In the field of publishing and open access, there’s a surplus of excellent reports to read and digest. One that I make time to read each year is from Outsell Inc and is entitled “Open Access: Market Size, Share, Forecast, and Trends”. You can find their 2015 report here.
It goes without saying that we were delighted to be featured in the “10 to watch” section of the report and the final paragraph of their write up was particularly pleasing:
ScienceOpen [It] is a creative and simple structure with impressive editorial and advisory boards, but marketing has been minimal, unlike with other OA-related publications or publishers. With increased press exposure and marketing by means other than social media, SO can be a top-tier publication.
Outsell’s inclusion criteria for this section are as follows: “We expect the actions of the following 10 companies and organizations, some already active participants and some emerging as a result of open access, to have an impact on the market going forward”.
Figure 1 of the report is also well worth examining since it shows that the early heady days of growth in OA revenue have disappeared to be replaced by a steadier rate of 15%. To set this performance in context, it’s worth knowing that the STM market generated $26.2 billion and the journals market $6.8 billion last year!
Here’s what Liz Allen, our VP of Marketing said about the analyst’s observations:
To be included in this top 10 list after just over a year in operation and with a small marketing budget is very gratifying. It really does demonstrate the power of social media to reach into certain communities but these are largely ones that have an inherent interest in all matters “open” and are responsive to our approach. The next step is to reach beyond this group and continue to show the benefits of a democratic approach to knowledge sharing and conversely to illustrate what is not possible when knowledge is closed.
And the good news will continue – watch this space for further announcements coming soon!
In a gesture of solidarity with the Greek research community, we’re announcing that authors funded by Greek Research Institutions can publish free on ScienceOpen until the end of 2015.
If we could wave a magic wand and eliminate the debt too, we would do so, but since that’s beyond our control, we are pleased to do what we can to assist.
These unprecedented financial constraints have also caused Greek researchers to lose access to newly published research. This is because the Hellenic Academic Libraries Link (HEAL-Link) has terminated all licenses after being unable to collect the remaining half of the subscription budget for the current year. Although not a like-for-like replacement, ScienceOpen offers a valuable Open Access aggregation service with over 1.5 million articles that are freely available for everyone to use. We urge the Greek community to make full use of it now and in the future.
For Greek (and all) researchers who wish to have their voices heard in the international research community, we provide opportunities for those with five or more peer-reviewed publications on their ORCID to participate in Post-Publication Peer Review (PPPR) and share their expertise with the world.
For Earlier Career Researchers (ECR) in Greece, stymied by the lack of jobs and mobility, we pledge to make a special effort to highlight any articles published on our platform through social media and blog posts to elevate their visibility within the global community. You may find some more thoughts about ScienceOpen, Open Access, and PPPR for ECR in our blog roll here.
We hope that this offer goes some small way to demonstrating to the Greek research community that they are not alone and that our offices in Berlin, Boston and San Francisco stand in unity with them. We welcome other publishers to join this initiative.
About 24 years after its launch the arXiv preprint server hits 1 million articles on 29 December. The site reached that terrific target after administrators returned from holidays and updated the server with manuscripts submitted after business hours on Christmas Eve, Richard van Norden said in his report in Nature. Impressively more and more papers were posted as preprints from year to year, starting from a few hundred in the early nineties, when Paul Ginsparg initiated the arXiv site, to about 10,000 per months meanwhile.
“Kudos to Paul Ginsparg and the arXiv team for this achievement.” (Peter Suber, 2014)
Since more than two decades particularly physicists, mathematicians, and computer scientists were used to upload their manuscripts to arXiv to share their results with peers as a preprint prior to the submission to a standard scholarly journal. When I was working as a physicists myself, I also regularly used arXiv.org as a resource to browse and access the most recent findings of my colleagues. And I definitely know that I had been not the only guy who started his work in the morning in this way. The advantage of the arXiv to publicly share recent results of scholarly research has been quite obvious: only a few hours or days after a competing group had finished their draft to summarize their findings, researchers were able to read them without any delay and without any restrictions for access. Possibly this has been also one aspect which contributed to that story of success which now results in one million posts on arXiv. As an another result, most publishers meanwhile accept submissions from arXiv.
Preprint-posts on the arXiv are not peer-reviewed because managing and controlling of that filtering process had been the monopoly of scholarly journals for decades. Nevertheless one may ask if we do need something outside the ArXiv? I discussed this question in a blog almost a year ago, based on the perspective of physicists and their attitude to foster Open Access. This question, or more generally the basic idea to combine a well-established preprint server, as the ArXiv, with something to enable and moderate the scientific discourse as a substitute of the classical peer-review process was raised some years ago by Field’s medalist Timothy Gowers. In 2011 Gowers asked in one of his blog posts how we might get to a new model of (scientific) publishing, however focused, but principally not limited, to mathematics. His visionary thoughts had been motivated by an earlier post by Michael Nielsen. Gowers suggested “something like a cross between the arXiv, a social networking site, Amazon book reviews, and Mathoverflow”. In a very systematic way, he further developed his smart idea, or his gedankenexperiment as a physicist would call it, as an “ideal world” towards future scholarly communication. The proposed (non-existing) website should be an extension of the arXiv, or simply a separate website with links to articles which were hosted at arXiv.
“If we didn’t have journals, then what might we have instead?” (Timothy Gowers, 2011)
Here we are: The scientific community which had been used to regularly post and access recent findings on the arXiv would then be invited to comment, rate, and discuss new posts. I personally like that concept which is straightforward and based on the experiences and the behavior of researchers over two decades. Despite the fact that the latter oberservation is true mostly for researchers from physics, mathematics and computational sciences it could be adopted in principal to all disciplines of scholarly research. Amazingly, I read Timothy Gowers’s excellent blog some time after it had been published when I had already developed the concept for ScienceOpen in 2013. Nevertheless, his visionary considerations to develop a new model for scholarly publishing and the following, very intensive discussion of these ideas within the community strongly supported me to continue developing a new website which fosters not only Open Access, but also consists of a community-based concept to evaluate scientific results in an open and transparent manner. I am confident that future workflows for publishing and quality assessment in science will be based on these principles.
Let’s see if ScienceOpen can further contribute to this vision in 2015! Have a great start into the new year!
It’s true that it’s been a while since I was climbing the scientific career ladder! My path was somewhat different to many but diversifying is more common now than it was then, for many different reasons that I shall briefly explore below.
By most standards, I’ve had a good run and I am not done yet – these days I also enjoy my role as President of ScienceOpen working with a terrific team of enthusiastic colleagues in Berlin, Boston, and San Francisco. However, I remain mindful and respectful of my research roots and spend as much time as possible talking with young faculty, promoting their thinking and doing everything I can to support them because it seems to me that a scientific career got a lot harder than it was when I did it, and it wasn’t easy then.
To demonstrate my support of “Generation Open” and in honor of Open Access Week 2014, today I am personally announcing that we are waiving publication fees for Earlier Career Researchers until November 30th 2014 on ScienceOpen, the research + open access publishing network.
Far from being “riff-raff”, per Steven McKnight the President of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, who asserted that “the average scientist today is not of the quality of our predecessors” in this unfortunate essay, I believe, in contrast, that today’s scientists battle harder than ever to conduct quality science.
That young researchers continue to make progress with their hands tied is remarkable – reduced funding; cut throat commpetition for what money remains; intense pressure to reach tenureship; more pressure to publish; a glut of talent (good for science but makes it harder to stand out) and not enough job openings.
To take advantage of my free publishing offer, all you have to do is be able to demonstrate that you are an ECR, typically defined as graduate student or Post-Doc. As long as one of the corresponding authors on an article or poster is an ECR, then all authors qualify for free publication. You must submit before 12am CET on November 30th 2014 to be eligible.
For those of you who are unfamilar with ScienceOpen here’s a quick run down, with short videos, of our services:
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:
Journal editors and reviewers do not decide whether or not a work will be published – as the articles are already published
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:
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.
Has no limitation as to the number of reviewers, unlike other Peer Review methodologies.
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!).
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.
(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)
(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
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:
Substitute pay-walled journals with new open science technologies to publicly publish your scientific results
Continue to use social network tools to communicate about and discuss recent research with others
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.”
The last time I attended a panel discussion on scholarly publishing, I realized 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 young scientists in the audience were excited and motivated by the principles and vision behind Open Access. They said they would like to change Continue reading “Give the pioneers a chance – OA and closing the reputational gap for young scientists.”
Over the last few days I attended the Spring Meeting of the German Physical Society (DPG) in Berlin. Physicists are considered sometime as a very special species among scientists, and not only because the characters introduced in the “Big Bang Theory” sitcom. Physicists developed the World Wide Web in the late eighties which became the starting point for all internet activities today. In 1991 Paul Ginsparg started to post preprints of research articles in a repository at Los Alamos National Laboratory which is known as “arXiv” ( www.arXiv.org ) which now consists of more than Continue reading “Open Access in Physics: Do we need something outside the arXiv?”
Along with over 10,000 others, I signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment DORA ( http://www.ascb.org/dora ). Why? I believe that the impact factor was a useful tool for the paper age, but that we now have the capability to develop much more powerful tools to evaluate research. For hundreds of years scientific discourse took place on paper – letters written and sent with the post, research cited in one’s own articles printed and distributed by publishers. Citation was the most direct way in many cases to respond directly to the research of another scientist. In the 1970s as Continue reading “Journal Impact Factors – Time to say goodbye?”