Last month, the National Academy of Sciences hosted its biannual Journal Summit in Washington, DC. Formerly called the e-Journal Summit, the meeting gathers innovators from across the world of STM journal publishing to discuss ways to embrace new technology for the benefit of scientific communication. The meeting assembles a unique group of stakeholders including: publishers, editors, researchers (authors), leaders of scientific societies, funders, and policy makers. This year’s meeting was filled with enthusiastic presentations and discussion about how to best improve scientific communication. Below are some highlights from the day’s discussions.
Peer Review Cascades
The morning started with brief presentations by several speakers with experience in different types of peer review cascades. Both cross-publisher and internal publisher and society efforts were discussed.
- Authors are more likely to accept an invitation to forward a rejected manuscript to a second journal if the transfer of the manuscript and reviews is made easy (i.e. done for them).
- Authors are more receptive to the idea of referral to another journal if they are asked to name a second choice journal ahead of time.
- Most internal publisher cascade transfers are predominantly made up of referrals that were rejected without reviews.
- If asked, 70-80% of reviewers give permission to forward their review with their name attached.
Extra-journal Peer Review
As publishers and others experiment with peer review, a new movement has emerged to decouple the peer review process from the journals that will eventually publish the articles. We heard from Janne-Toumas Seppanen of Peerage of Science and Tim Vines of Axios Review on the progress being made in this area. Some features of extra-journal peer review include:
- Authors submit to a service or platform that coordinates peer review independent of any journal.
- Peer review may be open so that anyone can read the reviews.
- Peer review may be organized around subject-specific editorial boards or dependent on volunteers finding the submission and choosing to review it.
- Reviewers may be volunteers or paid.
- Reviewers may be rated on the quality of their peer reviews.
- At the end of the process, the peer review service may either: recommend journals to submit to, rely on preset author journal rankings, or allow journals to make offers for articles on the platform
Open Access and Data Access
Representatives from government agencies spoke about progress in providing access to research and associated literature. The Clearing House for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS) was discussed as one method that government research funding agencies can use to provide access to research articles published by their grantees. The next step is to provide public access to data acquired from government funding. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, will be looking to pilot a project to create an international data commons that will collect and index research data.
Metrics, Measurement of Research Impact, and Data Citation
Can we move on from Impact Factor measurements when considering faculty tenure and advancement? What alternative forms of evaluation exist? These were also questions explored at the summit.
- Funders and University departments are interested in new alternative metrics such social media and news media impact. However, most review panels are not using this information to make granting and promotion decisions at this time.
- Trackable citation of data and datasets may help to give credit to those whose work is being undervalued in the current system.
While various publishers are taking advantage of the digital landscape, what was most striking is how slowly the behavior of readers, authors, and editors is changing in response to new technology. One panelist, speaking as a researcher, remarked that he was surprised that none of what we were discussing was truly innovative. One could imagine a future NAS gathering where the journals discussed are all using open peer review and seamlessly integrated with open data repositories, but at this pace it doesn’t seem like that will be the case at the next Journal Summit in 2016. Until then, we may have to make do with incremental progress.