Friday, August 24, 2012
The use of technology to extract data and meaning by 'mining' journal content opens up new areas of research and new ways of answering research questions. Researchers in this emerging field have pushed for more co-operation from publishers, especially those researchers whose institutions already subscribe to journals but who aren't able to 'mine' those journals' contents due to uncertainties about copyright and licensing. The Open Knowledge Foundation has published a draft content mining declaration, with the three-pronged aim of educating researchers and librarians about the potential of mining, persuading publishers to make mining easier, and urging governments to promote and protect rights to mine. The declaration, published on the OKFN website in June, is based on three principles: right of legitimate access to mine; lightweight processing terms and conditions; and freedom to use mined information.
“Mostly publishes in specialist journals” (i.e. his papers are not good enough for a top journal) and “papers are mostly descriptive” (i.e. her work is boring) are just two of the phrases scientists use to insult their peers, as collected by stem cell scientist Paul Knoepfler on his blog. Other insults include “mostly middle author publications” (i.e. he is a loser) and “outstanding educator” (i.e. her research output is negligible).
An impressive gathering of academics, editors and technologists gathered at Stanford University (California, USA) in March for a colloquium titled Rethinking the future of science communication. The participants considered the role of a journal article as “just one node in the chain” of communication and for disparate groups to engage in the “ecosystem of objects” surrounding scientific discourse. Access was discussed, of course, but alongside filtering, annotation and interaction. The colloquium covered a lot of ground and the summary is a rich resource for anyone interested in how, why, when, and where we may be communicating scientific findings in the future. Similar conversations took place at the Society for Scholarly Publishing's recent annual conference (30 May-1 June; Arlington, Virginia, USA), which included a panel discussion on the roles of publishers in future scholarly communication ('Publishers: what are they good for?') in a world where a scholarly journal (e.g. Journal of Digital Humanities) can be created entirely from curated open-access content from blogs, social media and repositories. You can read summaries of this and other sessions from the conference on the Scholarly Kitchen blog.
PEER (Publishing and the Ecology of European Research), an EU-funded project to explore the impact of large-scale 'green' open access (deposition of peer-reviewed manuscripts in repositories) on “reader access, author visibility and journal viability, as well as on the broader ecology of European research”, came to a close in May 2012, with an end-of-project conference. Nellie Kroes, EU commissioner with responsibility for the EU's Digital Agenda, opened the event with a call for open access and a discussion of the barriers preventing it being implemented more broadly, saying that lack of access is bad for business: “for small businesses, for example, it can mean two years' extra delay before getting new products to market. So if we want to complete globally, that kind of access cannot be a luxury for Europe — it's a must-have.” The project found that visits to journal websites were slightly higher when that same content was also available in repositories, but that there remain many unanswered questions about green OA, especially its growth and scope.
One of the criticisms levelled at the Finch report was that it supported the gold model of open access (OA) without also acknowledging concerns about the quality of some open-access journals. To address this concern, researchers in the Netherlands are developing quality indicators for OA journals. The indicators, looking at the quality of the editorial board and the peer-review process, will be combined to create a quality test for new journals. The measures will be assessed by a group representing funders, editors and publishers during Open Access Week (October 2012).
Despite its failings, peer review remains a fundamental component of science editing and publishing. A recent article in Clinical Chemistry article looked at ways of recruiting and keeping peer reviewers. The journal's deputy editor, Thomas Annesley, explores the seven most common reasons (excuses) given by potential peer reviewers when declining an invitation. These range from “I have too little experience to be a good reviewer” to “I need to understand the entire study to serve as a peer reviewer”, and Annesley provides a counter-argument for each. Another recent article, in Learned Publishing [requires subscription], proposes the development of a reviewer effectiveness index.
Writing a research paper is one thing; getting it published and read is another matter. Choosing a suitable journal has always been a challenge for researchers, but with the increasing number of journals and alternate publishing avenues available, that choice may be harder than ever. Journal editors can and do give guidance, but it can be difficult to know where to start. Edanz, the editing services company, has a new tool called the Journal Advisor, which uses “cutting edge semantic technology” to pick a suitable journal for your manuscript. A similar tool, JANE (Journal/Author Name Estimator) was developed a few years ago by the Dutch Biosemantics Group. So how do the systems compare? I asked both to suggest a journal based on the abstract of a certain well-known 1953 paper by Crick & Watson, and I received completely different top-10 suggestions from the two systems. Maybe helpful colleagues still have a role to play?
FundRef is a new project that builds on a collaboration between publishers and funding agencies. The project, supported by CrossRef, aims to standardise how funding sources are reported in research articles. Funding statements in journal articles vary widely and make it difficult for funders to track the output of their funding streams. The project will explore how publishers and manuscript tracking system vendors can use standardised metadata for funding sources based on a taxonomy developed at Elsevier.
The publishers of the two biggest science journals, Nature and Science, have announced that they will make available the reference lists of those journals' articles for use in an Open Citations project developed by JISC, the organisation that promotes digital technologies in British academic institutions. Nature Publishing Group (NPG) had already launched its own linked data platform and developers portal and is the first commercial publisher to contribute to the Open Citations project. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the publisher of Science, and Oxford University Press, have joined NPG in making the reference lists from a number of journals available for the project. The CrossRef Cited-By Linking service will be used to integrate these publishers' reference lists with the existing database.
PeerJ (peerj.com) is a new publishing venture set up by Peter Binfield, previously of PLoS ONE, and Jason Hoyt, ex-Mendeley. PeerJ is a new open-access journal and pre-print service, initially limited to biomedical science, and opens for submissions in summer 2012. Like PLoS ONE, and the many other broad-based ‘mega-journals’, PeerJ will assess submissions for methodological rigour, not 'interest'. But what makes PeerJ different is its business model: PeerJ won’t charge article processing or submission fees; its income will come from membership fees. “Pay $99, publish for life” claimed the pre-launch publicity. It’s a bit more complex than that, with various levels of membership and other considerations, but the basic model is free publishing for life for a one-off fee.
What happens when a journal changes its name? The US National Information Standards Organization (NISO) has published draft recommendations for the presentation and identification of e-journals. When a journal changes name, publishers are likely to list older articles on the newly branded journal website, with potential confusion for users and problems for librarians (the ISSN changes as well as the URL). Updates on this work will appear on a dedicated website (www.niso.org/workrooms/piej), which also provides valuable background for any editor facing or considering a journal name change.
The Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings, chaired by Dame Janet Finch (co-Chair of the UK Government's Council for Science and Technology, published its findings in June. The group's remit was to investigate how UK-funded research ﬁndings could be made more accessible. Its report recommended better, faster communication of research results through open access, with the aim of benefiting public services and economic growth, as well as improved efficiency for researchers, and more opportunities for public engagement with research. The report received a large amount of attention in both mainstream and social media and was generally supported by publishers, who broadly acknowledged that some kind of open-access model was the way forward. Coming only a few months after the widespread criticism of some publishers for their support of legislation designed to prohibit open-access mandates, this seemed like a significant shift in viewpoint. Indeed, a few days before the report was published, Nature editor-in-chief, Philip Campbell, acknowledged that open-access was “going to happen in the long run”. However, the Finch report was criticised for its strong support of 'gold' OA (publisher-led open-access) over 'green' OA (institutional repository-based access), among other concerns.