Monday, September 11, 2006

Beyond the journal article in the sciences

The Scientist has an interesting discussion of the limitations of the traditional journal article, "The death of the scientific paper." The suggested solution:

Journals must produce more than just papers. Editors should demand online deposit of data as a requirement for publication, and enforce a unified nomenclature for biology. In addition to the traditional manuscript, authors should deliver structured methods and results sections suitable for computer parsing, a lay-friendly news blurb (like those PLoS Medicine includes), and a single PowerPoint slide summarizing the work. This entire body of information should be peer-reviewed, published en masse, and kept in sync, thereby avoiding the current problem of disconjugate articles and data sets.


At 3:35 PM, Anonymous sp5 said...

"the NCBI approach is monolithic", huh? i'll show him monolithic!

i dunno, beckyj... the author's grievances are valid, but they're hardly novel complaints. and his solutions are vague and somewhat misguided. (what interest do publishers have in driving a "collaborative", "decentralized" effort?) and i don't quite get the leap from the social aspects of data (annotation, discussion) to his conclusion that the "future of scientific data lies in digital storage and access". huh?

and (yes, i must defend NCBI here), many of the Entrez services depend on the contribution of data sets from around the world. how much more collaborative can you get? the data technically resides anywhere a user has access to it.

the author needs to catch up on his open access reading. academic publishing is changing (e.g., self archiving, institutional archives, tags, blogs, web2.0 stuff). democracy is on the march.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger BeckyJ said...

I've seen some commentary recommending that one way to help "fix" peer review and catch more errors/falsifications of data is to require investigators to submit their datasets so that others can re-check the analysis (JAMA's editorial policy might be taking one step toward this, it requires that industry-sponsored studies submit their data to an independent biostatistician for analysis to address conflict of interest concerns).

I like your comment about contrast between the social aspects of data and the technical aspects -- access to the data is very different from what you do with it. Would have been nice if the author had considered things like Biomed Central, the nature of collaboration via NCBI tools, etc.

(nice un-biased defense of NCBI and its products, btw :) )


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