The Koyal Group Info Mag Review: In the Digital Age, Science Publishing Needs an Upgrade (Op Ed)

Daniel Marovitz is CEO of Faculty of 1000. Faculty of 1000 is a publisher for life scientists and clinical researchers, and comprises of three services; F1000Prime, F1000Research and F1000Posters. F1000Research is an open science publishing platform for life scientists that offers immediate publication and transparent peer review. Before that, he was the CEO and co-founder of Buzzumi, a cloud-based enterprise software company. He contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Quick quiz, which is bigger: the global music industry or scientific publishing? You may be surprised to learn that the music industry racks up $15 billion each year in sales, whereas scientific publishing quietly brings in $19 billion. This "under-the-radar" colossus gets very little attention, yet influences us all.

In many ways, published science tracks and influences the course of our species on this planet. It enables scientists to find out what other researchers are working on and what discoveries they have made. It helps governments decide where to invest and helps universities decide whom to hire. Most people don't give it a second thought but they should. All of us are consumers of science, and perhaps most crucially, all of us are eventually medical patients dependent on the discoveries published in medical journals. The way science is disseminated and the way articles are published is not just a geeky question for librarians — it impacts our society in profound ways.

Publishing science

The history of scientific journals dates back to 1665, when French Journal des sçavan and the English Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society first published research results. Around the same time, the first peer review process was recorded at the Royal Society of London. By the 20th century, peer review became common practice to help allocate scientific funding, and before the Internet, all scientific journals were published on paper.

Paper costs money to buy, more money to print, and even more money to transport. It made sense that journals worked hard to find the "best" studies because they were constrained to publishing 10 to 20 articles each month. They limited the number of pages authors could write and severely limited (and sometimes charged the authors extra for) color and additional images. The process was long and laborious for everyone involved, and was constrained by the limits and costs of a necessarily analog world.

You would naturally assume that the Internet Age would have changed all of that, but while all journals now publish online, most of the process is still based on a paper past. This means many perfectly sound articles are rejected, articles take too long to be published, and most articles are published with conclusions, but without the data that supports them. Enough data should be shared by authors to ensure that anyone can replicate their research efforts and achieve similar results.

Such processes seriously bias what is published, impacting all aspects of science and thus society: from new scientific discoveries and the development of new medicines, to scientists' livelihoods and how public money is spent.

Redefining science publication

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