NOTE: OpenAIRE would like to know what you think about open peer review! Have your say here until 7th October!
Tl;dr – “Post-publication peer review” (PPPR) has gained a lot of traction in recent years. As with much of peer review’s confusing lexicon, however, this term is ambiguous. This ambiguity stems from confusion over what constitutes “publication” in the digital age. PPPR conflates two distinct phenomena, which we would do better to treat separately, namely “open pre-review manuscripts” and “open final-version commenting”.
What is “post-publication peer review”?
Peer review can have two senses, one specific and the other more general. “Peer Review” (henceforth PR) is a well-defined publishing practice for the quality assurance of research articles and other academic outputs. It is intimately tied to the publication process. It traditionally begins when an editor sends a manuscript to reviewers and ends when the editor accepts a manuscript for publication. But “peer review” (lower-case, henceforth “pr”) is just the critique and appraisal of ideas, theories, and findings by those with particular insight into a topic. Such feedback happens all the time. It happens before manuscripts are submitted: in colleagues’ initial reactions (positive or negative) to a new idea, feedback gained from conferences, lectures, seminars and late-night bull sessions, or private comments on late-stage first-draft manuscripts from trusted peers. And it continues after the article’s appearance in a journal, via a multitude of channels through which readers can give feedback, including comment sections on journal websites, dedicated channels for post-publication commentary, blogs and social media, and of course in future research that cites and comments back on the findings.
Hi Matt! Thanks for joining us. Could you tell us a bit about your background?
No problem, happy to be here! And by here I mean ‘at my laptop 2 months after you sent me these questions, and several more weeks before it’s published’…
I’m not sure what to tell you about my background really (your next question deals with the ‘scientist’ bit) so I guess I could fill you in on the non-science part of my backstory. I’m British and in my mid 30’s and I currently work at Cranfield University – which is pretty much slap bang in the dead centre of England. My first degree is in BioChemistry, after which I spent 6 years toiling away in industrial medical device research. I then rejoined academia to do a PhD and have stayed ever since.
When did you first realise you wanted to be scientist? What was it that turned you?
I don’t think there was a time when I didn’t want to be a scientist. At various points in my life I’ve wanted to be various kinds of scientist – at one point even a pathologist. Both my parents were pharmacists so I was raised in a pretty pro-science house and it just appealed to me really. Although I did question it once when my science teacher wrote in final report (before moving to a bigger school) “Matthew should consider any career except science”. Since finding this out a few years ago, I have strongly resisted the urge to mail him 1,000 copies of my PhD thesis.
The Open Science Stars series has been one of the most pleasurable aspects for me of working at ScienceOpen, seeing the great diversity of researchers all around the world working to make science a better field to be in. For the latest, we spoke with Chris Hartgerink, a PhD student at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Chris has a strong background in open research practices, and is a prolific member of the data mining community. Here’s his story!
When did you first hear about ‘open science’? What was your first reaction, do you remember?
I first heard about Open Science in late 2012/early 2013 during my Masters. My then supervisor (Jelte Wicherts) said to me, “Let’s put all this online”, and I remember thinking this seemed so obvious but that I simply hadn’t considered it before – nor had I been taught about this during my education. This helped multiple puzzle pieces to fall into place. Since then transparent research has been central to all that I do. I also remember asking myself how to do this because it is non-trivial if you simply know nothing about it, and it has been a gradual process since then learning how to share in an easy-to-comprehend way. But it doesn’t have to be perfect from the beginning because open science is more a way of approaching science than it is a checkmark.
What has inspired your dedication to open research? What sort of things do you do on a daily basis to commit to this?
To be honest, what you call dedication is an ethical responsibility in my eyes. The old, opaque way of doing science is based on the analogue age with severely outdated standards. This is irresponsible, just like a current-day astronomer using Galileo’s antique telescope would be irresponsible. This antique telescope gives relatively imprecise measures compared to modern telescopes, so nobody would pay attention to new results based on it. I don’t think the science done with the antique telescope in the old days is invalid, I just think we have to build on the old, create the new, and then use the new. Closed research, as you might call it, is stuck in the old. I would even go so far to say that such unnecessarily (!) closed research obfuscates science and can be deemed pseudo-science. I hardly pay attention to new research that is unverifiable.
The old, opaque way of doing science is based on the analogue age with severely outdated standards.
By the way, when I say irresponsible, I mean irresponsible to others and to yourself. Our work is complex and making your work shareable and understandable to others helps others to understand what you did – including your future self. Transparent research has saved my skin repeatedly.
For years now, the journal and the publisher have held sway over many aspects of discovery and evaluation of research and researchers. The development of the Web was expected to disrupt this, but innovation has been slow. Collectively, the research community have been cautious in embracing the power that has been granted to us for integration, sharing, and using semantic technologies to enhance how we read, communicate, and re-use the scientific record.
At ScienceOpen, we believe that opening up article-level information will be part of the next wave of innovation in scholarly publishing and communications. Our CEO, Stephanie Dawson, spoke about this with Research Information recently, conveying the idea that we need to embrace the power of modern technologies to unlock the multi-dimensional intrinsic value of articles in their broader ‘context’.
If there’s one thing that this Open Science Stars series has shown us, it is that there is a great diversity of perspectives and experiences in the world of scholarly publishing and communications. This week, we have the absolute please of giving you all an interview with Prof. Jacinto Dávila, a researcher based in Venezuela. Here’s his open story.
Hi Jacinto! Thanks for joining us here. Could you start off by letting us know a little bit about your background?
Hello Jon. I am a computational logician. That is probably a label, invented at Imperial College (Ed: yay!). So, I would add that I am System Engineer and also got a PhD in Logic from Imperial. But almost all my professional life has been spent teaching and doing research at Universidad de Los Andes, in Venezuela. Thus, I will call myself a computer scientist in the third world.
When did you first hear about open access and open science? What were your initial thoughts?
We had news of the rising movement back in 2005, thanks to Jean-Claude Guedón. I used to be at the computing academic board of my University and we got serious about it in 2006, submitting a proposal for our rector to sign the Berlin Declaration, which he did on October, 2006. By then, we already had a fully operational repository, which have been up and running since 1995. We saw the open access initiative as a fantastic opportunity to level the game because we have historically suffered to have access to international results, which is always an expensive deal. We also thought, naively in retrospect¸that just by going open we would have a fair chance of publishing our own work too.
We need to change the defaults views on sharing knowledge, at least for public works.
Today, we are pleased to announce that ScienceOpen hit the 20 million article record! In fact, it’s still climbing even as this is being written. This is thanks to what we call our ‘aggregation’ engine, which takes published research articles from any field, and applies a little bit of magic to them to open up their context and let us all do amazing things, such as find similar articles, post-publication peer review them, and trace their citation genealogies.
I asked Alexander Grossmann, professor of publishing and co-founder of ScienceOpen, what this milestone means to him and to open science more broadly.
In the last Open Science Stars post, we spoke with Obinna Ojemeni who gave us an eye-opening account about the state of Open Access in Nigeria. We’re shifting gears again this week and delving into the murky world of reproducible research, a bit of a hot topic at the moment. Joe Akin of Scimpact was kind enough to tell us about how he is helping to make science more open and reproducible.
Hi Joe! Can you tell us a little bit about your background to get things rolling?
I have always been interested in science and technology. It was this interest that, in part, drew me to attend the US Air Force Academy and afterwards serve as a scientist in the Air Force Research Laboratory, supporting the demanding technological needs of the US Air Force. After completing my service and wanting to direct my scientific effort towards biomedical science, I pursued a PhD in immunology at Harvard University. Because of the university’s great breadth of scientific pursuits, I was able to find a lab where my previous expertise in engineered materials and biomaterials was useful within the context of immunology research—novel materials for cancer vaccine delivery.
When did you first hear about Open Access and Open Science? What were your original thoughts?
I first heard these concepts at the Council of Science Editors conference in the spring of 2015. I thought they sounded like laudable ideas, and I was particularly interested on two fronts:
How to get scientists to change from convention and support a new paradigm?
How to get publishers to do likewise, especially when it threatens the financial outlook for their institutions?
What was the rationale behind building Scimpact? How does this fit into your future vision for Open Science?
The impetus for Scimpact grew out of Girija and my frustrations, towards the end of our PhDs, in knowing that a lot of the hard work we had done would never be communicated to the larger scientific community and the prospect of many others duplicating the work we had done, needlessly. I believe it was an altruistic driver, from the outset.
What are the advantages of using Scimpact over traditional publishing models?
Scimpact aims to integrate with a lot of the current activity around making science more open. We are just one piece of a potential solution. We focus on the under-resourced element of making reproducibility of results transparent. We believe reproducibility can be the foundation for communication, rather than novelty.
We believe reproducibility can be the foundation for communication, rather than novelty.
In a fairly big release today, we are pleased to announce a big new partnership with SciELO, the Scientific Electronic Library Online. Many of you might know SciELO as the leading Open Access publisher in Latin America and what we might consider to be developing or emerging countries. At last count, they had published almost 600,000 peer reviewed research articles in more than 1200 journals, so constitute an enormous contribution to our global research knowledge!
Typically, SciELO content is still largely excluded from what we might consider the ‘research powerhouses’ and “global” indexing platforms of the western world. In 2013, SciELO was integrated into the Web of Science, but only covered around half of their journals. Some SciELO Brazil content is also indexed in Scopus, but this is a pay-to-access service.
As such, simply being Open Access is not sufficient in the current scholarly publishing climate – you have to be promoted, shared, and recognised too! This is crucial for publishers in terms of generating increased visibility, transparency, and credibility for research, all principles embodied by Open Access. So ScienceOpen is partnering with SciELO to generate increased visibility for its content, and to provide an enhanced global perspective on research.
Some might be wondering where you’ve heard of SciELO before. Well, Open Access advocate and keeper of predatory publishing lists Jeffrey Beall publicly commented last year that SciELO was akin to the ‘favelas’ of the scholarly publishing world, and created a bit of a stir. Thankfully, this derogatory and unnecessary characterisation was met with appropriate responses, but revealed a somewhat ingrained cultural perspective that some ‘western’ academics, and those involved in scholarly publishing, might still have: research and publishing from Latin America and peripheral countries is of lower quality than the north, for no apparent reason than geography; a factor which is often referred to as ‘ethnocentric prejudice’.
Well, at ScienceOpen we think such views are not helpful in creating a more global, collaborative and open research foundation. We believe that through integration we are stronger, and that we gain more by transcending barriers than creating them. The future of research is through global collaboration, sharing, and enabling open practices, and this is what we’re doing with SciELO. Indeed, SciELO are arguably doing more to advance Open Access publishing and global knowledge than many well-established publishers in Europe and North America!
Which is why partnering with SciELO is exciting for us for many reasons!
Context is something we’ve been thinking a lot about at ScienceOpen recently. It comes from the Latin ‘con’ and ‘texere’ (to form ‘contextus’), which means ‘weave together’. The implications for science are fairly obvious: modern research is about weaving together different strands of information, thought, and data to place your results into the context of existing research. This is the reason why we have introductory and discussion sections at the intra-article level.
But what about context at a higher level?
Context can defined as: “The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.” Simple follow on questions might be then, what is the context of a research article? How do we define that context? How do we build on that to do science more efficiently? The whole point for the existence of research articles is that they can be understood by as broad an audience as possible so that their re-use is maximised.
There are many things that impinge upon the context of research. Paywalls, secretive and exclusive peer review, lack of discovery, lack of inter-operability, lack of accessibility. The list is practically endless, and a general by-product of a failure for traditional scholarly publishing models to embrace a Web-based era.