Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Must Read Articles on Science Communication

In their October 4th issue, Science has a pretty incredible collection of articles that I am having a hard time not quoting in every conversation I have with my colleagues and students. The articles cover a number of old and new issues in science communication- everything from the the benefits and challenges of open access publishing to the world of classified academic journals - and hopefully will elicit some much needed conversations about these issues in the scientific disciplines.

The star article of the collection has to be "Who's Afraid of Peer Review" by John Bohannon, which describes the frightening number of open-access academic journals who published his spoof scientific paper without any sort of adequate peer review process. The spoof paper included a number of glaring errors and suspect conclusions that any reputable scientist should have caught. Unfortunately, of the 255 papers he submitted to journals that made it through the full review process, a full 157 of these journals accepted the faulty paper compared to 98 journals who rejected it.

When the article hit the web last week, it garnered its own share of criticism. Many bloggers and other scientists have pointed out that Bohannon should have also submitted his spoof paper to traditional subscription journals as well - it would have been helpful to be able to draw comparisons- and the fact that a subscription-based journal published this article criticizing open access in itself raises some conflict of interest flags. The problem could be not just with open-access journals, but with  lower-level academic journals of all kinds who fail to adequately review papers before they publish. In response to this criticism, the author stated that while he planned to submit papers to both open-access and subscription journals, he soon realized the complexity and time needed for such a huge study, and scaled back his investigation to include only open-access journals.

Whatever your final conclusions about this article, it is impossible to ignore the real problems that plague the world of scientific publishing - open access and more traditional journals alike. So over lunch today, I highly recommend digging in to this issue of Science and some of the related discussion it has prompted in the blogosphere. You won't regret the time spent.

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