Tuesday, September 30, 2008

N - Law demands patients' consent

Biomedical journals must always have explicit consent to publish medical information about an identifiable living patient, insists UK data protection legislation, Jane Smith explained in the BMJ (2008;337:a1572). Doctors should ask for consent before they lose touch with patients; alternatively complete anonymisation might be a solution to not having consent. The BMJ used to waive the need for consent occasionally, but has revised its guidelines for authors. The same issue of the BMJ considers the ethics surrounding an article that the BMJ rejected because consent had not been obtained that was subsequently published in a different journal (a1231, a1232, and a1233). See also www.ico.gov.uk/upload/documents/library/data_protection/practical_application/health_data_-_use_and_disclosure001.pdf.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

N - "Going forward" is step backward

Office jargon "cloaks the brutal modern workplace in such brainlessly upbeat language," says Lucy Kellaway, complaining on the BBC's website, and usage trickles down into common parlance. "Like 'like,' 'going forward' is as contagious as smallpox. It started with business people, and now has not only infected farmers, it has reached epidemic proportions with footballers." She also hates the phenomenon of "up"—"to free up," "to head up," and, worst, "to give a heads up." To find out more about "idea showers," "let's touch base about that offline," and "low hanging fruit" see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7457287.stm

N - Who does peer review?

Ai Lin Chun, associate editor for Nature Nanotechnology, was asked how researchers become peer reviewers, in the Nature Network forum. She looks for referees with a good publication record. Most are established academics, but younger researchers recommended by their professors who do a good job might be asked again. "I enjoy referees who provide a thoughtful, well balanced report with suggested improvements for the authors." Timeliness is also important: “We do have a chasing system, but it is certainly not my favourite thing to do." And bad reports don’t help regardless of status: "We feel less enthusiastic in asking them to review again after a few bad occasions." See http://network.nature.com/groups/nnano/forum/topics/1761

N - Editing magazine indexed

A complete index to Editing Matters, the magazine of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, and its predecessors CopyRight and SFEP Newsletter has been compiled by Christopher Phipps of the Society of Indexers. The index is online at www.sfep.org.uk/pub/mag/index/indexhome.asp.

N - Director and students in journal row

The director of the German Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics has claimed that the journal Human Brain Mapping acted incorrectly when it published data taken without permission by research students, Nature reports (2008;454:6-7). He says that the students’ interpretation is incorrect, that the paper could mislead the field, and that the journal has denied him a right to reply. The students told Nature, "We are confident, and rigorous peer review agreed, that the data are appropriate. . . We stand by the conclusions we made in our paper."

N - Publishers pay to deposit research

Publishers, such as Nature Publishing Group (NPG) and Oxford Journals, are meeting the costs of depositing research in open access repositories to help scientists meet the requirements of research funders. The US National Institutes of Health, for example, requires research that it funds to be made freely available no later than a year after publication. David Hoole, head of content licensing at NPG, said “Our primary focus is getting the deposit into PubMed Central and UK PubMed Central running smoothly for as many NPG journals as possible.” NPG will deposit the manuscript as submitted by the author, but Oxford will deposit the published version. See www.iwr.co.uk/information-world-review/analysis/2225279/ocford-pays-oa-fees-nih-funded and www.iwr.co.uk/information-world-review/news/2221053/nature-publishing-offer-archive

N - Calling writers on diabetes

The Alliance for European Diabetes Research (www.euradia.org) wishes to draw attention of the media and freelance journalists to its next press conference, near Frankfurt on 26 November. In 2008 the alliance began a two year survey to identify gaps and highlight strengths to devise a strategy for diabetes research in Europe (DIAMAP, www.diamap.eu). The alliance includes the major European diabetes stakeholder organisations and drug companies. EURADIA has been instrumental in highlighting the need for increased and better coordinated funding for diabetes research.
Thanks to Elise Langdon-Neuner

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

N - The face of PubMed

The Pubmed Faceoff site (www.postgenomic.com/faces) displays PubMed results using as a set of human faces, with features determined by the age, citation count, and journal impact factor associated with each paper. You can tell at a glance which papers are new, exciting, and high impact and which are languishing, uncited, and unread. The visualisation uses Chernoff Faces, a technique developed in the 1970s that depends on our ability to detect small differences in the size, shape, and expressions of human faces. Each dimension in a dataset is mapped to a different facial feature, whether the slant of eyebrows, size of nose, or chubbiness of cheeks. See http://network.nature.com/people/euan/blog/2008/06/09/pubmed-faceoff.

N - Get your scientific integrity calendar

Justin Bilicki won this year's Science Idol competition, an cartoon contest with the theme of scientific integrity. Twelve of the finalists' cartoons are available as a 2009 calendar, available from the US Union of Concerned Scientists’ website. The union says, "Recent investigations and surveys show that political interference in science has harmed the ability of federal agencies to protect our health, safety, and environment. We are building a foundation to guide the next president in restoring scientific integrity to federal policy making. The next president and Congress must renew the independence of science at federal government agencies and create a thriving scientific enterprise." See www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/science_idol.

N - Dictionary threatens to drop words

Collins is threatening to drop obscure words from its English dictionary this year because it can’t fit them all in. But its ruthlessness is tempered with a touch of clemency—and it’s great public relations: it will save any of the words that appear six times in the company’s database of recent word usage in the media. Celebrities have chosen a word to rescue from a list of 24. Andrew Motion, the poet laureate, is lobbying for the retention of “skirr,” which is the sound that the birds’ wings make in flight. And Stephen Fry has chosen “fusby,” which means short, stout, or squat. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3046488/Collins-dictionary-asks-public-to-rescue-outdated-words.html

N - Researchers embrace journalists

More than half of researchers questioned rated their contact with journalists as mostly good, and four out of 10 found media coverage beneficial to their career, a survey reported in Science has found (2008;321:204-5). More than two thirds of researchers had contact with the media during a period of three years, and researchers in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States had similar numbers of interactions with journalists and were similarly content. The survey dispels the idea that scientists avoid journalists and are disappointed with the way that they communicate science to the public.

N - On the Nature of PLoS

A story in Nature about the finances of open access journal publisher the Public Library of Science (PLoS) has attracted criticism in the blogosphere. Nature Publishing Group publishes traditional subscription journals, and its news piece has been criticised for lacking objectivity. Declan Butler’s story began, “PLoS, the poster child of the open access publishing movement, is . . . relying on bulk, cheap publishing of lower quality papers to subsidise its handful of high quality flagship journals.” He went on to mention PLoS One’s approach to peer review and PLoS’s use of unpaid staff. A selection of criticisms is at http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2008/07/on_the_nature_of_plos.php.

N - Nature looks at big data

Marking the 10th anniversary of Google, the 4 September issue of Nature focused on big data sets: “As an increasing number of research disciplines are discovering, the vast amounts of data are presenting fresh challenges that urgently need to be addressed.” Articles in the issue look at managing petabytes of data, analysis of complex datasets, online community collaborations, and sophisticated techniques for visualisation. “The future of science depends [on] cleverness again being applied to data for their own sake, complementing scientific hypotheses as a basis for exploring today’s information cornucopia,” an editorial concluded. (Nature 2008;455:1)

N - "With credit comes responsibility"

The Lancet has censured a lead author who claimed honorary authorship as a reason for not overseeing a paper that the journal had to retract. The author’s university has accepted this defence even though the author signed a statement before publication confirming substantial intellectual contribution. “Using gift authorship as an excuse for not taking responsibility . . . should not be tolerated,” the Lancet says. The research was retracted after legal and other irregularities became apparent—for example, in the way patient consent was obtained. See the paper (Lancet 2007;369:2179-86), the retraction (Lancet 2008;372:789), and an editorial about authors’ responsibilities (Lancet 2008;372:778).

N - Researchers post data online immediately

Some scientists are posting all their research data online as soon as they produce it in the interests of collaboration and to improve communication, Nature reports. The risks include not being able to publish in a journal, for example, the American Chemical Society doesn’t allow prepublication in any form; having data stolen by rivals; and missing out on patents. Using a wiki with time stamps could be used as evidence of priority. In research involving privacy of patients or animal experimentation data should not be made fully or immediately available. (Nature 2008;455:273)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

N - Long papers get cited more

The median number of citations rises with the length of the paper, an analysis of 20 027 peer reviewed astronomy papers published in 2000-4 (http://arxiv.org/abs/0809.0692v1). On average 2-3 page articles had six citations, and 50 page articles 50 citations. "I expected that shorter papers would be cited more than longer ones,” said Jörg Dietrich, of the European Southern Observatory. “I assumed that people don’t have time to read long papers." With the increasing use of citation statistics as indicators of performance, there is a danger that a paper’s length might be increased to gain citations. (Nature 2008;455:274-5

N - Open access doesn’t increase citations

Articles available for free online are no more likely to be cited than articles published in a subscription journal, but online access is greater, a randomised controlled trial has shown (BMJ 2008;337:a568). The trial comprised 1619 research articles and 11 journals published by the American Physiological Society. Fiona Godlee, editor of the BMJ, said, “The fact that these initial results suggest open access increases usage but not citations fits with the way in which citations are largely generated by people who already have access to the literature and for whom open access is therefore less of a benefit.” (www.iwr.co.uk/information-world-review/analysis/2225248/open-access-citation-effect)

N - Latin American journals get boost

The number of Latin American and Caribbean journals indexed in the Web of Science has doubled to 159 after Thomson Reuters changed their selection criteria to get the most influential regionally important journals in the index. Abel Packer, at the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information, said, “This notable increase . . . matches up the efforts and advocacy that [the centre] has made in the last decades to enhance visibility and accessibility of the scientific production published in . . . the region. The increase helps correcting the biases of the international indexes when indexing quality journals in this region.” (http://espacio.bvsalud.org/boletim.php?articleId=07103101200828)
Thanks to Elise Langdon-Neuner

N - Publishers' group appoints US director

The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) has appointed Isabel Czech as executive director, North America. Ian Russell, the association’s chief executive, explained, “The membership of ALPSP is growing and much of that growth is from members in the United States and Canada. We have created this new position to help support the membership in North America.” Czech has spent more than 30 years working in publisher relations at Thomson Scientific, now a part of Thomson Reuters. ALPSP’s 350 organizational members in 37 countries publish more than 10 000 journals, about half the world's total. (http://www.alpsp.org/ngen_public/article.asp?id=1&did=47&aid=20168&st=&oaid=-1)
Thanks to Joan Marsh

Monday, September 15, 2008

B - Pat on back is premature

Dray T. Pat on back is premature. APS News 2008;17(8):4

Letter commenting on that of W.G.Unruh and the response of APS to it (APS News 17(6):8), in which the editors extensively rebut criticisms which do not appear to have been levelled at the APS, while completely ignoring the one that was, and calling for public discussion of the conditions that APS still imposes through its copyright practice.


Posted for John Glen

B - Fair use protects authors' rights

Myers R A. Fair use protects authors' rights. APS News 2008;17(8):4

Letter commenting on that of W.G.Unruh (APS News 17(6):8) and saying that US copyright law explicitly defines the fair use limitations on the exclusive rights conferred by the law. This is followed by "Unruh responds:" in which Unruh states that "fair use" is so limited that it would not cover many things an author might expect to be able to do with his own data - indeed it gives the author no more right to use the work than any person off the street.


Posted for John Glen

B - Copyright causes conflict of interest

Landis G A. Copyright causes conflict of itnerest. APS News 2008;17(8);4

Letter commenting on that of W.G.Unruh (APS News 17(6)8) and pointing out that normally one would expect the APS, the organization that usually would be defending the rights of physicists, ought to be outspoken in organizing physicists to keep their rights. But in this case, the organization is the very organization that is taking the copyright - even though there is no legal requirement for them to do so.


Posted for John Glen

B - Copyright decision a matter of principle

Freese M H. Copyright decision a matter of principle. APS News 2008;17(8):4

Letter commenting on that of W.G.Unruh (APS News 17(6):8) and saying some changes in APS copyright language are clearly appropriate and suggesting the best principle should be based on the contribution of the author and the journal: the ideas and data should clearly belong to the authors, and the reviewed, edited, laid out, and delivered copy should belong to the community through the journal.


Posted for John Glen