In my previous post I made a bold statement comparing Open Access publishing to socialism. The post was criticized in a number of insightful comments, but hey, I knew I had it coming. There are a lot of people very strongly emotionally attached to OA, and a voice pointing out the weaknesses of this publishing model was bound to cause an uproar. I am glad, because thanks to all the criticisms I heard I have been able to learn a great deal and to see the problem from a number of different angles. But, call it stubornness or whatever, I am still not convinced that OA publishing is on its way to take over the world of high impact scientific publishing. In fact, the extra mile the comments on the blog made me walk resulted in my being more set in my opinion that OA is not the way to go for top-tier biomedical research journals.
“Open Access is the best thing since sliced bread” I hear a lot of scientists say. The blogosphere overflows with enthusiastic support for OA. Hey, even I expressed some guarded optimism in some of my previous posts. This unconditional love for the NewestAndHawtest publishing model is very common, but is it really justified? More importantly still, will those same ardent OA supporters put their money where their mouths are? I am not so sure.
Anyone knows who John Wilbanks is? Well, I just found out. Recently a post on slashdot caught my attention – it was both science-y and geeky – a combo I simply couldn’t resist. It linked to an interview with the said John Wilbanks, where he speaks very wisely indeed about some of the central issues of modern science: scientific communication, open access publishing, data accessibility and storage, and more. John is VP of Science at Creative Commons (article on Wikipedia) an organization whose sole purpose is to make it easier for people to share their creative work if they so desire (check out this movie on YouTube for a no-brainer explanation of how it works, and this website for another movie on how it relates to science). As the interview is rather lengthy, I decided to summarize its main themes in this post, and, well, I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t take the liberty to venture a few opinions of my own.
In my three recent posts I have expounded on what I think is the way scientific publications should look and feel like in the 21st century (Part1, Part2, Part3). So is there a take home message? I believe there is.
A while ago I commented on the highly publicized case of scientific misconduct committed by Dr. Luk van Parijs from MIT. It looks like the Office for Research Integrity is at last really after the asses of those cheating bastards. In the current issue of NIH funding opportunities and notices, there are no less than three notices about scientific misconduct discovered both in the NIH intramural section, and in two top-notch research universities, UCLA and UCSF. I am really happy that they send out these notices along with grant-related info. It sends an important message to anyone who thinks that copy-paste is an appropriate method of replicating n=1 results when a publication in MCB or Lancet or a life-saving R01 is at stake. I still find the punishments to be very lax in relation to the crimes, but it is a good trend and will hopefully trigger a landslide of exposures of fishy laboratory practices in academia. Keep it up, ORI!
Update: writedit was, once again, faster than me at spotting the news 🙂
The Web is rife with news stories regarding a paper just published in PLOS Medicine about a benign tumor that arose in a child treated with fetal neural “stem cell” therapy for ataxia telangiectasia in a Moscow clinic. Most of the reports are total crap, showing typical journalistic dilettantism, and spreading “stem cells are BAD” FUD. Just about the best news story I was able to find on the subject is (not surprisingly) on The Scientist website. The discussion that follows is also pretty interesting, so if you have a subscrption, be sure to check it out. There are a few points, however, I would like to elaborate on a bit further.
In my two previous posts I have discussed how the new and improved research paper 2.0 should behave regarding supplementary information and readers’ comments. Now it’s time to really embrace the newest trends and to talk about multimedia. Take, for example, this paper in Nature. It’s about the influence of temperature of the brain on the speed of songbird song formation. When I first heard about it on their podcast, I thought – well here’s a study that takes full advantage of multimedia. Sure enough, the podcast contained some really awesome recordings of the songbird chirping. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that the actual paper does NOT have a recording attached to it, even in the well-hidden supplementary information section. Well, that just doesn’t make sense.