The future of scientific publication

by Alexey Bersenev on May 28, 2014 · 4 comments

in open science

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Since the beginning, we’re at Stem Cell Assays advocating for open science. The biggest part of open science is a new way to publish/ deliver scientific findings to peers and to the public. Today, I’d like to discuss the ideal future world of scientific publication. Here is my vision of the future:

  1. Printed journals is a past. All publications should be digital. I don’t see any point to continue with a print – what a waste of everything!
  2. All publications must be in open access! Means available to: read, download, distribute, copy, data mining absolutely for free anywhere for everyone at any moment!
  3. No embargo. It purely serves the interest of publisher, but it’s not beneficial for scientific community or public. Nothing should hold publication and rapid dissemination of scientific information.
  4. All raw data (including files from specialized software), associated with manuscript, should be freely available and uploaded for public use.
  5. Open pre-publication and post-publication peer review. Means referees will volunteer to review “pre-print” and “published manuscript”, judge it openly in transparent manner. Criteria for the passing peer-review should be set by community. Publication can have few revisions, which address referees comments.
  6. Public comments and author’s replies should be enabled under the publication. Comments should be rated and moderated. Links to all online discussion, related to the publication (ex: post-publication peer review platforms) should be listed.
  7. No anonymity – absolute transparency. Every referee, author, commentator should register under real name or under research ID, linked to public profile/ PubMed record. Everyone is responsible for their own words and thoughts.
  8. Absolute traceability – means every referee’s review, comment, revised version, figure, dataset should have a link (URL). Reader should be able to set alerts via email/ RSS to track all new comments/ reviews.
  9. Availability of publication history. Timeline of when manuscript was received, reviewed, posted, peer reviewed, revised…. should be listed.
  10. Rapid posting online. After quick check for bugs, grammar and web formatting, manuscript should be posted immediately for pre-publication peer review. 2-5 days after submission should be enough to make it public online.
  11. Real time publication metrics should be enabled for public view and download. It should include: number of views, number of comments, number of downloads, number of citations (and links to citations), social media mentions (subdivided on positive/ negative/ simple sharing), media coverage, trends.
  12. Tracking of reproducibility. All reproducibility attempts and reports should be linkable and traceable from original publication page.

The bad news – this is still a dream. The good news – all components of “publication of the future”, mentioned above are implemented partially in different online journals (so all of these things are doable!). One of such journals is F1000 Research. This new online journal combined most of desired features of “publication of the future”, listed above. It has open transparent pre- and post- publication peer review, traceability, commenting system, metrics, alerts, publication history, rapid pre-review before posting… As an illustration of this functionality you can check the last “big” stem cell research publication – Transient acid treatment cannot induce neonatal somatic cells to become pluripotent stem cells.

I’m willing to discuss each component of “publication of the future”. But these are not just my ideas. All these features were discussed many many times in scientific blogosphere in the last decade and successfully implemented in some journals. So, this is just a summary of decade-long discussions, which perfectly reflects my vision and position. If you agree with all or most of these points, please disseminate this information and make it reality. We don’t need to wait for publishers (with implementation of all these things publishers as we know it will be gone!) or developers, we can start from ourselves and submit manuscripts to journals with most of these features (most important – only open access!). The future is now!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Asawari May 29, 2014 at 5:57 am

Very well said Alexey………I like the thought process that has gone down to write this article………thank you for sharing it………… cheers aasa

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Iwona Grad May 30, 2014 at 6:34 pm

I like it, I like it a lot, though remain sceptical it will ever happen. Why? For instance, scientific world nowadays is based on metrics, mainly IF. It is still considered the worst system apart from all the others, so it is not going to change soon. Also anonimity has been discussed over and over, I am quite sceptical here as well, there is a reason why Pubpeer is anonymous.

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Stacy Konkiel June 2, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Agreed, this is a detailed response to a big problem!

I wanted to note that for point 12–traceability of reproducibility attempts–the Validation Initiative, spearheaded by Science Exchange & partners, is attempting to do just that: http://validation.scienceexchange.com/#/

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Ben Weisburd June 7, 2014 at 10:00 pm

All these points seem great, except for #7 I think its best to allow anonymous comments even without login requirements. Why not start with the most open commenting system possible (eg. login and real-name optional) and only enforce restrictions if problems make it necessary? (especially since it continues to work for wikipedia editing, amazon reviews and forums like biostars)

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