Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thinking About Publication

Figshare This blog is my public notebook, a space for thinking out loud and working out my thoughts. If any of the conversations that take place here are of interest to others, then that is a bonus. Please excuse me while I work out my thoughts about the future of academic publication.

I have already described on this blog my experiments with self-publication and open peer review. I was reasonably satisfied with how the process worked, but I still hope for something better. In this post I'm going to try to set down my current thoughts about the evolution of academic publishing. This is very much a work in progress so please excuse me if it's not entirely coherent. I came back from Science Online London fired up and this is the next stage in me grokking the tools discussed there such as Figshare and ORCID.

I've had some bad personal experiences with academic publishers over the last couple of years, being messed around, wasting huge amounts of time and experiencing ridiculous delays. That was part of the reason I went down the open peer review road. I still believe that peer review is the gold standard for scholarship. I also believe that the current publishing model involving pre-publication gatekeepers who try to filter on the way in is broken. My open peer review experiments rightly received some criticism of possible bias. It remains a great sadness to me that education has not yet come up with our arXiv. eLife, Peer-J and even PLOS ONE do not provide a platform for my outputs (although PLOS ONE comes closest). So I remain very interested in peer-review platforms such as and peerage of science, but neither of these has attracted a critical mass yet, nor are they directed towards education research.

Why do I want to publish?
A wide variety of reasons, but my current preoccupations are:
  1. I want to achieve local impact with the projects I am working on. Traditional publication lends my work (spurious?) credibility which might help with that (although local Dark Social channels are currently more effective).
  2. Dissemination. I want my work to be discoverable by and useful to others.
  3. Institutional pressure. Still REF driven. If it ain't got an Impact Factor it don't exist. 
Why don't I just blog about it? I do, and intend to continue. I don't see the informal channel that blogging gives me as incompatible with a more formal publication channel for my output.

A test case?
I have a small piece of research I have been working on for the last few weeks involving a case study of audio feedback with undergraduates. This is part of a larger ongoing project. This is not a candidate for PLOS ONE - wrong subject matter, too small a study. Is it a candidate for Figshare? At first sight Figshare is not directed towards education research (according to the categories on the site), although some of the manuscripts which have been submitted come pretty close. Is this work suitable for Figshare? It probably fits best in the Social Sciences category. There is a certain amount of work about education already on Figshare but there is currently no top level Education category (although I'm told there might be soon).

Publication on Figshare with the doi and citeability that brings might be an advantage over blogging alone. Figshare is indexed by Google Scholar so is excellent for discoverability and citeability. The weakness of the Figshare platform from my perspective is that it does not easily lend itself to post-publication peer review of submissions. In spite of that it seems the best option available to me at this time for rapid publication of scholarly work.



  1. "It remains a great sadness to me that education has not yet come up with our arXiv"

    But arXiv has plenty of papers dealing with education, so you can certainly deposit it there.

    But then again, I am not sure there is an advantage over Figshare, since they are both indexed by Google Schoolar.

  2. Most of the education content on arXiv is computer-oriented. I think Figshare does offer some advantages over arXiv, but I wish there was a peer review model built in.

  3. Hello AJ Cann,
    It is I, Demeter of CiteULike. The following is a sequence of slightly connected paragraphs, one or two of which is relevant to your blog post of 22 Nov 2012. I'm sorry (but not enough to erase all of it, as I should).

    I don't think of you as an educator per se. I know you as sole author of a 300+ page compilation of research work, a few years ago. You are associated with Bergman(n?) Labs in the U.K. You are a bona fide life sciences researcher and laboratory type biologist. Right?

    ArXiv IS computer, or rather, mathematics- and physics-oriented. I believe that it was founded with that specific intent. PeerJ deliberately chose not to include fields of study already covered by arXiv. There is something similar to arXiv for finance and economics, called SSRN, which is well-trafficked. There isn't an arXiv for bioinformatics or biology? I guess not. I am fond of arXiv, but some of the physics papers seem much more like philosophy lately: Lots of long words, not many equations, no diagrams.

    I don't suppose there are many venues for you to publish, other than the traditional Elsevier-Wiley-Springer troika. And PLoS. Well, that isn't entirely true. There are many "open" type publishing endeavors, but all are nascent. There are too many, it seems to me. The same is true for digital identifiers. I have a Pinterest board where I collect each new flavor of DOI that I run across.

    Peer review seems vital to me. There is also enormous peer pressure at the moment regarding open publishing. The existing model is thoroughly disrupted. I hope a new equilibrium can be reached, soon. Academia and research are so very important. It isn't obvious what will work, and what will be a dead-end, or catalyst for something better. But the importance of the platform, and funding, to sustain your work and that of your colleagues can't be overstated, in my opinion. On CiteULike, your profile has your title, with something self-effacing and modest e.g. "titles don't matter anyway". That isn't true! They DO matter! Knowledge and authority are not subjective.

    I'm sorry for this lengthy comment.

  4. Great post.

    Re. "The weakness of the Figshare platform from my perspective is that it does not easily lend itself to post-publication peer review of submissions" - fair comment.

    Something for the folks at figshare to take on board and action, hopefully.