It’s nice to be right sometimes…

I philosophize a lot about the role of journals and scientific publishing as part of the academic ecosystem – and especially how this ecosystem will change. Only last week my boss, Arjun, and I published a blog post (Results from the Guess the Impact Factor Challenge) analyzing how people perceive the of titles of scientific articles. But even back in 2015 I played around with predicting how the role of journals might shift. One of the predictions I made was that

…in The MacGyver age of content creation […], from pre-print servers (like BioRxiv) through science blogging and open lab notebooks, […] “legacy” journals as they exist today will become obsolete. […] Their role will change. So, taking a leaf from the media book, I predict that a key function of journals in the future will be to connect readers to relevant content published across the web.

Now it’s 2017 and Springer Nature just announced Recommended, “a new service which connects the research community with the most relevant content”.

It is definitely nice to be right sometimes 🙂

Looking forward, this also means that we should now be thinking about life after preprints: While in theory preprints could have a truly democratizing effect (anyone anywhere would be able to access papers without a paywall), in practice I’m not sure that potential will be realized. If people can’t trawl online content efficiently, they will rely on recommendation services, which – if in the wrong hands – may well introduce biases and favoritism. Thus, an effort to develop a fair (ideally mainly content/quality-driven) recommendation service hand-in-hand with the open access/preprint movement will be vital to create a healthy, balanced publishing landscape…

 

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Some thoughts about measuring the goodness of peer review…

A few weeks ago I attended a postdoc training about responsible conduct in research. A major focus of the event was an emphasis on being unbiased and avoiding any conflict of interest when reviewing a manuscript or a grant. Naturally, that state seems very much desirable. However, some of the case studies we discussed left me with a bad aftertaste: it seemed as if the concern about conflict or bias was massively outweighing the fact that peer review can also provide added value to science. In my – limited – personal experience with peer review, I have found reviews that were comprehensive and thoughtful (even if they were negative) much more valuable and constructive for my research, than any of the 3-liners declaring my paper to be excellent. This dichotomy got me thinking about the purpose of peer review and it’s relationship to science and the publishing process. Here a couple of points I’ve come up with: Continue reading