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    Open Access And The Future Of Medical Journalism
    By Bertalan Meskó | February 13th 2007 04:35 AM | 6 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    Recently, I’ve found several blogposts and papers writing about the future of medical journalism, the problem of open access. I’d like to spread the word about a new system in medical journalism where the scientific community decides about the fate of a submitted article. First, some words about the impact factor. Sciencesque had an interesing post about how impact factor is calculated and why we should follow the newly proposed system of PLos One.

    In a radical move, PLoS One has proposed to publish any paper that is technically sound, and let the scientific community submit comments about the paper after it has been published… As it stands now, there are but two things between you and a published paper: reviewer#1 and reviewer#2. No matter how good or bad your research is, those two people have the power to accept or reject your paper, and there is very little you can do if the decision doesn’t go your way.

    Then Bodyhack started to post on open access with plenty of interviews and announcements just like the one today: Pharma goes open access.

    So how could we describe a better future of medical journalism? If you submit an article, then not two reviewers should decide about it’s importance but the medical, scientific community. It wouldn’t work like digg.com or reddit.com, but by citing the article. The more times an article is cited, the more impact factors it has.

    According to the PLoS One page:

    PLoS ONE is an international, peer-reviewed, open-access, online publication from the Public Library of Science (PLoS). PLoS ONE welcomes reports on primary research from any scientific discipline.

    Each submission will be assessed by a member of the PLoS ONE Editorial Board before publication. This pre-publication peer review will concentrate on technical rather than subjective concerns.

    All works published in PLoS journals are open access, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License. Everything is immediately available online without cost to anyone…

    So not some reviewers will decide about the fate of the article and the whole procedure is free and available to everyone. So far, the system has been like that: if you wanted to publish your paper, you needed publishable results which didn’t absolutely need to be valuable (What I mean is that for scientific papers, being measured by editors of scientific journals does not and can not well approximate and represent the ability to help scientific progress.). With this new system, if your results are not enough valuable, no one will cite your article.

    PLoS One makes it possible to add and share your comments, to join the discussions on the guidelines and articles or to explore by subject. Take a look at the blogs, subscribe to the RSS feeds and spread the word!

    I believe that the future of medical journalism belongs to them. Now, I joined their community, subscribed to the feed of newly added articles on genetics and medicine and will let you know when I find something interesting or important.



    Berci, these guys are like us, in a way. I think this sort of open community - not just if you have the right politics or the right position on an issue - is vital. It takes information out of the hands of a few elites who want to tell you what you should read ( or write ) and gives it to the people. It doesn't hurt that we have 25 world-class scientists, either, of course. :-)

    How well do you objectively think this will work? The folks at NATURE tried open review and it didn't work very well. Will it ever have the same credibility?

    Another aspect of free access would be to require scientific publishers to electronically share the authors' data with their readership. We are only allowed to see the results after analysis by the author. Frequently, the author's analysis is poorly done or inappropriately done. If readers had a chance to analyze the raw data, far better and more precise evaluations of the evidence in regard to the research question could be done.

    Or it could create a huge mess if the original analysis was correct and follow-up people do it wrong.  There is a bandwidth issue for the time of researchers - they will never get any work done if they are bogged down providing results for people who didn't do any of the work in the first place.
    As a consumer of scientific literature, I want to do my own analysis. If I do it wrong then I deserve my own poor results. Assuming that the author always does an appropriate analysis is a level of trust not deserved based on the poor standards of analysis required by editors, especially in the medical literature.
    As far as wasting the author's time in providing the data, it would not take any additional time at all. All they need to do is provide a comma separated text file of the data to be distributed on the journal's web site.

    You're confusing a pay-to-publish service like PLoS One, the focus of this piece and where an editor looks things over and charges a credit card and posts it up, with a peer-reviewed journal.  Yes, there are mistakes that make it into peer-reviewed journals but are you, without any qualifications, going to find them?  I doubt it.   

    Should taxpayers have access to taxpayer-funded science?  Sure.  And if PubMed or Fermi wants to store data files on their servers and let you download them, I am all for it.   Nothing would be funnier than laypeople download 10 inverse femtobarns of data from Tevatron and trying to make sense of it.   I just don't think it will add anything to the science discourse.
    Gerhard Adam
    While access to data might be interesting, I can see that it would also produce chaos in the general sense.  People are already grossly misinterpreting information that is provided, and even parsing the meaning of specific words to bolster everything ranging from political agendas to conspiracy theories.  To throw data into this mix and create the aura of "credibility" wouldn't help in the least.  Too many people are already having to waste time on issues that are being raised by those that want to question every nuance of accepted scientific thinking.
    Mundus vult decipi