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.
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!
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.
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?
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).
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.
I remember my first peer review. An Editor for a well-respected Elsevier journal in Earth Sciences emailed me during the second year of my PhD, asking me to peer review a paper for them. I hadn’t published anything by this point of my PhD, and had received no formal training in how to peer review papers. I initially declined, but was pretty much coerced into doing it, despite my resignations. “It’ll be great training and experience”, I was told. Go on. Go on go on go on go on go on. In the end, I did the review, but got my supervisor to check it over to make sure I was fair, thorough, and constructive. I remember him saying “This is surprisingly good!”, and thinking ‘Thanks..’. But his response was more because it was my first peer review, without any training in how to do it, rather than anything to do with my ability as a scientist. And rightly so – why should I have been expected to do a good job of peer review at such an early stage in my career, and with no formal training?
I wonder then how many other PhD students are told the same, and thrown into the deep end. ‘Peer review for this journal and receive fame and glory. It doesn’t matter how well you do it, as long as you do it.’
We’re continuing our series on highlighting diverse perspectives in the vast field of ‘open science’. The last post in this series with Iara Vidal highlighted the opportunities of using altmetrics, as well as insight into scholarly publishing in Brazil. This week, Ernesto Priego talks with us about problems with the scholarly publishing system that led him to start his own journal, The Comics Grid.
There was no real reason to not start your own journal as an academic, to regain control of our own work and to create, disseminate and engage with scholarship in a faster, more transparent, fairer way.
Hi Ernesto! Thanks for joining us here. Could you start off by letting us know a little bit about your background?
I was born in Mexico City. I am Mexican and I have British nationality too. I studied English Literature at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) where I also taught and was part of various research projects. I came to the UK to do a master’s in critical theory at UEA Norwich and a PhD in Information Studies at University College London. I currently teach Library and Information Science at City University London.
When did you first hear about open access and open science? What were your initial thoughts?
I cannot recall exactly. I think I first encountered the concept of ‘open access’ via Creative Commons. I was a keen blogger between 1999 and 2006, and I remember that around 2002 I first came across the concept of the ‘commons’. I think it was through Lawrence Lessig that I really got interested into how scholarly communications were incredibly restrictive in comparison to the ideas being discussed by the Free Culture movement. Lessig’s Free Culture (2004) changed things for me. (For more background I recently talked to Mike Taylor about why open access means so much to me in this interview).
We need to think about the greater good, not just about ourselves as individuals.
You run your own journal, The Comics Grid – what was the motivation behind this?
Realising how difficult and expensive it was to access paywalled research got me quite frustrated with scholarly publishing. When I was doing my PhD I just could not understand why academics were stuck with a largely cumbersome and counter-intuitive system. The level of friction was killing my soul (it still does). It just seemed to me (now I understand better the larger issues) there was no real reason to not start your own journal as an academic, to regain control of our own work and to create, disseminate and engage with scholarship in a faster, more transparent, fairer way. I’ve said before that often scholarly publishing feels like that place where academic content goes to die: the end of the road. I feel publishing should be a point of departure, not the end.