Bad publishing and bullied into bad science.

2 minute read

The recent long read about scientific publishing in the Guardian is fantastic. It depicts a very telling story of the research publishing landscape.

There is actually more to it, than only the predatory model of publishing research and big deals. Big commercial publishers have understood that this lucrative business model holds on them controlling not only the research outputs, but the whole process. Their current moves are to provide integrated platforms to control and quantify researchers and research. The truly depressing situation is that senior academics and university managers buy into these initiatives, despite the catastrophic example of giving control of (only) the papers.

The Guardian article begs for more questions - What can we do? Who can do anything, anyway?

There are two stakeholders that, in my opinion, can improve on the current situation: researchers themselves, and funders and NOT publishers, who are part of the problem, not the solution (here are some slides I presented at the 2017 Research Data Management Forum, where I talked about this topic) Funders slowly push for greater openness in research, including open access and preprints, but they don’t push enough, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, researchers, in particular early career researcher, are under a lot of pressure to publish, or (and) perish. Quoting Ross Mounce

Doing valuable transparent reproducible science, and doing the best to establish one’s career in science appear to be almost mutually exclusive things.

(I hope he’s wrong!)

Here’s another very relevant article on the topic

We can shift academic culture through publishing choices

that highlights choices researchers can make to stop exploiting themselves and discriminating against others.

If you, as a early career researcher (ECRs), want to make a change, help by participating in the Bullied into bad science? campaign, and sign the letter, that urges institutions and individuals to better support ECRs by taking a set of actions:

  1. Sign the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) as an independent university/institution/individual
  2. Positively value a commitment to open research and publishing practices that keep profits inside academia when considering candidates for positions and promotions (in alignment with DORA).
  3. Endorse immediate open publishing, favouring publications in journals that are 100% open access.
  4. Endorse posting of preprints in recognised preprint servers to avoid publishing delays that are detrimental to ECR career progress.
  5. Endorse, support and promote the open publication of data and other scientific outputs such as software.
  6. Educate researchers about publishing practices via public statements, mandatory courses, and inductions that cover: open research/data/access, mandates, hidden costs of traditional publishing, and how to protect ECRs against exploitative publishing practices.
  7. Increase transparency by reporting to the public how much institutions pay for research to be published to raise awareness about the significant drain on public funding.
  8. Make all postdocs voting members of their institutions. ECRs are the future of research - give them a voice to promote their own future in the best possible way.

Support a better publishing landscape and a better, more open and trustworthy research by signing the letter and supporting this initiative.

Update: Here’s an article, Academics strike back against bad science, published in The Times about our campaign.

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