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Month: April 2015

In:  Announcements  

Welcome Jan Velterop to our Advisory Board – introducing Peer Review by Endorsement

The process of peer review is in a horrible mess. There, we said it. Many others have done so and countless more think it but don’t speak out. Not a day appears to go by without the emergence of bold-faced cheating – 170 articles have now been retracted for fake peer review, or some new dubious practice – Editor quits journal over pay-for-expedited peer-review offer.

Peer review itself however remains a central tenet of academic discourse but the integrity of science is being compromised and it is at risk of being forever tarnished by scandals with the result that public trust will decline further.

That this is not a desirable outcome goes without saying. The question then becomes “what are we prepared to do about it and will researchers ever embrace a different process?”

At ScienceOpen, the research + Open Access publishing network, we’ve spent a great deal of time and effort rethinking scientific publishing and developing a better way to do peer review. In an effort to “lead by example” we facilitate non-anonymous, open, expert (only those with 5 or more publications per ORCID can review) Post-Publication Peer Review.

Other publishers also focus on reforming peer review, e.g. F1000 Research and The Winnower. Our observation is that despite vocally demanding reform, the scientific community is very resistant to change, though. Some commentators believe this is due to simple inertia and that probably plays a part – after all, scientific publishing remained unchanged for hundreds of years prior to these more turbulent times and people frequently acquiesce to a bad system because they are “used to it”.

More importantly, the system of promotion and tenure compels scientists to avoid “rocking the boat” since their published output remains a prime measure of their competence. Among the digital cognoscenti, the Impact Factor of the journal they choose to publish in is showing some signs of declining power but it still continues its vice-like grip in the minds of the majority.

The question that ScienceOpen is currently addressing is “how do we build more peer review choice and innovation into our publishing model without participating in (the increasingly problematic) anonymous pre-publication peer review as is practiced by the vast majority of publishers”?

Jan (3)

Enter Jan Velterop, stage left (to audience applause!). For most of you, Jan needs no introduction. Originally a marine geophysicist, he became a science publisher and has worked at Elsevier, Academic Press, Nature and BioMedCentral. He participated in the Budapest Open Access Initiative. In 2005 he joined Springer, based in the UK as Director of Open Access. In 2008 he left to help further develop semantic approaches to accelerate scientific discovery.

Today we are delighted to announce that Jan is joining our Advisory Board. He will help us launch “Peer Review by Endorsement” which occurs, just as usual peer review, before publication, but is entirely open and transparent. Authors will be able to choose the “Peer Review by Endorsement” option. Articles published this way will also be available for Post-Publication Peer Review, as are all 1.5 million OA articles aggregated on our site. This option will go live on our site during the summer of 2015.

So what is Peer Review by Endorsement? Rather than publisher-mediated peer review before publication, the scientific community takes this role and the publisher verifies the results. As Jan puts it:

It is more efficient and cost effective to hand peer review entirely back to the scientific community, where it rightly belongs, than for publishers to find the right, appropriate, available, reliable, expert reviewers.

Authors would be expected to arrange (or ask their Scholarly Society to arrange) for at least two peers to check the scientific soundness of their work and, if they are satisfied, to openly endorse its publication by declaring that in their view the work is suitable for being published as part of the scientific discourse. The work’s ‘significance’ is not an issue here (as that can often only be established after some time in the open anyway, and it has the considerable drawback of preventing some articles, e.g. null-results, from being published). The rules are that peer-reviewers/endorsers must be active researchers, and not be, or for at least five years have been, at the same institution as, or a co-author of, any of the authors. Once two signed and open peer reviews/endorsements are available, the article will be immediately published and, as usual for all articles published on ScienceOpen, available for further Post-Publication Peer Review.

We hope by introducing a two stage peer review process (Peer Review by Endorsement and Post-Publication Peer Review) to improve this mechanism for all. In the unlikely event of manipulation (present on a near daily basis in the traditional system), it will be transparent for all to see, which is bound to be a powerful antidote. As ScienceOpen is integrated with ORCID and reviews/endorsements are signed and non-anonymous, there is very little danger of sub-standard articles being published, as endorsers/reviewers would not want to put their reputations at risk.

Improvements to the original manuscripts, we believe, should be among the aims of peer review. Author-arranged Peer Review by Endorsement is conducive to an iterative process between authors and reviewers/endorsers, delivering those improvements.

Since arranging traditional pre-publication peer-review can be difficult for publishers, and can be slowed down by the necessary research to find appropriate reviewers, it can be quite costly. Especially since the cost of reviewing all submissions is usually carried only by those articles that are accepted for publication (this applies to the open access as well as pay-walled publishing models). The Peer Review by Endorsement option avoids that and authors choosing that option will therefore have their APC’s reduced. The regular Article Processing Fee (APC) for publishing in ScienceOpen is $800 and over the coming months prior to launch we will be seeking community feedback on the most appropriate discount level.

According to Jan:

The Peer Review by Endorsement approach leaves peer review to the community (with safeguards in place) and lets the publisher focus strongly on the technical integrity of the article presentation, preservation, machine-readability and the like, which often leaves a lot to be desired in the current system. The cost to authors (and their funders) of open access publishing will be materially be lower as a result.

Jan will be speaking about Peer Review by Endorsement at The Future of Scholarly Scientific Communication Part 1 event at The Royal Society (London, 20-21 April 2015). These meetings are being held in recognition of the 350th anniversary of Philosophical Transactions, the world’s first science journal.

On Monday afternoon, he is taking part in a session entitled “Peering at Review”, where he will join a conversation about “Future developments, evolution and alternatives”, together with Dr Richard Sever (Cold Spring Harbor Press) and Elizabeth Marincola, (CEO, PLOS) who recently said “At PLOS, in the not-too-distant future, we want to improve many aspects of peer review”.

Building a better Peer Review mechanism is certainly not easy but here at ScienceOpen we are committed to demonstrating a creative vision for a healthier ecosystem.

New Collection from the International Union of Crystallography – happy first birthday IUCrJ!

Image credit: A colorized two-dimensional XRD pattern, IUCrJ, CC-BY
Image credit: A colorized two-dimensional XRD pattern, IUCrJ, CC-BY

Here at ScienceOpen we’re a gold Open Access (OA) publisher, a peer review reformer and a content aggregator – our platform features 1.5 million articles sourced from PubMed Central, ArXiv and ScienceOpen.

In recognition of the London Book Fair 2015 and the associated spotlight this week on all matters publishing related, we’re highlighting two new Open Access (OA) article Collections. A top scientific union and a major medical publisher are using our platform to give their OA content increased visibility and facilitate Post-Publication Peer Review.

Jonathan Agbenyega, a Scientific Member of ScienceOpen and Business Development Manager at the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr), used our new Collection tool to select articles from their Open Access Journal, IUCrJ, to celebrate its first year.

Building this Collection on our platform, allows the IUCr, a leading non-profit International Scientific Union, to show its broad ranging content which is of interest to researchers from different disciplines that use results obtained from diffraction methods.

These articles are now available for Post-Publication Peer Review (PPPR), by experts with 5 publications on their ORCID, as are all the articles aggregated on our site. Every review receives a DOI so each contribution can be found and cited.

Not only is this content open for additional discussion after publication it can also be combined with other articles to form new Collections.

Jonathan commented, “I was delighted to bring together a collection of our leading papers from our new fully open-access journal IUCrJ and showcase them in a collection on the ScienceOpen platform. The additional visibility and opportunity to interact with the content which comes with this new portal will be an important step forward for all chemists, biologists and physicists working in the area of structure determination.”

Researchers, Societies or Publishers who want to create their own Collection are welcome to apply for the role of Community Editor (which entitles them to 2 free ScienceOpen articles) and then they, like Jonathan, can pick and choose articles from multiple publishers and combine them, for whatever reason they wish.

Welcome to the next wave of Open Access!

A warm ScienceOpen welcome to two new journals from top German medical publisher, Thieme

Image credit: Stonetown hat stall by Gail Hampshire, Flickr, CC BY
Image credit: Stonetown hat stall by Gail Hampshire, Flickr, CC BYHere at ScienceOpen we wear a few different hats! We’re a gold Open Access (OA) publisher, a peer review reformer and a content aggregator.

Here at ScienceOpen we wear a few different hats! We’re a gold Open Access (OA) publisher, a peer review reformer and a content aggregator.

This week, with the London Book Fair 2015 about to start, we are celebrating publishers and societies by profiling the innovative ways that they are using our platform!

It gives us great pleasure to report how a top scientific union and a major medical publisher (see below) are now using our platform to give their OA content increased visibility and facilitate scientific discussion.

With 1.5 million OA articles and a high performance search engine on ScienceOpen, users can slice and dice the content as they like. And often that selection criteria may be a trusted publisher or innovative journal. ScienceOpen is making that easy! With ScienceOpen Collections we’re able to highlight the articles of publishers and societies. Other innovative ways to use the Collection Tool  are discussed in this blog post.

For the first time, mirror versions of two new OA journals – the American Journal of Perinatology Reports and The Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons Reports (partners to the American Journal of Perinatology and The Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeon) – have been re-created on our platform.  This allows them to be fully integrated into the scientific conversation. Both journals are published by Thieme, an award-winning international medical and science publisher.

You can find the American Journal of Perinatology Reports and The Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons Report Collections on ScienceOpen under the publisher Thieme. These medical case reports are now available for commenting, sharing, and Post-Publication Peer Review (PPPR), by experts with 5 publications on their ORCID, as are all the articles aggregated on our site. The great thing: every review receives a CrossRef DOI so each contribution can be found and cited. We believe that this is a fantastic way to credit the important work of reviewers, too!

ScienceOpen CEO Stephanie Dawson, presented this concept at the Scientific Publishing Innovation Day organized by the Frankfurter Buchmesse in London on April 13th, just before the London Book Fair.

Finding relevant articles in the information haystack

Image credit: @academicssay, Twitter
Image credit: @AcademicsSay, Twitter

Previously I saw a headline that read “Search is so 2014”! I stopped and questioned whether I agreed with that statement. The article then went on to describe some of the more interesting developments in how to find the “right article in the rapidly growing information haystack” and some of them matched my own picks which include:

  • SNAP from Jstor Labs – a mobile app that allows you to take a picture of any page of text and get a list of research articles from JSTOR on the same topic.
  • Sparrho – a content recommendation engine that aggregates and distills information based on user preferences and makes personalised suggestions. We invited their team to post a guest blog.
  • Knowledge domain visualizations (Peter Kraker, LSE Impact Blog) – present the main areas in a field, and assigns relevant articles to them.

However, I still believe that there is a role for Search in 2015, even as it is eventually replaced or enriched by more sophisticated tools.

The part Search plays here at ScienceOpen is particularly important given that we are just beginning our quest to aggregate the world’s Open Access content in all disciplines. The corpus here is growing (nearly 1.5 million articles from nearly 2.5 million authors). The pace of scientific literature growth is rapid, expanding at the rate of more than 2 articles per minute (Mark2Cure).  Both are good reasons why we have been focusing our development efforts on improving the precision of our search results because to some extent “if you can’t find it, it doesn’t exist”.

For Search to qualify as “good” in my book it needs to be precise, fast and flexible. Here’s my mini review of ScienceOpen Search:

  • Search delivered rapid and accurate results, so two thumbs up here.
  • The results could be parsed using the aggregation source (PubMed Central, ArXiv and ScienceOpen) or the name of the originating journal/publisher.
  • For the geeks among you, our Search is powered by ElasticSearch.
  • When I forgot the exact spelling of an author name, this field offered me possible name options to pick from (nice).
  • As a publisher myself, I had to try searching by company name. I was surprised to find 1555 OA articles by the American Chemical Society(ACS) on our platform. I also found 2816 articles from Elsevier. This is a tiny fraction of their output but at least something is there.
  • In a nod to our belief that Journals will become increasingly less important (and hopefully the strangle hold of the IF will be released) as researchers aggregate content themselves (for example using our new Collection tool), users can search by Collection (which has it’s own tab).
  • Once you’ve found a relevant article, we provide the XML (and PDF) because let’s be honest, in the digital future, a static PDF probably won’t be of much use.

I want to acknowledge the ScienceOpen Dev team (Raj, Ed and X, led by Tibor) for their excellent work on this release.