Academic publishing and scholarly communications: Good reads, August 2017

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Academic publishing and scholarly communications: Good reads, August 2017

As the month comes to an end, you realize how busy you've been throughout this month reading, writing, publishing, doing research, and much more! But it's also important for you to be updated about the on-going discussions in the scholarly publishing industry is discussing. To help you stay up-to-date with the latest topics of discussion in academia, we've curated this list of interesting posts and updates. While most of these posts are about journal publishing and academic life, we also bring you an update about one of the most important industry events of the year - Peer Review Week 2017!

1. MECA - A new manuscript exchange initiative: The process of taking an article that has been submitted to one journal and transferring to another journal after rejection is fraught with frustration and anxiety for researchers. They have to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort reformatting the article for resubmission. In this great post, Charlie Rapple, co-founder of Kudos, which helps researchers, publishers, and institutions maximize research outreach and impact, writes about MECA, the Manuscript Exchange Common Approach. This very interesting and new initiative for manuscript exchange was launched at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) to simplify manuscript transfer across publishers and aims to focus on recommended best practices. Clarivate Analytics (ScholarOne), Aries Systems (Editorial Manager), eJournal Press (eJPress), HighWire (BenchPress) and PLOS (Aperta) are among the organizations backing this initiative. Whether MECA will introduce standardized formatting across different journals remains to be seen. 

2. Addressing the irreproducibility crisis with a new measure - the R-factor: A group of researchers led by Peter Grabitz has come up with a new solution to solve the irreproducibility crisis. They propose an approach "that yields a simple numerical measure of veracity, the R-factor, by summarizing the outcomes of already published studies that have attempted to test a claim. The R-factor of a set of research results can be arrived at by dividing the number of published reports that have verified a scientific claim by the number of attempts to do so. Based on this idea, the R-factor of a researcher, journal, or research institution can be calculated by considering the average of the R-factors of the claims they have reported. The R-factor stands for responsibility, robustness, and reputation. In this blog post, the author critically evaluates this approach and points out certain flaws in the R-factor: (i) it is too simplistic, (ii) it could be affected by publication biases, (iii) it does not add value to what we already have for ensuring reproducibility, (iv) it does not go into details about exactly how it should/could be used, only how it can be calculated. Overall, according to Neuroskeptic, "the R-factor might work in some fields, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for any science that uses statistics – which includes the great majority of psychology and neuroscience."
3. On the "unbearable emptiness of tweeting": Over the past couple of years, research promotion and outreach has emerged as a key interest of researchers, publishers, funders, and science communicators. Different members of the scholarly community use Twitter for different reasons. Some use it to talk about their own work, some use it to promote published papers, funders use it to showcase the latest scientific breakthroughs they have supported, publishers use it to increase their credibility and measure research impact, and so on. Overall, the use of Twitter seems to be associated with positive outcomes and as one of the altmetrics to gauge research outreach and impact. However, according to researchers Nicolas Robinson-Garcia and colleagues, "The ideal that tweeting about scholarly articles represents curating and informing about state-of-the-art appears not to be realized in practice. We see much presumably human tweeting almost entirely mechanical and devoid of original thought, no evidence of conversation, tweets generated by monomania, duplicate tweeting from many accounts under centralized professional management and tweets generated by bots." In this interesting PlosOne publication, the authors discuss the reality of Twitter usage by different members of the global scholarly publishing community.
4. 50 Nobel Laureates' views on the issues facing science and more: Times Higher Education, with the assistance of the German organization that arranges the annual Nobel Laureates conference, surveyed 50 Lindau Nobel Laureates. The survey sought the views of some of the greatest minds in the world on topics ranging from funding and the issues facing science to artificial intelligence. When asked if they thought their own research which secured them Nobel prizes could have been possible in today’s funding environment, 47% said they “possibly” could have produced the same research today. Majority of the Nobel Laureates opined that international mobility of researchers and scientists is very important to research. Around 40% thought that political polarization is a grave threat to scientific progress globally. According to one of the Laureates, “any measures that inhibit the sharing of ideas are detrimental to science.” When asked whether AI and robotics will some day reduce the need for human researchers, 50% of the responding Laureates said it was a highly unlikely proposition, while 24% negated the very possibility of such a change ever occurring. This survey report also shares some interesting views on threats facing mankind and the challenges faced by universities locally and globally.
5. Should postdocs be allowed to carry along their research to their own independent labs? There are several online discussions about the plight and problems faced by postdocs - from career instability to long working hours. This post explores another under-discussed issue in the postdoc life. Specifically, it explores whether postdocs should be allowed to carry/continue their research projects with them when they set up their own labs. And if they do port their research projects into their own labs, are they allowed to be free of direct competition from their former mentors? According to the author of this post, Ben Barres, the answer to both questions, in an ideal world, is yes: "Lab heads should let junior researchers take their projects with them when they start their own labs — it drives innovation and discovery." However, this is rarely the case in reality. I think it's time for the academic community to start openly discussing the issue of research freedom for postdocs (or lack of it)," says Barres. There are a couple of reasons for this. When signing an agreement with a lab, postdocs often forget to clarify the implications of the policies they are agreeing to follow. Also, many postdocs are afraid of confronting or disappointing their PIs by asking them if they would be allowed to carry along a previous resarch project to their independent lab. And one major problem here could be that of perception - the perception that the lab head/the PI of the postdoc owns the project even though a bulk of the work is managed by the postdocs themselves.
6. Peer Review Week 2017 will focus on transparency: The theme for this year's Peer Review Week, which will be held September 11 to 17 is Transparency in review. Peer Review Week is a global event that celebrates the critical role the peer review process plays in ensuring the quality of published reseacrch. During Peer Review Week, everybody involved in scholarly publishing - from researchers to science communicators and organizations - comes together to discuss various aspects of and issues in peer review. This year, the event overlaps with the Eighth International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication (September 10 to 12). Editage, is on the organizing committee of Peer Review Week as well as an exhibitor at the Peer Review Congress. Stay tuned to know more about the exciting activities we have lined up to celebrate Peer Review Week. Hint: This includes a webinar on how to avoid peer review scams and an exclusive training course for peer reviewers.
What an interesting collection of topic to read and think about? Were you aware of these developments? And do you have anything interesting to share? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below. You might also be interested in following our Industry News segment, where we share regular updates on what the academic publishing industry is talking about.

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Published on: Aug 31, 2017


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