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Richard Smith's challenge (2004)

#1
Smith, R. (2004). Travelling but never arriving: reflections of a retiring editor. BMJ, 329(7460), 242-244.

In 2004 (10 years ago), Richard Smith retired as the the editor of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) after 25 years. He left to join the then new PLoS journals (the medicine one).

When he retired he wrote the editorial above criticizing various features of medical journals, although the criticism is equally apt for other types of journals as well. The editorial is 3 pages long, so there is no excuse for not reading it.

Back then Open Access (OA) was the new 'innovation'. Quoting:
Quote:Slowly the content of journals is shifting from being mostly original studies (with only about 1% of them both valid and relevant to clinicians 3 ) to being more educational, review, newsy, and debate material— material that doctors actually read. But it’s slow because current business models work against the shift: publishers such as the infamous Robert Maxwell, who was found naked and dead in the Atlantic in 1991, have become rich by selling value added by others (researchers) at high prices and keeping their costs to a minimum.

The Robert Maxwells of this world have infuriated the academic community with their business model of compensating for declining subscriptions by annually increasing prices above inflation. I call this the “pay more, get less” model, and it couldn’t be sustained. It spawned the “open access” movement, which aspires for all research, most of it funded with public money, to be available free to all on the web. I’ve been arguing for nearly a decade that this had to happen, and, interestingly, in the fortnight before I step down a parliamentary committee in Britain has called for open access and, more powerfully, a house committee in the United States has said that all research funded by the National Institutes of Health should be published in open access journals. 5–6 Although we will start charging for access to bmj.com in January, the original research articles will continue to be free and be passed directly to Pubmed Central. The BMJ is thus an open access journal. (I will be able to continue my interest in this subject as I am joining the board of the Public Library of Science, which wants all research to be available to all for free and will in the autumn launch the new journal PLoS Medicine.)

By 2014, OA is really popular but still not even close to being omnipresent. Journals, owned by publishers with an economic motive, are clearly not interesting is letting go of their golden hen. In fact, they have been boosting the prices of journals over the recent years (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serials_crisis). Perhaps they want to squeeze out the last juices?

[Image: fig-increases.png]
From: Why open access is better for scholarly societies, January 29th, 2013

Elsevier controls most of the popular journals in differential psychology (especially Intelligence and PAID), and they are not OA. That is, not standardly. Elsevier has joined the predatory open access journals in offering open access for a very large author fee. In that way, instead of being an economic parasite on universities (tax-payers indirectly), they suck on authors (who may pay with money from universities, research grants (tax-payers') or their own pockets). Clearly this is a not a satisfactory solution.

With OpenPsych journals, there are no fees of any kind.

Peer review:
Quote:Peer review is still in the dark age with most journals, 11 12 and theBMJhas not progressed far. After centuries of being unexamined, the sacred process of peer review has been shown through research to be slow, expensive, ineffective, a lottery, biased, incapable of detecting fraud, and prone to abuse. 11 12 Evidence for its upside is sparse. Through our collective failure of imagination it is still, however, the least worst system, and the best strategy seems to be to try to improve rather than replace it. My vision has been that a clumsy black box should become an open scientific discourse conducted in full view and real time on the web. This vision is not widely shared, and even with the BMJ we’ve got only as far as letting authors know the name of reviewers

Since we use a fully open peer-review form with mandatory data sharing, we have both the most open and possibly the most scrutinizing peer review. Of course, reviewers may choose not to review a paper in detail before publication, but they can, and everybody else who may want the data can use it as well. The forum is also open to any other person to review the paper before publication, even if they do not have a vote.

The issue is perhaps not completely solved, but the experiment seems to be working well so far.

Authorship:
Quote:Authorship is another issue with which we’ve seen little progress. It long ago became clear that many studies included authors who had done little or nothing and excluded people who had done a great deal of work. 19 Attempts to separate authors from nonauthors have been based more on power than contribution, and the arguments for contributorship rather than authorship seem to me unanswerable, 20 but most journals have stuck with authorship

We have no policies here. Suggestions? Nothing which author did what seems in order and a fair requirement.

Conflict of interest:
Quote:Journals didn’t begin to think about conflict of interest until the 1980s, and even the most “advanced” journals didn’t actually implement policies until after the millennium. 21 Most journals still don’t have policies. Yet substantial evidence has accumulated on the powerful influence of conflicts of interest, 22 and it is at least arguable that medical journals are more an extension of the marketing arm of pharmaceutical companies than independent scientific forums. (I will be arguing exactly that at a meeting a meeting of Healthwatch in October: everybody’s welcome).

We have no policies again, but mainly because there are rarely conflicts of interest in our fields. Should we have mandatory declaration of conflicts of interest?
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#2
http://www.nature.com/nature/peerreview/debate/op1.html

This publisher seems to use an almost identical review system.

Quote:In Biology Direct, everything happens in the open: the authors select their own reviewers from the editorial board, and the reviews are not only signed but also published, alongside authors' responses, as an integral part of each article. The reviews can be critical or even outright negative. The only condition of publication is that three members of the Biology Direct editorial board become sufficiently interested in a submission to either review it themselves or to solicit a review from an outside expert. Conversely, a paper is rejected if and only if the author cannot get three reviews. Obviously, the authors can 'self-reject', that is, they can withdraw their manuscript if they are not comfortable publishing it having considered its reviews.
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#3
This is a quite clever system (using level of interest as a condition for publication). A journal focused on revolutionary science should be willing to take a novel but false over a boring but true paper.
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#4
Here's another journal with open review. http://www.jnrbm.com/content/13/1/2

Not quite as open as ours tho.
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