Academic publishing and scholarly communications: Good reads, August 2016

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6 mins
Academic publishing and scholarly communications: Good reads, August 2016

Exactly a year ago, we shared our first good reads post to bring you up to speed with the most recent discussions in academic publishing and scholarly communications. We’d confessed that, “Our team of editors loves to stay on top of goings on in the academic publishing industry. We leave no stone unturned to bring you the content that helps you stay ahead of the curve, which translates into a lot of reading and referencing.” Our passion for knowing about all things related to scholarly publishing and our commitment to sharing them with you remain unchanged. This month, to make our recommendations more worthwhile, we have added a couple of interviews and blogs, which will quell your curiosity about what researchers and publishing professionals are talking about. We hope you enjoy reading these!

Open access publisher, OMICS, sued: The U.S. government agency Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sued OMICS Group, Inc. for deceiving researchers about its “reviewing practices, publication fees, and the nature of its editorial boards.” OMICS claims to publish over 700 high-quality open access journals. However, many researchers complain that the publisher does not reveal its publication charges until after accepting an article for publication. It also does not allow researchers to withdraw their manuscripts. Authors risk their papers being held hostage if they choose not to pay the publication fees. Explaining the reason behind the suit, Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said, “It is vital that we stop scammers who seek to take advantage of the changing landscape of academic publishing.” If FTC wins the suit, OMICS might be forced to pay back to the affected researchers. Could this be the beginning of serious efforts to put an end to predatory publishing?

What are the real costs of publishing? For long, the expenses of the publishing industry in the digital era have been under wraps. However, eLife, a peer-reviewed open-access scientific journal for the biomedical and life sciences, revealed that it spends £3,147 on each paper. This revelation has sparked several debates because the costs declared by eLife are allegedly lesser than those of the journal Nature, which estimated that its costs were £20,000 to £30,000 per paper. It is unconventional for journals to reveal their publishing costs, but this move by eLife could introduce a shift toward greater transparency in journal publishing.

How much are we spending on bad science? We know about the wonderful advances that science has made, but we rarely think about the resources that are wasted on bad research. Professor Simon Gandevia, Acting Director at Neuroscience Research Australia, says Australia could be wasting billions of dollars each year on bad science. “In essence, there are what you might call "false discoveries" that are a result of "unconscious biases about how we perform our work," he says. He attributes this problem to the fact that universities are ranked based on the number of PhD students they produce and to the immense pressure to publish that shifts researchers’ focus away from publishing genuine discoveries.

Can educating students about ethical publishing help reduce cases of research misconduct? A study conducted by Dr. Lee Adam, education research fellow at the University of Otago, revealed that many students do not completely understand the long-term implications of plagiarism for their careers. While the study participants knew what plagiarism meant, they felt it was unfair to punish researchers for unintentional plagiarism. Dr. Adam stated that, "What students were trying to articulate was ‘why do you expect us to be able to do this?" Thus, she suggests that institutions and students view the purpose of university education differently since students think university education is a stepping stone to finding a job rather than associating it with learning about academic writing and best practices. This study highlights the need for educating students about ethical publishing and its significance.

Forensic psychology and research misconduct (Interview): In this fascinating interview with Retraction Watch, Cristy McGoff, Director of the Research Integrity Office at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro talks about how she applies the principles of forensic psychology to analyze and correct cases of academic misconduct among researchers. "I think that while competition plays a part in the quest for funding, ego can be a large barrier to ethical conduct of research," she says, while explaining the behavior of serial fraudsters, i.e., researchers who are prone to repeatedly engage in unethical behavior. She also talks of the need for bringing about a mindset change in research labs.

Scholarly identities on social media  (Interview): Here's another great interview with Dr. Bonnie Stewart, an educator whose work focuses on digital scholarship, networked identities and influence, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Dr. Stewart briefly talks about her research on the concept of scholarly identity, i.e., the identities that researchers project when they are online. She explains how social networking platforms such as Twitter can be of great use to researchers especially for their professional development. But public spaces also introduce risks and researchers should ideally be aware of them, she adds.

The Hardest Science (Blog): Moderated by Sanjay Srivastava, an Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Oregon and director of the Personality and Social Dynamics Lab, The Hardest Science is a psychology blog that documents Dr. Srivastava's thoughts about his field and other topics. We recommend this blog to anyone who has a deep interest in the field of psychology and is interested in knowing what researchers think about the reproducibility crisis.

Starts With a Bang (Blog): Blogging is about sharing your thoughts on topics you feel passionately about. And Ethan Siegel’s blog Starts with a bang, as its name suggests, is all about astrophysics, a subject he is passionate about. As a theoretical astrophysicist with a background in nuclear, particle, computational, gravitational, and astrophysics, Ethan writes about the universe and how it works. From dark matter and phantom planets to eclipses and breathtaking images from space, this blog has it all.

Have you come across something you’d like to share with other researchers or publishing professionals? We’d love to read it too! Simply share your recommendations in the comments section below. And if you’d like to stay tuned to important happenings in the journal publishing industry, visit our Industry News section.

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Published on: Aug 31, 2016


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