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Category: Earlier Career

Gautam Dey, UCL’s Cell Biology rockstar: Publish your cake, and eat it.

Hi Gautam! Thanks for joining us here. Could you start off by letting us know a little bit about your background?

Hi Jon, thanks for having me here!

Credit: Gautam Dey

I’m a postdoc in Buzz Baum’s lab at UCL working on the evolution of cell division- all the way from Archaea to unicellular eukaryotes. I found myself in London in mid-2015 after a bit of continent-hopping that included a stint as a cell-biologist-in-training at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore and a PhD in Systems Biology at Stanford University.

When did you first hear about open access and open science? What were your initial thoughts?

Back in 2005, when I was an undergraduate in India without proper library access. PLOS and PMC came to the rescue! At the time paywalls were a very real and practical hindrance, but I must confess I didn’t think much about the actual ethics of publishing until well into my PhD.

As a postdoc in the UK, how do you feel about recent policy changes around Open Access?

I think the UK is making some positive moves, such as requiring Open Access for compliance with the Research Evaluation Framework. Funding agencies like the BBSRC and Wellcome Trust defray the costs of “gold” Open Access for published research supported by their grants. However, in the absence of accompanying reforms in the publishing industry or revised evaluation criteria for scientists, many of these policy changes will simply funnel more taxpayer money towards established scientific journals, providing more of a stopgap than a long-term solution.

I must confess I didn’t think much about the actual ethics of publishing until well into my PhD

Continue reading “Gautam Dey, UCL’s Cell Biology rockstar: Publish your cake, and eat it.”  

OpenCon Berlin 2016: Advancing Openness in Research and Education

OpenCon Berlin 2016: Advancing Openness in Research and Education

ScienceOpen has teamed up with OpenAIRE and Digital-Science, alongside two of their portfolio companies – Figshare and Overleaf, to organise an OpenCon ‘satellite’ event to be held in Berlin on the 24-26th November.

This event will form one of the many international satellite events of the bigger OpenCon 2016 conference that will take place two weeks earlier in Washington, DC.

OpenCon is the student and early career academic professional conference that focuses on Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data. It seeks to empower the next generation to advance openness in research and education.

OpenCon satellite events are organised by those who are passionate about communicating the important messages of Open Information with the world, and are welcome to anyone interested in joining the conversation and connecting with a community of like-minded individuals.

When: 24th to 26th of November 2016.

Where: Humboldt University Berlin.

What: The event:will focus on putting Open Science into action through open collaboration. On Thursday evening (24th) we will be hosting a hackathon to get people in the mood and have a chance to get settled before the main event!

Hashtag: #OpenConBerlin

Our keynote speaker (Friday 25th, 10am), will be Julia Reda MEP – a woman on a mission to reform copyright legislation.

Alongside presentations and interesting talks made by those who have benefited and gained from open information, we’ll run focused workshops on themes you’ll choose via crowdsourcing.

During the event, we will run a few short and themed focus group sessions; in each session we hope to start a conversation where people share advice and success stories about the industry. Discussions and resources willbe collated via open documents like etherpads and collected as outputs of the event.

We’re all in the business of collaboration and we hope the event will inspire those who attend to do just that!

Registration: OpenCon Berlin 2016 is free to attend, but you must RSVP via the OpenCon Berlin 2016 website: http://www.opencon2016.org/opencon_2016_berlin

Useful links:

OpenCon: http://www.opencon2016.org/

ScienceOpen: https://www.scienceopen.com/

Digital Science: https://www.digital-science.com/

OpenAIRE: https://www.openaire.eu/

Etherpad: https://public.etherpad-mozilla.org/p/OpenConBerlin2016 – updates, the agenda, and notes will all be posted here.

This OA Week, become a ScienceOpen Activist!

activists
OA slingshots, ready, take aim, fire! By Peter Grabitz, CC BY

Become a ScienceOpen Activist and change the world of scientific publishing! Apply to become part of our think-tank and our voice in the community.

Scholarly Publishing and science are frustratingly slow when it comes to change. Newton’s lab-books from 300 years ago probably look similar to what PhD-students still scribble in today!

Old habits die hard in research. Other than social media, scholarly communication is still largely focused on publication in journals where anonymous peer review delays the liberation of newly gained knowledge by months, if not even years.

We are still using systems that have operated for decades and centuries. But do they really still work? Research studies can be irreproducible; billions of public funding lock up knowledge behind pay walls and embargos became a bargaining chip between authors and their publishers.

Many people know this. The Open Access movement has provided a practical way forwards and has moved way beyond simply portraying an idealist view of the world to demonstrating it. But why isn’t Open Science our reality right now?

The ScienceOpen answer: we need more activists!

We need your help: Apply now to become a ScienceOpen Activist:

World famous ScienceOPENer
World famous ScienceOPENer
  • You know best what needs to be done: tell us about Open Science discussions at your institution.
  • Give us your ideas on how to improve ScienceOpen: be the first to test implemented features on ScienceOpen
  • Join a community of doers: through frequent Webinars and an Activist camp in Berlin in December you will get to know like-minded people
  • We will give you the right tools: activists receive items such as stickers and some ScienceOPENers (inspired by this viral video!)
  • Create a bigger network: ScienceOpen has been around for over a year, so join the platform and get to know the network

Regardless of whether you are an early career researcher or a senior scientist, have a background in natural sciences or study languages, work as a librarian or for a funding agency, you can apply here. Please also share why you are enthusiastic about Open Science.

Let’s take it to the next level. And make change happen.

Viva La Revolucion!

 

It’s the Summer of Love (for Posters) – vote for your favorite!

Haight – Ashbury by Doug Wertman, Flickr, CC-BY

What’s not to love about this quintessentially San Francisco photo? As some of you know, ScienceOpen has offices in Berlin, Boston and San Francisco.

It has a “rainbow” feel, appropriate for the recent US legal ruling on marriage equality. Ben and Jerry’s carries a brand of ice-cream named Cherry Garcia after the late Jerry, lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead, founded in 1965 in California. And of course, the corner of Haight and Ashbury is the epicenter of the Summer of Love, a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when as many as 100,000 people converged on this neighborhood in San Francisco. All these facts I have learned since living here and becoming a citizen (required knowledge to pass the test!).

For all you Earlier Career Researchers (and those who mentor them) who are currently on Summer Break but are almost certainly still working and have published a poster with us, here’s an opportunity to activate your social media networks and win yourself a $150 Amazon Gift Card!

Here’s how this competition works:

  • Make sure that you have published a poster with us.  Any name on the author list counts
  • Promote your poster on social media, ask your network to vote for your poster by giving it a +1
  • If you are active on Twitter, remember to include @Science_Open in your tweet
  • The poster with the most recommendations wins and each author receives a $150 Amazon giftcard

This competition will remain open from 11am PST July 6th until 11am PST August 31st and the winner will be announced on September 1st 2015.

For those of you who are new to the concept of digital posters, you can find out more here. At ScienceOpen we publish them for FREE – your entry receives a DOI so that it can be found and cited plus it lives on long after the conference is over.

Sounds like a sweet summer offer to us!

 

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!

The times they are a changing – improving the postdoc experience

We are delighted to welcome Benjamin Cain (@BenCainPhD), a Postdoctoral Researcher in Astrophysics at UC Davis, CA, USA and member of the UC Postdoc Union, UAW 5810, to our guest blog. We’ve covered a few other stories about Earlier Career Reseachers and some from Post Docs on our blog, so we’re delighted to carry another one. And, just as a reminder, co-founder Alexander Grossmann, waived fees for Earlier Career Researchers for Open Access Week 2014, offer expires end of Nov 2014. Now, over to Ben.

I have a job proposition for you.

You’ll be making less than $4000 per month, time off and sick leave aren’t guaranteed, you’ll probably have to pay for your own healthcare, and, let’s be honest, you’ll probably be working well over 40 hours a week (meaning you’ll probably be earning less than $20/hour).  You need to be innovative, at the cutting edge of scientific research, be a leader in your field, train your junior co-workers, and you’ll probably have to do this for at least 5 years before you can even think about moving up the ladder, which may or may not be an option.  And did we mention that you’ll need a PhD?

Image credit: walking out the door. woodley wonder works, Flickr, CC BY
Image credit: walking out the door. woodley wonder works, Flickr, CC BY

Sorry, where did you go, are you still interested?

If this sounds like your life, you’re probably one of the 60,000 or so postdoctoral researchers at numerous institutions across the US.  And if it sounds like a bad deal, you’re not alone. The right to stable benefits, well-defined minimum salaries, guaranteed annual pay raises, discrimination protections, sick leave and paid time off, a fair and transparent system for resolving grievances, were among the many reasons that postdocs at the University of California began building a union in 2005. And while scientists probably aren’t the first thing people think of when they think of union workers, UC postdocs join a long tradition in the labor movement of academics coming together collectively to improve their working conditions.

Since ratifying their first contract in 2010, myself and other members of the UC postdocs union, UAW 5810, have made significant improvements to the postdoc experience at UC.  Not only has the average salary for a UC postdoc risen by 14% to ~$47,800 over the past four years, postdocs are guaranteed health insurance for themselves and their partners/dependents, are guaranteed access to career development resources, have increased paid time off and better job security than ever before.  In addition to these direct gains, having a union has increased UC postdocs’ ability to advocate for the interests of postdocs and scientists in California and across the country.  We’ve met with legislators at both the federal and state levels to advocate on issues like increased science funding, comprehensive immigration reform, and gender equity in the workplace, among others.  We’ve also communicated directly with funding agencies like the NIH to make sure that the postdoc voice is heard.  With our union we’ve been able to marshall a much stronger collective voice than would have been possible otherwise.

It’s clear that we’ve made significant progress for UC postdocs through our union. But taking a step back, it’s clear that there is a lot more work to be done. Though salaries have increased, the fact is that postdocs are still significantly underpaid relative to similarly qualified workers in a variety of industries. The University of California takes in over five billion dollars (yes, that’s a “B”) in federal research funds every year, and postdocs are involved in the majority of the research work that represents. Postdocs do research, train undergraduate and graduate students, maintain lab equipment, help apply for funding, and keep the science enterprise rolling. Postdocs are an essential component of the scientific research workforce, but are not compensated to match.

These economic issues have important implications for academia more broadly. The low level of postdoc salaries relative to other opportunities can have the effect of pushing postdocs with families, and women in particular, out of science research careers. As the amount of time to get a PhD has risen, this is affecting a larger and larger portion of the postdoc pool. For international postdocs, which is well over half of postdocs at UC, this is a particular concern since some visas do not allow spouses to work and therefore require many postdoc families to survive on a single income.  The lack of childcare benefits puts additional pressure on postdocs, and again especially women, to drop out of research careers because of the strain of balancing work alongside parenting responsibilities. This is exacerbated by the fact that most of the UC campuses are located in the most expensive cities in California, where housing and childcare are increasingly unaffordable on postdoc salaries.

In the context of the open access publishing movement that has exploded in the past few years, these economic issues highlight an important misalignment of priorities. Consider what might be achieved if the funds spent on for-profit publishing were instead invested in the labor that goes into producing scientific results. Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars inflating the profit margins of a few publishing companies, we could be funding new areas of research, making sure that the researchers who did the work were better paid, and overall improving the diversity and vibrancy of our academic community.

So where do we go from here? We’ve made important gains but postdoc working conditions need further progress that reflects our contributions to UC’s research. At the end of September, 2015 the first contract for the postdoc union, UAW 5810, will expire, so next year we will going back to the bargaining table with UC.  What we’ll be fighting for goes beyond just what is good for postdocs at UC.  We don’t accept the status quo in academia as good enough for postdocs at any institution, and we’ll be standing up for a change in how postdocs are viewed across the US.  We’re an essential part of the research workforce, and by standing together we will make sure that our voice is heard and improve the lives of postdocs at UC and across the country.

Want to know more about the UAW 5810 story and how postdocs have benefitted from building a union?  Check out our Point of View piece in eLife. Also, Plant Scientist Benjamin Schwessinger (@schwessinger) has posted a blog at the ASPB entitled How UC postdocs benefit from building their own union! (Who’s next?)

Fees waived for Early Career Researchers – happy #OAWeek2014!

 

OA week

Alex pic 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.

For 10 years, I worked as a physicist and lecturer at the Jülich Research Centre, the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Munich, and the University of Tübingen. In 2001 I entered scholarly publishing – working at Wiley-VCH, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer and finally at De Gruyter as Vice President Publishing STM. Today, I am a Professor of Publishing Management at the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences.

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 facultypromoting 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.

Image credit: Hands tied, Geraint Rowland, Flickr, CC BY
Image credit: Hands tied, Geraint Rowland, Flickr, CC BY

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.

ScienceOpen has a special interest in Earlier Career Researchers (ECR) and has posted other items of interest to this group, for example: “How to make science more open – 7 ideas for early career researchers“; a guest blog from Gary McDowell at Tufts entitled “Post-docs are doing it for themselves” and advice from leading OA figures such as Mike Eisen (co-founder of PLOS) on the thorny issue of whether it’s possible to publish Open Access and have a successful career or attain tenure (we’d like to think yes, it is possible!).  If you want to contribute to our blog then please refer to these guidelines.

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:

If you have any questions, feel free to tweet me @SciPubLabemail me personally, or comment on this post and I will respond. Come and join us to experience ScienceOpen!

Postdocs are doing it for themselves

Image credit: opensource.com, CC BY-SA

Image credit: Open Source.com, CC BY-SA

Postdocs must make Science more open to have their voice – and get it heard.

Gary McDowell, Tufts University and Future of Research Symposium

We’re delighted to welcome Gary McDowell, a post-doc working on left-right development in frogs (his Twitter handle is appropriately named @biophysicalfrog) and involved in the Future of Research Symposium starting on Thursday of this week (check out the speakers) as our second guest blogger. That we have decided to cover issues of importance to junior faculty in this post is a deliberate choice because we want to encourage their participation in the scientific conversation and Open Access. For a flavor of our activities with this group, including our first ever students awards at the European Students Conference in September, check out the Earlier Career channel on our blog.

Now over to Gary…

Recently, Liz Allen from ScienceOpen and I discussed her blog post entitled “How to make science more open, 7 ideas for early career researchers“. Our conversation gave me some pause for thought about the role of postdocs in facilitating the scientific endeavor.  I also am a firm advocate of “post-docs doing it for themselves”.  I’ve been involved in the organization of The Future of Research Symposium, a two-day event for graduate students and postdocs in the Boston area to come together and discuss the issues facing young researchers at present, under the groupings of training, structure of the workforce, funding, and metrics of assessment.  One measure of the success of a scientist is through the science they produce, reflected in the papers that they publish.  At present, we are at a point in scientific publishing where there is a strong movement towards “open access”: science available to all.  This means freely available to read and re-use: no paywalls, no subscriptions, simply science that is freely available to the public.

There are many good reasons for publishing open access which even its detractors can itemize as pointed out in a recent tweet by Joseph McArthur (@Mcarthur_Joe) who highlighted this section of an assessment by analysts from Bernstein Research which was shared by the independent journalist Richard Poynder (@RickyPo)

“Stepping back to take in the big picture, we would be hard pressed, having spent six years networking extensively in the academic publishing and OA communities, even to articulate what problem is OA trying to accomplish. Ask a librarian, and you will be told that OA is meant to address the serial cost crisis (the rising cost of journal subscriptions and the impact this has on their capacity to fulfil the other missions of academic libraries). Ask a researcher, and you will be told that OA will allow more researchers to read their articles, leading to more citations and – ultimately – to better dissemination of knowledge. Ask an economist, and you will be told that OA will allow small and medium sized companies which do not have access to the latest research to do so, furthering the growth of the economy and job creation. Ask some activists, and you will be told that OA is meant to deflate the margins of capitalist exploitation of public spending. Ask an activist from emerging countries: you will be told that OA is meant to allow researchers and doctors in poor countries to have access to leading research. This lack of clarity on which problem OA is trying to solve, in turn, means that it is difficult to achieve any of these goals.”

There are clearly many noble goals to the endeavor of publishing Open Access.  However there are concerns, particularly amongst young researchers, about publishing outside of the “high impact factor” set of journals that are traditionally viewed as grant- and job-winners.  These issues were recently highlighted in a blog by Alexander Grossman, a co-founder of ScienceOpen. Major difficulties that postdocs face in Open Access include not having the final say on where their papers are published, or even when.  Many of us have smaller sets of work; or negative data; or data that aims to reproduce other’s work, which are all good pieces of science but are often not viewed as being worthy of publication.  In my own experience, I have been very fortunate to always work with principal investigators who are (reasonably) happy to publish smaller datasets or less exciting (but still novel) stories.

However my own experience with Open Access has been somewhat limited.  Changes to requirements for funding from Research Councils in the UK, and NIH funding in the US, have led to my research becoming gradually more open, most recently graduating from being behind a paywall for one year to being immediately open to the public.  As part of the preparations for the Future of Research Symposium, we have published an open letter to Science in the Winnower and an article in the Journal of Postdoctoral Research.  Both publications have then been rapidly disseminated on social media, for example through our @FORsymp handle to our target audience, for free and open discussion.  The experiences I have had with these publications, plus investigating other avenues for publishing open access, reinforce my own view that in the modern era, when people search less in particular journals and more on particular topics, that a paper being available rapidly and openly is more important than the competitiveness of getting into the journal.  Good work is good work, and recent controversies over paper retractions how that the Impact Factor of a journal is not necessarily a direct correlation with the rigor of the peer review of the science.  In fact, many of the controversies that arose from the STAP saga may have been avoided in formats with Open Peer Review, with people able to directly comment and review on the paper, rather than the initial concerns having to be raised indirectly on other media.

Postdocs need to make themselves heard and Open Access publishing provides a medium to do this.  A free exchange of ideas is encouraged not only by postdocs publishing in places where their papers are accessible to all; but by postdocs participating in the review process.  Whenever possible, I sign my reviews to make it clear that I am not hiding behind anonymity in the comments that I make, and so I am therefore careful to make sure they are fair and critical in a constructive manner.   ScienceOpen is one example of a progression from the typical reviewing process, using Post-Publication Peer Review to facilitate open and fair discussion and criticism of scientific work.  Not only is embarking upon peer review a great contribution to the scientific community, this is an excellent opportunity for postdocs to get experience in reviewing papers and also in providing reflection on how to write their own papers.

In her post, Liz advocates getting involved in journal clubs and conferences.  I would agree with this, and in particular we are keen for people to get involved with the Future of Research Symposium not only this week, when the symposium will be held, but carrying our findings forwards: we view this not as a one-off event, but a continuing endeavor.  I would extend Liz’s call-to-arms and suggest that postdocs get involved in scientific societies: many societies are now actively soliciting postdoctoral involvement at the very highest levels.  For example, the Genetics Society of America has posts on all committees – and its executive board – for trainees. The American Society for Cell Biology has an extensive network of postdoctoral volunteers, COMPASS. Many learned societies are engaging upon connecting with younger researchers who are, after all, aspiring to be their future members as established academics.

Finally, the most important reason for postdocs to get involved and raise their voices is to make themselves be heard.  There has been a call, in the most recent meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology for younger scientists to respond to the alarm raised by senior academics, in particular about the state of biomedical research in the US:

The voices that are missing so far, [are] the young voices and we need to get them into the mix.”

Shirley Tilghman, PCAST, September 19th 2014

That is the aim of the Future of Research Symposium, to try to initiate a unified voice on how graduate students and postdocs feel about the issues important to science and how it is carried out.  Our aim is then the continuation of these meetings, both locally and hopefully to inspire others nationally, to produce a voice which is ever louder.  The voices of young researchers are not, in the main, being heard.  Recently, an open letter was sent to the AAAS journal Science regarding concerns over its new widely-advertised open access journal, Science Advances, written mostly (but not exclusively) by young researchers. The response of AAAS so far has been to send the authors some Frequently Asked Questions. Likewise, a similar group has sent a similar open letter to the Society for Neuroscience over its new open access journal eNeuroThe response was another email that did not address or attempt to answer any of our queries (but was a step up from the AAAS response).  In one particular case the term “riff-raff” has been used by Steven McKnight in his capacity as President of the ASBMB, to describe those “who never would have survived as scientists in the 1960s and 1970s”. There is a lot of support at the highest levels of academia, but clearly a lot of work needs to be done by our community to have our concerns taken seriously.

Postdocs have a lot of support in academia and beyond from those willing to speak out in our favor.  However, without the postdoc community engaging, raising their voice and making clear that they are present and essential to the scientific endeavor, there is only so much that can be done to change the system.  So I join with the call-to-arms to postdocs to engage in making science more open, and raising aloud their voices.

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

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.

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