In:  Other  

How to turn an idea into reality? An interview with Dr. Raphael Hofstein, President and CEO of MaRS Innovation

Raphael crop 6073

Across the street from the venerable University of Toronto, at the intersection of College Street and Elizabeth Street in downtown Toronto, you will find the heart of Toronto’s commercialization activity across the sciences: MaRS Innovation.

If you share the values of Marc Andreessen, the American entrepreneur, investor and software developer who revolutionized a very small part of San Francisco to become the world famous Silicon Valley, you will appreciate learning about the contemporary Canadian version of biomedical Silicon Valley. MaRS Innovation was founded in 2008 and began operations in 2009 to turn Toronto’s leading research and sciences into successful start-up companies and license deals.

I really love this part of Toronto. I used to tackle my research on zebrafish heart development on the 11th floor of the MaRS building’s East Tower (MaRS Innovation’s offices occupy part of the 4th floor on the West Tower). So, I am no stranger to Toronto’s life sciences scene. But the story of how MaRS Innovation landed in Toronto and found its home is worth sharing.

Prior to the 8th Charité Entrepreneurship summit in Berlin, Germany, I spoke to Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation about his vision for open access and open innovation models. Here is what he had to say.

Q1: What is MaRS Innovation: an innovation hub, a medical and health care technology accelerator/incubator or all of that together?

RH: We are the outcome of the Government of Canada’s fairly tenacious campaign to close the gap between Canada’s highly-qualified scientific research and its commercialization success. So, we really try to help start-ups bridge the “valley of death” and we do that in a very distinct way. Particularly, every new exciting research idea coming out of the 15 institutions in and around the Toronto area is disclosed to MaRS Innovation. As the agency of these 15 member institutions, we have to select the ideas with the best chances of successful commercialization in the shortest possible time. That is essentially what MaRS Innovation is: a research and innovation pipeline.

Every year, scientific organizations disclose between two and 15 intended projects; we select approximately 15 per cent of what we see. Since 2009, we have seen about 1500 ideas, which we successfully converted under our management into over 100 technologies. Some of them turned into start-up companies, or options/licenses to a third-party or private sector entity. Other inventions are blended or packaged together and to be more appealing to the market.


Source: MaRS Innovation One Pager May 2015

Q2: How do you see a role of open access and open innovation processes in life sciences?

RH: To highlight open innovation models in life sciences, I would like to emphasize that there are different understandings of this process. So, I need to specify an invisible margin where life sciences research should be open, and where interaction with business should not be transparent. Personally, I am for open access and open data sharing, which should benefit scientists, medical doctors, and entrepreneurs, especially at the initial stage of discovery. Later on, the research becomes industry-driven and requires a proper investment from the private sector, including big pharma and life sciences industry. Let me give you one most recent example.

Due to a successful partnership with Quebec-based Consortium for Drug Discovery (CQDM), MaRS Innovation founded a company named Encycle Therapeutics, a University of Toronto biotechnology start-up. Interestingly, being a start-up venture, Encycle has two sub-divisions. One addresses the basic essence of all CQDM activities and represents an open innovation part; using the chemistry of peptides to develop an approach to synthesizing small, drug-like macrocycles. Encycle is creating a library of cyclic peptides, called nacellins, which are small macrocycles or cyclic peptidomimetics. This library is completely open and freely available to every pharma outlet who is interested in testing or developing orally bioavailable modulators of proteins, including small-cell permeable systems. That approach fits well positioned into a concept of open access. The other Encycle subdivision is commercially focused and working with industry partners to create proprietary technologies.

Another example is the adoption of embryonic stem cell lines for medical repair. Such cell lines should serve as a foundation for the further development of cell-based technologies and the public should have free access to it. As soon as it concerns further derivation and differentiation of stem cell lines for specific medical indications, it becomes part of proprietary ownership to the developer/investor since it requires a substantial investment into research and development. That part should be closed for public use.

As we can see, a major issue of open innovation remains on where we have to draw a borderline between the public and private use. In terms of the drug discovery process, I believe it could be at phase 1 stage of clinical development.

In Toronto, we have a very strong advocate of open access and open innovation, Dr. Aled Edwards. Aled Edwards leads the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC), a private-public open collaborative network of researchers from the University of Toronto, the University of Oxford, UK and the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) in Brazil working together with nine global pharmaceutical companies and several research funding agencies. This is a unique, first open science international institution that offers completely free access and use of research results focused on unrestricted drug discoveries. I think it is a great example of open innovation in practice. However, in later stages, clinical development requires appropriate investments and, in reality, cannot be supported through open access. Therefore, I see managing this process as the technologies develop as quite challenging in its practical realities.

Q3: Do you think that big data, open science, and a worldwide network could in the future precisely tailor therapies to each patient’s individual requirements?

RH: I am a big proponent of big data. I think an open innovation model in big data science may play a greater role. At MaRS Innovation, we engage with IBM and several venture capital groups working on harnessing big data for medical purposes. Also, pharma companies expressed strong interest in having access to medical records which represent a high-value ‘big data treasure’ within our member institutions. However up to now, it has not been easy to fulfil our dreams of turning big data into a big practical opportunity. It is obviously a work in progress! Finally, it is my expectation that mining through big data collections of patient medical records (contingent on strict patient privacy!) will significantly accelerate the development of precision medicine (aka personal medicine). The global medical community should be prepared to address the trend.

In:  Collections  

Update for the growing number of Collection Editors – spiffy new features!

Before and after, Jennifer Donley, Flickr, CC-BY

At ScienceOpen, we’re pretty pleased with how Collections, which uniquely feature articles from multiple OA publishers chosen by a researcher based on their interests, are shaping up.

We have published eight so far and many more are in the works. Thanks to all of you who took the plunge and got involved. Leading by example is so important if we are to bring real and lasting change to scientific communication.

Here are a few enhancements to make life as a Collection Editor that bit easier. Naturally you can still use our search engine (powered by elastic, not literally!) of over 1.5 million OA articles to find relevant content and add it to the Collection. Although now the process of selecting what goes into your Collection has been improved by the addition of Altmetrics to all articles. In terms of giving you more control, we’ve also introduced a drag and drop feature so that you can arrange your article choices in whatever order you like.

In terms of the more fun parts of being a Collection Editor, you can still visually customize the look and feel of your Collection and publish an accompanying Editorial with DOI (free) to explain why you published it and what behaviors you hope to encourage by demonstrating change to your peers. For those of you who go to the lengths of adding comments to each article with a note of the reasons why you chose it, we’ve rewarded that effort by making the comments immediately visible on your Collection page and others can reply to you right there too.

Co-founder Alexander Grossmann’s Collection, entitled “Perspectives in Scholarly Publishing” (partially shown below), showcases these spiffy new features really well. As does the International Union of Crystallography Collection which also has some rockin Altmetrics!


And as a final touch to the all important effort:reward factor (a little ego boost if you will, when things go right anyways!), your Collection Statistics are also visible. Alex is doing quite nicely on this front!


Although we’re delighted at the number of Collection Editors who have stepped up, we welcome more. If you want to join us, then please review this page and send us an email.

As ever, a shout-out to our Boston based dev team for helping Collections to flourish.


In:  Announcements  

Welcome Jan Velterop to our Advisory Board – introducing Peer Review by Endorsement

The process of peer review is in a horrible mess. There, we said it. Many others have done so and countless more think it but don’t speak out. Not a day appears to go by without the emergence of bold-faced cheating – 170 articles have now been retracted for fake peer review, or some new dubious practice – Editor quits journal over pay-for-expedited peer-review offer.

Peer review itself however remains a central tenet of academic discourse but the integrity of science is being compromised and it is at risk of being forever tarnished by scandals with the result that public trust will decline further.

That this is not a desirable outcome goes without saying. The question then becomes “what are we prepared to do about it and will researchers ever embrace a different process?”

At ScienceOpen, the research + Open Access publishing network, we’ve spent a great deal of time and effort rethinking scientific publishing and developing a better way to do peer review. In an effort to “lead by example” we facilitate non-anonymous, open, expert (only those with 5 or more publications per ORCID can review) Post-Publication Peer Review.

Other publishers also focus on reforming peer review, e.g. F1000 Research and The Winnower. Our observation is that despite vocally demanding reform, the scientific community is very resistant to change, though. Some commentators believe this is due to simple inertia and that probably plays a part – after all, scientific publishing remained unchanged for hundreds of years prior to these more turbulent times and people frequently acquiesce to a bad system because they are “used to it”.

More importantly, the system of promotion and tenure compels scientists to avoid “rocking the boat” since their published output remains a prime measure of their competence. Among the digital cognoscenti, the Impact Factor of the journal they choose to publish in is showing some signs of declining power but it still continues its vice-like grip in the minds of the majority.

The question that ScienceOpen is currently addressing is “how do we build more peer review choice and innovation into our publishing model without participating in (the increasingly problematic) anonymous pre-publication peer review as is practiced by the vast majority of publishers”?

Jan (3)

Enter Jan Velterop, stage left (to audience applause!). For most of you, Jan needs no introduction. Originally a marine geophysicist, he became a science publisher and has worked at Elsevier, Academic Press, Nature and BioMedCentral. He participated in the Budapest Open Access Initiative. In 2005 he joined Springer, based in the UK as Director of Open Access. In 2008 he left to help further develop semantic approaches to accelerate scientific discovery.

Today we are delighted to announce that Jan is joining our Advisory Board. He will help us launch “Peer Review by Endorsement” which occurs, just as usual peer review, before publication, but is entirely open and transparent. Authors will be able to choose the “Peer Review by Endorsement” option. Articles published this way will also be available for Post-Publication Peer Review, as are all 1.5 million OA articles aggregated on our site. This option will go live on our site during the summer of 2015.

So what is Peer Review by Endorsement? Rather than publisher-mediated peer review before publication, the scientific community takes this role and the publisher verifies the results. As Jan puts it:

It is more efficient and cost effective to hand peer review entirely back to the scientific community, where it rightly belongs, than for publishers to find the right, appropriate, available, reliable, expert reviewers.

Authors would be expected to arrange (or ask their Scholarly Society to arrange) for at least two peers to check the scientific soundness of their work and, if they are satisfied, to openly endorse its publication by declaring that in their view the work is suitable for being published as part of the scientific discourse. The work’s ‘significance’ is not an issue here (as that can often only be established after some time in the open anyway, and it has the considerable drawback of preventing some articles, e.g. null-results, from being published). The rules are that peer-reviewers/endorsers must be active researchers, and not be, or for at least five years have been, at the same institution as, or a co-author of, any of the authors. Once two signed and open peer reviews/endorsements are available, the article will be immediately published and, as usual for all articles published on ScienceOpen, available for further Post-Publication Peer Review.

We hope by introducing a two stage peer review process (Peer Review by Endorsement and Post-Publication Peer Review) to improve this mechanism for all. In the unlikely event of manipulation (present on a near daily basis in the traditional system), it will be transparent for all to see, which is bound to be a powerful antidote. As ScienceOpen is integrated with ORCID and reviews/endorsements are signed and non-anonymous, there is very little danger of sub-standard articles being published, as endorsers/reviewers would not want to put their reputations at risk.

Improvements to the original manuscripts, we believe, should be among the aims of peer review. Author-arranged Peer Review by Endorsement is conducive to an iterative process between authors and reviewers/endorsers, delivering those improvements.

Since arranging traditional pre-publication peer-review can be difficult for publishers, and can be slowed down by the necessary research to find appropriate reviewers, it can be quite costly. Especially since the cost of reviewing all submissions is usually carried only by those articles that are accepted for publication (this applies to the open access as well as pay-walled publishing models). The Peer Review by Endorsement option avoids that and authors choosing that option will therefore have their APC’s reduced. The regular Article Processing Fee (APC) for publishing in ScienceOpen is $800 and over the coming months prior to launch we will be seeking community feedback on the most appropriate discount level.

According to Jan:

The Peer Review by Endorsement approach leaves peer review to the community (with safeguards in place) and lets the publisher focus strongly on the technical integrity of the article presentation, preservation, machine-readability and the like, which often leaves a lot to be desired in the current system. The cost to authors (and their funders) of open access publishing will be materially be lower as a result.

Jan will be speaking about Peer Review by Endorsement at The Future of Scholarly Scientific Communication Part 1 event at The Royal Society (London, 20-21 April 2015). These meetings are being held in recognition of the 350th anniversary of Philosophical Transactions, the world’s first science journal.

On Monday afternoon, he is taking part in a session entitled “Peering at Review”, where he will join a conversation about “Future developments, evolution and alternatives”, together with Dr Richard Sever (Cold Spring Harbor Press) and Elizabeth Marincola, (CEO, PLOS) who recently said “At PLOS, in the not-too-distant future, we want to improve many aspects of peer review”.

Building a better Peer Review mechanism is certainly not easy but here at ScienceOpen we are committed to demonstrating a creative vision for a healthier ecosystem.

New Collection from the International Union of Crystallography – happy first birthday IUCrJ!

Image credit: A colorized two-dimensional XRD pattern, IUCrJ, CC-BY
Image credit: A colorized two-dimensional XRD pattern, IUCrJ, CC-BY

Here at ScienceOpen we’re a gold Open Access (OA) publisher, a peer review reformer and a content aggregator – our platform features 1.5 million articles sourced from PubMed Central, ArXiv and ScienceOpen.

In recognition of the London Book Fair 2015 and the associated spotlight this week on all matters publishing related, we’re highlighting two new Open Access (OA) article Collections. A top scientific union and a major medical publisher are using our platform to give their OA content increased visibility and facilitate Post-Publication Peer Review.

Jonathan Agbenyega, a Scientific Member of ScienceOpen and Business Development Manager at the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr), used our new Collection tool to select articles from their Open Access Journal, IUCrJ, to celebrate its first year.

Building this Collection on our platform, allows the IUCr, a leading non-profit International Scientific Union, to show its broad ranging content which is of interest to researchers from different disciplines that use results obtained from diffraction methods.

These articles are now available for Post-Publication Peer Review (PPPR), by experts with 5 publications on their ORCID, as are all the articles aggregated on our site. Every review receives a DOI so each contribution can be found and cited.

Not only is this content open for additional discussion after publication it can also be combined with other articles to form new Collections.

Jonathan commented, “I was delighted to bring together a collection of our leading papers from our new fully open-access journal IUCrJ and showcase them in a collection on the ScienceOpen platform. The additional visibility and opportunity to interact with the content which comes with this new portal will be an important step forward for all chemists, biologists and physicists working in the area of structure determination.”

Researchers, Societies or Publishers who want to create their own Collection are welcome to apply for the role of Community Editor (which entitles them to 2 free ScienceOpen articles) and then they, like Jonathan, can pick and choose articles from multiple publishers and combine them, for whatever reason they wish.

Welcome to the next wave of Open Access!

A warm ScienceOpen welcome to two new journals from top German medical publisher, Thieme

Image credit: Stonetown hat stall by Gail Hampshire, Flickr, CC BY
Image credit: Stonetown hat stall by Gail Hampshire, Flickr, CC BYHere at ScienceOpen we wear a few different hats! We’re a gold Open Access (OA) publisher, a peer review reformer and a content aggregator.

Here at ScienceOpen we wear a few different hats! We’re a gold Open Access (OA) publisher, a peer review reformer and a content aggregator.

This week, with the London Book Fair 2015 about to start, we are celebrating publishers and societies by profiling the innovative ways that they are using our platform!

It gives us great pleasure to report how a top scientific union and a major medical publisher (see below) are now using our platform to give their OA content increased visibility and facilitate scientific discussion.

With 1.5 million OA articles and a high performance search engine on ScienceOpen, users can slice and dice the content as they like. And often that selection criteria may be a trusted publisher or innovative journal. ScienceOpen is making that easy! With ScienceOpen Collections we’re able to highlight the articles of publishers and societies. Other innovative ways to use the Collection Tool  are discussed in this blog post.

For the first time, mirror versions of two new OA journals – the American Journal of Perinatology Reports and The Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons Reports (partners to the American Journal of Perinatology and The Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeon) – have been re-created on our platform.  This allows them to be fully integrated into the scientific conversation. Both journals are published by Thieme, an award-winning international medical and science publisher.

You can find the American Journal of Perinatology Reports and The Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons Report Collections on ScienceOpen under the publisher Thieme. These medical case reports are now available for commenting, sharing, and Post-Publication Peer Review (PPPR), by experts with 5 publications on their ORCID, as are all the articles aggregated on our site. The great thing: every review receives a CrossRef DOI so each contribution can be found and cited. We believe that this is a fantastic way to credit the important work of reviewers, too!

ScienceOpen CEO Stephanie Dawson, presented this concept at the Scientific Publishing Innovation Day organized by the Frankfurter Buchmesse in London on April 13th, just before the London Book Fair.

Finding relevant articles in the information haystack

Image credit: @academicssay, Twitter
Image credit: @AcademicsSay, Twitter

Previously I saw a headline that read “Search is so 2014”! I stopped and questioned whether I agreed with that statement. The article then went on to describe some of the more interesting developments in how to find the “right article in the rapidly growing information haystack” and some of them matched my own picks which include:

  • SNAP from Jstor Labs – a mobile app that allows you to take a picture of any page of text and get a list of research articles from JSTOR on the same topic.
  • Sparrho – a content recommendation engine that aggregates and distills information based on user preferences and makes personalised suggestions. We invited their team to post a guest blog.
  • Knowledge domain visualizations (Peter Kraker, LSE Impact Blog) – present the main areas in a field, and assigns relevant articles to them.

However, I still believe that there is a role for Search in 2015, even as it is eventually replaced or enriched by more sophisticated tools.

The part Search plays here at ScienceOpen is particularly important given that we are just beginning our quest to aggregate the world’s Open Access content in all disciplines. The corpus here is growing (nearly 1.5 million articles from nearly 2.5 million authors). The pace of scientific literature growth is rapid, expanding at the rate of more than 2 articles per minute (Mark2Cure).  Both are good reasons why we have been focusing our development efforts on improving the precision of our search results because to some extent “if you can’t find it, it doesn’t exist”.

For Search to qualify as “good” in my book it needs to be precise, fast and flexible. Here’s my mini review of ScienceOpen Search:

  • Search delivered rapid and accurate results, so two thumbs up here.
  • The results could be parsed using the aggregation source (PubMed Central, ArXiv and ScienceOpen) or the name of the originating journal/publisher.
  • For the geeks among you, our Search is powered by ElasticSearch.
  • When I forgot the exact spelling of an author name, this field offered me possible name options to pick from (nice).
  • As a publisher myself, I had to try searching by company name. I was surprised to find 1555 OA articles by the American Chemical Society(ACS) on our platform. I also found 2816 articles from Elsevier. This is a tiny fraction of their output but at least something is there.
  • In a nod to our belief that Journals will become increasingly less important (and hopefully the strangle hold of the IF will be released) as researchers aggregate content themselves (for example using our new Collection tool), users can search by Collection (which has it’s own tab).
  • Once you’ve found a relevant article, we provide the XML (and PDF) because let’s be honest, in the digital future, a static PDF probably won’t be of much use.

I want to acknowledge the ScienceOpen Dev team (Raj, Ed and X, led by Tibor) for their excellent work on this release.



With the current system in flux, quality remains the highest priority: Interview with Editorial Board Member Johannes Boltze on Scientific Publishing


Johannes Boltze is an illustrious member of our Editorial Board. A translational scientist with a research focus on development of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for cerebrovascular ischemia, Dr. Boltze earned his MD in 2008 and Ph.D. degree in 2012 in Neurobiology at the University of Leipzig, Germany. Since 2010, Dr. Boltze has been leading the Department of Cell Therapy at Fraunhofer* Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology in Leipzig. Johannes Boltze is a member of Loop, Frontiers Research Network and an Associate Faculty Member at F1000 Prime. He also worked at the Stroke and Neurovascular Regulation Laboratory led by Professor Michael A. Moskowitz at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA from October 2012 to October 2013.

This interview was conducted by Nana Bit-Avragim, Editor and Open Access Outreach Manager at ScienceOpen.

In October 2014, I attended 15th Fraunhofer Life Science Annual Meeting in Leipzig where I met many inspiring international colleagues, translational scientists, working on emerging technologies in stem cell research and regenerative medicine. The meeting took place at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology (Fraunhofer IZI), a beautiful masterpiece of eco design. There I met Johannes Boltze and conducted a short interview on Open Access and the current state of scientific publishing. Here is the essence of our conversation, which I would like to see as an invitation for the ongoing open discussion.

Q. The current academic publishing system is in the midst of big changes. There are many concerns about the present publishing models as science essentially depends on communication of its results. The internet, emerging digital technologies, social networks and a need to get faster and free access to knowledge are transforming the global scientific community. Tell us a little bit about your interest in Open Access and your opinion on the current state of affairs in scientific publishing.

A. Open Access stands for full availability and unrestricted usability. This is an important point for scientific publications since it makes research output immediately and ultimately available. This helps to increase the visibility of your particular research and fosters scientific discussion.

Immediate access, however, also raises a number of critical points, especially in cases in which results are already publicly available before the review process has been completed. For instance, a biomedical research paper that still has some flaws or is not well thought out, will probably receive a numerous suggestions and comments on what one could do better. While such constructive feedback is valuable in principle, repeatedly publishing incomplete (or even untrusted) results will impact the author’s personal reputation. From the perspective of the journal, quality of individual contributions is something to consider. While Open Access and immediate publication is a good idea per se, the journal will probably wish to find ways by which the quality of individual contributions is guaranteed. This is the only way to stay competitive, given the sheer numbers of newly launched journals penetrating the scientific publication market. It also helps to receive good citation rates.

Another issue comes with the evaluation of research. I think that the Impact Factor is more important in the biomedical field than it is in other fields. For instance, in the field of physics, research results become publicly available first by posting them in arXiv in most cases. Publication in one of the “conventional” journals is a secondary option and a considerable part of the scientific exchange takes part via the arXiv.

Next to the Impact Factor, other “sciencometric” measures such as the H Factor have become established. While all come with certain advantages and disadvantages, such measures are in people’s mind and ultimately contribute to the value of a publication. I think this is something Open Access journals have to face and adapt to. Potentially, the number of citations an individual publication receives is more important than the overall impact factor of the hosting journal since citations rates indicate how well an individual publication is received by the scientific community.

Q: Do you think more transparency and free exchange of data could support academic freedom and foster a new scientific culture?

 A. I think it clearly could. If it comes to the free exchange of data – of course – we have to consider things like intellectual property, responsible use of data, and other aspects all of which are hard to decide about from a general perspective. Nevertheless, I think that the complete exchange of data is very important. You often have conventional papers in which you have some results being presented, but it is hard at times to reconstruct how those have been generated in detail.

Giving the scientific community access to raw data sets and the complete spectrum of methodological protocols would really enhance transparency.

Scientific peers could try to reproduce the results to verify them or to identify potential room for improvement. I think this may accelerate the acquisition of knowledge, particularly in translational research areas. Moreover, it would also help to swiftly spread important information and breakthrough news throughout the community to implement it much faster.

I think most of my colleagues, especially at the Fraunhofer society, are very supportive of Open Access journals and Open Access approaches, as long as the quality is assured.

Q: How to steer an academic career? What would be your advice for early career researchers to navigate the science publishing landscape in the age of Open Science and Open Access.

A. I think the key point is to present high-quality work. For young scientists, it’s really important to publish with a good Impact Factor and to have a strong publication track record as this is the current mind set in most fields. Nevertheless, Open Access journals are coming into the field in increasing numbers, with many featuring high quality standards. So, I think Open Access provides you with an option to communicate your results earlier and with higher visibility. But aside from that, I think you still have to be aware of the “conventional” standards for measuring the impact of a particular publication. Finding a way of combining both would be of significant value to biomedical science.

One should also keep in mind that science originally developed by the falsification of hypotheses – and only the best hypotheses could survive the approach. Nowadays, scientific results are mainly presented as success stories, presenting positive results and approved hypotheses. That produces a certain pressure to have such results, and fosters the neglect of neutral or negative results.

An Open Access environment may be a very valuable database for such results which are often rejected by more conventional journals, but nevertheless are invaluable for the thorough progress in a given field.

Also, ScienceOpen could be used for publishing not only original results, but also well-thought out theories, suggestions, and hypotheses.

So, having a forum where you could present your ideas and concepts to a broad range of colleagues and a wide spectrum of experts would probably help to develop them further, and would represent a gain of knowledge apart from publishing original results.

* The Fraunhofer Society is Europe’s largest applied science organization, includes more than 60 research institutes in Germany and a large number of centres and representative offices in the USA, Asia and the Middle East with more than 23k employees (scientists and engineers), and an annual research budget of more than two billion Euro.

The Leipzig-based Fraunhofer IZI is a part of the Fraunhofer Life Science Branch working on development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic technologies for oncology, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases as well as regenerative medicine approaches for a broad variety of diseases.

In:  Announcements  

DPG Spring Meeting Poster Authors publish free in ScienceOpen


The DPG Spring Meeting in Berlin (15-20th March) is the largest Physics conference in Europe and the second largest after the APS March meeting.

As part of a pilot poster publishing initiative from the division heads of the Low Temperature and Semiconductor Physics Divisions, researchers presenting posters at these Spring Meeting sessions can publish them free in ScienceOpen. This offer is not officially endorsed by the DPG itself, other Divisions are welcome to participate if they wish.

If you have put the time and effort into creating a poster and want it to “live on” beyond the event, someplace other than the lab hallway or rolled up in your office, then we would be delighted to publish it here.

Your poster will receive a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and will be published Open Access under the Creative Commons License (CC BY 4.0) in ScienceOpen Posters (eISSN 2199-8442). These two divisions of the DPG will also have their own Poster Collection on the platform under their name. Publishing a digital poster is any ideal way to:

  • Share and discuss (preliminary) research results with your peers (and publish a full article when you are ready)
  • Track the impact of your poster, by counting citations and recording alternative metrics, such as downloads or shares on social media
  • Add another publication to your résumé complete with additional metrics that “add value” to the content

To get involved, all you need to do is to download the Poster Metadata Form, complete it and send it back to, together with your poster (PDF) and a catchy image (PNG, JPG, or GIF). The form contains further instructions on “How to fill out Poster Data” as well as a “Discipline List”. Please note: at least the corresponding author needs to create a ScienceOpen account before the poster can be published.

Kind regards: Prof. Dr. Alexander Grossmann, Founder and President of ScienceOpen (and a Physicist) and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Eckern, Institute of Physics, University of Augsburg, Chair of the Low Temperature Division, DPG.

In:  About SO  

Scholarly publishing for the network generation

Image credit: Forever and Always Two Bright Flowers on Blue Sky by Pink Sherbet Photography, CC BY

Image credit: Forever and Always Two Bright Flowers on Blue Sky by Pink Sherbet Photography, CC BY

Before I get on with the substance of this post about an article that CEO Stephanie and I wrote together that was recently published, I want to draw your attention to this picture which I chose for us. From the moment we met at a PLOS altmetrics event at Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA, we got along famously. Working with her for the past year, through the highs and lows of trying to bring change to the stubbornly resistant field of scholarly communication, has been an absolute pleasure. I look forward to sharing many more experiences together.

As many of you know, Stephanie is a road warrior for OA and travels extensively in Europe presenting on the future of scholarly communication and the ScienceOpen vision. After a trip to Portugal last year, where she was invited to speak at the ICOLC (International Coalition of Library Consortia) meeting, she met Lorraine Estelle, Executive Director of Digital Content and Resource Discovery and CEO Jisc Collections and co-editor of Insights: The UKSG Journal. Afterwards, Stephanie received an invitation to submit an article to Insights (free to publish and OA) about the approach and business model of ScienceOpen as presented at the ICOLC.

With only so many hours in the day, Stephanie invited me to join her in writing this article. After many hours of writing effort, a pleasant submission process via Ubiquity Press, a few rounds of fair minded peer-review revisions (anonymous!) and some hand holding from Ally Souster, Publications Assistant at the UKSG, our Case Study entitled: Scholarly publishing for the network generation is now published.

One of the most gratifying parts of writing this article, as a relatively new start-up, was the opportunity to lay out the ScienceOpen belief system and the importance of combining publishing and software expertise for success in digital scholarly communication. Here’s a little excerpt for those of you who don’t have time to read the whole article:

“ScienceOpen believes:

  • in immediate publication in order to speed up research. We publish the author’s PDF in ‘Preview’ with digital object identifier (DOI) within about a week of submission
  • that siloing OA content on publishers’ websites does not lend itself to creative reuse; a good reason to aggregate 1.4 million articles (currently from PubMed Central and arXiv) on our platform
  • that journals, whether ‘mega-’, highly specialized or super selective, are becoming outmoded. We need channels to serve OA content that meet community needs
  • in giving the power for content creation, curation and review fully back to the research community who have the required discipline-specific expertise
  • that whether content is ‘worthy’ is a matter for the community to decide, which is why we only offer post-publication peer review (PPPR) (non-anonymous) for our ScienceOpen journals
  • in expert review, and therefore insist that those participating must have five publications linked to their ORCiD to maintain the level of scientific discourse on the site
  • that the conversation about research is never over, which is why we don’t put a hard line under content and call it ‘approved’ and why we offer versioning”.

The ScienceOpen team combines publishing expertise (backgrounds and experience with PLOS, De Gruyter, Wiley, Springer, Nature Publishing Group, American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS] and The Scientist) with a software company. Often publishers cannot easily adapt to the changing needs of the communities they serve because they are not software developers and, increasingly, this is the key ingredient needed for success in the digital world. This means that although they may want to change their offering, they simply can’t do so as quickly as they might like because their legacy systems hold them back.

The reason that we combine publishing and software expertise is that we think it is this combination that will make it possible for us to rapidly adapt to the changing needs of researchers. For example, the conversation about the future of research communication now includes the openness of data, the evaluation of impact (both article and author) plus the reproducibility of research. All these topics are hotly debated on blogs, Twitter and in the mainstream press which places them before the public for their consideration. This only seems right and proper since taxpayer funding is a core component of research.

Heading down this open path is easier for nimble and technology-empowered organizations such as ScienceOpen because there is truth in the old adage that ‘one thing leads to another’. Establishing non-anonymous PPPR in and of itself increases the transparency of the research process and makes it ideally suited to tackle issues of reproducibility such as reminding reviewers to ask for more clarity in methods, or suggesting more experiments or even ways to collaborate”.

Thanks to everyone who gave us the opportunity to write this piece and supported us throughout the process.

In:  Early Career  

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!