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In the news: December 2018 Digest

Plan S analysis

The British Academy published a point-by-point analysis of Plan S, the broad reaching proposal by Science Europe which is 'aimed at accelerating the transition to full and immediate Open Access to scientific publications'. The Academy supports some of the Plan S content, but opposes others. As this Plan evolves in response to reactions from key stakeholding commuities internationally and Science Europe's overall end plan, the publishing ecosystem will likely change. 


Several high profile and controversial papers have prompted vitriolic responses and at times, threats to the authors. Examples include a paper in "defense of colonialism", transracialism, and abortion-related topics. In order to allow authors to publish academic papers such as these, perhaps using a pseudonym, a new journal is being planned: an annual open access journal to be called The Journal of Controversial Ideas. "Controversy" seems to be central to its core principles and having unnamed authors for some paper will certainly prompt lots of discussion. 
A journal for anonymous ‘controversial’ ideas will only fan the flames
Pseudonyms to protect authors of controversial articles
Cue the outcry

Conflicts between Wiley and the editor and board of one of its subscription journals, Diversity and Distributions, has resulted in the resignation of the editor and much of the board. The controversy involves the publisher's plan to make the journal fully open access and the response by the editors to this unwelcome change in the form of an editorial

Corrigendum was issued after legal threats by copyright holders of a mobile app who demanded new acknowledgements, references and warnings to be added. Interestingly, the editor then commented on this, citing COPE's content about this type of behavior. 

Research Lab in China

Taylor and Francis along with the Institute of Scienctific and Technical Information of China are starting a joint Research Lab to focus on topics of importance to Chinese researchers. The focus for 2019 will be research integrity. 

Peer review

An editor at JAMA-Pediatrics wrote a nice overview on peer review for the lay readership of The New York Times. He highlighted the potential pitfalls and benefits, in fact Dr. Carroll titled his paper "Peer Review: The Worst Way to Judge Research, Except for All the Others".

Biomedical editors: consider taking this survey on the definition of the quality of a peer-review report. 

Clinical trial registration rankings

Clinical trial registration continues to be a challenge: even more so, the submission of data. A report released in November ranked the individual universities in the UK on their performance. This type of data will inform future enforcement of national laws requiring full compliance with trial registration and reporting. 
Rankings: Clinical trial registration in UK

Confusing author instructions

Nature Communications reports that survey respondents, mostly from non-western nations, find that author instructions in journals are relatively opaque and confusing. The survey also revealed differences in ideas about publication ethics, such as  plagiarism, authorship, and duplicate submissions. Nature Communications urges journal editors and publishers to make their information for authors more clear and institutions in low and middle income countries to offer researchers training in publication ethics. 
Scientists struggle with confusing journal guidelines

New style guide

For those journals and editors who use the AMA style guide, it's important to look at the update.There are numerous technical updates and in addition COPE, EQUATOR Network  ICMJE and WAME have been included as resources. The style guide covers not only journal and other traditional media but also style guides for blogs. 
AMA style guide update

Diversity in global health

In a brief but expansive LinkedIn post, Ed Whiting who is the Director of Policy and Chief of Staff at Wellcome Trust, riffs on issues related to adding diversity, broadly defined and implemented, in global health. He uses this topic to make a strong case for inclusion of all stakeholders in the work that the Wellcome Trust does, and argues that broad inclusion is necessary to make the best decisions in companies, governments and big organizations.  

Publish or perish

Doctoral students in China are routinely required to publish several papers in high impact fact Chinese journals in order to receive their degrees. The large number of such students (estimated at 362,000 last year) competing with others who submit articles to these journals, paired with a short supply of high impact journal space, reportedly leads to burnout, loss of talent by students dropping out, and the use corrupt practices by some students. 
Publish or perish

Blockchain explained

"Blockchain". It’s a concept that this writer has tried to understand by reading various explanations. (here is one, specifically looking at its most well known application, cryptocurrency: Now, IBM has a patent on using blockchain for open science. Individual components, such as research data, analysis, results, and post-data analysis will be block-linked. The idea is that this should speed research, make it more reproducible.

Predatory publications

In a potentially cautionary tale, the case of Derek Pyne, an associate professor at a small business school in Canada is described. Pyne published a paper which described that a significant majority of faculty in the school has published in predatory publications. Thereafter he was banned from the campus. One must ask if this was causal or associative: Pyne apparently has a track record of being controversial and difficult. So was the article about colleagues and predatory journals the straw that broke the camel's back for the school administration or was it the only reason? This is an interesting case of academic freedom, faculty behavior, and human nature. The predatory journal angle is perhaps just the hook that gets us interested. 

India has been identified as a major market for predatory journals. The prominent publishers featured in some recent investigative reports in the Indian Express include OMICS, Austin, Science Domain, IAME and IOSR Journals. Now, the University Grants Commission of India has set up a Consortium of Academic and Research Ethics which will approve an official list of academic Indian publications. This will focus on journals in the social sciences, humanities, languages, arts and culture".

Reporting conflicts of interest

John Ioannidis, long a proponent of transparency in biomedical research, has published a paper indicating that in papers published between 2015 and 2017, about 2/3 included statements on funding and conflicts of interests and about 20% mentioned publicly available data. In a similar study from 2000 to 2014, very few papers included this type of information.


COPE Council member Nancy Chescheir

Read December Digest: Authorship Issues | Peer Review Manipulation