Today’s interview comes from Dr. Janis Vogt, a PhD in Biochemistry and a member of the Thomas J. Jentsch Research Group in the Department of Physiology and Pathology of Ion Transport at the Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie in Berlin, Germany.
Janis won our drawing for an iPad by completing our Open Access Survey. He gave us some extremely insightful thoughts on Open Access, the world of science publishing more generally, the outlook for young scientists, as well as the responsibility well-established scientists have to change the status quo.
Q. What changes would you like to see in scientific publishing?
A. First of all, I think all papers should be made available free of charge for everyone in the scientific community and also for the general public. I also think that more transparency in the peer review process would be beneficial. Publishing the communication between author and reviewer, like some journals have started to do, is in my opinion a good start.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your research and where you are in your education/ career trajectory?
A. I did my undergraduate work in Bonn and Nijmegen in Applied Biology. I moved on to do my PhD in Biochemistry at the MRC Protein phosphorylation unit at the University of Dundee/ Scotland, where I worked under the Supervision of Gopal Sapkota investigating the role of a formerly unknown protein in the TGF-ß/BMP pathway. Last December I joined the Thomas Jentsch group at the FMP/MDC in Berlin as a postdoctoral research fellow. Here I investigate the role of ion homeostasis in intracellular compartments.
Q. What are your thoughts on Open Access publishing? As an up and coming scientist, would you consider an Open Access platform like ScienceOpen for your work? In a recent ScienceOpen interview Peter Suber, Advisory Board Member and OA expert from Harvard, said that “junior faculty simply want their work to be judged in its own merit, regardless of where it is published”. Is that something you can relate to? What do you think are the main issues that young scientists in career building mode are concerned about?
A. Personally, I really think all research should be Open Access. The problem is that it doesn’t matter where you would like to publish as a young scientist, I guess you will always publish as “high” as you can, because papers in “prestige” journals will eventually get you the job. So I guess if the system is going to change it will be a lot faster if it is a top down approach, whereby senior leading scientists publish in Open Access journals.
Q. What do you think about the traditional peer review process? What about a post-publication model like ScienceOpen’s that allows for responses from the scientific community after research is published, without the long waiting times of the traditional journal publication model?
A. The traditional peer review process is very much the accepted standard procedure in order to publish scientific work. It is well established and thought to give the scientific community the safety of at least good scientific practice. One of the problems in this process, in my opinion, is that it can be frustratingly slow and not transparent. Also the way the system works now, the communication between author and reviewer is indirect and mediated by the journal’s editor, which can cause misunderstandings and slows the process down even further. Another problem is that when the review process is done, it’s done. And I think every scientist knows the phrase “How did that get past the reviewers?” The ambitious project of Science Open to “revolutionize” the review process by doing it after publishing could be a way to address some of the shortcomings of the traditional review process. Whether the scientific community will be going down this “revolutionary” path, like Science Open, by first publishing and afterwards reviewing, or a more “evolutionary” path of peer review by, for example, making it more transparent and making the entire review process open, I don’t know. But it will be interesting to observe it in the coming years.
Q. The new impact factors will be announced shortly – a big yearly event in the scientific publishing community. Does this affect you as a young scientist? When do scientists first learn about the “Impact Factor” and the effect it might have on their careers? Do you see potential for new measures to measure scholarly productivity?
A. I think the “Impact Factor” plays an important role for almost every scientist. It is such a central dogma in the way journals and subsequently scientists who publish in these journals are judged that, whether one likes it or not, everyone is influenced by the “Impact Factor.” As a young scientist you learn about the importance of the “Impact Factor” almost from the start of your scientific career. In my opinion the “Impact Factor” is a product by a company that makes money by selling it to the scientific community. There are many critical points about the “Impact Factor” and I don’t want mention them all here. But the bottom line is, I think, that we as the scientific community will use and misuse it in the future until somebody comes up with something, hopefully a bit more scientific and transparent, to measure “Impact.”