Archive for March, 2011

March 31, 2011

Citation impact and self-selection bias: A problem of causation for open access

by Richard Masters

There have been a number of studies that show pretty conclusively the citation advantage Open Access research articles benefit from. The argument goes that through increased visibility and access to OA papers, more people will view the work which in turn will lead to a higher number of citations.

Alma Swan in The Open Access citation Advantage lists a number of contributory factors that possibly comprise this advantage:

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March 31, 2011

The humble beginnings of peer review alternatives: Stevan Hanard and Open Peer Commentary

by Richard Masters

BBS: An Open Peer Commentary journal

A popular theme here on ScienceMediaWatch has been the problems of peer review and the criticisms which confront it. With these problems in mind, a growing number of researches have tried to develop new systems of peer review that provide a secure quality control, while at the same time deal with some of the problems the system faces

As Anka discussed in a previous post, the web project Philica tries to solve the problems of peer review in academic journals by publishing the papers under an open access licence, to enable all registered academics in the project to review and comment on the papers (Open Peer Commentary). This project started in 2006, but a long time before that, the first pioneers in alternative review systems made their suggestions for a different approach to scientific quality control.

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March 31, 2011

Nature Climate Change – A Precarious Balancing Act

by Abi Millar

This spring sees a new arrival to the Nature group: Nature Climate Change, a journal exploring climate change from a cross-disciplinary perspective. While most of the Nature journals are dedicated to particular disciplines (Neuroscience, Biotechnology, Chemistry etc.), Nature Climate Change has a wider berth. Spanning everything from anthropology to oceanography, it is designed to appeal more broadly than your average research journal can.

While Nature itself has given a glowing welcome to its youngest sibling, there is mounting cynicism in the blogosphere. Some comments rail against the journal’s interest in the ‘impacts and implications’ of climate change, as opposed to climate change per se. They believe that focussing on policy and ethics will tarnish the Nature Group’s reputation as a ‘hard science’ publisher. Others go further, suggesting that Nature Climate Change is in essence just a trade magazine for the climate change industry.

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March 30, 2011

The potential for unethical peer review

by Richard Masters

What do you do when reviewers gang up?

It’s clear from our previous posts here on ScienceMediaWatch that the current system of peer review isn’t entirely unproblematic. Louise Ogden’s recent post looks at whether cases of bad scientific practise slipping through the reviewer’s net highlight the inadequacy of the process. But what happens when the reviewers themselves are potentially acting unethically?

In 2009 a number of researchers in the field of stem cell biology raised questions about the quality of the peer review their work was receiving by publishing of an open letter to Senior Editors of peer-review journals. The letter explained that:

Papers that are scientifically flawed or comprise only modest technical increments often attract undue profile. At the same time publication of truly original findings may be delayed or rejected. Peer review is the guardian of scientific legitimacy and should be both rigorous and constructive. Indeed most scientists spend considerable time and thought reviewing manuscripts. As authors we have all benefited from insightful referee reports that have improved our papers. We have also on occasion experienced unreasonable or obstructive reviews.”

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March 30, 2011

Conflict of Interest: Do you have anything to declare?

by Louise Ogden

Are scientists rolling in it?

Funding bodies, such as The Wellcome Trust or the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), here in the UK have strict guidelines on how and where they give the money, along with a strict policy on scientific misconduct. All of the funding bodies peer review the grant applications they accept before handing over the dosh. And this is for obvious reasons, funding bodies and charities, like The Wellcome Trust, need to make sure they are funding good science, done by good scientists.

The journal, Science, has also published a handy collection of links for laboratories who are applying for funding on the do’s and don’ts of grant applications. But that mostly applies to US institutions.

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March 30, 2011

The more citations, the better the paper? A closer look at our data

by Anka Lindemann

citation neededBeing cited is probably the best compliment a scientist can get: someone regarded you work to be so significant, that he or she decided to mention it in their own paper, and maybe even used is as the base for their own research. Consequently, the quality of a paper is very often measured by counting how many times the research was mentioned in other publications.

But at the same time, a comparable small number of citations should not necessarily be seen as a proof for the validity of a paper. If you take one of the papers that Beki analysed, (A contractile nuclear actin network drives chromosome congression in oocytes), the overall number of citations is realtively small (just 66 from 2005 to 2011).

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