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Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Bob, Dec 9, 2013.

  1. Bob

    Bob

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    Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals
    Randy Schekman says his lab will no longer send papers to Nature, Cell and Science as they distort scientific process.
    Ian Sample, science correspondent.
    The Guardian.
    Monday 9 December 2013.
    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/dec/09/nobel-winner-boycott-science-journals


    How journals like Nature, Cell and Science are damaging science
    The incentives offered by top journals distort science, just as big bonuses distort banking.
    Randy Schekman.
    The Guardian.
    Monday 9 December 2013.
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/09/how-journals-nature-science-cell-damage-science

     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2013
    leela, PennyIA, Ren and 17 others like this.
  2. Bob

    Bob

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    I'm not sure if this article has been posted before. It's from November...
    It discusses 'PubPeer', which is not the same as PubMed Commons (it's an alternative), but it led the way in terms of anyone being able to comment online on any published paper.


    Accusations of fraud spur a revolution in scientific publishing
    Three and a half centuries after the first journal was published, post-publication peer review is shaking up the old system.
    Dr Mark Lorch.
    Friday 8 November 2013.
    http://www.theguardian.com/science/...-revolution-scientific-publishing-peer-review

     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2013
    leela, Ren, Wayne and 7 others like this.
  3. natasa778

    natasa778 Senior Member

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    While on the subject, someone I know once sent off a paper he co-authored to a journal and didn't hear back from them for many months ... then received an email from the publisher asking if he would like to peer review a paper. It was his paper! (it wasn't one of the top journals, but still a fairly 'respectable' one, with good ranking in the field...)
     
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  4. Bob

    Bob

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    I have the impression that journals struggle to attract enough appropriate peer-reviewers, but this seems to be taking recruitment one step too far!
    But self-peer-review probably wouldn't be much worse than the current system!?!
    At the moment it seems that authors are able to have their buddies and cheer-leaders (aka 'peers') review their papers.
     
  5. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    Open access journals are not without their problems, quality control seemingly one of them, as this article demonstrates:

    Open-Access Group Sanctions Three Publishers After Science 'Sting'

    In a "sting" operation, journalist John Bohannon found that dozens of free journals accepted a fake and obviously flawed study that he himself had created in order to test the peer review processes of these open access journals.
     
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  6. Bob

    Bob

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    Agreed.
    Here's a very informative article about it...
    It's an interesting read...

    Hundreds of open access journals accept fake science paper
    Publishing hoax exposes 'wild west' world of open access journals and raises concerns about poor quality control
    Friday 4 October 2013
    http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2013/oct/04/open-access-journals-fake-paper
     
    MeSci and Hip like this.
  7. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    People who peer review papers - a necessary part of any publication even open access articles I believe - are not paid to do so are they? So what happens if you can't find someone willing/able to peer review?

    Doesn't that mean a paper isn't published? I mean a good paper might be missed if nobody is able to peer review it. So peer review relies on, what? Some sort of academic agreement that each scientist will willingly review other people's papers in the hope that his/her own will similarly get reviewed without bias.

    The whole system seems to be to be in danger of overload if all papers are now to be published and require peer review - will there come a time when those who peer-review demand payment? If so, will this have a negative effect on the whole effort of open-access? Just wondering in my ignorance of the whole system.
     
  8. user9876

    user9876 Senior Member

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    I think there are real problems at the moment. Academics are now required to publish large numbers of papers so that increases the load (although most papers are repeats or rubbish). At the same time of increasing that work load by doing so the reviewing load goes up.

    Peter Higgs said recently in the guardian that in today's academic world he wouldn't have had enough "peace and quiet" to form his theory.
     
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  9. Bob

    Bob

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    I thought this might be quite a niche subject, and wouldn't attract many readers, so I'm quite surprised at how many 'likes' the opening post has attracted. I think our forum doesn't have a particularly high opinion of the scientific publishing industry!
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2013
  10. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    I find it difficult as an outsider looking in. 'Inadequate' and 'inappropriate' are judgements I couldn't possibly make I am afraid. I do know that seeking an independent opinion about something, say funding a venture that is being considered by a charity, can always be viewed by others as 'inadequate'.

    Or that the person who's opinion is being sought is 'inappropriate' or not the best in the field. But what do you do at the end of the day - there are no guarantees and you can only ask for so many to help and if they can't (if they are too busy - this is all voluntary after all), then what do you do?

    You can only take the criticism on board and you can't seek to please everyone: you also don't want the projects (or indeed research publications) held up.

    I guess if you publish openly your procedures - take advice in forming them - and then stick to them, that would help; but I am unclear of an absolute answer.

    It's interesting and a bit of a conundrum.
     
  11. Bob

    Bob

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    @Firestormm, I deleted my previous post, because I realised that I didn't actually know what I was talking about.
    I've got some small insights into peer review process, but not much.
    Like you suggest 'inadequate', 'inexperienced' and 'inappropriate' are all value judgements.
    So one person's 'inexperienced' peer reviewer might be another person's superior peer reviewer.
    I haven't read anything about what an optimum peer review process would consist of, except for making the process transparent, and allowing public comment, or even allowing a public review process.
    I've read an article suggesting that reviewers should be paid, because this would make the process more professional.
    But where there's money there's vested interests etc.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2013
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  12. Firestormm

    Firestormm Guest

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    @Bob yeah and someone has to pay for the peer-reviewer of course but I am more inclined towards payment. I can see that with open-access there will be more pressure on volunteers to take more time out of their day to peer-review and less time will be afforded to their own work which could impact on quality - there could be a dumbing-down effect across the industry perhaps.

    Unless of course they are not actively involved in research anymore - or are on a break. I don't really know if their are qualifications for a peer-reviewer. But I generally think that quality is more likely with some form of payment - and not just quality but also that people will be more inclined to perform the function. Generally speaking of course.

    For all I know peer-review may be an expected part of a scientist's/academic's tenure. It's all a bit 'masonic' really, isn't it?! :)
     
  13. user9876

    user9876 Senior Member

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    It is an expected part of the job. The problem is not finding the reviewers but for the reviewers to find adequate time to do the work. I have known some people who just give a one line opinion whilst others carefully working through the equations in a paper to look for mistakes.
     
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  14. Bob

    Bob

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    @Firestormm, yes, paying peer reviewers would professionalise the work and perhaps lead to higher standards.
    A paid reviewer would be doing it full time, and there would be training involved, so it would be more systematic.
    And if a professional reviewer failed to spot some obvious flaws, then they'd run the risk of losing their job, so there would be more motivation to be thorough.
    So it could mean higher standards.
    But I haven't read up on it much, so I'm not aware of the counter arguments.
    I assume that the journals aren't keen on paying reviewers because they like the current system of using free labour.
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2013
    MeSci, Valentijn and Firestormm like this.
  15. Snowdrop

    Snowdrop Senior Member

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    Perhaps the scientific community needs to create and publish some 'peer review' guidelines (if there is no such thing already ~ I am pretty clueless on that point).
     
  16. Hope123

    Hope123 Senior Member

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    1) Peer reviewers are not paid. They do it because in some cases (e.g prestigious journal, they're a section editor, etc.) it is an honor. And they get to look at new research before others so doing it helps them be competitive. A problem with professional reviewers is you want people who are actively doing science and not just reviewing papers. But I can see where they could be paid per review or some other metric but they still need to be working scientists. How this would impact subscription fees, I don't know.

    2) Some journals allow the paper authors to suggest who might review their paper as the authors often know who knows the area they're working in. The editors get the final say of course in who reviews.
     
  17. user9876

    user9876 Senior Member

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    Most peer reviewers are paid just not by the journals. They are paid by the institutions they work for and it is an expected part of their job. I agree professional reviewers are not good. What is needed is a form of quality control on the review process.

    Strangely the most peer reviewed thing I ever wrote was a commercial document where we suggested reviewers and the company it was produced for also had reviewers. Those from a commercial background gave the most critical and insightful reviews much more than a couple of professors.
     
  18. Hope123

    Hope123 Senior Member

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    In the US, the payer is not the institution. Medical researchers at least have to generate the majority of their own income, through applying for grants from foundations, government, etc. or getting pharma interested. Now the money has to be funneled through the institution and administered by it so technically it *comes* from the institution but the institution does not provide income for researchers. That is why researchers often have to spend time away from their research applying for grants and partly why it takes a while for existing projects to get completed, written up, etc. or new projects to get launched.

    This model of payment is partly why I decided not to stay in the university and why the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (one of the top 5 medical foundations in the US) was created. HHMI funds only a few hundred medical researchers around the US, the cream of the crop, but it does so for several years at a time without the money tied to a specific project. Rather, it is tied to a specific person and thus allows that person time, energy, space to pursue a specific area for years. I was funded by them as a student through one of their programs.

    [http://www.hhmi.org/scientists]


    In terms of "required" to do peer review, it depends on the university. Acquiring tenure depends on a number of factors -- publications, research, teaching, service, etc. Peer review may be considered part of "service" but could be fulfilled through other activities also. It is voluntary; one can turn down the offer to review an article or for a specific journal. And you don't get extra time for peer review; it is fitted in among all the other activities one does. As my mentor used to say, write for the person who is reading your paper at 2AM after a long day.
     
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  19. user9876

    user9876 Senior Member

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    I think you represent the subtleties well. I think reputations spread for those who constantly refuse to review but quite easy for a few.

    Personally I disliked the academic culture of solving unimportant problems and constantly searching for grants so moved on to industrial research but in IT and not health.
     
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  20. SOC

    SOC Senior Member

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    It is an expected responsibility of all researchers who publish to, in turn, review other papers. It's one of those "other duties" like committee meetings and schmoozing with administrators that are not formal parts of the job description, but are expected of all researchers. Theoretically, if you get a reputation for refusing to review papers, journals won't publish your papers. It's a weird sort of system, with elements of an honor system -- you do it because it's a researcher's responsibility, not because anyone pays you for it or gives you any credit. o_O It would never work in the business world. ;)

    Needless to say, this informal, unstructured, unregulated system is susceptible to manipulation by people so inclined. For example, we've been the victims of "incestuous reviewing" where people with similar research biases "review" each others' work and give glowing positive reviews of lousy research in order to increase the number of published "reviewed" papers supporting their bias.

    Another weakness is that without being given payment, credit, or work time allotted for the purpose of doing paper reviews, some people only do the most cursory reviews of the papers they're given. Or they sign off without reading the paper at all. :jaw-drop: This happens especially when the supposed reviewer considers the paper writer to be an expert in the field and not in need of other people evaluating their work. :rolleyes: I suspect a certain UK CFS/ME "expert" benefits from that sort of lazy thinking.

    The system definitely needs to be improved. Let's hope this Nobel Prize winner's stance makes something positive happen in the scientific publication arena.
     
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