Research Outreach responds

Research Outreach cover

In response to my post last week, “Is Research Outreach a rebranded Research Features?”, their Operations Director left a couple of comments. The quick backstory here is that I wrote a post a couple of years ago criticizing an outfit called Research Features, mainly for being less than transparent. Some recent comments on that post led me to believe that a new publication, Research Outreach, was run by the same people and possibly just a rebranded version of Research Features. When I checked out the newer publication, it was clear that at least the first part of that was true: they were run by the same people. I also noticed that Research Outreach was upfront about their business model, which is writing and publishing very professionally produced press releases for scientists, who are charged around $2000 for the service. They also don’t pretend that what they do is journalism, which was my main complaint about Research Features.

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Research Outreach blocked me on Twitter

Research Outreach Twitter screenshot

Screenshot from June 12, 2019.

When I published “Is Research Outreach a rebranded Research Features” yesterday, I went to Research Outreach‘s Twitter page, which is linked from their homepage. I was going to tag them in the tweet accompanying the post, since I like to let people to know what I’m saying about them. To my surprise, I found that I had been blocked. The reason this was surprising is that I don’t think I had followed them. I certainly never interacted with them.

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Is Research Outreach a rebranded Research Features?

Research Outreach cover

I wrote some pretty critical stuff about a magazine called Research Features after they contacted me as a potential subject of an article. Research Features’ website calls it a magazine, but what it really is is a collection of very slickly produced press releases, which are paid for by the scientists they feature. I found this sketchy, and I said so:

What’s sketchy about this is that it’s self-promotion passing itself off as journalism. Research Features calls itself a ‘digital magazine’…It’s full of what look like articles, though their authorship is not attributed. They’re not articles, though; they’re ads. Ads for researchers, ads for labs.

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Jeffrey Beall, academic terrorist!

I’ve been fairly outspoken about my support for open access publishing (On paywalls, F paywalls), so you might think that I would naturally be at odds with probably the most prominent critic of (paid) open access publishing, Jeffrey Beall. I’m not, though. I despise scammers of all stripes (This should be interesting, What good is a washing machine on Arrakis?I think Tina/Nora has given up on me), and I think predatory open access publishers are loathsome parasites.

Did Beall miss the mark with his criticism of Frontiers publishing? I think he did. I THINK he did. I hope he did, because I recently agreed to serve as a ‘review editor’ for Frontiers in Plant Science [that’s my full disclosure, folks]. From everything I can tell, they are completely above-board. If someone can convince me otherwise (and I AM listening), I will turn on them like Trump on Cohen. That said, Beall only ever claimed to have identified “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers. I think his website was a valuable resource, and I miss it (Say it ain’t so! Beall’s list shuts down).

Beall’s list is archived at https://beallslist.weebly.com/, but of course it’s not maintained, which is crucial given the rate at which predatory publishers spawn. I was looking for that the other day in response to a colleague’s question, and I thought, I’ll just check to make sure the original site is still down. I’m glad I did, because I came across one of the most egregious (and hilarious) examples of cybersquatting I’ve ever seen.

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What’s a DOI?

Whenever possible, I try to link to a publicly accessible version of any scientific article I report on. Sometimes this is on ResearchGate, sometimes on an author’s academic website, sometimes even a course website. The benefit is that anyone can download and read the article; the downside is that these links sometimes disappear. Publishers issue takedown notices, academics change institutions, and courses end.

For these reasons, I usually provide, in addition to a publicly accessible link, a link that I can count on to not disappear (these appear at the end of the post, under “Stable Links”). Almost always, these are DOIs. DOIs are Digital Object Identifiers, persistent handles that are permanently assigned to particular documents. Almost all academic journals assign DOIs to all of their articles (Evolutionary Ecology Research is one exception, much to my annoyance), as do the preprint servers arXiv and bioRxiv and the digital data archive Dryad.

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How bad is £50 for a 1000-word article?

Research Features

Just a quick followup on yesterday’s post (“Those beautiful Research Features articles? The authors get £50.“). If you could write two such articles a day, five days a week, you would earn around £26,000 ($35,000) per year:

£50/article x 2 articles/day x 5 days/week x 52 weeks/year = £26,000/year.

At the end of a year, you’d have written around half a million words, a bit more than The Lord of the Rings.

Those beautiful Research Features articles? The authors get £50.

Research Features

Back in August, I wrote a fairly critical post about an outfit called Research Features (“Research Features: seems sketchy to me“). My main complaint was that they call themselves a magazine but seem to me to be closer to paid advertising:

What’s sketchy about this is that it’s self-promotion passing itself off as journalism.

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You don’t need ResearchGate to access a preprint

ResearchGate likes to send notifications when your papers are cited. If you’re signed up for Google Scholar alerts, you’ll already know about most of these, but I confess I usually follow the links anyway. I haven’t previously seen too many preprints reported on ResearchGate, but I don’t see any reason researchers shouldn’t do so. One thing I noticed, though, is that that there’s no link to the preprint!

ResearchGate screenshot

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Don’t dump and run

In the December issue of EMBO ReportsMatheus Sanitá Lima and David Roy Smith argue that biologists utilizing next-generation sequencing data should include detailed methods with their submissions to the Sequence Read Archive (the paper is paywalled at the publisher site but available here):

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the SRA is an international public online archive for next-generation sequencing (NGS) data, which was established about a decade ago under the guidance of the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration (INSDC)…Once there, you will find yourself at a sequencing-read superstore.

Sanitá Lima & Smith

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