Month: May 2016

In:  Other  

Why ‘context’ is important for research

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.

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Science works best when it’s open and openly communicated

Well, we’ve had some absolute stars recently in our ‘open science’ series! If you haven’t seen them yet, head over and check them out – such a diverse array of experiences and perspectives! Today we spoke with Josh King, the founder of Brevy. It’s an awesome new platform, and we’ll let Josh tell you more about it here, enjoy!

Hi Josh, thanks for joining us! Could you tell us a bit about why you started Brevy?

Brevy is an independent, volunteer group of a few stubborn individuals who work on the project during our off hours (read “nights and weekends”). While my own day job is in science outreach, I work with a couple of other partners (a fantastic computer science start-up owner and a behavioural psychologist make up our merry band) to help direct and maintain the site. We’re nothing special on our own, so the real stars here are those that pitch a hand adding summaries to Brevy or introducing it as class assignments to help grow the body of content!

Credit: Josh King
Credit: Josh King

When did you first hear about Open Access and Open Science? What did you first think?

That would likely be during my undergraduate years studying biochemistry and becoming hopelessly frustrated trying to write reports using papers I often had no access to (even with our university library!). At the time, I thought the concepts as fanciful dreams,  but thankfully here we are with open access a growing paradigm and various open science platforms blossoming around the web.

What do you think the biggest problem with the current scholarly publishing system is?

Meaningful publishing. By reasonable estimates, at least more than a 1,000,000 academic papers are published each year. These works are published on platforms known largely only to academics, and then only to that specific subset of academia. Publications on these platforms are not always accessible even to this select group and generally do not well support further dialogue or dissemination, with a surprisingly significant number going uncited. Taken pessimistically, this is tantamount to ejecting hundreds of thousands of new pieces of knowledge into the void each year.

We can be optimistic about this however! Taken optimistically, there are hundreds of thousands of possibly exciting and ground-breaking new ideas all of the time that most of us don’t know about! But to see it this way, to truly believe it, we have to start caring about the meaningfulness of research. We have to start thinking about different types of impacts than citation count and means of prestige other than the journal name. And we have to care what our work means to the world outside academia.

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In:  Peer Review  

Peer review at ScienceOpen is surprisingly simple!


Peer review at ScienceOpen is all about post-publication*. Along with nearly 12 million full text Open Access (OA) articles and article records, we also have the original publications from our journal ScienceOpen Research. Of these, the vast majority have 2-3 peer reviews each, thanks to a mighty effort from our Editorial office in Berlin.

But did you know that anyone can review any article they want on ScienceOpen, and not just those from ScienceOpen Research? And perhaps more importantly, anyone can invite anyone else to review any article? That sounds an awful lot like the daytime job for Editors at traditional journals.. But with the power firmly in the hand of researchers and their communities. How cool is that?

Step 1
Step 1

It’s super easy to implement too. All you have to do is go to an article of choice, click the ‘Reviews’ button (Step 1), and then select the ‘Invite to Review’ button (Step 2). If you were feeling inclined, you could review the paper yourself too!

You can then simply select their ScienceOpen username (what, you don’t have one yet?!), or invite them by email (Step 3).

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Commander Jean-Paul Chretien: Open Access, The Military, and Public Health Emergencies

Recently, we’ve been running an ‘open science stars‘ series to highlight a range of great people from around the world working to advance open science practices. This week, we have something a little special for you. All previous interviews have been with students or researchers, but this story is from a physician in the United States Navy, Commander Jean-Paul Chretien! So sit back and enjoy the show.

Hi Commander Jean-Paul! For starters could you let us know a little about your background?

Thank you for interviewing me. Let me say first that throughout this interview I’m expressing my own views, not necessarily the official policy or position of the Department of Defense, Defense Health Agency, or US Government.

I’m a physician in the United States Navy, and my training is in public health, epidemiology, and informatics. I work on challenges at the intersection of health and national security, like infectious disease outbreaks and climate change.

I was drawn first to the military, before medicine, but I knew what life as a doctor is like because my parents are physicians. I wanted to be a military officer from a pretty young age. Service to country, the chance to lead, the adventure – all of that appealed to me. For college I went to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, thinking maybe I would command a warship someday. But while I was there, studying international affairs and national security, I learned that some of the most pressing security challenges were health problems like HIV/AIDS, at the time. And I learned that in many battles and wars, diseases crippled military forces and civilian populations in war zones. Infections often caused more casualties than combat.

So I decided to go to medical school, but not to be a doctor practicing in a clinic. I wanted to be a doctor for populations, and bring medical knowledge to decisions that impact military service members, the broader American public, and, well, everyone.

When did you first hear about Open Access and Open Science? What were your first thoughts? Has there ever been a case where lack of access to information has seriously compromised your work?

When I was a student working on my MD and my PhD in epidemiology, I didn’t think about Open Access because access wasn’t a problem for me. Through my university, I could access just about any journal article I needed. But later, when I began my global health work in the U.S. military, I saw how access restrictions constrained biomedical research, patient care, and population health around the world.

Distribution of Ebola Virus Outbreaks 1979-2008 (Source) CC BY-SA 3.0
Distribution of Ebola Virus Outbreaks 1979-2008 (Source) CC BY-SA 3.0

At that time, I worked in a Department of Defense program that partners with dozens of countries to improve their capabilities for detecting and containing epidemics. I had collaborators around the world, public health personnel and researchers in countries with limited resources, who could not read about studies on the diseases that burden them. How can they join the global effort against infectious disease outbreaks if they can’t always access the most current and best research on those diseases?

When I began my global health work in the U.S. military, I saw how access restrictions constrained biomedical research, patient care, and population health around the world.

Then, what galvanized my commitment to open access and open science in general was the Ebola outbreak that began in West Africa in late 2013, and spread to Europe and the U.S. It’s waning now, but infections are still occurring. There have been more than 28,000 confirmed cases with around 11,000 deaths, by far the largest Ebola epidemic ever.

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Julien Colomb on open science and firing lasers at flies

Continuing our ‘open science stars’ series, we’re happy to present Dr. Julien Colomb this week! Julien is a postdoc in Berlin, and we’ve been working together (well, Julien has tolerated my presence..) at Open Science meetups here, which he’s been using to build an active community over the last 10 months or so. He recently published a cool paper in PeerJ and built a new ScienceOpen Collection, so we asked for his thoughts and experience with Open Science!

Hi Julien! Thanks for joining us at the ScienceOpen blog. Could you start off by letting us know a bit about your background?

Hi John. My pleasure to be here. [We’ve known each other for a year and he still can’t spell my name..]

I have been interested in neurobiology since my high school time; I got to work with Drosophila during my Master’s thesis and could then not leave the field. I worked about 10 years on the neuroanatomy and behaviour in the fruit fly larvae and flies in Switzerland, Paris and Berlin. In 2013, I decided to stay in Berlin when the mentor of my second post-doc, Prof. Brembs, moved to Regensburg. In the last 3 years, I have been jumping between different jobs in Prof. Winter groups, I have been wandering in the startup community in Berlin (founding Drososhare GmbH), and trying to foster open science and open data. At the moment, I work half time at the Charite animal outcome core facility, while we work on getting a beta version of the Drososhare product (a platform to share transgenic Drosophila between scientists). I also run the Berlin Open Science Meetup.

Drososhare (Source)
Drososhare (Source)

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