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Archive for the ‘Peer review’ Category


A little late this year, but then there are many calendars, so it is surely the start of the New Year for someone, somewhere, today.

Three years ago I made a simple resolution for the New Year, which was not to review for commercial closed access journals. I developed this in 2015 (and here) when I decided to change my publishing priorities and avoid commercial closed access journals.  This was pretty much already happening, so painless. My two caveats relating to publication are important, if you collaborate extensively, simply because many colleagues live in countries where Impact Factor rules their lives. Thus, when I am not the PI and in editorial control of the work, but merely a contributor, then I suggest alternatives, but I do not dig my heels in. For my students and postdocs who originate from these many countries the Learned Society and Open Access alternatives have pretty much solved the problem, in that they have decent impact factors, and their career progression will not be impeded.

I have also been experimenting with preprints for some time and now, along with Open Data. So the 2016 resolution adds preprints and Open Data. All papers where I am sole PI and have, therefore, the full decision-making power on publication (and also full responsibility for the paper) will be first submitted as preprints and data will be fully accessible.

What is interesting is the development of the change in publication culture. There are still many wedded to the notion that the “Top” journals are those with the highest impact factor, despite the fact that there is no evidence to support this conclusion. Witness the article in Nature reporting the excellent decision by the Gates Foundation, which stipulates that worked funded by the Gates Foundation cannot be published in journals that are not properly open access and open data compliant. To paraphrase the Nature headline:

“Shock Horror, Gates stops researchers publishing in Top journals aka ours”.

The implication that a paper in Nature is worth more than one in The Biochemical Journal or PlosOne to name two other good journals of many is ludicrous. Only when the paper is read can one decide whether it is excellent, good or poor, and then it takes time (=years) for the full scientific impact to be recognised. There are plenty of papers in ALL journals that are worse than poor, ample evidence is provided by a quick scan of Pubpeer; Nature for one has a lot to do to put its house in order.

So preprints and Open Data it is. I would encourage all my colleagues to follow suit.

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I made my first New Year’s resolution on December 31, 2013: to only undertake reviews for open access and learned society journals.  This I have stuck to well, as I noted a year later for the simple reasons that it makes sense and it frees up my time.

Today I had a request to review a manuscript for Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports, and I realised that I need to clarify my position.

I am on strike. (more…)

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A tweet brought me to a PeerJ blog post on the uptake of open peer review. The post is worth reading. At PeerJ open review is an option – authors and reviewers can opt in or out, and only if both opt in is the reviewing history of a paper published.  One thing that caught my eye was that while 80% of authors opt in, the total number of paper with open reviews is just 40%, which indicates that reviewers are more reticent. (more…)

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Our review on fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) as tissue repair and regeneration factors, which we made available as a preprint from the time of submission is now published at PeerJ. (more…)

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Much has been written about the peer review process and its flaws. Richard Smith, a former editor of the British Medical Journal has stated that since peer-review doesn’t work, we shouldn’t do it

I have recently come across another example of the flaws in peer review. I reviewed a manuscript last year and identified what I believed to be technical problems and suggested at least major revision. The other two reviewers agreed; the three of us had homed in independently on the same technical issues.

Move forward a year and the paper is published in another (equally “prestigious”) journal, no changes.

So I will now amend my New Year resolution (still holding firm) from 2014 and 2015.

In addition to only reviewing for open access journals, I will from now on only review for journals where the review is open and published or where I am free to publish the review. That, at least, will avoid the ethical tension between participating in anonymous peer-review and then wanting to publish the critique when nothing has changed in the paper.

Why Groundhog day? This is not the first time I have had this experience.

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I am a fan of PubPeer, as it provides a forum for discussion between authors and the wider community, something I have discussed in a number of posts (two examples being here and here). Two days ago, My colleague Mike Cross came by my office, having just delivered a pile of exam scripts for second marking (it’s exam and marking season), asking if I had seen a comment on our paper on PubPeer. I had not – too many e-mails and too busy to look at incoming!
So I looked at the question, which relates to panels in two figures being identical in our paper on neuropilin-1 and vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) – indeed they are labelled as being identical.
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The question relates to what Langmuir termed “Pathological Science”, simply put “people are tricked into false results … by subjective effects, wishful thinking or threshold interactions“. There is a lot of pathological science and I only use the examples below, because I am most familiar with them; for nanoparticles, I have a personal interest in understanding these materials, since I use them to try to make biological measurements, e.g., here.
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