like intellectual property, responsible use of data, and other aspects all of which are hard to decide about from a general perspective. Nevertheless, I think that the complete exchange of data is very important. You often have conventional papers in which you have some results being presented, but it is hard at times to reconstruct how those have been generated in detail.

Giving the scientific community access to raw data sets and the complete spectrum of methodological protocols would really enhance transparency.

Scientific peers could try to reproduce the results to verify them or to identify potential room for improvement. I think this may accelerate the acquisition of knowledge, particularly in translational research areas. Moreover, it would also help to swiftly spread important information and breakthrough news throughout the community to implement it much faster.

I think most of my colleagues, especially at the Fraunhofer society, are very supportive of Open Access journals and Open Access approaches, as long as the quality is assured.

Q: How to steer an academic career? What would be your advice for early career researchers to navigate the science publishing landscape in the age of Open Science and Open Access.

A. I think the key point is to present high-quality work. For young scientists, it’s really important to publish with a good Impact Factor and to have a strong publication track record as this is the current mind set in most fields. Nevertheless, Open Access journals are coming into the field in increasing numbers, with many featuring high quality standards. So, I think Open Access provides you with an option to communicate your results earlier and with higher visibility. But aside from that, I think you still have to be aware of the “conventional” standards for measuring the impact of a particular publication. Finding a way of combining both would be of significant value to biomedical science.

One should also keep in mind that science originally developed by the falsification of hypotheses – and only the best hypotheses could survive the approach. Nowadays, scientific results are mainly presented as success stories, presenting positive results and approved hypotheses. That produces a certain pressure to have such results, and fosters the neglect of neutral or negative results.

An Open Access environment may be a very valuable database for such results which are often rejected by more conventional journals, but nevertheless are invaluable for the thorough progress in a given field.

Also, ScienceOpen could be used for publishing not only original results, but also well-thought out theories, suggestions, and hypotheses.

So, having a forum where you could present your ideas and concepts to a broad range of colleagues and a wide spectrum of experts would probably help to develop them further, and would represent a gain of knowledge apart from publishing original results.

* The Fraunhofer Society is Europe’s largest applied science organization, includes more than 60 research institutes in Germany and a large number of centres and representative offices in the USA, Asia and the Middle East with more than 23k employees (scientists and engineers), and an annual research budget of more than two billion Euro.

The Leipzig-based Fraunhofer IZI is a part of the Fraunhofer Life Science Branch working on development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic technologies for oncology, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases as well as regenerative medicine approaches for a broad variety of diseases.

In:  Announcements  

DPG Spring Meeting Poster Authors publish free in ScienceOpen


The DPG Spring Meeting in Berlin (15-20th March) is the largest Physics conference in Europe and the second largest after the APS March meeting.

As part of a pilot poster publishing initiative from the division heads of the Low Temperature and Semiconductor Physics Divisions, researchers presenting posters at these Spring Meeting sessions can publish them free in ScienceOpen. This offer is not officially endorsed by the DPG itself, other Divisions are welcome to participate if they wish.

If you have put the time and effort into creating a poster and want it to “live on” beyond the event, someplace other than the lab hallway or rolled up in your office, then we would be delighted to publish it here.

Your poster will receive a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and will be published Open Access under the Creative Commons License (CC BY 4.0) in ScienceOpen Posters (eISSN 2199-8442). These two divisions of the DPG will also have their own Poster Collection on the platform under their name. Publishing a digital poster is any ideal way to:

  • Share and discuss (preliminary) research results with your peers (and publish a full article when you are ready)
  • Track the impact of your poster, by counting citations and recording alternative metrics, such as downloads or shares on social media
  • Add another publication to your résumé complete with additional metrics that “add value” to the content

To get involved, all you need to do is to download the Poster Metadata Form, complete it and send it back to, together with your poster (PDF) and a catchy image (PNG, JPG, or GIF). The form contains further instructions on “How to fill out Poster Data” as well as a “Discipline List”. Please note: at least the corresponding author needs to create a ScienceOpen account before the poster can be published.

Kind regards: Prof. Dr. Alexander Grossmann, Founder and President of ScienceOpen (and a Physicist) and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Eckern, Institute of Physics, University of Augsburg, Chair of the Low Temperature Division, DPG.

In:  About SO  

Scholarly publishing for the network generation

Image credit: Forever and Always Two Bright Flowers on Blue Sky by Pink Sherbet Photography, CC BY

Image credit: Forever and Always Two Bright Flowers on Blue Sky by Pink Sherbet Photography, CC BY

Before I get on with the substance of this post about an article that CEO Stephanie and I wrote together that was recently published, I want to draw your attention to this picture which I chose for us. From the moment we met at a PLOS altmetrics event at Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA, we got along famously. Working with her for the past year, through the highs and lows of trying to bring change to the stubbornly resistant field of scholarly communication, has been an absolute pleasure. I look forward to sharing many more experiences together.

As many of you know, Stephanie is a road warrior for OA and travels extensively in Europe presenting on the future of scholarly communication and the ScienceOpen vision. After a trip to Portugal last year, where she was invited to speak at the ICOLC (International Coalition of Library Consortia) meeting, she met Lorraine Estelle, Executive Director of Digital Content and Resource Discovery and CEO Jisc Collections and co-editor of Insights: The UKSG Journal. Afterwards, Stephanie received an invitation to submit an article to Insights (free to publish and OA) about the approach and business model of ScienceOpen as presented at the ICOLC.

With only so many hours in the day, Stephanie invited me to join her in writing this article. After many hours of writing effort, a pleasant submission process via Ubiquity Press, a few rounds of fair minded peer-review revisions (anonymous!) and some hand holding from Ally Souster, Publications Assistant at the UKSG, our Case Study entitled: Scholarly publishing for the network generation is now published.

One of the most gratifying parts of writing this article, as a relatively new start-up, was the opportunity to lay out the ScienceOpen belief system and the importance of combining publishing and software expertise for success in digital scholarly communication. Here’s a little excerpt for those of you who don’t have time to read the whole article:

“ScienceOpen believes:

  • in immediate publication in order to speed up research. We publish the author’s PDF in ‘Preview’ with digital object identifier (DOI) within about a week of submission
  • that siloing OA content on publishers’ websites does not lend itself to creative reuse; a good reason to aggregate 1.4 million articles (currently from PubMed Central and arXiv) on our platform
  • that journals, whether ‘mega-’, highly specialized or super selective, are becoming outmoded. We need channels to serve OA content that meet community needs
  • in giving the power for content creation, curation and review fully back to the research community who have the required discipline-specific expertise
  • that whether content is ‘worthy’ is a matter for the community to decide, which is why we only offer post-publication peer review (PPPR) (non-anonymous) for our ScienceOpen journals
  • in expert review, and therefore insist that those participating must have five publications linked to their ORCiD to maintain the level of scientific discourse on the site
  • that the conversation about research is never over, which is why we don’t put a hard line under content and call it ‘approved’ and why we offer versioning”.

The ScienceOpen team combines publishing expertise (backgrounds and experience with PLOS, De Gruyter, Wiley, Springer, Nature Publishing Group, American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS] and The Scientist) with a software company. Often publishers cannot easily adapt to the changing needs of the communities they serve because they are not software developers and, increasingly, this is the key ingredient needed for success in the digital world. This means that although they may want to change their offering, they simply can’t do so as quickly as they might like because their legacy systems hold them back.

The reason that we combine publishing and software expertise is that we think it is this combination that will make it possible for us to rapidly adapt to the changing needs of researchers. For example, the conversation about the future of research communication now includes the openness of data, the evaluation of impact (both article and author) plus the reproducibility of research. All these topics are hotly debated on blogs, Twitter and in the mainstream press which places them before the public for their consideration. This only seems right and proper since taxpayer funding is a core component of research.

Heading down this open path is easier for nimble and technology-empowered organizations such as ScienceOpen because there is truth in the old adage that ‘one thing leads to another’. Establishing non-anonymous PPPR in and of itself increases the transparency of the research process and makes it ideally suited to tackle issues of reproducibility such as reminding reviewers to ask for more clarity in methods, or suggesting more experiments or even ways to collaborate”.

Thanks to everyone who gave us the opportunity to write this piece and supported us throughout the process.

March Conference Madness – Poster Publishing Dilemmas

Image credit: LuMaxArt, Flickr, CC BY-SA
Image credit: LuMaxArt, Flickr, CC BY-SA

It’s March and so naturally the upcoming whirlwind of large scholarly conferences is on my mind. If I was still in the USA, I might also be participating in a friendly Basketball bet!

I recently attended the 5th International Conference of the Flow Chemistry Society in Berlin. It was expertly organized by SelectBio and featured everything that we expect from a scholarly conference – top scientists as keynote speakers, a poster session for Earlier Career Researchers to present preliminary data and, most importantly, coffee breaks to raise our energy so that we can exchange ideas with other participants.

But one innovation struck me: each participating poster exhibitor had been offered the opportunity to publish their poster via e-Posters. Because ScienceOpen also offers poster publishing (now free of charge), I was interested to exchange experiences with them. I had a great talk with Sara Spencer about how poster publishing can support researchers by encouraging discussion of their work after the conference or with colleagues who were not able to attend. Publishing them on a platform that provides each one with a DOI, as we do here at ScienceOpen, also means that the author can be credited if the poster is, for example, photographed and shared on Facebook.

However, both Sara and I have also observed that scientists are sometimes hesitant to “publish” their posters at all which surprised us since the benefits seem clear. The two most frequent questions about poster publishing that we encounter are:

  1. What is the advantage of publishing my poster?

Some posters get hung in the department hallway but most end their lives rolled up under a desk somewhere. By making your poster digitally available beyond its physical presence at a conference, you can extend the discussion of your research and possibly even find new collaborators. Of course, you can also do this by posting it on your website or in a repository. But by publishing it under a CC BY license and with a CrossRef registered DOI, you also make it possible to track the impact it has by recording altmetrics such as downloads, social shares etc – making it a much more valuable asset for your CV.

  1. This is preliminary research, can I publish these results later as a research article?

Most publishers recognize that science cannot move forward in a communication vacuum and rules around sharing are changing with the rise of online discussion forums. No one is quite sure where the new lines on such issues will be drawn. Scientists regularly share their preliminary research at conferences in the form of talks and posters or on pre-print servers such as arXiv or BiorXiv. Early feedback can save a researcher time and funding dollars.

The scientific community understands that there is a big difference between preliminary results presented in a pre-print or a poster and a full research paper. Most journal editors also have no problem making this distinction. A list of the pre-print policies of major academic journals can be found on Wikipedia. A list of how different journals view F1000Posters (and most do not regard them as pre-publication) can be found here.

However, it’s important to know that some journals do still regard posters as prior-publication and these include some big names such as the journals of the American Chemical Society; Royal Society of Chemistry; American Physiological Society; American Microbiology Society and the NEJM. When we contacted some poster session organizers at a large society conference about the possibility of publishing this content with DOI on ScienceOpen, one of them checked back in with the Society for their view and received this ominous warning:

We would caution you, and we would ask you to caution your presenters, that intellectual property rights issues, such as patent or other proprietary concerns, may be implicated by agreeing to the publication of posters.

Our answer to the above statement is to ask “how so?” Whether the author retains copyright and grants a CC license to publish or gives copyright to the publisher, then how is the IP of a poster different from that of an article? If they mean, as stated on the F1000Poster list, that they consider the limited and often preliminary content displayed on posters from Earlier Career Researchers to be prior publication then we say “good luck with that view in the digital age”!

What seems more likely to us is that large traditional publishers are using the same IP “scare tactics” that we last saw in the early days of Open Access. What they are trying to do is discourage poster or pre-print publishing (per their restrictive policies on live tweeting at conferences) with DOI because they don’t want these citations to lower the Impact Factors of their journals.

The scientific community is beginning to experiment with the new tools for sharing and networking online and this is putting pressure on established structures and rules. To them we say:

Be sure to publish your posters or pre-prints with a DOI so they can be found and cited. Then publish your subsequent full article with organizations that have progressive policies on prior-sharing, preferably Open Access!