How might science benefit from a world without journals?

I think it was in either 2017 or 2018 when I had lunch with a visiting speaker and mentioned that I was finding it hard to see any value in publishing in journals. With bioRxiv and similar projects, we could just get rid of journals all together. He said that journals still served an important filtering function in letting him know where to find the good research and, without journals, we would be overwhelmed by poor science. I now want to respond to that idea because I think there is a possible benefit to getting rid of journals and I think the problems that he feared can be easily overcome. Continue reading

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Traditional scientific publishers have repeatedly undermined moves towards open access

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The Sci-Hub logo.

I recently read a profile of Alexandra Elbakyan and her pirate library, Sci-Hub. Sci-Hub provides free access to a huge number of scientific papers which would otherwise be locked away behind paywalls and only available if you paid a huge fee. The traditional scientific publishers are not happy with that, have sued her several times and continually try to take down her site. I think, given the current realities in science, that Sci-Hub is necessary until the publication process can be reformed.

I have a colleague with whom I talk about publication practices in science and that sort of thing and, while we generally agree, we do differ on our attitudes to traditional publishers. He has often said that he doesn’t want to drive them out of business and would like to work together with them to solve the problems. I have generally maintained that they are antiquated relics from the print age who serve no real purpose, add little to no value to the scientific enterprise and oppose necessary reforms in science. So, it was interesting for me to see some of these issues come up in the profile of Elbakyan. Continue reading

The case of Diego Gomez highlights the need for open access

It was in November 2014 when I first wrote about Diego Gomez. Tomorrow will see a court, in Colombia, decide his fate. (Article in French) He is facing a fine of up to $327 000 and four to eight years in prison for the sharing a scientific article with a colleague. This is something that many scientists do and which is sometimes necessary for our work. This case highlights the need to move to a world where all scientific articles are open access, i.e. free to read. Continue reading

That headline is just misleading and dishonest

I understand to get people to read an article you need a good headline but they should at least reflect the content of the story and be honest. I was rather dismayed when I foundthis headline pop up on my News24 Sci-Tech feed, “Fraud ‘rife’ in science research.” That sounds like a major problem. However I had read the story before, both in Science and Nature, and those titles were not nearly as dramatic, being “Misconduct, Not Mistakes, Causes Most Retractions of Scientific Papers” and “Misconduct is the main cause of life-sciences retractions” respectively. Continue reading