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What if you could peer review the arXiv?

What is the arXiv?

The arXiv is a server that hosts ‘eprints’ or ‘preprints’ of research papers, and is a key publishing platform for many fields, particularly physics and mathematics. Founded back in 1991 by Paul Ginsparg, it currently hosts over 1 million research articles, with more than 8000 submissions per month!

Despite now being in the running for 25 years, the arXiv still represents one of the greatest technological innovations to utilise the Web for scholarly communication.

While the majority of the content submitted to the arXiv is subsequently also submitted to traditional journals for publication, there is still content which never goes beyond its confines. Irrespective of this, communities engaged with the arXiv still cite articles published there, whether or not they have been formally published in a journal elsewhere.

This is the whole purpose of the arXiv: to facilitate rapid peer-to-peer communication so that science accelerates faster. The fact that all articles are publicly available is incidental, and just happens to be a topic of major interest with the growing open access movement.

The growth of the arXiv (Source)
The growth of the arXiv (Source)

However, the arXiv is not peer reviewed in the formal sense. It is moderated, so that junk submissions can be removed, or manuscripts recategorised, but it lacks the additional layer of quality control of traditional peer review.

So while some might think this poses a risk, ask yourself this question: do you re-use articles critical to your research without making sure that you have checked and understand the research to a sufficient degree that you can appropriately cite it? Because that’s peer review, that is, and it applies irrespective of whether an article has already been peer reviewed or not.

How do you peer review the arXiv?

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Collections as the future of academic-led journals

ScienceOpen Collections are thematic groups of research articles that transcend journals and publishers to transform how we collate and build upon scientific knowledge.

What are Collections

The modern research environment is a hyper-dimensional space with a vast quantity of outputs that are impossible to manually manage. You can think of research like a giant Rubik’s cube: you have different ‘colours’ of research that you have to mix and match and play around with to discover how the different sections fit together to become something useful.

CC BY-SA 3.0,  Booyabazooka (Wikipedia)
CC BY-SA 3.0, Booyabazooka (Wikipedia)

We view Collections as the individual faces of a Rubik’s cube. They draw from the vast, and often messy, pool of published research to provide an additional layer of context and clarity. They represent a new way for researchers to filter the published record to discover and curate content that is directly relevant to them, irrespective of who published it or what journal it appears in.

Advantages of Collections

Perhaps the main advantage of Collections to researchers is that they are independent of journals or publishers and their branding criteria. Researchers are undoubtedly the best-placed to assess what research is relevant to themselves and their communities. As such, we see Collections as the natural continuing transformation of the concept of the modern journal, acting in almost full cycle to return them to their basic principles.

The advantage of using Collections is that they provide researchers with the power to filter and select from the published record and create what is in essence a highly-specialised virtual journal. This means that Collections are not pre-selective, but instead comprise papers discriminated only by a single criterion: research that is relevant to your peers, and also deemed relevant by them.

Filtering for Collections occurs at different levels depending on scope or complexity of research. For example, Collections can be designed to focus on different research topics, lab groups or research groups, communities, or even departments or institutions. Collections can also be created for specific conferences and include posters from these, published on ScienceOpen. You define the scope and the selection criteria.

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