The changing nature of scientific publishing #pubnperish

Stockholm University Press (SUP) attended the seminar Publish and Perish at the Young Academy Of Sweden September 30th. The seminar had a focus on the rapidly changing nature of scientific publishing, peer review and evaluation among young scientists and their research.

Bruce Alberts, Tony Hyman, Arne Johansson, Catriona MacCallum, Tommy Olsson and Brandon Stell were invited speakers during the seminar. All speakers focused on how to lift, facilitate and develop scholarly publishing for the benefit of the younger generation of scientists.


Bruce Alberts – How can a nation support excellence in scientific research and teaching?

See video here.

Bruce Alberts said that ”The search for automatic ways to evaluate science is distorting how science is done. The worst of these is the evaluation of an individual scientist by the ‘Impact Factor’ of the journal in which his or her research is published”.

He told us that the purpose of how we evaluate research today was originally only meant to help librarians decide which journals to purchase, and not to evaluate scientists. A journal can for example raise its impact factor by publishing more reviews, or by mostly publishing research in popular areas.

A bad scenario is to keep letting young scientist do research on the same topics decided by their professors. Instead young scientist should be encouraged to follow their own ideas to start new innovation and we also must keep on doing primary research. This is the best way to do “good science”.

Alberts showed examples of how primary research—started on many years ago without a specific goal— eventually makes it possible for a breakthrough in science for the good of society and can even lead to a Nobel prize.

We agree on that high citations and high impact factor or research does not automatically mean “good science” and that researchers need to do all kinds of research without the need for evaluation in ranking systems. But as Albert said, “that is where the money is and that’s still the way for young researchers to get promoted”.

This was something Arne Johansson also talked about in his speech on Publication assessment and university governance. Arne Johansson ‘s opinion was that the traditional peer review system of high ranking journals is bringing stability to the system and does give us a useful measurement of what is good science. He also said that University leaders should develop clear statements of how they assess, since we know that ranking is used to get funding from governments. Johansson also stated that as a young scientist you need and should publish in high ranking journals.

Tony Hyman – Encouraging innovation through peer review and evaluation

See video here.

Tony Hyman continued talking about the problems concerning metrics and impact. He said that scientists begin to see that their careers are more important than discovery, because that is what they are rewarded for. Where you have published your work has nothing to do with what you have discovered. This is especially a problem concerning young scientists, because the system fails to allow them to do innovate research. Innovation in research should be the heart of the process, not publication. Hyman means that science is also about failure, otherwise you can‘t innovate new ideas into research.

Hyman also talked about his view on peer review. He thinks that it is essential to have the peer review process recognized, treasured and evaluated, because we have a big problem with reviewers that don’t do a good job. He believes that more scientists would do peer review if they could get credit for it and that they should be paid for it.

We certainly agree that reviewers should get credit for their reviews, but to pay for review is not necessarily the best way to go. High ranking journals could pay large sums to reviewers, but smaller presses, journals, societies or university presses might not have the same amount of money to spend on peer review. We think universities and research societies should encourage researchers to do reviews as part of their job, which should also be credited for i.e. in their CVs or added to their publication lists.

Catriona MacCallum – Scientific Communication on Trial

See video here.

Catriona MacCallum talked about the false expectations on peer review. It is expected to police the literature but does not do so. Science today is more complicated and more cross disciplinary. The reviewing is often anonymous and often not well done. There are no rewards for good reviewers or constructive collaborations. The reviewers review for the journals and their editors – not the readers, their colleagues or the society.

What MacCallum suggests is that young scientists need to think more about dissemination of their research, i.e. by using CC BY-licensees to encourage their research to be used and evaluated by others, not only those who have access to high ranking journals. One way for researches could be to pre publish papers globally to get input before submitting to a journal. The focus would then be on the research, not on impact. Negative results should also be published and evaluated, we need to stop focusing on positive results or on what is considered innovative research.

Another topic discussed by Catriona MacCallum was new business models for open access scholarly communication. Some of those also do qualified peer review which is challenging traditional publishing models or presses of scholarly communications.

The theme on what is good science went on to focusing on the actual research and data published, not success or ranking. This was something Brandon Stell (Introducing PubPeer) and Tommy Olsson (Open Access Publishing with arXiv) talked about. By having papers freely accessible on line, communities and specialist on a subject or topic could do reviews, give response and comments to a papers. It’s an effective and quick way for young scientists to go on with their research and get response on their research.

Scientific Communication on Trial is actually happening. This is sometimes also described as a paradigm shift—where open access publishers are those in lead of changing the map of scholarly communication. SUP wants to be part of that paradigm shift. As an open access publisher SUP wants to make a difference and be a good option for young scientists when their goal is rigorous peer reviewed research without borders.

Interested in the panel discussion?

Watch the video here.

2 thoughts on “The changing nature of scientific publishing #pubnperish

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