Research Features: seems sketchy to me

I see that it’s been nearly three weeks since I posted, maybe the longest gap since I started this. It wasn’t a conscious decision, just a combination of deadlines and life in general.

Research Features

Back in April, I got an email out of the blue from a ‘Project Manager’ at Research Features, a digital magazine “…born from a passion to break down barriers that exist in the dissemination life cycle from researcher to the mass audience.”

Dear Dr. Herron

I would like to speak with you concerning your work with the Collaborative Research: De Novo Evolution of Multicellularity in a Unicellular Volvocine Alga study.

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bioRxiv gets a boost


Biologists have the option of posting preprints, articles that have not yet been through peer review, to bioRxiv. Modeled on the physics preprint server arXiv, bioRxiv is much newer, and its adoption by biologists (unlike arXiv’s by physicists) has been well short of universal. bioRxiv recently got a small boost, though, and I suspect it may be approaching a tipping point.

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Two more tools for (legally) avoiding paywalls


Most of the articles published in scientific journals report publicly funded research. You can see this in the acknowledgments section, where the authors list their funding sources, which will often include the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, NASA, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, etc. (this is obviously a US-centric list, but most countries have similar funding mechanisms). Even if the work isn’t supported by a government grant, much of it is done at public universities, meaning that the facilities and possibly researcher salaries are government supported. And government-supported means taxpayer-supported.

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Say it ain’t so! Beall’s list shuts down

I hate it when a resource I rely on stops working. First it was igoogle, then Google Reader (necessitating a switch to Feedly, which I don’t like as well). Now it appears that Scholarly Open Access, the website that hosts Beall’s List of predatory open-access publishers, has shut down (I found out about this from Retraction Watch).

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I’m resorting to name-calling, and I don’t even know who I’m talking about.

Retraction Watch carries the story of a peer reviewer who published a paper he or she reviewed as his or her own. Stole the paper, in other words:

…after Michael Dansinger of Tufts Medical Center realized a paper he’d submitted to Annals of Internal Medicine that had been rejected was republished, and the journal recognized one of the reviewers among the list of co-authors, it published a letter from Dansinger to the reviewer, along with an editorial explaining what happened.

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On paywalls

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No, you don’t have to pay to read this blog post. Or most scientific articles.

I often blog about peer-reviewed articles, and some of those articles are behind a paywall. There’s a large and growing trend toward open access journals, which charge the authors a publication fee and make their articles available to everyone for free, but this is far from universal. A lot of the big, high-profile journals, such as Science, Nature, PNAS, Ecology Letters, and Current Biology still charge for their articles. And the charges aren’t trivial. A typical scientific paper might cite 50-100 previous articles, and an author might have to read two or three times that many that don’t end up being cited. If you had to pay $38 for each one of those articles, you’d be a lot less inclined to do a thorough literature search.

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