Academic publishing and scholarly communications: Good reads, February 2017

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6 mins
Academic publishing and scholarly communications: Good reads, February 2017

Every month, the Editage Insights team sifts through hundreds of posts, articles, updates, and blogs to stay on top of some of the hottest debates in scholarly publishing. The idea is to identify the top stories of the month and share them with you. This month, we have an interesting list of recommendations for you. We tell you about the situation in the UK post Brexit, a recommended list of 15 best practices to rebuild the trust in scholarly publishing, a new proposal to combat the irreproducibility crisis, fake news about science, couples in research, and much more!

  1. Scientific Advisors not yet appointed in the UK: In the past the UK has employed researchers as Chief Scientific Advisors (CSAs) to play senior advisory roles and influence policy at the larger level. However, after Brexit, two of the departments in charge of planning the UK's exit from the EU - the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) and the Department for International Trade (DIT) - have not yet appointed a CSA, nor have they indicated any intentions of doing so. This has increased the anxiety among scientists in the UK. According to Robin Walker, a DExEU minister, the department was still speculating the need for CSAs. Science policy experts worry that if CSAs are not appointed, scientists won't be able to help the government make informed policy decisions that would benefit society.
  2. Is academic publishing suffering from diseases? John Antonakis, a psychologist and editor of the journal The Leadership Quarterly, has described the problems in science publishing in terms of diseases in his paper "On doing better science: From thrill of discovery to policy implications." According to him, science is suffering from five diseases: (a) Significosis, the obsession to produce statistically significant results; (b) neophilia, giving excessive weightage to novel results; (c) theorrhea, an excessive desire for new theory, which particularly affects social science branches; (d) arigorim, a deficiency of thoroughness in empirical and theoretical work; (e) disjunctivitis, which indicates the tendency to gravitate towards producing large quantities of works that are redundant. Antonakis believes that all of these diseases that have common causes: the incentives to doing research, the research and publishing practices, and the conditions under which research is done. He calls upon researchers, editors, and funders to prevent, diagnose, and treat these diseases. 
  3. Time to do away with fake news: Fake news is not new to science, but what is concerning is the use of social media to disseminate such news much faster. Addressing scientists at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, communications expert Dominique Brossard said that in the context of science, the spread of fake news through online social networks like Facebook and Twitter gets murkier as it is difficult to identify whether the false information was spread intentionally or was just the result of a poorly conducted study. The best way to avoid misinformation in science news would be to have scientists take on the responsibility for communicating science, and working with journalists to help explain and contextualize their work. 
  4. A solution to tackle the reproducibility crisis: Jeffrey S. Mogil, director of the Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain at McGill University, and Malcolm Macleod, professor of neurology and translational neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, discuss a novel way of ensuring reproducibility of animal study based medical research papers in this Nature article. They propose that for papers that deal with animal studies of disease therapies or preventions should include a trial constituting "an independent, statistically rigorous confirmation of a researcher's central hypothesis." They call this a confirmatory study and it would have to follow high standards of analysis and reporting, would be tested by an independent laboratory, and would be held to a “higher threshold of statistical significance." While the pair admits that this proposal may be difficult to execute, they urge funders and assessment committees to demand such measures to ensure that the published paper has valid results. It would also encourage researchers to be more thorough with their research.
  5. Researchers should not need a blacklist to identify bad publishing venues: The discontinuation of Jeffrey Beall’s list of predatory publishers last month led to some amount of consternation among the science community, with many scientists expressing the need for a replacement or a new equivalent of Beall’s list. In this interesting article, Cameron Neylon explains why he has never been a supporter of the Beall’s list and outlines why he believes the concept of the blacklist itself is fundamentally flawed. According to Neylon, blacklists are by definition incomplete. Additionally, they are also highly susceptible to legal challenge and vulnerable to personal bias. Scholars should be able to independently identify a good venue from which to communicate their work, he says.
  6. 15 Ways you can stand up for the cause of science: In this inspiring post, Alice Meadows, Director of Community Engagement & Support, ORCID, talks passionately about the recent issues plaguing scientific research and publishing. Too many things have gone wrong already, Alice argues - from unethical publication practices to poor policy level decisions due to vested political interests. She then shares a list of 15 things everyone in academia and scholarly publishing must to do to help rebuild trust in scientific research and scholarly communication. Her list includes some solid recommendations such as joining the Reproducibility Initiative, considering open access in some form, supporting the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), and using tools that help researchers create, store, manage, and share their data effectively.
  7. How researcher couples manage their work and personal lives: "There are many couples in science," says Amber Dance in this interesting article, which talks about how it is quite common for researchers to enter into relationships and work alongside each other. The advantages of having a partner/spouse at work or in the same department or institution are numerous. The benefits could be non-academic, e.g., carpooling and a mutual understanding of the demands of their partners' work, or academic, e.g., peer reviewing for each other. However, researcher couples also need to be careful especially when their work or interactions could give rise to conflicts of interest. Another challenge is maintaining work-life balance and ensuring that their work doesn't seep into their personal interactions.

So did you enjoy reading the posts we recommended for you this month? Have you read any of these already? Do you have an opinion to share? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. You can also follow our Industry News segment, where we share regular updates on what the academic publishing industry is talking about.

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Published on: Feb 27, 2017


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