May highlights in scientific publishing

7th Jun 2014

News gleaned from Twitter in May: debates about replication and data sharing, articles about peer review and more.

Replication

The debate about replication in science has been fired up by a special issue of the journal Social Psychology consisting entirely of replications (explained here by editor Chris Chambers, @Chrisdc77). One author of a study that was chosen for a replication attempt wrote about her difficulties with the experience. A lot of discussion later, I particularly liked Rolf Zwaan‘s attempt to summarise both sides of the debate. He contrasts the view of ‘replicators’ that original research is a public good with that of ‘replication critics’ who seem to view it as a work of art.

A related debate concerns what happens when questions are raised about a paper and how the authors should react. Palaeontologist @JohnHutchinson posted a long and thoughtful consideration of this based on his experience with a 2011 paper on the growth rates of Tyrannosaurus, which led to a correction. He says that going over all the data again takes a huge amount of time and energy, but the process is what science is meant to be about. (via @Protohedgehog)

The attempts to replicate the STAP stem cell experiments (as covered here in March) seem to be drawing to a head, and open access and open peer review have helped to resolve the issue. F1000 Research published a non-replication by @ProfessorKenLee that contained the full dataset, and the paper was then made available for open review. A couple of weeks later it had two positive peer reviews, which means that it is now indexed in PubMed. All authors of the original STAP study have now agreed to retract it.

Data sharing

The polar bear genome was published in Cell after the dataset was released by @Gigascience. This is a step forward for open data, as Cell Press have previously said they would see the publication of data with a DOI as potential prior publication that might preclude publication of a paper on that data. (via @GrantDenkinson)

Dorothy Bishop (@deevybee) posted about her first experience of sharing data, describing it as exciting but scary. She discovered some errors in the process, and says “The best way to flush out … errors is to make the data public.”

In PLOS, Theo Bloom and Jennifer Lin summarised how the publisher’s new data sharing policy has gone down with authors. The short answer is ‘very well’, but there are still concerns, which the post lists and responds to.

In the mean time, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has announced (see p8 of the linked pdf) that clinical trial data will be made available, but researchers and other interested parties will only be allowed to view the data on screen. Unbelievably, they will not be allowed to download it, print it, or do anything else but look at it. The German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (@iqwig) published some reactions of researchers to this, which are well worth looking at. (via @trished)

 Peer review

 I was alerted by editor Carlotta Shearson (@CShearson) to an editorial in Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters entitled ‘Overcoming the Myths of the Review Process and Getting Your Paper Ready for Publication’. The process it describes is similar to what I’ve seen in many selective journals, so it will be useful to authors in many fields as well as physical chemistry. It also includes a table of the ‘Top Ten Unproductive Author Responses’ to reviewer comments.

Another journal editorial of interest was published in Administrative Science Quarterly, entitled ‘Why Do We Still Have Journals?’ This focuses more on social science and concludes that, for now, journals are still indispensable. (via @SciPubLab)

Miscellaneous news

A survey of Canadian journal authors was discussed by Phil Davis (@ScholarlyChickn) in the Scholarly Kitchen. Peer review, journal reputation, and fast publication were the top three factors cited in deciding where to submit their manuscripts, above open access, article-level metrics and mobile access. (via @MikeTaylor)

Following the Freedom of Information requests by Tim Gowers on Elsevier subscription pricing covered last month, Australian mathematician Scott Morrison has found out a bit about pricing and contracts for Australian universities. This may lead to FOI requests there. In the mean time, Gowers has posted updates on four more UK universities. (via @yvonnenobis)

And I will be announcing my own news very soon (though you might already have heard about my new company on Twitter). Watch out for the next post!

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