Category: Scientific Publishing

On prepub servers and DORA, a glimpse of a future that is upon us

The current publication peer review system is heading for a terminal phase. Submission to a preprint server is essential for the job market as it provides visibility to your work. And if the funding body considering the application tells you that this does not count, check whether they have signed DORA and if they have, tell them to unsign. The reasonings of those who refuse papers in servers recognize that a paper in a server is, indeed, a publication. As the work prevails over the publication, the scientist over the publisher, we shall regain our ground. Last week an article […]

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The cooling impact of Cool Science in the biological sciences

My colleague Steve Russell, a seasoned Drosophila molecular geneticist, has on a wall of his office a relic of the 80s, a copy of the only existing issue of “Cool”, a spoof  journal that arose in response to the birth of “Cool” in the biological sciences; you know the journal on which it is inspired. Steve is a good, serious, honest Drosophila biologist whose work has inspired students and postdocs and has helped the local and international communities in a variety of manners. Having “Cool’ on the wall appeals to his Glaswegian humour (download Cool here). Cool science has come […]

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A vanity publication

Current Biology used to be an independent outfit until, probably due to its relative success, was taken over by Elsevier. Nevertheless, Geoff North, its seasoned editor, managed to keep some autonomy from the better known sibling journals, particularly the Cell family, in the way it is run and the topics it picks up for publication. It is not a bad journal and is much appreciated as part of the second tier to which many authors turn when their papers are rejected from the higher end of the market we have created. Geoff North has some things in common with other […]

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First thoughts on SF DORA

First thoughts on SF DORA (http://am.ascb.org/dora/) The following was posted in The Node as a response to a call for comments on the SF Declaration of Research Assesment (http://thenode.biologists.com/san-francisco-declaration-on-research-assessment/news/) The declaration is a very important step forward to untangle the situation we have got ourselves into. However, the size and the direction of the step will be determined by how, who and how firmly the resolutions are implemented. Some habits are difficult to quit and one can see people not mentioning the impact factor (IF) explicitly but using it implicitly valuing publications in the same journals as a proxy for […]

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On ambition

In science ambition has always been understood as the intention to do something interesting, either by solving a difficult problem that will provide a general insight into the workings of Nature (gravity, the atomic structure of matter, evolution….) or to create something that will be generally useful (a microprocessor, a steam engine, the Golden Gate or the ability to perform in vitro fertilization). However, increasingly, at least in the life sciences, the term has adopted a new meaning: ‘where you want to publish’. You are ambitious if you want to publish in one of those journals that we shall call […]

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Orwell’s principle of Peer Review: all authors are equal in the eyes of the editors but in High Impact Factor journals, some Authors are more equal than others.

It happened again. Talking to someone about things of the trade: papers, publishing in the life sciences actually, happened to mention a piece of work I had just seen in Cell; “did that get published?….” my companion jumped…. “really?……..I rejected that work!….. but well, it is so-and-so and it is Cell…..”.  Indeed; the topic is what they call ‘hot’, the authors are well known in the field and, one presumes, the editors are easily impressed by names, trendy topics and technologies…….who cares about content or rigour: plus ca change…….peer review which for most of us is a complicated and treacherous […]

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Can we think of something important to say?

The death of Francois Jacob (1920-2013) has triggered many deserved tributes and comments, as well as brought back the memories of a time and a place when Science was, different, certainly more focused and the realm of few. The first time I heard about Jacob was, of course, in the context of Jacob and Monod, in undergraduate Genetics in Madrid. This was a landmark moment as it showed me what Biology was capable of, that Biology could be beautiful, that one could find logic and order in what otherwise would be a mere collection of facts and that you can […]

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How to evaluate our output

It is very good to see that, slowly, the OA battle is being won. There are still a few rough edges to be smoothened out, particularly in the US, but the battle is being won and everybody is aware of the problem and the solutions. What is best, progress is being made. Now we can maybe turn on the heat on a situation which, probably, does not have an easy solution but which, increasingly is a cause of aggravation, intellectual discrimination and ……: the current mechanisms of peer review and the meaning and use of the Impact Factor (IF). I […]

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More about the current state of scientific publishing and how to start change

Additional observations Our lab has an ongoing fruitful collaboration with AK Hadjantonakis at the Developmental Biology division of MSKCC in New York (www.mskcc.org/research/lab/anna-katerina-hadjantonakis) and a recent visit coincided with the publication of an article from Leslie Vosshall on the current state of scientific publishing and the effect it has on careers and, overall, the field (www.fasebj.org/content/26/9/3589.full). Leslie kindly made time to see me and we had a good exchange during which we shared our views of the problem and ways towards solutions. She proposes some in her article by making a rational appeal to the common sense of authors, reviewers […]

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What’s in an asterisk: the power of Nature

A recent decision by Nature to restrict the number of joint first authors to three and not to have joint senior authors (see *) is another step of this (and other HIF journals) to accumulate power in running science. They already influence decisions about position and grant income through what and who they allow to publish, they also determine the content and the timing of publications through the lengthy review process. It could be said that these effects are indirect and that we contribute to the mechanisms that foster this meddling into our affairs, but their new policy is unilateral, […]

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