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Enago's authors can derive the benefit of having access to multiple scholarly resources on a single platform (under its knowledge outreach arm, Enago Academy). These resources comprise tips for writing, submission, journal selection, following ethical practices, and every other aspect that a researcher would want to know about.

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InkScape

Scientific researchers know how important it is to communicate their findings via illustrations and diagrams. Poorly drawn figures are difficult to understand. As a result, they degrade the overall quality of a paper being submitted for publication or presentation.

As an author of scientific articles, you need to educate yourself on basic guidelines on image production. One thing to remember is the difference between vector and raster images. Raster images are the more commonly used image formats, such as JPEGs and PNGs. These file formats are fine for everyday use. Photographic images with grey areas and non-distinct edges are generally available in this format. However, when it comes to presenting sharply drawn line art and graphs, vector images are the best choice. In fact, they are the best for artwork submitted to scientific journals. Vector type graphics utilize file formats such as PDF, SVG, and EPS.

Choosing a Vector Graphics Editor

A vector graphics editor is a software program that allows you to create and edit line art, such as graphs, charts, and illustrations. There are a number of  programs which can edit vector graphics. How to choose the best program for your work? Here are a few tips for doing so:

  • Does the program work on your operating system (i.e., Windows, Mac, etc.)?
  • Is the user interface easy to use? Are tools easily available?
  • Is the program well suited for vector file types (see above), both for import and export?
  • Cost of the program?

What Makes InkScape a Good Choice for Vector Graphic Editing?

When considering vector graphic editing, InkScape is a good choice for the following reasons:

  • InkScape is open source, which means there is no cost to use it! This sets it apart from Adobe Illustrator and other commercial programs that until now have dominated the market.
  • The InkScape program works with SVG-type files, which can be produced via open source programs.
  • A wide range of editing tools and features allowing the author to create scientific diagrams of the same versatility and quality as those produced with Adobe or InDesign.
  • InkScape runs on all operating systems: Windows, Mac, and Linux.

InkScape is a good choice for authors preparing diagrams and other line art in their manuscript. At the same time, you should be aware that this open source program has a few limitations, compared to high-priced programs like Adobe. For example, if you need to create images in color, be sure to double check that CMYK colors are available in InkScape. This is something that most printers will require if they are to accurately reproduce your color artwork. A 2016 article reported that InkScape did not include CMYK color profiles. However, the CMYK option is listed in the current features list for InkScape. It is always a good idea to communicate directly with software providers to clear up these kinds of questions.

Look Out for Specific Guidelines on Images

In general, you should always be aware of the specific requirements of the target journal for image production and especially the editing of images. Be sure to consult the guidelines for authors for each journal before you invest time and effort in editing your images.

Even more importantly, every author should review and understand the criteria used to judge images for source and accuracy. Preparation and editing of images should not lead to image manipulation. Inappropriate or fraudulent manipulation has, unfortunately, become a common occurrence in scientific publication.

What are the software you use for editing vector images for your manuscript? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Adverbs

Adverbs, the lesser known offspring of adjectives and verbs, are words that modify the original meaning of their parents – the adjective and the verb. Adverbs in scientific writing can alter the way an action can be done, such as “thoroughly” or “briskly”. To do something “very quickly” has an entirely different meaning to doing something “quickly enough”. This is what makes adverbs so important. They tell us more about what is going on.

Correct Use of Adverbs in Research Papers

In many research papers, adverbs can be used effectively to demonstrate a point. You could refer to a scientist who “regularly” expresses the same view or bias by using an adverb to show the extent of their credibility as a source. You could also write that another source cited in your paper “expertly” stated a case, or that they “eloquently” made their point. These would all add plausibility to the reason you chose them as your research paper’s sources, making your paper have a stronger argument overall. Adverbs can be incredibly useful in bringing across the stronger meaning of a sentence, and can be extremely persuasive. “Incredibly” and “extremely” are just two examples of this.

Use of Adverbs in Different Sentences

In different sentences, adverbs create different meaning. They can heighten or lower the extent of any action. For example

It was a poorly orchestrated research.

The book has some or exceptionally well written pieces.

They can describe the manner of an action, such as a “hastily” typed essay. Adverbs can even tell you when it happened, “early” in the morning. They can intensify, and “really” add weight and potency to a sentence that would “simply” be lacking without a “handy” adverb.

Why Can’t We Use Adverbs All the Time?

Now you know what adverbs are and how to use them in your research paper. Sadly, the value of adverbs relies on their being used infrequently. You cannot constantly intensify words in your research paper. For example,

Our sources are “really” good because they “truly” state their “rigorously” informed opinion.

There are so many adverbs used in the sentence that it has lost meaning. Certain verbs are there which replace these adverbs. For instance, rather than saying you are “seriously” interested in the research paper’s topic, you could say you were “engrossed” in it. This verb conflates the meaning of two words, the adverb and the adjective, into one.
Worse than overusing adverbs is using an adverb in a grammatically incorrect sentence. It can take away the meaning and lower the standard of your paper overall. For this reason, keep in mind the rules of grammar.

  1. If you were to say the experiment went “very much well”, you are adding a determiner after an adverb. This is unnecessary, so just go for “very well” instead.
  2. If you wrote that your professor “aggressively” took the temperature, you would also be using the adverb incorrectly. The adverb goes after the action in the structure of this sentence, so you would write that your professor took the temperature “aggressively”, intensifying their action further.

The proper use of adverbs in grammar is an important aspect of academic writing. For an overview on other aspects of academic writing such as punctuation, you can check importance of punctuation in research paper (part1) and (part 2).

How often do you use adverbs in your research paper? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Appendix

Research papers are packed with information; however, not all of it needs to be included in your main paper. Although you want to share all of it, your paper should focus on only those data that are relevant to your hypothesis and conclusions. So, what do you do with the rest of the data? Where do you put it so that anyone interested can find it? The answer to the question is appendix. Let us find out more about it.

What’s in an Appendix?

An appendix comprises additional information that was gathered during your research but that you will not include in your paper. Many times, your data analyses are too detailed to be included in your main text. This might include lengthy spreadsheets of data.

You want your readers to stay focused on your main discovery but also want additional information to be available to them. Your readers can peruse an appendix at will but won’t have to use it to understand your research.

Points to Remember

When creating your appendix, remember:

  • The data in the appendix should not be essential to understanding your paper;
  • Your paper must include references to all the appendices; and
  • Your appendix is presented in the order it is cited in the text.

What You Might Include

The kind of data that an appendix may include:

  • Letters from other researchers or interested parties;
  • Questionnaires (with proper citations if not created);
  • Graphical illustrations and tables not needed in the main text.
  • List of terms or acronyms and abbreviations (although author guidelines might prefer that these be included in the main text);
  • Excerpts from other relevant documents (with proper citations); and
  • Raw data (compiled in table format).

Appendix Format

An appendix is formatted in much the same way as your main text. It has a title page labeled with a numeral or letter in the order in which it is cited in your text. Subtopics (or “subheaders”) are also labeled using the same format.

For example:

  • Title: Appendix A: Data from Site 323 (the first appendix to be cited in the text).
  • Subheader: 1: Data on Male Species.
  • Tables/Figures: Table A1. Fecundity of Females in Second Year (figures would follow the same formatting).

The second appendix would be labeled “Appendix B” with the same designations for subheaders, tables, and figures. Keep the author guidelines in mind for specifics on citing appendices in your main text.

Appendix pages are consecutively numbered following your main text (i.e., if your text ends on page 35, your appendix will begin with page 36).

Appendix Organization

Consider your audience and the role you want your appendix to play as supplementary information. It is information that is not necessary, but might be valuable to some. Organization is key to a valuable appendix. Remember:

  • Don’t use your appendix as a “dumping ground” for all your notes;
  • Don’t have an appendix that is so full of information that the main points of your master paper get buried;
  • Do ensure that you cite all references to other research and publications; and
  • Do include the appendices in your table of contents.

Where Does It Go?

Placement of your appendix (or appendices, if more than one) depends on the target journal’s style guide. Some style guides, such as the American Psychiatric Association, place appendices after tables and figures. Others might ask you to include appendices before or after your references. Check your author guidelines for protocols.

Have you used appendices as supplements to your research paper? If so, what did you include in it and why? Please let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

dipp-1

Whether you love or dread them, conference presentations are a crucial part of any research-oriented career. Sharing and exchanging findings and information with others in your field is important. It helps to stay up to date on the latest developments, network with fellow professionals, and identify potential collaborators or new directions for your own research. Presentation methods continue to evolve as technology offers new ways to make research more exciting and accessible. Digital interactive poster presentations are the latest innovation sweeping the conference circuit.

From Paper to Digital

Visual accompaniment to presentations is a time-honored way to enhance or add depth to the research results being shown to an audience. In the past, students or young researchers who presented academic and scientific work created paper posters that featured the highlights of their work. With the advent of technology, e-posters began to grow in popularity in the 1990s. Also known as “digital posters”, these come in a variety of formats. Some may include stand-alone single elements such as a video, chart, photo, game, slideshow, while some may include a combination of several videos, charts, etc.

E-posters, as their name implies, are hosted online rather than in physical space. Their integration into conference poster sessions has highlighted the advantages of digital over traditional paper posters, including:

  • E-posters may be interactive and facilitate learning without the presenter nearby
  • These posters can present a great deal of information in a condensed format. Unlike paper posters, they don’t look crowded and messy
  • Addition of video, voice, slideshows, and photos provides a more interactive and enhanced experience for the audience
  • E-posters widen the audience as they are available online to anyone, not only to conference attendees
  • As they are available online, digital posters also facilitate discussions or “communities of interest” around the presented work
  • E-poster sessions mitigate the busyness of live poster sessions, allowing participants to learn more from sessions they attend

With these numerous factors in favor of digital posters, it’s no wonder that they have become the norm over the past decade in many academic disciplines.

From E- or Digital Posters to Digital Interactive Poster Presentations

During the 14th Meeting of the European Association of Cardiothoracic Surgery in 2001, a new type of digital poster presentation was made, named digital interactive poster presentation. First proposed by De Simone et al. (2001), the digital interactive poster presentation, or DIPP, aimed to make poster sessions even more effective in communicating important data and discoveries by using an interactive format. The DIPP lets presenters project their posters on a screen or wall and give a brief, 3-5 minute presentation while highlighting important figures and charts. The popularity that the concept of DIPP had received at this very first session has grown ever since.

DIPPs are actually just soft copy or pdf versions of traditional posters that will be projected in the session followed. However, there are some advantages of DIPP over traditional posters. It allows the presenter to magnify or emphasize the portions of the presentation they find most interesting or relevant. It also provides opportunities for interaction between the presenters and audience in ways that traditional posters often do not. Traditional posters might end up in a trash can following a presentation. On the other hand, DIPPs can be preserved online, and later obtained in pen-drives if allowed.

Interactive Features of DIPPs

When a DIPP is created for viewing online or display on a screen or wall, the presenter can add different features to make it easier for the audience to interact more with the material and presentation. Hyperlinks and email addresses are one easy way to share contact information with interested audience members. For those of you who are more tech-savvy, you can include a QR code on your DIPP. That way, people who have a specific app installed on their smartphones or tablets can scan the QR code. It would direct them automatically to a website or receive contact information or text. Some people also include links that allow viewers to directly send their comments and feedback on the poster or presentation. With these new innovative presenting methods, scientific and scholarly community will be able to reach a much larger audience. This will, in turn, lead science and research to flourish.

Have you encountered DIPPs before? What are your thoughts on interactive conference presentations? What other interesting presentation innovations have you seen? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

Punctuation in research papers

We’ve already covered the basics of periods, commas in the first article, and those of semicolon, colon and quotation marks in the second article of this series. Now, it’s time to focus on some of the finer points of punctuation in research papers. In this article, we will talk about how punctuation marks like dashes, hyphens, and apostrophes can help us express ideas clearly and easily.

When to Use an Apostrophe?

Apostrophes (‘) have two main functions: to show possession, and to show missing letters in a word. Apostrophes are often misused even by native speakers. Let’s look at some examples to see why.

  • Showing Possession

In English, we can use an apostrophe + the letter s to indicate that something belongs to someone or some organization. For example:

Todd’s cat is fat.

In this sentence, the cat belongs to Todd. We know this because of the apostrophe s.

This becomes confusing when a word itself ends in the letter s. But don’t get confused! There is an easy rule to remember. If the possessor is a person or organization whose name ends in the letter s, you can show possession in two ways.

ISIS’s approach to the city caused everyone to flee.

ISIS’ approach to the city caused everyone to flee.

If the possessor ends in a regular plural letter s, add an apostrophe after the letter s.

The scientists’ skepticism cast doubts on the reliability of their results.

If you need to show joint possession, add the apostrophe s after the last person listed.

 Healy and Grimes’s article indicates that all previous research is now obsolete.

If you place an apostrophe s after each name in a list, it sounds like you are talking about multiple things possessed by multiple people.

 Healy’s and Grimes’s articles indicate that all previous research is now obsolete.

Although all of the examples we have listed above are correct, some academic style guides have their own preferences. Always consult the style guide of the publisher or professor you are writing for.

  • Showing Missing Letters (Contractions)

The second common use of apostrophes is to denote contractions. English has a set of words that can be combined using an apostrophe to form what are called contractions. Contractions denote the same meaning as the set of words combined but have a one-two letters missing. These are typically used only in informal language and are not recommended in formal academic writing. Here are a few common examples:

 I’ve = I have

We’re = We are

Don’t = Do not

A more complete list of contractions can be found here. Remember, you can’t just make your own contractions. “America’re going to the polls” is not an acceptable use of an apostrophe, although it is creative.

Most Misundertood Punctuation in Research Papers

Now it’s time to talk about the three most ‘misunderstood’ punctuation marks in the room (well, maybe not, but people confuse them quite often!). While all of these marks are similar, they are used differently and they are, in fact, slightly different from one another.

When to Use the Hyphen?

  • Hyphens (-) are used to join words or parts of words. They are shorter than the en dash (–) and the em dash (—). Hyphens are used to join compound words, such as ‘self-respect’. However, as language evolves, so do the words that we hyphenate. Some words that were earlier used as hyphenated are no longer used with hyphens. For example, it was standard to write the word ‘cooperate’ as ‘co-operate’ in the past.
  • You should always use a hyphen when not using one could lead to confusion. For example, ‘ten year old pigs’ should be hyphenated. Without a hyphen, the phrase could be read to mean ‘ten year-old pigs’ or ‘ten-year-old pigs’. Both the phrases have different meanings and hence can be confusing. If you aren’t sure whether a compound word should be hyphenated or not, search it in Google or consult your journal style guide.
  • Hyphens should also be used with compound modifiers that come before nouns.

The study was ethically sound. (hyphen absent: the modifier follows the noun)

The ethically-sound study received much acclaim. (hyphen present: the modifier precedes the noun)

When to Use the En Dash?

  • The en dash, named for being the approximate width of an uppercase letter N. The en dash is often mistaken for a hyphen, and functions in a similar way. In formal print publications, en dashes are used to indicate ranges for dates, times, scores, page numbers, and so on. For example:

The raw data for the statistics referenced above may be found on pages 44– 47.

The doctor rescheduled my appointment for 4:30–5:30pm.

Note that in informal writing, a hyphen is often used instead of en dash.

  • The en dash is also used when we want to use multiple words as adjective modifiers. As we saw above, hyphens do the job of joining compound modifiers when they come before a noun. Think of an en dash as a kind of super hyphen when you have a long compound modifier.

The archaeologists carefully dug around the pre–World War II era human remains.

If we were to use a hyphen for the full compound modifier, we would be writing “pre-World-War-II-era”. This would look quite awkward in terms of appearance. The en dash fixes this problem for us.

When to Use the Em Dash?

  • The em dash takes its name from being about the same width as an uppercase letter M. It is used more in informal writing to indicate a pause or interruption, or to emphasize the information that follows.

And yet, when the journalists finally arrived—after an arduous journey of over 24 hours—they found they had been lied to from the beginning.

The em dashes are used here to indicate that the information within them is rather shocking.

  • The em dash is also used for denoting an incomplete speech.

“Wait!” she shouted. “I’ll come with—”

In this example, the em dash indicates interrupted speech. Perhaps a door was closed on the speaker’s face, cutting off her sentence.

What other punctuation marks in academic writing challenge you? Do you have more questions about apostrophes, dashes, and hyphens? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

multidisciplinary-database-1

Writing a good literature review is essential for any good research. In our previous articles in this series, we learned about databases used in literature review for life science and medicine. However, there are some databases that can be used for literature review of more than one subject. These are called multidisciplinary databases. Multidisciplinary databases for literature review are always a good resource to help researchers broaden the scope of their search. These help researchers find articles related to their topic of study that have been published by lesser known journals. They can also be a good way to find international research sources. This article will highlight the most popular multidisciplinary databases- Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar- and give an overview of their content and features.

Web of Science

The Web of Science  is one of the most popular multidisciplinary databases used in scientific research community. It offers researchers a way to search four databases at once: the Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and the Arts & Humanities Citation Index and Conference Proceedings Citation Index (Science and Technical Edition). It offers a unified platform to allow for a wide variety of search terms across disciplines. Web of Science also has links to regional citation indexes, patent data, specialized subject indexes, and an index of research data sets. The database gives complete bibliographic data and author abstracts. The researchers can search for publications by author, title, and institution, as well as by cited authors.

The combined publications available on the Web of Science total over 33,000 journals. Of particular note is the Conference Proceedings Citation Index (Science and Technical Edition) which allows access to published literature from conferences, seminars, workshops, conventions, symposia, and colloquia all over the world. This access includes conference proceedings and cited reference searching that allows researchers to expand their search beyond journal data.

Scopus

Scopus is another major multidisciplinary database that is used worldwide.  It claims to have the “largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature.” Scopus has a wider database of international resources than Web of Science. These resources offer smart tools to track, analyze, and visualize research. Scopus’ smart tools also allow researchers to analyze journals. They can find out the number of articles published by a journal in a year, the affiliations and countries of the authors, and the subject areas the journal covers.

Scopus also gives researchers the tools to analyze terms by searching for the first time and their frequency of use over time. In fact, you can find out how often a certain term has appeared in Scopus publications from any date you choose. Scopus has other smart tools that allow you to search with self-citations eliminated. It also helps to find out an author’s most highly cited paper, or find the most highly cited article in a journal. These search features can prove very helpful to writers who are looking to analyze larger publishing trends, terminology, or journal information.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar offers a simple way for researchers to do a broad search for literature. As apparent from the name, Google Scholar is a subsection of the larger Google search index and provides search results for both commercial and open-source publishers. One benefit of Google Scholar is that you can search any discipline or source from the entire web. Through Google Scholar, you can find peer-reviewed papers, books, abstracts, articles, and peer-reviewed papers. The sources as wide-ranging as universities, academic publishers, academic societies, and scholarly organizations. Book previews are available and searches are international, giving quick access to a wide range of information.

However, some criticisms of Google Scholar include the company’s lack of transparency about its database contents and traditional search features. It may fail to pull the most up-to-date sources, particularly in medicine.  Much of its content is pulled from licensed publishing sources. Hence, a search of Google Scholar may pull up only the abstract of an article when a promising link is clicked. Logging in through one’s academic institution prior to performing a Google Scholar search is a quick way to fix this problem.

It may be difficult to decide when you’ve done enough research, but using these comprehensive databases will ensure that you have access to the most up to date sources available. A reference manager can also help track your sources. Remember, a good literature review is the foundation of a good research. These databases can help you build that foundation.

Now you know about some of the databases used in literature review of subjects like life science, medicine etc. You also know about some of the multidisciplinary databases. Tell us which database you prefer and why. Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

first or third person

Writing in the first, second, or third person is referred to as the author’s point of view. When we write, our tendency is to personalize the text by writing in the first person. That is, we use pronouns such as “I” and “we”. This is acceptable when writing personal information, a journal, or a book. However, it is not common in academic writing.

Some writers find the use of first, second, or third person point of view a bit confusing while writing research papers. Since second person is avoided while writing in academic or scientific papers,the main confusion remains within first or third person.

In the following sections, we will discuss the usage and examples of the first, second, and third person point of view.

First Person

The first person point of view simply means that we use the pronouns that refer to ourselves in the text. These are as follows:

  • I
  • We
  • Me
  • My
  • Mine
  • Us
  • Our
  • Ours

Using these, we present the information based on what “we” found. In science and mathematics, this point of view is rarely used. It is often considered to be somewhat self-serving and arrogant. It is important to remember that when writing your research results, the focus of the communication is the research and not the persons who conducted the research. When you want to persuade the reader, it is best to avoid personal pronouns. In addition to sounding somewhat arrogant, the strength of your findings might be underestimated.

For example:

Based on my results, I concluded that A and B did not equal to C.

In this example, the entire meaning of the research could be misconstrued. The results discussed are not those of the author; they are generated from the experiment. To refer to the results in this context is incorrect and should be avoided. To make it more appropriate, the above sentence can be revised as follows:

Based on the results of the assay, A and B did not equal to C.

Second Person

The second person point of view uses pronouns that refer to the reader. These are as follows:

  • You
  • Your
  • Yours

This point of view is usually used in the context of providing instructions or advice, such as in “how to” manuals or recipe books. The reason behind using the second person is to engage the reader.

For example:

You will want to buy a turkey that is large enough to feed your extended family. Before cooking it, you must wash it first thoroughly with cold water.

Although this is a good technique for giving instructions, it is not appropriate in academic or scientific writing.

Third Person

The third person point of view uses both proper nouns, such as a person’s name, and pronouns that refer to individuals or groups (e.g., doctors, researchers) but not directly to the reader. The ones that refer to individuals are as follows:

  • She
  • Her
  • Hers (possessive form)
  • He
  • Him
  • His (possessive form)
  • It
  • Its (possessive form)
  • One
  • One’s (possessive form)

The third person point of view that refers to groups include the following:

  • Everyone
  • Anyone
  • Them
  • They
  • Their (possessive form)
  • Theirs (plural possessive form)

For example:

Everyone at the convention was interested in what Dr. Johnson presented.

The instructors decided that the students should help pay for lab supplies.

The researchers determined that there was not enough sample material to conduct the assay.

The third person point of view is generally used in scientific papers but, at times, the format can be difficult. We use indefinite pronouns to refer back to the subject but must avoid using masculine or feminine terminology. For example:

A researcher must ensure that he has enough material for his experiment.

The nurse must ensure that she has a large enough blood sample for her assay.

Many authors attempt to resolve this issue by using “he or she” or “him or her,” but this gets cumbersome and too many of these can distract the reader. For example:

A researcher must ensure that he or she has enough material for his or her experiment.

The nurse must ensure that he or she has a large enough blood sample for his or her assay.

These issues can easily be resolved by making the subjects plural as follows:

Researchers must ensure that they have enough material for their experiment.

Nurses must ensure that they have large enough blood samples for their assay.

Exceptions to the Rules

As mentioned earlier, the third person is generally used in scientific writing, but the rules are not quite as stringent anymore. It is now acceptable to use both the first and third person in some contexts, but this is still under controversy. 

In a February 2011 blog on Eloquent Science, Professor David M. Schultz presented several opinions on whether the author viewpoints differed. However, there appeared to be no consensus. Some believed that the old rules should stand to avoid subjectivity, while others believed that if the facts were valid, it didn’t matter which point of view was used.

First or Third Person: What Do The Journals Say

In general, it is acceptable in to use the first person point of view in abstracts, introductions, discussions, and conclusions, in some journals. Even then, avoid using “I” in these sections. Instead, use “we” to refer to the group of researchers that were part of the study. The third person point of view is used for writing methods and results sections. Consistency is the key and switching from one point of view to another within sections of a manuscript can be distracting and is discouraged. It is best to always check your author guidelines for that particular journal. Once that is done, make sure your manuscript is free from the above-mentioned or any other grammatical error.

You are the only researcher involved in your thesis project. You want to avoid using the first person point of view throughout, but there are no other researchers on the project so the pronoun “we” would not be appropriate. What do you do and why? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Discussion Vs. Conclusion

The discussion section of your manuscript can be one of the hardest to write as it requires you to think about the meaning of the research you have done. An effective discussion section tells the reader what your study means and why it is important. In this article, we will cover some pointers for writing a clear, well-organized discussion and conclusion sections and discuss what should NOT be part of these sections.

What Should be in Discussion Section?

Your discussion is, in short, the answer to the question “what do my results mean?” The discussion section of the manuscript should come after methods and results section and before the conclusion. It should relate back directly to the questions posed in your introduction, and contextualize your results within the literature you have covered in your literature review. In order to explain to your reader, you should include the following information:

  • The major findings of your study
  • The meaning of those findings
  • How these findings relate to what others have done
  • Limitations of your findings
  • An explanation for any surprising, unexpected, or inconclusive results
  • Suggestions for further research

 

Your discussion should NOT include any of the following information:

  • New results or data not presented previously in the paper
  • Unwarranted speculation
  • Tangential issues
  • Conclusions not supported by the data

 

How to Make Discussion Section Effective?

There are several ways to make the discussion section of your manuscript effective, interesting, and relevant. Most writing guides recommend listing the findings of your study in order from most to least important. You would not want your reader to lose sight of the key results that you found. Therefore, put the most important finding front and center.

Imagine that you conduct a study aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of stent placement in patients with partially blocked arteries. You find that despite this being a common first-line treatment, stents are not effective for patients with partially blocked arteries. The study also discovers that patients treated with a stent tend to develop asthma at slightly higher rates than those who receive no such treatment.

Which sentence would you choose to begin your discussion?

Our findings suggest that patients who had partially blocked arteries and were treated with a stent as the first line of intervention had no better outcomes than patients who were not given any surgical treatments.

 

Our findings noted that patients who received stents demonstrated slightly higher rates of asthma than those who did not. In addition, the placement of a stent did not impact their rates of cardiac events in a statistically significant way.

 

If you chose the first example, you are correct. If you aren’t sure which results are the most important, go back to your research question and start from there. The most important result is the one that answers your research question.

It is also necessary to contextualize the meaning of your findings for the reader. What does previous literature say, and do your results agree? Do your results elaborate on previous findings, or differ significantly?

In our stent example, if previous literature found that stents were an effective line of treatment for patients with partially blocked arteries, you should explore why your results are different in the discussion. Did your methodology differ? Was your study broader in scope and larger in scale than the previous studies? Were there any limitations to previous studies that your study overcame? Alternatively, is it possible that your own study could be incorrect due to some difficulties you had in carrying it out? Think of your discussion as telling the story of your research.

Finally, remember that your discussion is not the time to introduce any new data, or speculate wildly as to the possible future implications of your study. However, considering alternative explanations for your results is encouraged.

Discussion and Conclusion

Avoiding Confusion in your Conclusion!

Many writers confuse the information they should include in their discussion with the information they should place in their conclusion. One easy way to avoid this confusion is to think of your conclusion as a summary of everything that you have said thus far. In the conclusion section, you remind the reader exactly what they have just read. Your conclusion should:

  • Restate your hypothesis or research question
  • Restate your major findings
  • Tell the reader what contribution your study has made to the literature
  • Highlight any limitations of your study
  • State future directions for research/recommendations

Your conclusion should NOT:

  • Introduce new arguments
  • Introduce new data
  • Fail to include your research question
  • Fail to state your major results

 

An appropriate conclusion to our hypothetical stent study might read as follows:

In this study, we examined the effectiveness of stent placement in patients with partially blocked arteries compared with non-surgical interventions. After examining the five-year medical outcomes of 19,457 patients in the greater Dallas area, our statistical analysis concluded that the placement of a stent resulted in outcomes that were no better than non-surgical interventions such as diet and exercise. Although previous findings indicated that stent placement improved patient outcomes, our study followed a greater number of patients than the major studies previously conducted. It is possible that outcomes would vary if measured over a ten or fifteen year period, and future researchers should consider investigating the impact of stent placement in these patients over a longer period of time than five years. Regardless, our results point to the need for medical practitioners to reconsider the placement of a stent as the first line of treatment as non-surgical interventions may have equally positive outcomes for patients.

Did you find the tips in this article relevant? What is the most challenging portion of a research paper for you to write? Let us know in the comments below!

 

literature review databases for medicine

This is the second in a series of articles that discusses the different databases used in literature review and how they are important to your research and writing. Part I discussed the reference databases that are geared toward the life sciences and related fields. This article discusses those that are used in the field of medical research. The following is a list of literature review databases for medicine. There are many such databases available; however these are the most commonly used in the medical and related research fields.

PubMed

PubMed Central (PMC) has more than 16 million citations from science journals that date back to the 1950s. This archive is maintained by the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health. It covers peer-reviewed papers from biomedical and life sciences journals. NLM was legislatively mandated to maintain biomedical research information. While NLM maintains this information in printed form, PMC maintains it digitally. This is a free-access database.

PMC is not just a database of references. It houses full articles from journals all over the world. Journals that wish to participate in this public-access forum are reviewed for technical accuracy and the quality of their digital files.

Although the goal is to maintain free access to these articles, some copyright restrictions still apply. Be sure that you comply with those rules when using information from PMC.

CINAHL Complete

CINAHL Complete, part of the CINAHL suite, is the best research tool for those in nursing and related fields. This database provides full-text articles from more than 1,500 journals. Its index also covers 5,000+ journals. The information includes more than 5 million records and written text published from 1937 forward.

For those in the nursing, health care, and related fields, CINAHL Complete is a valuable research tool. The website offers additional helpful information, such as books on health care and related conference proceedings. Author affiliations are included in the reference information. Health care professionals can also further their education using the online modules from this accredited source.

MEDLINE Complete

MEDLINE complete is a full-text database. It provides access to more than 2,000 journals from 1916 forward. The journals included in the database are highly recognized biomedical and health publications. MEDLINE Complete is an essential resource tool for health professionals and researchers.

The subjects covered comprise disciplines such as biomedicine, bioengineering, and health policy. The full text from the MEDLINE Complete journals are unique and not found in other related databases, such as Academic Search or Biomedical Reference Collection. Standard Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) can be used to search the database.

PsycINFO

PsycINFO is a reference database that covers published articles in the behavioral sciences. The database is maintained by the American Psychological Association. PsycINFO covers a wide range of global research in psychology and related fields, such as neuroscience and law and education.

The database contains close to 4 million bibliographies and indexes more than 2,500 journals. The information dates all the way back to the 1800s and includes books and dissertations. PsycINFO offers publications from more than 50 countries and gets published in 29 languages. It is updated weekly and touted as one of the most current databases in the disciplines mentioned. Each record is reviewed for accuracy before being included in the database. Regular updates allow for increasing its ease of use and indexing features.

As you plan to begin your literature search, visit the website for each of the mentioned databases. Some, such as PubMed are open access; others provide free trials but require a subscription after the trial is over. Use the free trials and any tutorials to your advantage. They will help you begin your searches and instruct you on the best strategies to refine them.

What medical or related field of study does your research encompass? Which reference resource do you use and why? If different from those listed here, please provide a link to it for other readers.

Absract

The abstract is in many ways the most important part of an academic paper. Peers and reviewers alike decide whether or not they will continue to read an article based on the abstract. It is important that academic writers choose the appropriate type of abstract for their study that will present their work concisely, informatively, and in a way, that draws reader’s interest. While there are many styles to choose from, including descriptive, indicative, and informative,  in this article,  we will look at structured abstracts, way to write them, and the importance of using this format.

Structured vs. Unstructured Abstracts

Traditionally, an abstract is written in a format much like an executive summary–it consists of one paragraph of continuous writing in narrative form. The abstract provides the readers with a summary of the research objective, methods used, results obtained, and conclusions. You may be familiar with abstracts like this:

Recent evidence has suggested that maternal mortality rates can be affected by hospital facility organization and design, including process design. The present study aims to investigate the role of process design in decreasing maternal mortality rates. This survey used a statistical analysis method performed by collecting data from 45 hospitals in the greater Orange County area between 2005 and 2008 which was during the time that new process design was introduced to half the target group with an aim towards reducing maternal mortality. Analysis found that improved process design in the treatment of hemorrhaging birthing mothers reduced maternal mortality by an average of 15%. Based on the findings of the current study, it seems that hospitals can improve patient outcomes by revisiting and improving their process structure and designs.

This format is known as an unstructured abstract. However, in the mid-20th century, the scientific community began looking for a new abstract format that could fit more information into the same amount of space, and the structured abstract was developed. Structured abstracts are generally favored by medicine-related publications, as they help health professionals quickly choose clinically relevant and methodologically valid journal articles.

Both types are used today and you should always follow the journal guidelines when you writing your abstract.

Elements of a Structured Abstract

Structured abstracts assist the reader in quickly understanding the findings of a study and unlike unstructured abstracts, are divided into clear sections with distinct headings. These headings typically consist of at least objective, methods, results, and conclusions. Unlike unstructured abstracts, structured abstracts do not require you to write complete sentences. Let us use the example of unstructured abstract above and see what it looks like as a structured abstract:

Objective: To investigate the role of process design in reducing maternal mortality.

Methods: 45 hospitals were surveyed and data were collected in greater Orange County between 2005 and 2008.  SPSS regression analysis was performed. The analysis period coincided with the introduction of a newly designed process for treating hemorrhaging in birthing mothers.

Results: The analyzed process was found to have reduced maternal mortality an average of 15%.

Conclusion: Hospitals may improve patient outcomes by redesigning their processes.

Note that each section is outlined clearly with a heading and the writing style is condensed. The reader is able to easily skip to the most relevant portion of the article and decide whether she or he wants to keep reading.

Some structured abstracts may request additional information such as background, design, participants, independent and dependent variables, limitations, and so on. These can be included as separate headings or information within the above applicable categories.

 

Structured Abstract

How to Write a Structured Abstract

Even with the elements of the abstract laid out in front of you, it is often challenging for a writer to summarize their thoughts clearly and succinctly. One way to write your structured abstract is to break down each category into a question.

BACKGROUND: What’s the latest knowledge on the issue? Some key phrases to use here are: recent studies/although some clinical research has established x, the role of y is not well known.

OBJECTIVE: What did you want to find out? Some key phrases to use here are: This study examines/To ascertain/To identify/To understand

METHODS: How did you go about finding it?  What type of methodology did you use? A quantitative study/a randomized controlled study/a qualitative survey/a literature review/a double blind trial

RESULTS: What did you find? What data or outcomes did you observe? You can use phrases such as X was observed due to Y. Do not be vague! State exactly what you found.

CONCLUSION: What did your results tell you? Did you find out what you wanted? Why or why not? What should be studied next? Use phrases such as X was statistically significant, Variable A has a negative correlation with Variable B, etc.

One pitfall to watch out is describing what your paper says rather than repeating what your paper says. The abstract should highlight the most important information you found out–it’s a very brief and informative summary. It should not be a teaser! Avoid phrases like “data is analyzed using a method discussed in the paper”, “the significance of the study is discussed” or “based on the results abc, conclusions are drawn.” Instead, state clearly “a double blind study was conducted” or “the results of the study show that oral administration of glucosamine can have a statistically significant impact on diabetes management.”  Finally, always follow the specifications of the journal you are writing for and choose the format most appropriate for your study.

Do you prefer structured or unstructured abstracts? What challenges do you encounter in writing abstracts? Let us know in the comments!

Megajournals

We cannot discuss megajournals without discussing open-access (OA) publishing. OA provides free access to published information with advantages such as no subscription fees, no paywall, and a wider audience. With the onset of OA, the megajournals, a category of OA journals, came into being. These are peer-reviewed journals; however, they might have less-stringent publishing criteria. Let us try to find out whether publishing in a megajournal is better or not.

What’s Best for You?

Whether to publish in a megajournal or a regular (traditional) journal is a personal choice. When making this decision, consider the following characteristics of megajournals:

  • Limited scope of peer review: In many cases, the scope of a peer review for a megajournal limits itself to the technical information presented. It might not assess whether the research is new or even important.
  • Broad range of subjects: Unlike traditional journals, megajournals accept and publish research articles from many disciplines. They do not specialize in a specific discipline or subject.
  • Article Processing Charges (APCs): APCs for publishing in megajournals are usually lower than those of traditional journals.
  • Turnaround time: They have quicker turnaround times between reviewers and researchers.

These are not necessarily negative characteristics. In fact, you might find them appealing because you might be able to publish sooner than expected. In addition, you will have a wider audience who will see your research, but be aware of some of the pitfalls. For example, PLOS ONE, touted as the first megajournal to be launched, has recently had some difficulties in keeping top management and in its declining impact factor.

Even so, several other journals have subscribed to this new model without experiencing any problems. Nature, Science, BMJ Open, Scientific Reports, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society, all highly reputed scientific journals, do not specialize in only one discipline.

Quick Check Before You Make the Choice

When considering publishing in a megajournal, keep in mind the following:

  • Check the publisher’s qualifications for any megajournal that you are considering. Some publishers overinflate their journal protocols to get your business or present themselves as “self-proclaimed” megajournals.
  • Check the profiles of the peer reviewers for the journal. Some peer reviewers hired by megajournals will review a variety of disciplines, some of which might not be in their field of study.
  • Assess the quality and reputation of the megajournal. Do your research on these publications. Make sure there are no previous issues involving internal affairs or articles published that suffered retraction later on. Some of the journals carry out such practice because the articles they published, contained falsified or fabricated data.

Where to Start

Your decision should be based on a concerted effort to review and assess the megajournals that you are considering. Even though you must always do your due diligence before submitting your research to a megajournal with which you might not be familiar, the experience can still be a positive one.

Recently, Enago Academy launched the Open Access Journal Finder (OAJF) that aims at enabling research scholars to find open access journals relevant to their manuscript. OAJF uses a validated journal index provided by Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) – the most trusted non-predatory open access journal directory in its search results. The tool displays vital journal details to the scholars including publisher details, peer review process, confidence index (indicates similarity between matching keywords in the published articles across all journals indexed by DOAJ), and publication speed.

Have you used a megajournal in your publishing endeavors? If so, please describe the peer review process, timing from submission to publication, quality of published research, and any other objective characteristics that you would like to pass on to our readers. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Retraction

We witness misconduct in every field of study and in all walks of life. Although the excuses may vary, humans tend to misbehave and sometimes even justify their misbehavior. Enago Academy has published several articles on scientific misconduct and its dire consequences (retraction, loss of credibility, job loss, etc.). Here, we build on those articles and discuss the consequences of misconduct in academic publishing. We also provide suggestions on what should be done when you observe misconduct at your workplace.

Scientific Misconduct

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Research Integrity (ORI), research misconduct is defined as follows:

“Fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results.” ORI defines each of these as follows:

  1. Fabrication: making up and reporting false data.
  2. Falsification: manipulating research by using different processes; misrepresenting data and results.
  3. Plagiarism: using others’ research work without citing it.

Honest mistakes also occur unknowingly; therefore, they are not considered in the realm of research misconduct. The most severe offenses are those that force experts to question the soundness of the scientific method(s) used. These are serious in nature. Authors need to carefully consider the penalties and stakes involved. All those involved in the research, even the publisher, are ultimately responsible for the integrity of the research paper.

How Retraction Affects Authors

The retraction of a paper involves a formal withdrawal of an already published article. This is a serious action and the last resort for dealing with misconduct. Before doing this, the journal adopts other measures to resolve the identified issues. Such measures include correcting unintentional typing mistakes or errors in analyses. The journal publisher does not subject the author to further disciplinary actions in all such cases.

With the advent of technology, it has become easier to identify misconduct. The number of retractions has therefore increased significantly in recent years. A retraction is damaging to everyone involved. According to an article from 2016, fraudulent research damages the reputation of not only the publishing journal, but also that of the author’s institution. All entities involved become responsible in some way for this serious overlook. The publishing industry also suffers and readers begin doubting the credibility of published research. Authors suffer a great deal from retractions because they lose peer recognition.

According to a study conducted by MIT and published in 2017, authors can experience a 10–20% decrease in citations after a formal retraction. Article retractions irreversibly damage the authors’ reputation. The scientific community begins doubting the integrity of the concerned research group. Journals avoid entertaining authors whose articles have been retracted on previous occasions. Even high-profile researchers find it difficult to publish again, after a retraction. Authors with retracted journal articles sometimes also lose their jobs. If the fraud committed is extremely serious, then they face legal repercussions and even imprisonment.

Reporting Misconduct

Special organizations have been set up to deal with research misconduct. ORI and the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) are two organizations that help the scientific community address unethical issues. They provide policies and guidelines to help identify and prevent research fraud. In addition, they provide advice to publishing industry personnel on managing issues related to academic misconduct.

So what should you do if you suspect misconduct? There are several measures that you could adopt. PubPeer is one avenue through which you can report cases of suspected misconduct. Users can discuss scientific research and peer reviewers can review published articles using this platform. PubPeer community discussions sometimes lead to article retractions. Retraction Watch (a blog launched in 2010) keeps an accurate record of retractions. If you suspect scientific misconduct of any kind, you should comment on this website and contact the journal editor regarding the offending paper. If the concerned journal confirms the scientific misconduct, it immediately issues a formal retraction notice.

For more information on reporting misconduct, please read the following Enago Academy articles:

 

Let us review a hypothetical situation: Your laboratory colleague is working on a research project that involves using live animals. He/she does not treat the animals according to the ethical treatment standards established by your institutional ethics committee. Is this scientific misconduct? If so, what should you do? Please feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

Types of plagiarism

Plagiarism, or passing someone else’s work as your own, is not a new phenomenon in research. It has gained greater attention with the advent of technology that has made it easier to uncover instances of plagiarism. There are many types of plagiarism already described. Although no degree of plagiarism is acceptable, it can range from complete plagiarism, as the most egregious act of fraud, to accidental plagiarism.

However, not all types of plagiarism are alike. When analyzing whether something is an act of plagiarism, the determination of whether it was intentional or unintentional, plays an important role. That is why knowledge about plagiarism is a key learning component at colleges and universities. It addresses the gravity of both intentional and unintentional plagiarism.

Types of Plagiarism

With respect to the gravity and frequency of plagiarism, a survey of scientific researchers has produced a ranking of plagiarism types. While complete plagiarism represents the most serious offense, paraphrasing is the one that is the most common. It is, thus, very important to consider and understand all the various types of plagiarism and how they occur.

Complete Plagiarism

Complete plagiarism is the most severe case of plagiarism where a researcher takes a manuscript or study that someone else created, and submits it under his or her name. It is also considered intellectual theft and stealing.

Source-based Plagiarism

Plagiarism may occur because of the different types of sources. For example, when a researcher references a source that is incorrect or does not exist, it is a misleading citation. Plagiarism also occurs when a researcher uses a secondary source of data or information, but only cites the primary source of information. Both these types lead to increase in the number of references sources. This, in turn, increases the citation number of the references.

Finally, data fabrication and falsification are also forms of plagiarism. Data fabrication is the making up of data and research findings, while data falsification involves changing or omitting data to give a false impression. The consequences of this type of plagiarism can be grave, particularly when it comes to medical research which constitutes evidence for medical decisions.

Direct Plagiarism

Direct or verbatim plagiarism occurs when an author copies, the text of another author, word for word, without the use of quotation marks or attribution, thus passing it as his or her own. In that way, it is like complete plagiarism, but it refers to sections (rather than all) of someone else’s text. This type of plagiarism is considered academically dishonest and it calls for academic disciplinary actions. It is not as common, but it is a serious infraction of academic rules and ethics.

Self or Auto Plagiarism

Auto-plagiarism, also known as self-plagiarism or duplication, happens when an author reuses significant portions of his or her previously published work without attribution. Thus, this type of plagiarism is most likely to involve published researchers, rather than university students. The severity of this kind of infraction is under debate, depending on the copied content. Many academic journals, however, have strict criteria on the percentage of author’s work that is reusable. Many journals run the manuscripts through plagiarism software before considering it for review.

Paraphrasing plagiarism

This is, as published on Wiley, the most common type of plagiarism. It involves the use of someone else’s writing with some minor changes in the sentences and using it as one’s own. Even if the words differ, the original idea remains the same and plagiarism occurs. Because students often do not have a clear understanding of what constitutes plagiarism, there are recommendations for research and writing available to reduce the risk of paraphrasing plagiarism.

Inaccurate Authorship

Inaccurate authorship or misleading attribution can happen in two ways:

In one form, when all the authors contribute to a manuscript, but do not get credit for their work. The second form is the opposite: when an author gets credit without contributing to the work. This type of plagiarism, whichever way it occurs, is a violation of the code of conduct in research.

It is also possible to commit this form of plagiarism when someone else edits a manuscript leading to substantive changes. In this case, the recommendation is to acknowledge the contribution at the time of publication, even if they are not listed as authors.

Mosaic Plagiarism

Mosaic plagiarism may be more difficult to detect because it interlays someone else’s phrases or text within its own research. It is also known as patchwork plagiarism and it is intentional and dishonest.

Accidental Plagiarism

Whether intended or unintended, there is no excuse for plagiarism and the consequences are often the same. However, plagiarism may be accidental if it occurred due to neglect, mistake, or unintentional paraphrasing. Students are likely to commit accidental plagiarism, so universities should stress on the importance of education about this form of plagiarism.

These are some of the different types of plagiarism that are common in the research community. How many of these have you encountered? How did you deal with them? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Revision of manuscript

Just imagine, it is 1970 and you are a young physicist working in black hole theory, which was a new and startling topic in the early 1970s. You have discovered what comes to be known as the second law of black hole dynamics, a significant scientific discovery. You realize the importance of your work, and you wish to publish, but few traditional journals will accept a manuscript on what is very unconventional thinking in the scientific world. So most of the journals rejected your article. However, eventually your article got published and you became famous. Your name is Stephen Hawking.

How would you have felt as a young, unknown researcher if your first article was rejected by major scientific publishers? What could you have done to make the manuscript more “publishable”? Why didn’t the reviewers and editors recognize and encourage the worth of the paper? Do you think a revision of manuscript could assure successful acceptance the first time? Let us try to find out.

Why Do a Manuscript Revision?

To answer this question, you must understand what a manuscript revision is and how the revision adds to its final value. The goal of revising a manuscript is to change it for the better. Revise means “to see again.” Revising might mean few changes, or it could mean making “large, sweeping changes, reorganizing part or all of the text, significantly adjusting tone and voice, or adding and removing chunks of text, as well as fixing grammatical errors.” Revising might be done by the author, the journal editor, or peer reviewers, who are experts in the applicable subject.

What is the Difference between Revising and Editing?

How do you distinguish between revising and editing? Revising is often called “self-editing.” When you sit down to reread your first draft, you will note down what you want to change. This process is revision. When you hire someone to bring a professional perspective to the text and make sure it’s clear and accessible for someone else, that is editing. You must realize this difference to know what to do and in what order. First you revise (work on it yourself until you’ve made it as good as you personally can), and then you edit (bring in a professional to make it better than you can). Realizing this difference enables you to know what to focus on in the document and to assure that it includes everything you intended to say.

Revisions fall into different categories. The first kind is the revision you do yourself. However, if you submit the manuscript to a journal, chances are it will be sent to one or more peer reviewers for their thoughts. A peer reviewer is an expert in the field who reviews the document, by adding comments. Revisions from the peer reviewers are then sent back to the author for comments. There are companies that can provide professional editing and peer-review services for your manuscripts.

How to Revise a Manuscript

Revision of  manuscript is necessary, either from your own perspective or from the viewpoint of the peer reviewer. Things to consider are as follows:

  • Who is your audience?
  • To which journal or publishing house are you submitting?
  • Have you maintained the word limit for your manuscript?
  • Did you check the reference protocols?
  • What is the average acceptance rate for that publisher?
  • How long will it take to do the review?
  • Once you have gotten feedback from peer reviewers, which changes do you agree with and which do you want to reject?
  • After you have finished revising your manuscript, experts agree that it is a good idea to set it down for some time and think about the manuscript as a whole. Are you sure you haven’t plagiarized anything? Have you proofread the document before submission? Most reviewers take two to three months to return a manuscript. When you return the revised manuscript to the peer reviewers, you should be certain that you have addressed all the comments and responded in a polite manner. Criticism never gets appreciation in the world of reviewing.

Peer reviewers provide you with a marked-up copy of your manuscript, showing the changes made since the original submission. The best way to make changes on a manuscript is by using the “Track Changes” option in Microsoft Word. It is best to upload a revised document with a different file name than the original. The revised file shows the changes highlighted. Authors and peer reviewers can make changes using different colored fonts to distinguish who has done what.

Instructions for Preparing a Revised Manuscript

To style and format your revisions, use the same guidelines as for submitting an original manuscript. When submitting a revision, be sure to include the following:

  • Follow editorial guidelines
  • Submit figures, graphs, and tables in a separate file
  • Use double spacing throughout the text
  • Use Times New Roman or Symbol fonts
  • Prepare equations using standard equation symbols
  • Prepare files for 8 ½ by 11-inch paper size
  • Define acronyms after the first use
  • Number tables and figures in order
  • Don’t refer to data, not shown in the main manuscript

Do unto Others

Only nine percent of the 6,000 annual manuscript submissions to the Journal of the American Medical Association are accepted for publication the first time. Therefore, you can expect some rejection after submitting your manuscript for the first time and perhaps even after major revisions. The purpose of manuscript revisions is to improve your chances of acceptance. Review yourself well and then accept the good advice of others. Once that is done, feel assured that you will not regret the time you spent revising.

What are the key points a researcher needs to keep in mind while revising one’s own manuscript? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Journal databases

Journal databases are important research tools to navigate before completing a well-organized research publication. After completing the first steps to find the right journal in which to publish, the exploration then delineates by research topic. Once you find a key platform suited for publishing your research paper, you can investigate its potential to build your manuscript; therefore selecting the right journal database is as important as selecting the right journal for your manuscript.

Multidisciplinary Research

The frontiers of research have increasingly become multidisciplinary with the advent of advanced and interconnected technologies. In alignment, many multidisciplinary research databases have come into existence, including Academic Search Complete, which is designed for academic and government institutions. At a glance, the database supports cutting-edge multidisciplinary research fields, offering journal lists by title or subject. The list of full-text titles ranges from subjects in the social sciences and humanities to health and medicine to science and education. In accordance with multidisciplinary subjects of interest, the list offers journal publications, publishers and details of the journal’s peer-review process. The database includes more than 4,000 active full-text, peer-reviewed journals that exclude an embargo and that are indexed on Scopus. In addition to journal information, the database hosts author affiliations, email addresses, abstracts, keywords and native files in PDF format.

Humanities and Social Sciences

In the specialized subjects of digital humanities and social sciences, authors can access Project MUSE for scholarly content. Designed by the academic community for the academic community, the database disseminates scholarly research and assists research engagement. Founded and designed as a nonprofit collaboration between libraries and publishers, the digital content introduced to MUSE remains permanently online. The portal allows researchers to search books and journals, with access to sample full-texts and book chapters, without a subscription. More than 120 publishers participate in the project that offers book-length scholarships, fully integrated with scholarly journals.

Education Resources

The Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) offers a range of educational resources similar to that of Academic Search Complete. Selections include human resource management in higher education, accounting education, mathematics, and reviews by demography, indexed through the selection policy. The database is straightforward, and lists a comprehensive range of journals and non-journals for users that are arranged in the alphabetical order. ERIC further improves its accessibility by offering a ‘Thesaurus’ search option, allowing users to discover a range of thematic possibilities.

Science and Medicine

Although nearly all listed databases offer cutting-edge scientific journals, the nonprofit, open-access publisher PLOS, has a unique mission. The publisher aims to transform research communication to accelerate progress in science and medicine. Aside from free and unrestricted access to open research, PLOS further aims to create open-access data and transparency in peer-review. Launched in 2003, PLOS has departed from archaic tradition to enable rapid sharing of scientific work to accelerate science. The journal also provides a platform to discuss negative results, facilitating a transparent window to the process of scientific discovery. Notably, PLOS ONE has in this way assisted researchers by publishing all rigorous science, providing a scope for researchers’ work. PLOS has proved the viable nature of open-access research as an effective business model, while enhancing the researcher’s citation metrics. PLOS offers a range of specialized publications for potential authors, including PLOS Biology, PLOS Computational Biology, PLOS Medicine and PLOS genetics. Each journal provides detailed publication criteria for potential authors who intend to feature their work within the journal.

In the Same Vein

Among the databases for scholarly resources, JSTOR and BMC also share center stage. JSTOR has recently added Security Studies and Sustainability to its database. Accordingly, the resource explores scholarly resources on international security and peace and conflict studies, alongside research reports on environmental stressors. The JSTOR research archives span multidisciplinary research fields, including biological sciences, law, urban studies and business and economy. Areas further include the arts, history, science-technology-engineering-medicine and mathematics (STEMM). Another pioneer of open-access publishing, BioMed Central (BMC), provides an evolving portfolio for broad interests in biology and medicine. Specialized journals such as Microbiome and the Malaria Journal are also included within BMC. Additionally, subject-specific journals are available on BMC Evolutionary Biology or BMC Public Health. The BMC series further outlines its highly selective, flagship journals, their editorial thresholds and structure, on each journal site. BMC Research Notes is a platform that hosts publications of scientifically valid research outputs that cannot reach a full methods article. BMC Proceedings allows conference proceedings, peer-reviewed full-length articles, meeting abstracts and reports across the scientific and clinical spectrum.

The process of publishing your research need not reflect the academic research process of indirect tangents. Most academic researchers are specialized in a discipline of interest or skilled across disciplines and their scope warrants a robust platform. Open-access and open-data research platforms can boost research metrics, while allowing a broader audience to engage with the publications. Specialized research publications, narrow the subject area to a specific audience, promoting a research scope within an interest niche. Once researchers finalize their research output, journal databases can streamline the publication process.

What are the different jounal databases that you have come across for drafting your manuscripts? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Core Practices of COPE

COPE’s guidelines have always been voluntary best practices instead of enforceable standards. This fact is emphasized again with the release of the new Core Practices. Although the Core Practices are intended as recommendations only, there are some consequences for those organizations that are members of COPE and fail to follow the guidelines. It should also be remembered that the Core Practices do not replace the research standards of different academic fields and national or international affiliations.

What are the New Guidelines from COPE?

Journal editors and publishers should pay close attention to new Core Practices recommended by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). The Core Practices were released in November, 2017. They greatly simplify COPE’s previous Codes of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines. The new Core Practices have organized the guidelines into 10 problem areas in publishing and these apply to both editors and publishers.

How do the Core Practices relate to Risk Management?

If editors and publishers are not following basic policies and procedures for ethical publishing, they leave themselves open to criticism and even litigation. These consequences reflect  negatively on the journal, the host institution, and the contributing authors. COPE identifies and describes ethical problems in publishing and ways to avoid these problems.

There is great benefit in adhering to best practices for ethical publishing. COPE’s 10 Core Practice Areas are as follows:

Allegations of misconduct

Authorship and contributorship

Handling of complaints or appeals

Conflicts of interest

Data and reproducibility

Ethical oversight

Intellectual property issues

Journal management

Peer review process and training

Post-publication discussion and corrections

Take a moment to review the list of Core Practices online. Have you encountered or thought about any of these potentially serious problems? Is there a clear plan for dealing with each of these areas of conflict? For each of the 10 problem areas, COPE provides several expert articles, such as “How to spot authorship problems” and “Text recycling guidelines”. COPE recommends that journals and publishers adopt and publish clear policies and procedures that respond to potential problems identified in the Core Practices.

The ten problem areas in the Core Practices should not be confused with the 16 principles of transparency, also found on the COPE website. There is some overlap between these principles of transparency and the new Core Practices. To avoid confusion, editors and publishers should focus on the Core Practices first.

How Can My Organization Benefit from COPE’s New Rules on Membership?

It is worth mentioning once again that membership in COPE is voluntary and the organization is not a regulatory body but rather an advisory service. Many journal editors and publishers are members of COPE. Among the COPE member organizations are three of the biggest publishing groups in academia: Wiley, Elsevier, and Springer. Previously, only editors and publishers could become members. According to the new rules of COPE, institutions may also join COPE.

One benefit of becoming a member of COPE is the formal commitment to the Core Practices. When your organization commits to guidelines established by an independent group like COPE, this gives more clarity and credibility to your organization’s own internal policies.

Other benefits of COPE membership include confidential review of ethical questions and scenarios and several opportunities for online or in-person training. There are a number of useful resources for risk management and these are free to any user, whether a COPE member or not.

Despite the rules of membership, there were rules regarding being expelled from COPE. Under COPE’s rules, a member can be expelled from COPE if it is not following the Core Practices. This rule is nothing new, only recently clarified to make it clear what actions would trigger expulsion from COPE. The new rule states that a member would be expelled from COPE if it:

  1. Violates or resists any changes needed to be done to prevent the violation of COPE publication ethics.
  2. Acts in unethical ways repeatedly.
  3. Fails to engage with COPE to remediate ethical issues.

The case of expelling would be a rare occurrence. COPE has issued this policy to adhere to its own principles of transparency and good ethical practice. As one observer from the publishing industry has noted,

“The statement also makes it clear that expulsion would be a last resort. It appears that COPE very much intends to stick to its mission of change through education.”

Focus on the Core Practices

Whether or not membership in COPE is the right choice for your organization, understanding the Core Practices and incorporating these in your own policies is a good idea. Any journal or publisher can formulate policies to ensure the integrity of the publication, prevent or minimize conflicts, and handle the situations described in the ten problem areas. Universities and research institutions should also encourage researchers to learn about the potential ethical problems of authorship and how they can do their part to ensure high quality publication in their field.

What are your views on the new Core Practices of COPE? Will they be beneficial to the researchers? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Ethical Behavior

Research ethics is the essential code of conduct that governs academic research. It is a set of norms that define acceptable behavior. Unethical behavior often affects academic publishing. For instance, researchers may publish falsified data. However, many groups are now promoting research ethics. So how does a one maintain ethical conduct in academic research?

Ethics is Essential

Ethical research first requires honesty. This means that researchers should not falsify or misrepresent data. Each researcher must clearly report their data as is including the methods and results even if they are not favorable. They should not at any point change the data in order to deceive colleagues, funders, or the public.

Linked to honesty is objectivity. Studies must be designed to minimize bias. Researchers must also actively avoid bias in data analysis and interpretation as well. Any personal or financial interests should be disclosed along with the research. This will alert readers to any potential influences that may have affected your work.

In addition, all animals used in the research must be properly cared for. Experiments should be designed well. This means that the design must be statistically sound. This will help researchers to use only the number of animals that is necessary. A thorough literature search should be done to avoid repeating animal studies. It is wasteful to experiment on animals if conclusive published data exists.

When humans are the subjects of research they must be treated well. Every effort must be taken to minimize risks and maximize benefits. At every point, the rights to autonomy, privacy, and dignity must be respected. Special care must be taken when working with vulnerable populations.

Some believe that bad researchers behave unethically. The alternate theory says that misconduct happens because of external factors. These include the pressure to publish or win grants, incentives, or constraints. Misconduct can also occur because of poor supervision, career ambitions, or the pursuit of fame. Every researcher will face pressure at one time or another. What is the best way to ensure that they do the right thing?

Promoting Institutional Ethical Behavior

Ethical conduct is essential in inspiring trust. When scientists abide by research ethics, their work is trustworthy. Academic research institutions often wish to encourage their staff to behave ethically.

Institutions can promote ethical behavior by having formal and informal research ethics education. Formal education will expose researchers to ethical standards and policies. Using real-world examples can teach researchers about the importance and consequences of alternate responses to an ethical dilemma. Public discussions in an ethics course may discourage unethical behavior. This happens because participants talk about the potential harm that can result.

Institutions should do a few things to teach faculty and students research ethics.

  • Use specific examples as much as possible in the course. This is the best way to provide guidance.
  • Encourage more ethical behavior. There should be opportunities for experts to explain why certain ethical practices exist.
  • Use non-science fields to assist with rethinking controversial issues. Studies in moral philosophy or the social studies of science may help.
  • Chosen topics that are intellectually stimulating. They may be in a specific ethics course or part of a more general course.
  • Discuss institutional codes of conduct. This will help make everyone aware of what acceptable behavior is. It will also help staff and students learn how to address or report a breach of ethics.
  • Share and discuss unique ethical dilemmas among researchers. These talks should help them find the best ways to promote research ethics in their own niches.

Guidelines for Ethical Conduct

Fortunately, there are ethical guidelines available for various disciplines. For example, HEART has issued an ethics statement for publishers. (HEART is a group of editors of major cardiovascular journals). Medical laboratory staff can learn from the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science’s code of ethics. Professors may adhere to the American Association of University Professors’ professional ethics statement.

Research ethics can be a very tricky subject. Ethical conduct is essential to researchers being trustworthy. Many institutions are now promoting research ethics. Academic research and academic publishing only have value when researchers behave ethically. You can get detailed guidance on the ethics of working with people here. Furthermore, if you are thinking about implementing an ethics course, you can read this for more tips.

Why do you think it is important for researchers to behave ethically during their research project? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

springer-journal-suggester

Finding the right academic journal is central to preventing the common mistake of editorial rejection of manuscripts, prior to peer review. The Springer Journal Suggester is an academic research tool that enables users to select the best-suited journal for their research. The automated process can enable journal selection from a database of over 2,600 Springer publications. The web-based semantics technology refines a list of relevant journals, based on inputs of manuscript title, abstract, and publishing model. The personalized recommendation process will search Springer and BioMed Central to find the best publication that suits the author’s choice. A refined list of potential journals can thereby assist authors to delineate a core publication for their final manuscript submission.

Key Features

The web-based Journal Suggester is easily accessible, requiring only an abstract/description of the unpublished manuscript to find matching journals. When manually selecting the right journal for manuscript submission, stepwise instructions below, via Springer and BioMed Central can offer general guidance. Conversely, the online Journal Suggester automatically considers the same key points, during the process of personalized recommendations.

  1. Choosing the theme: Focus on the research discipline best suited for the unpublished manuscript. Consider the best fit of the study within research models of—applied science, clinical research, basic research, or translational research. Browse a list of journals by subject area.
  2. Choosing the audience: Consider the target audience. Choose a specialized journal or a broader publication covering a range of topics for accessibility of the study outlined.
  3. Type of article: Ensure the possibility of publishing the article in your journal of choice. Depending on the study and journal publication guidelines, submit the manuscript as an original research article, a review, or a case study.
  4. Impact Factor: This is not a key requisite for publication. However, enquire about the metrics as a measure of the journal’s reputation, in alignment with the quality of your impending publication.
  5. Publication timeline: Estimate the timeline for peer review and the turnaround time for publication in the journal of interest. To reach a broader audience, consider options from open access journals

You can further refine the web-based recommendations tool by including the following parameters to the semantics analysis:

  1. Minimum impact factor sought
  2. Article acceptance rate
  3. Time to first decision
  4. Indexing services
  5. View (choice of all journals, fully open access journals only, or subscription journals).

journalselector

For transparency, the entire database of Springer Open Access journals scanned during the automated refining process is also available online.

User Guide

The practice of research publication from proposal to journal article should align with best practices and codes of conduct. To begin with, therefore, publishing ethics highlight the researcher’s responsibility towards publication of the finalized manuscript. Selecting a journal via Journal Suggester depend on inputs of the unpublished manuscript’s abstract, research description, or a sample text. You can refine the results based on the defined parameters of 1) Publishing model, 2) Impact Factor and 3) Journal access. With a list of journals at hand for the manuscript of interest, the following user guide will assist in the publishing process:

  1. Manuscript preparation: Select a journal of your first choice from the refined list provided via Journal Suggester. Follow journal-specific guidelines on content style and the submission process—detailed as “Instructions for Authors”, on the individual journal’s homepage.
  2. Language: Ensure the manuscript clearly articulates its message in the English language. Should you require writing assistance in English consider the following options:

i) Ask a native English-speaking colleague to review your manuscript for clarity.

ii) Visit the English language tutorial designed to assist non-native English speaking scientists.

iii) Use a professional language editing service to help you refine your manuscript.

  1. Referencing style: Depending on the discipline refined via Journal Suggester, select the referencing style of your Springer journal of choice. Sample referencing styles are within your journal’s “Instructions for Authors”. Springer also provides output styles supporting the formats of both EndNote and LaTeX.
  2. Artwork: For Springer publications, all of your artwork requires submission in an electronic format. Next, the publication will meticulously produce the artwork to the highest standards, while directly reflecting its quality as provided.
  3. CrossCheck: The shortlisted Springer journal will crosscheck your manuscript for plagiarism detection and ensure originality of content.
  4. eSupplementary: It is possible to publish further dimensions of the article as electronic supplementary materials (animations, movies, audio, etc.). Springer accepts electronic files for publication in the online version only.
  5. Author helpdesk: For further assistance with article publication on the selected Springer journal, fill in the online helpdesk

journalselector_results

Benefits and Limitations for Users

Springer journals conveniently present a list of Springer Videos for user-friendly assistance on its online platform and on journal selection. When Journal Suggester provides a list of target journals, SpringerLink journal tutorials can guide the selection of your final choice. Automation offers a fast-track process for busy scientists to select a journal best suited for their research with ease. If you are keen to publish fast, Journal Suggester provides the option of deciding the ‘maximum time to first decision’. To strengthen your readership, it is possible to select open access exclusively during the journal refining process. After choosing the journal of interest, it is beneficial to identify a second and third choice of interest as well. This provides a broader range of alternatives for consideration should the first attempt at publication fail.

This automation process of Journal Suggester is beneficial overall for fast-paced and cutting-edge research publications. However, the portal’s limitations would be its influence on broader research; for example, additional experiments could increase the publication’s research impact. Furthermore, the manual process of browsing journals may provide you first-hand experience on relevant journals, albeit time-consumingly. The expected outcome of the automated Journal Suggester is to minimize editorial rejection of manuscripts prior to peer review. Overall, the benefits of this web-based academic research tool appear to outweigh its potential limitations.

Recently, Enago Academy launched Open Access Journal Finder (OAJF) that aims at enabling research scholars to find open access journals relevant to their manuscript. OAJF uses a validated journal index provided by Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) – the most trusted non-predatory open access journal directory in its search results. Moreover, the tool displays vital journal details to the scholars including publisher details, peer review process, confidence index (indicates similarity between matching keywords in the published articles across all journals indexed by DOAJ), and publication speed.

Have you used the Springer Journal Suggester to identify a suitable journal for your manuscript? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Double blind peer review

Peer review of academic research is at the heart of publishing. It is important that this process is not tainted by reviewer bias. Two popular modes of review exist. In single-blind peer review, the authors do not know who the reviewers are. The reviewers know who the authors are. In double-blind peer review, neither authors nor reviewers know each other’s names. Single-blind peer review is the traditional model. However, both models exist to eliminate bias in peer review.

The Physics Experiment

At the start of 2017, the Institute of Physics (IOP) gave authors the option to choose double-blind peer review. This option was available for Materials Research Express and Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express. Over the first seven months, 20% of authors chose the double-blind peer review option. Authors from India, Africa, and the Middle East were most likely to request the option.

IOP data indicates that more papers received rejections under the double-blind model. About 70% of papers received a rejection in the double-blind peer review process. On the other hand, only 50% of papers received rejection under single-blind peer review. The difference could be due to reviewers assuming that authors requesting this option had written poor papers. It could also be due to reviewers acting more objectively. However, authors in the double-blind trial were satisfied and felt it was the fairest approach.

Bias in peer review is a real problem. There have been many studies showing that women and minorities are less likely to get published, funded, or promoted. This bias can be both conscious and unconscious. Within scientific publishing, this means that fewer women are asked to review papers. It also means papers by women are cited less. There are two peer review models where identities are hidden. Which is more likely to get rid of bias?

Double-Blind vs. Single-Blind Peer Review

The 2017 Web Search and Data Mining conference provided a good opportunity to experiment this theory. In Computer Science, papers often appear first (or exclusively) in peer-reviewed conferences. The program committee decided to randomly split its reviewers into two groups. One would serve as double-blind peer reviewers. The other as single-blind peer reviewers. The experiment would help decide which approach might have more bias.

The authors found that there were differences between the review groups. All reviewers had access to paper titles and abstracts. Based on this, reviewers indicated which papers they wanted to review. The single-blind reviewers requested to review 22% fewer papers. Single-blind reviewers were also more likely to choose papers from top universities or IT companies to review. They were also more likely to give a positive review to papers with a famous author.

Single-blind reviewers have access to the authors’ names and institutions. The study indicates that author institution had a significant influence on single-blind reviewers’ decisions to bid for a paper. There was no detected bias against female authors for this conference. A metareview combining this conference’s data with other studies indicated that there was a significant bias against female authors.

The Web Search and Data Mining conference experiment show that single-blind reviewers use information about authors and institutions in their reviews. It could be that this information is helping the reviewers make better judgments. It could also be that this is putting work from non-prestigious institutions and authors at a disadvantage. Two papers of equal value may be rated differently by single-blind reviewers based on who wrote the paper.

A Review of Peer Review

On the other hand, double-blind peer review provides a false sense of security. Well-known authors can be easily identified by the nature of their work. The paper may also make reference to previous work that they published. There may be other clues as well, such as a preference for a technique or compound. This means that, even without the names, reviewers can figure out who wrote a paper. It would, therefore, be better to tell the reviewer who wrote the paper and ask if there is a conflict of interest.

The actual process of removing author information to hide identity fails 46-73% of the time. The problem isn’t identifying the author. The problem is whether reviewers have a prejudice against authors from a certain country, race, or gender? While the focus has mainly been on reviewers, very little discussion exists about biases of editors. Editors, after all, have the final say.

Peer review is part of the academic research cycle and it is clear that there is bias in this process. Reviewer bias often affects women, minorities, and researchers from non-prestigious institutions. In order to try and fight this problem, journals use blind peer review. However, single-blind peer review gives the advantage to well-known authors. Double-blind peer review may not actually eliminate bias, hence researchers feel that it is better to switch to open peer review.

What is your opinion towards both single and double-blind peer review? Do you think double bind peer review is any better than single-blind peer review? Or do you think it is time to switch to open peer review? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

 

Perspective articles

When we think of research articles, most of the time we think of articles that present the results of studies that took a long time to complete. Generally, these articles contain theories, testable hypotheses and extensive methodological justifications for conducting analyses. There are, however, many other types of research articles that are published in scientific journals.  One of them, a perspective article, presents an important topic, groundbreaking research, or a different view of an existing issue by an expert in that field of research.

How It All Fits Together

Most of the research articles published by academic journals are original research articles. Journal editors tend to prefer this type of article, especially if it presents important advancements in a research field, or counterintuitive results. Other types of research articles include book reviews, case reports, editorials, interviews, commentaries, profiles, and interviews, and perspectives. Each journal ultimately decides, based on their field specialty, what types of research articles they wish to publish. For example, some social science journals (Comparative Political Studies) do not accept perspective research articles, while others refer to them as letters.

Perspective research articles have an important role in the academic research portfolio. They stimulate further interest about presented topics within the reader audience. They are different from other types of articles because they present a different take on an existing issue, tackle new and trending issues, or emphasize topics that are important, but have been neglected, in the scholarly literature. In some scientific fields they bridge different areas of research that the journal publishes, while in others they bring new issues and ideas to the forefront. In general, their role is to enlighten a general audience about important issues.

Why Write a Perspective?

While the incentive system of academic tenure and promotion emphasizes publication of original research, writing other types of articles is also beneficial for the researchers in the long run. It gives researchers the opportunity to contribute to their discipline in different ways, while at the same time enhancing their own professional work.

A perspective article is a way for young researchers to gain experience in the publications process that can be often arduous and time consuming. It can be a way in which they learn from the publication process while they are working on their original research articles that often take years to complete.

In the case of experienced researchers, writing a perspective article provides them at least two distinct benefits: first, it allows them to step back and reflect on a significant issue that they may know a lot about, but that they have never had the time to address. The second benefit is that the researcher gets the opportunity to give their own authorial voice to a published article that will reach a wide audience.

Pay Attention to Detail

Before one decides to write and submit a perspective research article to an academic journal, it is important to become familiar with the article expectations of the target journal.

Although academic journals hold a similar definition and purpose of a perspective article, there are differences in the technical requirements each journal has. When it comes to the length of the perspective article, some journals have strict limitations while others allow articles to vary the length within a given range. For example, some academic journals in the field of biological sciences and medicine have a limitation of 1,500 and 1,200 words respectively, with defined reference and figure limits. Another journal in the same field has a less restrictive limit of 2,000-4,000 words and a more generous reference limit.

With respect to the structure of the perspective article, journals define their expectations in different terms. Some journals place an emphasis on the structure of the article, requiring sections such as the abstract, introduction, topics and conclusion. Other journals make suggestions on the nature of the title and the specific conceptual connections in the assigned field. Some journals take the time to explain their view and expectation in writing perspective articles, make suggestions and provide lists of things to include and avoid in the perspective article.

Writing a perspective article can have many benefits to authors. Although writing one is less demanding than an original research article, it is recommended that an aspiring author consult the targeted journal for requirements. This will ensure that the journal expectations are met, and that the author has a positive first experience in the writing of this type of research article.

Have you had the experience of writing a perspective article? If yes, then what are the keypoints you kept in mind while doing so? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

China imposes new regulations

In recent years, China’s R&D has experienced remarkable growth. The government has placed a strong emphasis on science and research, and this has resulted in scientific progress. Several new research papers got published. These publications are both domestic and international. Recently, however, China has created new rules for the distribution and publication of research data. The rules will improve the quality of scientific research publications from China. Let us learn more about the new rules.

More Publications, More Problems

The growth of China’s R&D has amazed the world. Just three decades ago, China ranked third in the world in producing scientific publications. In 2017, China rose to number one, surpassing the United States and the European Union. Along with a government focus on science and R&D, the system of payment for scientific publication contributed to this achievement. China rewards its scientists and academics very well for publishing in prestigious international journals. This has worked as an incentive for the researchers.

But every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In addition to boosting academic achievements and scientific breakthroughs, the system has created a negative incentive. Some authors used fake data in order to publish more papers. Such practices could make them earn money, build a reputation, or promote their research. Last year, Springer retracted 107 research papers by Chinese authors that were not properly peer-reviewed. Therefore, instead of the quantity, the quality of the papers need to checked.

Improving Data Quality and Security

In order to address these problems, the General Office of the State Council issued a notice to researchers in March regarding new measures for managing scientific data. The measures include researchers submitting their papers to state authorities for review prior to publication. The notice explained that the State Council’s Administration Department for Science and Technology will lead “integration and coordination of the scientific data of the whole country”. The goal of this regulation is to safeguard valuable data while meeting quality standards. The regulations call for increased open access and data sharing. However, the new regulation also means that scientists will only be able to publish their data and findings with the approval of the Chinese government.

Impact on China’s Science Publishing

The academic community has welcomed these new regulations. This is because many scientists are aware of the problems with data quality and fraud. At the same time, the pay to publish system has been successful in increasing R&D output in China. The regulation offers a way to control data quality while keeping the system in place. Ye Yujiang, Director of the Ministry of Science and Technology’s basic research department, explained that the lack of regulation led to Chinese scientists missing out on opportunities to use valuable data. In a press release to the China Daily, he stated that difficulty in data regulation has proved degrading in China’s effort to become a global technological powerhouse. These new regulations may solve this issue.

However, a part of the academic community is in doubt of the new rules. Some researchers worry about publishing delays, as the data would now be needed to get approval from a government organization. Nancy Sung, head of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Beijing, voiced concern. She thinks that the new regulation could impact the publication of data collection funded through NSF. As this is against the principles of NSF, controversy might arise in the implementation of these regulations.

It is clear that there is a need for quality control and stricter regulation of science publishing in China. The recent cases of fraud threaten to overshadow China’s exceptional accomplishments in R&D and scientific progress. While it remains to be seen whether this regulation will have its intended effect, it signals an important step towards improving the quality of scientific data.

What do you think of China’s new rule? Will it improve publication quality? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

KAIST

Science and technology can either be a blessing or a curse to the society, mostly depending on its use. The world has seen involvement of industries leading to manipulation of research data and incorrect research results being published. Military indulgence in the field of science and research seems to suggest similar results, consequently leaving the researchers thinking what might befall on them. Such a case happened when the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) decided to join hands with a defense weapons group in South Korea. Researchers worldwide have condemned KAIST due to violation of research ethics. Let us learn about the incident in details.

Beginning of the KAIST Chaos

KAIST has signed an agreement with the defense weapons systems group of South Korea, named Hanwha. They will team up in order to produce weapons with the aid of artificial intelligence (AI) in the Research Centre for the Convergence of National Defense and Artificial Intelligence. The KAIST partnership is an attempt to globally weaponize AI to compete in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The deadline to finish the project is the end of 2018. On the other hand, Hanwha Defense Systems is a home to weapons of mass destruction. They have an arsenal of weapons ranging from those for ground warfare to air combat. Their weapons come equipped with high precision in terms of navigation. Therefore, this partnership may prove deadly for the research community as well as the society.

Researchers Boycott KAIST

KAIST recently received the WRDS -SSRN Innovation Award for being pioneers in business research. Tackling issues to improve finance with science-driven data research tactics made them winners in 2017. KAIST has earned its reputation with time, which is at stake with this current controversy. Furthermore, there are several foreign professors as well as students in this institute. This announcement has definitely created a gap among them. The professors from Japanese universities, who teach at KAIST, are absolutely furious with this issue. A detrimental military association has them in the line of fire with Japan Science Council (JSC).

KAIST faced strong opposition by global universities and institutions. Inspite of that KAIST insisted on moving forward with the development of autonomous weapons. The military association with Hanwha would continue. Due to the constant pressure from researchers worldwide followed by their boycott, the organization finally issued a statement on April 10, 2018 that it would not develop weapons that compromise human safety.

On a survey that involved a large percent of the students from these institutions, the students do not want to participate in questionable research that combines AI with military efforts to weaponize the technology. In fact, a number of 30 countries have signed an open letter that states the terms of boycotting the Korean university.

The important terms of the open letter include :

Researchers from these countries would refrain from visiting KAIST

Universities or research institutes of these coutries would refrain from accepting visitors from KAIST

Activities involving collaboration with KAIST university would remain suspended, until the President of KAIST, Professor Sung-Chul Sing, offers assurance.

Japanese Researchers Remain Divided

JSC has called on numerous academic institutions to review the policies related to the military-specific research being carried out in those institutes. This would help them gain control over defense technology. It includes policies related to the recruitment of scientists to carry out research on military-based agendas. Acquisitions Technology Logistics Agency (ATLA) was also established by Japan Ministry of Defence. Some of the tasks of ATLA were buying military equipment, aircrafts, and ships for a sum of 5 trillion Yen. These actions taken were in response to the North Korean imminent threat of war by testing ballistic missiles.

The academic community in Japan is still under a dilemma. They are currently analyzing the policies set around these types of ethical issues. It would help them take better action against them. Japanese universities and institutions remain divided on whether to boycott military associations. Rather than condemning this step, the Japan Astronomy Society is in support of these military associations. This is because its rejection could result in less funding for them.

AI can excel in precision where an ordinary human being fails. Using AI, robots are being weaponized and sent to hunt and kill a target automatically. The robot/machine is free of conscience. The use of AI weapons can thus, be extremely problematic in that they can fall into the wrong hands and be used as a very lethal weapon to wipe out large numbers. Hence, scientific research partnering with military practices would possibly have no beneficial effect.

Should the scientific community promote military-based research? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Fake News

You’ve probably become a victim of fake news at some point in time. For instance, in the final three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, Facebook generated more engagement from fake news sources in comparison to legitimate sources, such as the New York Times, Huffington Post, and Washington Post. During this critical period, election stories from hoax sites garnered about 8,711,000 shares. As a scientist, fake news can become a big problem. Fake news sites are not likely to shut down; instead, they will find new ways to grab the attention of readers’. For instance, fake news about vaccines, climate change, and other hot topics have already generated a huge amount of clicks and shares.

The Effect of Fake News

Research shows that people are more likely to believe what they read when it already confirms their pre-existing beliefs. Therefore, merely reading fake news already predisposes you to misinformation. Even more alarming is the fact that we read more fiction. When we read fictional stories, we also remember bits of information, allowing us to make deductions about how the world works. One of the things to blame for retaining fake news is how we form memories. We are more likely to remember and believe things that we constantly see and are repeated, like on Facebook or Twitter, for instance. The problem of fake news isn’t just political, it’s scientific as well.

Fighting the Fake

Fake news isn’t just annoying—it also decreases the public’s trust in science. This is especially true in underdeveloped countries, where educational and scientific literacy remains low. This makes a strong case for science education and media literacy, especially in the digital era where most news is accessed through social media platforms. Therefore, it is certainly a challenge for the major social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to strengthen their platforms against this growing epidemic. Do you use these platforms to access news? If so, you should be extra careful.

In a study entitled “Inoculating the public against misinformation about climate change,” scientists compared the spread of fakes news and misinformation to a virus. The study highlights two scenarios: first, participants who were presented with fake news and scientific information were more likely to believe the fake news; second, if the same fake news was accompanied by warnings, then it was less likely to be believed.

Open Access Can Help Combat Fake News

One possible solution to this problem is disseminating real, open access science. For instance, in August 2016, it was announced that NASA would be opening their research library to the public, called NASA PubSpace. The readings contained in this database are research articles that can be accessed without any third-party. ScienceMatters is another publishing company that endeavors to change people’s perspectives on science. They provide a platform for accessing scientific research. On the other hand, Nature covers just about any topic and has a news section hosted by experts in the field.

Science and journalism have the same goal, which is to separate fact from fiction. Open science is one possible means to combat the problem of fake news. There are a number of ways to protect the public against fake news and open science is fighting back with full force. The publication of false information also called “predatory publishing,” has grown. Sources show that 25% of all scholarly journals were deemed as predatory, as of 2016. The Gates Foundation, which has an open access policy, supports the open access movement. Open access aims to ensure that authentic research is distributed as much as possible, without much cost since scientific knowledge must be made accessible to all.

Helping Researchers and the Scientific Community

The scientific community will benefit from making research more open, especially in the advent of fake news. In addition, there are several things that you can do to help.

  1. Engage in conversations and make open science more widespread.
  2. Build solid foundations for reproducibility of research. Sharing laboratory data with the public can make open science and the dissemination of authentic information more plausible.
  3. Share small things. Open access is not just about disseminating large chunks of data, but also sharing tools and techniques.
  4. Become creative. For example, data from your research should benefit the public as well as the scientific community. It includes an obligation for communicating the findings to the public.
  5. Stay informed and up to date. Open data sharing tools and platforms related to it improve all the time.

Fake news is definitely undesirable. Preventing yourself from falling prey to fake news is not as easy as it sounds, however it is not impossible. So, what steps have you taken to support open access and open science in dealing with this epidemic?

NIH downplayed alcohol advertising effects

The alcohol industry has been flourishing since ages. Although it is injurious to health, the industry has not received any setback due to it. However, there has been some controversy regarding this industry which has involved National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well. According to reports, NIH downplayed alcohol advertising effects on drinking among teenagers. The story re-echoes 1960’s industry-based research politicization, when scientists were paid to reframe their research by downplaying risks of sugar.

NIH is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. As the medical agency to the nation, the department funds research on important discoveries that improve health and save lives. Government funded basic research has in this way significantly supported a growing trend of applied sciences within the health industry. Recent news of the NIH’s Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) rejecting impacts of alcohol advertising was therefore unprecedented. The story became even confounding when the decision was made whilst the department separately lobbied the alcohol industry for funds. Let us try to find out what happened.

Research Focus: Alcohol Marketing Promotes Underage Drinking

In 2011, scientists Siegel and Jernigan launched a study to understand the impact associating alcohol marketing and underage drinking. The research aligned with a ‘request for applications’ from NIAAA at the time, with funding subsequently awarded. The study highlighted a strong link between alcohol branding and teenage drinking, a viewpoint that perturbed the alcohol industry.

In January 2014, neurobiologist George Koob became NIAAA’s director. Thereafter, he promptly defended the alcohol industry, in response to an op-ed that slammed Jernigan’s research findings. Koob then surprisingly promised a member of the Distilled Spirits Council via email that such funding would not recur. Subsequently undermining outcomes of the ‘ABRAND’ study, reiterating the industry-line that ‘peer-pressure and not advertising’ made teens drink. Siegel and Jernigan remained puzzled, until recent media revealed NIAAA’s 2014 pitch to industry, on funding research of alcohol in moderation.

Translating Research into Policy

Diane Riibe, executive director of the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance, indicated that translating research to policy had reduced underage drinking. However, in alignment to Koob’s view, the agency has now stepped back from supporting such policy-related studies. Retrospectively, the number of NIAAA funded projects prior to Koob’s arrival; in 2011, 2012 and 2013, aligned with translational science. In addition, recent emails shared with media clearly indicate Koob’s compliance with industry’s critical viewpoint decrying research on ‘anti-alcohol advocacy’.

Koob’s preference on studying ‘genes and brains’ related to individual alcohol-addiction over policy could reflect an honest scientific agreement. It must be noted that policy-research advocating for anti-smoking initiatives has cut higher rates of smoking, than individual smoking-cessation therapy. Koob also received industry-funding in the 90s and served the advisory council of the industry-funded Alcohol Beverage Medical Research Foundation. This inadvertently calls for clarification of Koob’s scientific objectives within the NIAAA.

The present story disturbingly re-echoes sugar-industry funded research in the 60s that incorrectly highlighted hazards of fat over sugar. The present intention is to progressively move forward in science, than resort to pressures of industries weighing in on studies.

Growing Trends and Conclusions

The NIH is now examining if health officials violated government policy by contacting alcohol industries to fund the ‘moderate drinking’ study. The present trend of forming public-private partnerships to fund medical research via the NIH is not unusual. This is done via a ‘request for collaboration’ forbidding disclosure of personal information to any donor beforehand. However, in this instance, the institute’s officials and external scientists had already met alcohol industry executives. Many scientists and policymakers hold the view that direct financial engagements with the industry undermines research credibility. It is difficult to conduct objective scientific analyses, when industry funding affects the study results, questions, data-analysis and answers. In conclusion, Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman suggests if the health effects of moderate drinking are a priority for the NIH, “they should fund it themselves”.

What do you think about this intervention of industries into the field of science and research? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

European Research Council

Funding is essential for research. Without funding, scientists and researchers cannot make the breakthroughs that society relies on to progress. Horizon 2020 is a European initiative that has provided significant funding to researchers throughout Europe. However, many researchers have been concerned about the future of its funding. The European Research Council (ERC) has announced to provide 653 million euros for scientists and researchers worldwide.

Brexit and Horizon 2020

UK researchers have been worrying about being cut off from Horizon 2020 funding as Brexit negotiations drag on. While the UK government pledged to underwrite Horizon 2020 grants through March 2019, the EU warned that a hard Brexit would mean no more funding from the program to UK researchers. There has also been uncertainty over the European Union Parliament’s commitment to research funding.

In October 2017, European research ministers agreed that funding for research should increase. However, this agreement was not followed by an increase in budget. During follow-up meetings, Parliament reaffirmed its commitment to increasing research funding. Therefore the announcement of ERC comes as quite a pleasant surprise to the researchers.

Fierce Competition for ERC Grant Funding

The grants from ERC are part of a larger funding package of €30 billion from the Horizon 2020 program earmarked for 2018-2020. Horizon 2020 aims to support research in critical areas such as climate change, migration, clean energy, and more. The program has already led to the discovery of exoplanets, the Higgs boson, and gravitational waves. The €653 million euro in advanced grants awarded for the first round, this year will benefit about 269 researchers across Europe. Competition was fierce, with just 12% of proposals accepted.

Recipients include nationals from European countries as well as researchers from Argentina, India, China, the US, Japan, and other countries. Advanced grant funding is available for future competition rounds to nationals of any country.

Funding Scientific Progress

The grants awarded this year will fund projects in the physical sciences and engineering, life sciences, and social sciences and humanities. The projects represent timely, cutting-edge research. Here are just a few examples that reflect how varied the topics that received the grants are.

For the humanities section, Michael Bruter and a team at the London School of Economics and Political Science will receive a grant to research the phenomenon of electoral hostility. Salvatore Maria Aglioti at the Università degli Studi Di Roma La Sapienza has won a grant to examine why people are dishonest. His research aims to identify how to change unethical behavior.

Researchers from the life sciences section are also not much behind. Gunilla Karlsson Hedestam, a researcher from the Karolinska Institutet of Sweden, received a grant. Her research will focus on gene diversity, exploring why people respond differently to infections and vaccinations. Salvador Aznar Benitah from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona has won funding to investigate the mechanisms of metastases and the effects of diet on metastases. In the physical sciences, Marc-André Gutscher at the CNRS, IUEM Plouzané received an award to examine whether the fiber-optic communication cable networks that crisscross our seafloor can predict earthquakes.

These are just few examples of the researchers who received this grant, while there are many more in the list. The generous funding offered by the ERC is a great opportunity for researchers from anywhere in the world to pursue ambitious projects. Time has to tell us how far the researchers can utilize this opportunity.

What do you think of this announcement of ERC? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Open Science

Index Number:

000014349/2018-00052 Science and technology, education\science and technology

Issuing Authority:

General Office of the State Council

Date Written:

03/17/2018

Title:

Notice of the General Office of the State Council on the Measures for Managing  the Printing and Distributing of Scientific Data

Issuing Number:

State Council General Office (2018) No. 17 国办发〔2018〕17号

Date Published:

04/02/2018 2018年04月02日

 

Notice of the General Office of the State Council on the Measures for Managing the Printing and Distributing of Scientific Data

General Office of the State Council (2018) No. 17

 

To: The people’s governments of all provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government, all ministries and commissions of and departments directly under the State Council

“The Measures for Managing Scientific Data” has been approved by the State Council and is hereby printed and distributed to you. Please implement it carefully.

General Office of the State Council  March 17, 2018

(This document is publicly issued)

 

Measures for Managing Scientific Data

 

Chapter 1 General Principles

 

Article 1: For the purposes of further strengthening and standardizing the management of scientific data, ensuring the safety of scientific data, improving the level of open sharing, and better supporting innovation in national science and technology, economic and social development, and national security, these measures are formulated in accordance with the “Law of the People’s Republic of China on Scientific and Technological Progress”, the “Law of the People’s Republic of China on Promoting the Transformation of Scientific and Technological Achievements”, and the “Interim Measures for the Administration and Sharing of Government Information Resources.”

Article 2: The scientific data mentioned in these measures mainly include data generated through basic research, applied research, and experimental development in the domains of natural science and science of engineering technology. It also refers to the raw data and its derived data obtained through the methods of observation, monitoring, investigation, inspection, and test.

Article 3: These measures are applicable to the activities of collecting, generating, processing, open sharing, and managing and using scientific data supported by government budget funds.

Any unit or individual engaging in activities related to scientific data within the People’s Republic of China should implement them in accordance with these measures should such activities fall within the conditions stipulated by these measures.

Article 4: The management of scientific data shall follow the principles of hierarchical management, safety, and controllability, and full utilization for clearly defining the subjects of responsibility, increasing capability building and promoting open sharing.

Article 5: Any unit or individual engaging in the collection, production, use, and management of scientific data shall abide by all relevant local and national law, regulations, and rules, and shall not use such data to engage in activities that endanger national security, public interest, and the legitimate rights and interests of others.

 

Chapter 2: Responsibilities

 

Article 6: The management of scientific data shall be carried out under a system of state coordination and division of responsibility among all departments and localities.

Article 7: The State Council’s Administration Department for Science and Technology shall play the leading role in the macro-management and integration and coordination of the scientific data of the whole country. Its main responsibilities are as follows:

 (i) Organize research to formulate national scientific data management policies and standards;

(ii) Coordinate and promote standardized management, open sharing, and evaluation of scientific data;

(iii) Coordinate and promote the construction and development of the National Scientific Data Center;

(iv) Responsible for the construction of the national scientific data network management platform as well as data maintenance.

Article 8: The main responsibilities of all relevant departments of the State Council and the provincial People’s Governments (henceforth collectively referred to as the competent authorities) with regard to the management of scientific data are as follows:

 (i) Responsible for establishing and improving their respective departments’ (respective localities) scientific data management policies, regulations and rules, and publicizing and implementing the national scientific data management policies;

(ii) Guide their respective legal entities to strengthen and standardize the management of scientific data;

(iii) In accordance with relevant state provisions, properly perform or authorize one or more relevant units to properly perform the classification for scientific data;

(iv) Coordinate, plan and establish their respective departments’ (respective localities) scientific data centers; promote the open sharing of scientific data;

(v) Establish perfect and effective incentive mechanisms, and organize and undertake the evaluation and assessment of the scientific data work of the legal entities of their respective departments (respective localities).

Article 9: Related legal entities such as scientific research institutes, colleges, and universities, and enterprises (hereafter collectively referred to as the legal entities) are the main subjects of responsibility for the management of scientific data. Their main responsibilities are as follows:

 (i) Implement national and departmental (local) scientific data management policies; establish and perfect the scientific data management systems of their respective entities;

(ii) Undertake the collection, processing, production and long-term preservation of scientific data in accordance with relevant standards to ensure the quality of the data.

(iii) Ensure the confidentiality and safe management of scientific data in accordance with relevant regulations.

(iv) Establish a scientific data management system, publish open scientific data catalogs and ensure their timely updates, and actively launch the open sharing of scientific data;

(v) Responsible for the protection of the hardware and software facilities, funds and personnel needed for the operation of the management of scientific data.

Article 10: The scientific data center is an important vehicle for the public sharing of scientific data. It will be established by qualified legal entities entrusted by the competent authorities, and its main responsibilities are as follows:

(i) Undertake the task of integrating and archiving scientific data of relevant disciplines;

(ii) Responsible for classifying, processing, analyzing and mining scientific data;

(iii) Safeguard scientific data, and promote open sharing of scientific data according to laws and regulations;

(iv) Strengthen the exchange of and cooperation in scientific data at home and abroad.

 

Chapter 3: Collection, Archiving, and Preservation

 

Article 11: The legal entities and the producers of scientific data must manage the collection, production, and processing of scientific data in accordance with relevant standards and regulations to form an easy-to-use database or dataset.

The legal entities should establish a quality control system for scientific data to ensure the accuracy and usability of the data.

Article 12: The competent authorities shall establish a scientific data archive system. The archiving of scientific data of their respective departments (respective localities) should be carried out on the basis of the national governmental affairs network and data sharing and exchange platform;

Article 13: All scientific data derived from the science and technology plans (special projects, foundations, and etc.) of all levels financed by government budget funds shall be archived in the relevant science data centers by the leading entities of the projects. The scientific data centers that receive the data shall issue a certificate of receipt.

The managing departments of science and technology plans (special projects, foundations, and etc.) of all levels shall establish a mechanism for first archiving scientific data and then acceptance after inspection of the projects of science and technology plans (special projects, foundations, etc.). All scientific data generated after the acceptance of the project/research question shall also be archived.

Article 14: The competent authorities and legal entities shall establish and improve management systems for the archiving of the data of domestic and foreign academic papers.

When corresponding scientific data have to be submitted overseas for academic papers written and to be published in foreign academic journals using the scientific data generated with the support of government budget funds, the authors shall submit the data to their relevant units for unified management before the paper is published.

Article 15: Scientific data concerning state secrets, national security and the public interest generated by social funds must be archived in accordance with relevant regulations.

The archiving of other scientific data generated by social funds in relevant scientific data centers is encouraged.

Article 16: The legal entities shall establish a system for the preservation of scientific data and provide necessary facilities such as data storage, management, service and security to ensure the integrity and safety of scientific data.

Article 17: The legal entities shall strengthen the building of scientific data personnel teams and establish incentive mechanisms for position creating, performance-related pay, and job title assessment, and etc.

Article 18: The State Council’s Administration Department for Science and Technology shall strengthen overall planning. On the foundation of the scientific data centers with good conditions and obvious resource advantage, it shall optimize and integrate them to form of a national scientific data center.

 

Chapter 4: Sharing and Utilization

 

Article 19: The competent authorities shall organize the compilation of scientific data resource catalogs of the scientific data generated with the support of government budget funds according to the principle of openness as the norm and un-openness as the exception. These catalogs and data shall be uploaded to the national data sharing and exchange platform in a timely fashion, open to the public and relevant departments for sharing, and free to be shared on channels used by civilians and the military, with the exception of those specifically stipulated by state laws and regulations.

Article 20: The legal entities shall grade and classify the scientific data, and clarify its confidentiality level and confidentiality period, the conditions under which such data may be released and the person(s) that the data may be released to, and the review procedures; the legal entities shall also publish the open data catalogues of scientific data as required and release it to the public via online download, offline sharing or customized services.

Article 21: The legal entities shall analyze and mine scientific data according to their own needs to form valuable scientific data products and develop value-added services. They shall encourage social organizations and enterprises to develop marketized value-added services.

Article 22: The competent authorities and legal entities shall actively promote the publication and dissemination of scientific data; they shall also support research personnel in organizing and publishing accurate and complete scientific data with clear property rights and high value of sharing.

Article 23: Users of scientific data shall abide by the relevant provisions of intellectual property rights, and indicate and reference the scientific data used when publishing papers, applying for patents, publishing monographs, and etc.

Article 24: When scientific data is required for government decision-making, public safety, national defense construction, environmental protection, disaster prevention and reduction, public welfare research, and etc., the legal entities shall provide such data without compensation. If a fee is really needed, a reasonable standard shall be formulated in accordance with prescribed procedures and the non-profit principle. Such a standard shall be made known to the public and subject to supervision. 

For business activities that require the use of scientific data, the parties concerned shall sign a paid service contract to clarify their respective rights and obligations.

All parties concerned shall comply with any special provisions in state laws and regulations.

 

Chapter 5: Confidentiality and Security

 

Article 25: Scientific data involving state secrets, national security, public interest, trade secrets or personal privacy shall not be made publicly available. If such data is to be made publicly available, they must be subject to a review of the purposes of use, user qualifications, and confidentiality conditions. In addition, the scope of the release shall be carefully controlled.

Article 26: The collection, production, processing, management and use of scientific data involving state secrets shall be carried out in accordance with relevant state confidentiality provisions. The competent authorities and legal entities shall establish and improve a system for the management and use of such data and strictly manage its production, verification, registration, copying, transmission, and destruction.

If scientific data involving state secrets has to be provided in the course of cooperation and exchanges with a foreign power, the legal entities shall clearly state the type, scope and usage of the relevant data. This shall be reported to the competent authorities for approval in accordance with the confidentiality provisions. After being approved, the legal entities shall complete the necessary formal procedures in accordance with all relevant regulations and a confidentiality agreement shall be signed with the user(s).

Article 27: The competent authorities and legal entities shall strengthen the safe management of the life-cycle of scientific data, formulate data security measures, and strengthen the protection management of data download authentication and authorization to prevent the data from being used maliciously.

The competent authorities and legal entities shall establish a security and confidentiality review system for the open scientific data catalogs that need to be published or scientific data that needs to be provided externally.

Article 28: The legal entities and scientific data centers shall establish a network security protection system in accordance with the national cybersecurity management regulations, use safe and reliable products and services, and improve measures for data management and control, attribute management, identification, behavior tracking, blacklisting, and etc. They shall also improve such security protection systems as tamper proofing, anti-leakage, anti-attack, and anti-virus.

Article 29: Scientific data centers shall establish emergency response management and disaster recovery systems; emergency management systems shall be established according to all relevant requirements for making an offsite backup of important scientific data.

 

Chapter 6: Supplementary Provisions

 

Article 30: The competent authorities and legal entities shall establish and improve a system for evaluating the management and open sharing of scientific data.

Article 31: In cases of data forgery, intellectual property rights infringement, and data-archiving not according to relevant provisions, the competent authorities may, according to the severity of the infraction, punish the offending entities by ordering them to make corrections, circulating a notice of criticism, taking disciplinary actions, or meting out administrative punishments according to law.

Units and individuals that violate relevant state laws and regulations shall be prosecuted accordingly.

Article 32: The competent authorities may refer to these measures when formulating detailed rules for implementation. For the management system for scientific data involving national defense, separate regulations shall be made by relevant departments.

Article 33: These measures shall go into effect on the date they are issued.

 

The article was adapted from this Press Release.

ReviewerCredits

Peer review is a critical part of the scholarly publishing process. Apart from their busy schedules, researchers spend countless hours in peer-reviewing manuscripts for free. This valuable contribution by scientists often goes unnoticed and is always under-appreciated. ReviewerCredits aims to facilitate the review process by recognizing and certifying peer review activity and rewarding researchers for their hard work. In addition, ReviewerCredits also recognizes and maintains a unique verified database of conference talks. As part of our interview series on Connecting Scholarly Publishing Experts and Researchers, we had the opportunity to speak with Giacomo Bellani and Robert Fruscio from ReviewerCredits.

 

img_20171116_090112

(From L-R: Giacomo Bellani and Robert Fruscio)

 

Could you share with our readers the inspiration behind launching ReviewerCredits? How did this journey begin?

Robert and I have been friends since the early years of medical school. We both undertook an academic career after our graduation. As scientists and researchers, we began to receive several invitations to perform peer reviews. As junior scientists, this is very exciting, however, with increasing number of activities and commitments, time constraints become a major problem. It is often difficult to take time out from writing your own manuscript and spend it on reviewing another researcher’s manuscript. Of course, peer review is a service scientists’ provide to the community, but in academia, we are primarily measured on our scientific productivity (grants, career progression, etc.). For the time being, peer review is not accounted for in any metric. So, after chatting several times about this issue, the idea of developing an interesting metric for peer review emerged!

When was ReviewerCredits launched and what were some of the challenges faced by you while developing the platform?

We conceived our idea back in February 2016. We spent many hours one night envisioning our goals, how the platform should look like, how it should function, etc. That night, we registered our domain reviewercredits.com. In the following months, we began the platform development with a small company called Joins (www.joins.ch), which we knew through other previous experiences.

The first challenge was to explain the process of scholarly publishing and peer review to someone out of the field. It might look strange, but if you try to explain the peer review process to a non-scientist, you will notice that they have a confused reaction. Once the platform became operational, we had to start from scratch with members, journals, and so forth. In the beginning, we perceived an understandable diffidence, especially from editors. Eventually, most of them slowly appreciated that we were not working AGAINST journals, but FOR journals. At the same time, we had to transform what had begun as a personal initiative into a “real” company. The process of becoming a university spin-off took several months of bureaucracy. However, we are now very proud of being a spin-off company endorsed by the University of Milan-Bicocca.

The latest major challenge was overcome last summer/fall when we completely re-engineered the website. Again, this was worth the effort as we now provide a state-of-the-art platform to our users. You can read more about this here.

Could you share with our readers an example of a reviewer profile on the platform?

This is my own profile: https://www.reviewercredits.com/user/giacbell/. On the profile page, the activity of a peer reviewer is highlighted by the Reviewer Index. It also shows connections to social profiles, including ORCiD. Finally, the talks given at recent conferences are highlighted in a separate section.

Moreover, the user can also download a PDF certificate of their peer review activity.

 

peer-review-certificate

 

Reviewers on this platform receive credits for each verified peer review. How does this differ from ReviewerIndex? What is the purpose of these credits?

The Reviewer Index reflects the activity of a scientist as a peer reviewer. The concept is very simple and straightforward. For each review performed, our members get 1 point added to their Reviewer Index, which is, therefore, the number of peer reviews performed and confirmed by the journal’s editorial office. The strength of this metric is that it includes only certified peer reviews, and because this certification comes directly from the journals, it is robust and reliable. The credits system is totally different. The aim of creating it was to try giving our members a tangible benefit. Credits are received upon confirmation that the review has been performed. The number of credits depends on the status of the journal in our website (with or without an account and, soon, with a premium account, which will assign more credits). We are working hard to allow the possibility of exchanging these credits for real benefits, like discounts on APCs, subscriptions to journals, and possibly, small research grants. We firmly believe that this system will bring real advantages to reviewers, who will finally see their hard work being rewarded. This will also benefit journals, because scientists will be more inclined towards accepting peer review requests. Once this system is established and running, we also plan to allow journals to rate reviewers, as this will further improve the process and, ultimately scientific progress.

Recently, a new feature of a database on conference talks was launched on the website. Please share with our readers the process of updating such information about various conferences?

We are very proud of this new feature. Most scientists are actively engaged in scientific dissemination. They are selected to give a talk on a specific topic on the basis of their professionalism and their ability to present literature data or innovative research in a straightforward and engaging way. Today, several databases collect journal articles, abstracts, monographs, and book chapters. However, the existence of one unique database, able to answer the question “who-spoke-about-what” was still missing until we created it. This database is populated in two ways. On one side, scientists can record the talks which they gave (or plan to give), and after verification, it is added to their personal profile. Moreover, conference organizers can open a profile and upload the program of any conference edition whose talks are then linked to the individual scientist’s profile.

How can researchers, journals, and conference organizers join ReviewerCredits to create their own profiles?

Joining ReviewerCredits is free and very simple. It is done through our signup page. Initially, it is necessary to select the type of profile (reviewer, journal, or conference) and then fill a short form, with a minimal dataset of mandatory data. Several other data (pictures, bio, and social profiles) can be filled in afterward, from the profile page. Reviewer profiles are immediately active, whereas those for journals and conferences require approval for activation. This process aims to verify that the email provided in the signup form can be univocally linked to the journal/conference, in order to avoid malicious registrations. This process normally does not take more than 24 hours.

Could you share some member journal highlights? For example, their index status, impact factor, etc.?

We now have around 150 journal profiles on our website. These journals originate from different geographical locations and cover a variety of subject areas (from medicine to agriculture and chemistry to geography). About 80% of these journals are indexed in Scopus and WoS and some even have very high impact factors like the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, to quote one. In addition, publishers can open a profile on our website and arrange all their published journals under one umbrella. Finally, we want to highlight that even without creating a profile more than 3000 journals have decided to collaborate with our platform, by approving peer review claims.

How is ReviewerCredits different from its competitors?

There are three main differences when compared to our competitors.

FIRST: We have a robust system for verification of the information added to our website so that our metrics are fully reliable. We do not accept a “thank you mail” as a proof of peer review for different reasons. This is because it is a simple text-based email that can be easily edited by changing the date, name of the journal, and the manuscript ID. Another reason is that we are very respectful of the privacy of peer reviewers. The “thank you” mail usually contains the name of the authors, and the title of the manuscript reviewed and sharing this data is unacceptable to us. Finally, we are trying to obtain an active involvement of journals in the process of certification of the peer reviewers’ work. Indeed, in more than one instance, we have received this type of response from editors, contacted to verify a claim: “We have no track of this individual in our records.“ These types of responses reinforced our certainty in the validity of our system.

SECOND: We are an academic spinoff, totally independent from publishers. Sometimes we wonder what journals editors, who collaborate with our competitors, feel about giving their data to large companies that are also active in the field of publications. Data is the new gold!

THIRD: We also provide certification for talks given at conferences, a feature unique to our website.

Can ReviewerCredits benefit researchers in ESL regions like China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan?

Of course! There is a large number of high-quality research emerging from these regions, but honestly, our penetration in these countries is still quite limited. From the very beginning, we wanted to develop a system that would work for researchers from every country; indeed we hope to see the numbers from China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan growing fast in the coming months!

Could you tell us more about the technology powering ReviewerCredits and its upcoming API?

The ReviewerCredits website is powered by the Italian developer 4Science, our key technological partner. 4Science is a highly specialized company that develops products and solutions particularly for open access and open data, based on open source technologies and open standards. 4Science has been providing technical contributions to the communities of DSpace, DSpace-CRIS, IIIF, and OJS. We are currently developing a bi-directional REST API (Application Programming Interface) that allows the automated transferal of peer review data from publishing platforms. This will further simplify the process and avoid the need for “verification of claims.” Moreover, this bi-directional API will not only let our website receive data from publishing platforms, but will also query and send data to other databases. Most institutions and universities have repositories and tools to track and measure the publication metrics of their employees. By using our API, it will be possible (upon authorization from the members) to integrate data on peer review or conference activities into these databases, similar to what currently happens for publications. It is our belief that these data should be taken into account when deciding university rankings, like the excellent one published by Quacquarelli Symonds.

What are the primary focus areas for ReviewerCredits in 2018?

We have several ideas in the pipeline. On one hand, there is the technological development mentioned above. We will soon undertake the development of APIs, to enable direct transferal of data from journals willing to collaborate with us. Moreover, we are very keen to support the world of open access publishing. To this end and thanks to the great experience of 4Science, we intend to develop a plugin for Open Journal System (OJS), to be released for free. This will entail all journals using OJS to interconnect with ReviewerCredits. We would also like to empower an interconnection with ORCiD, in order to allow our users to transfer their data towards and from this key platform in the field of scholarly publishing. Finally, we will activate the “redeemability” of credits. On the other hand, there is the strategic development. We intend to increase our visibility among researchers, publishers, journals, conferences, universities, and research institutions. Having a large user base is essential to create a momentum. Finally, we need to grow as a company, with an efficient, streamlined, and sustainable organization.

What are some of the other initiatives being undertaken to broaden the scope of partnership with publishers, journals, congresses, repositories, and research organizations?

This is a crucial aspect in our plans for 2018. Indeed, we are talking to publishers, proposing them to open corporate accounts for their journals. We aim to let publishers and editors understand that they would greatly benefit from collaborating with ReviewerCredits. The conference feature has just been launched, so we have just started to contact conferences. In this respect, we would welcome partnerships with event managing agencies, which could easily provide, for free, an additional service to their customers. Finally, we are actively looking for collaborations with organizations that support, in the broad sense, the world of research. The recently announced collaboration with Enago is a great example of this!

In your opinion, how is technology changing the landscape of academic publishing? What are the benefits and challenges according to you?

Over the past decade, technology has surely led to radical changes in scientific communication. These changes are mostly positive, as now there are many journals that cater to very specific topics thereby helping authors improve their chances of getting their work published. The other side of the coin is that, with the increasing number of articles published, it is becoming difficult to estimate the value of a work. In this context, the work of peer reviewers is more crucial than ever. However, the paradox is that there are many manuscripts submitted but very few scientists willing to review them. In such situations, journals tend to trust the judgment not of the BEST reviewers, but of the FIRST AVAILABLE ones, which are typically young inexperienced scientists. This is another reason why we believe that the recognition of the work as a peer reviewer today is essential.

The peer review process is an important part of scientific communication. However, it is mostly under-valued and un-rewarded. What according to you will be the after-effects of initiatives such as reviewer credits, rewards, and recognition programs?

No metrics or rewards exist to recognize and reward the performance of peer reviewers. Peer review is a crucial phase in the process of publication for journals and publishers. However, relying only on a voluntary effort with a lack of any form of recognition has led to two major consequences. Firstly, while established journals with higher impact factor have their own pool of trusted reviewers, many other journals struggle to find available scientists for peer review.

Secondly, because reviewers work for free, they are often not motivated to meet the expected deadlines, and the overall quality of their evaluation relies only on individual integrity and cannot be evaluated. Obviously, this leads to heavy delays in the publication cycle and decreases the efficiency and effectiveness of the system. It is clear that journals, publishers, and editors would tremendously benefit from a satisfactory rewarding system for peer reviewers. Reviewers will be more motivated to accept invitations and provide excellent reports while editors will be in the position to select the BEST peer reviewers not just those who happen to be available.

 

Reviewer Credits – Rewarding peer review activity from Reviewer Credits on YouTube

 

How do you verify and filter out predatory conferences and journals?

Typically, predatory journals do not evaluate manuscripts by peer review, and therefore they should not be interested in our initiative. However, since we have received this question from the very beginning of our activity, we are thinking about different criteria that must be fulfilled in order to create an account on our website. These criteria could include, for example, the presence of an editorial board, the publication of a minimum number of articles per year, and, most importantly, the verification of the existence of the peer review process during the manuscripts evaluation. We are not so sure if we will be entitled to define a journal as predatory or not, but what we can certify without any doubt is the peer review activity employed by the journal, from the numbers of claims submitted for that journal by our members.

What are some important tips that you would give early-stage researchers wishing to peer review for journals?

First: Create a profile on Reviewercredits.com.

Second: Ask your mentors to help you with peer reviews. Discuss with them your comments on the paper. Maybe they might recommend your name to the editors if (as very often happens) they are too busy to accept an invitation.

Third: Don’t be shy! Editors are actively looking for peer reviewers. Propose yourself and simply drop them an email with your CV.

Fourth: Do all your best to do a great job!

Fifth: If you haven’t done so… go back to the first point!

Can authors use this platform to select reviewers if their journal has asked them to? If yes, would you have any tips for these authors?

Of course, this is one of the purposes of our platform! You may look for those individuals who are more active as peer reviewers in your field.

As experienced authors yourselves, please share some important tips and advice for early-stage ESL researchers undergoing their first peer review.

At first, think about peer review right from the very beginning of your experiment/study. If there is any flaw, be honest to yourself. Otherwise, sooner or later someone will spot it, and all your efforts could be wasted. Never ever indulge in the idea of altering or manufacturing data even if, after months of hard work, the results are not what you expected. Sometimes there is a strong temptation to make some changes even though it might appear innocent in your eyes, however, this could provide false results to the scientific community and could easily ruin your career forever. Do not pretend that you already know how to write a manuscript: Take a class, or use the resources on Enago Academy!

Ask your colleagues to peer review your manuscript first. You will receive criticisms and that (again, after hard work) is never pleasant.  However, rather than defending your own point of view and trying to explain that you are right, think that they are probably right, and maybe your paper is not as clear or flawless as you think. Peer reviewers will not be more condescending than your colleagues. Be humble, especially if you are an ESL author. Have your manuscript reviewed for language improvement! Finally, when you receive criticisms from peer reviewers, think of this as one of the best ways to improve your manuscript. Always consider that someone somewhere took some free time to read and comment on your manuscript!

Do you think there is a need to conduct training workshops for budding reviewers?

The peer review process is the cornerstone of scientific communication and performing a peer review carries its weight of responsibility. It is usually a demanding task that requires significant time and effort. Education of peer reviewers is mandatory to improve the general process; however, little attention has been devoted to this. One great resource is Nature Masterclasses; however, more could be done. Organizing a more structured educational process with classes and workshops would be ideal in this respect. Maybe Enago Academy, which is conducting different types of workshops for authors, would like to step in?

We noticed you added Enago Academy under your resources section (and thank you for that!). Which resources did you find especially helpful for your members?

We simply love the Enago Academy platform. The “Academic Writing” section provides so many useful resources and tips. These are useful both for junior researchers (we always point our younger colleagues to Enago Academy while writing their first papers), as well as more experienced ones (if we may call ourselves so!). The topics are very broad and cover most of the challenges we face when writing—even those we are not yet aware of!

I drastically changed my approach to writing paper titles after reading this informative article. A second unmissable section is the “Featured Interviews.” Interviews give a rapid overview on the viewpoint of different actors in the field of publication, and make us aware of issues that one does not realize in their daily routine, but are a crucial part of the scholarly publishing process. One great example is the interview with Stephanie Kinnan. She talks about what authors know (or believe to know) very well, i.e. the publication cycle, but under a very different perspective and knowing this perspective is tremendously useful when you are submitting a manuscript!

 

You can check out the ReviewerCredits website and also follow them on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

 

It was a great pleasure to talk to Giacomo Bellani and Robert Fruscio. We sincerely thank them for taking the time to be a part of this interview and also wish them the very best in their future endeavors!

 

(This interview is a part of our interview series on Connecting Scholarly Publishing Experts and Researchers.)

US budget

After months of debate, US Congress has finally passed a 1.3 trillion USD 2018 budget bill. The news has followed after the year-long negotiations on the science budget. The initial US budget for 2018, proposed by President Trump, called for large cuts in funding many research programs and science agencies. However, the content of the final bill came as a happy surprise to the science and research communities. Let us learn about the science budget in details.

After Months of Doubt, a Windfall for Scientists

The budget negotiations dragged on for over a period of several months, resulting in two government shutdowns. This had left scientists fearful for the future of their work. Finally, with a third government shutdown looming, Congress made a deal and President Trump signed the budget into law. Before the budget was revealed, many researchers and agencies expected cuts to their funding. President Trump’s blueprint for the 2018 budget cut the funding for EPA by 31% and the Office of Science in the Department of Energy (DOE) by 17%. Grant awards were also under scrutiny, which would have caused universities to lose out on jobs and infrastructure improvements. Researchers grew increasingly nervous as the negotiations went on.

However, the final budget boosted the funding for the Office of Science by 16%. The National Science Foundation also got a raise of 295 million USD, NASA an increase of 457 million USD and the National Institutes of Health an increase of 3 billion USD in their respective funding. The EPA also maintains its current funding levels. These figures mean that scientist can breathe a sigh of relief, at least until the 2019 budget comes up for negotiation in September.

What Does this Mean for Researchers?

Numerous research projects, programs, and initiatives will benefit from this surprise windfall in funding. Overall, it is estimated that R&D spending in 2018 will reach 176.8 billion USD. The Office of Science programs related to advanced fields of research will benefit greatly from this new budget. These include scientific computing research, fusion energy sciences, nuclear physics, biological and environmental research, biofuels and climate simulation, high energy physics, and basic energy sciences. Basic Earth Sciences covers research in fields like chemistry, materials science, condensed matter physics, and related fields, and also funds DOE’s x-ray synchrotrons and neutron sources.

Projects that had been put on hold while Congress debated the budget can now go forward. These include a project to rebuild an x-ray synchrotron at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. Six of the ten “Big Ideas” proposed in 2016 by the NSF are also slated to proceed.

Increased funding for the NSF also means more money for educational scholarship and fellowship programs. The Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, which aims to fund undergraduates studying to become science teachers, received an additional 3 million USD. Another program targeting Hispanic-serving institutions got an extra 30 million USD. NSF had earlier proposed cutting off the funding to its reputable Graduate Research Fellowship. With the new budget,Congress is funding it at the same level in 2018 as it had in 2017.

Responses from the Research Community

The research community is both surprised and pleased at the announcement. Thom Mason, vice president for laboratory operations at Battelle in Columbus and a former director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, called it “amazingly good news”. According to him, it was “beyond anything [he] expected”. Matt Hourihan also has a similar opinion. He analyzes U.S. science spending patterns for AAAS (publisher of ScienceInsider) in Washington, D.C. According to him, the budget has some “silly good numbers”. He and his colleague David Parkes estimate that this budget is the largest year-on-year increase for science funding after a long time.

What do you think of the new budget passed by Congress? Being a researcher, how do you think it will benefit you? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Science journalism

Science is a field where new discoveries are being made every day. Every year numerous scientific meetings and conferences take place. This is how humanity learns a bit more about the world and how it works. Despite this, mainstream journalism devotes far less time to science than it does to other concerns. Scientists are often reluctant to share much about their findings with the press before these findings get formally published in journals. What is the reason for this gap? What are some of the ways this can be addressed? Let us learn more about this.

What Defines ‘Prior Publication’?

It’s a common scenario: a journalist attends a local scientific conference, and hears a presentation that catches her attention. She proposes a story to her editor and has it approved, only to be rejected when she approaches the presenter for an interview. Why would a scientist not want to share his/her findings with the public, possibly gaining a wider audience, greater interest, and maybe even more funding if the right person reads the story?

The biggest reason for this reluctance is confusion over what exactly ‘prior publication’ means. ‘Publish or perish’ is a well-known saying in the scientific community, and for good reason- the careers of the majority of scientists and academics depend on the volume of their publications. But it is standard for scientific journals, including Nature, Science and Cell, to reject papers containing research that has been published already. Many scientists interpret this in a different way. For them, it means that any article about their findings— even if it is published in a newspaper as a very brief article— may not make their way to the target journal. It can threaten their chances of having their submissions to journals accepted if the article appears first. This results in the situation described above.

However, most journals make it clear that such articles do not, in fact, equal ‘prior publication’. The majority of journals encourage the sharing of unpublished work at conferences and meetings. They state that presentation of the material at such events does not endanger the chances of a journal submission being accepted. But when it comes to speaking directly with journalists, the rules become more unclear.

Conflicting Messages

Different journals have different views on this context. Science states in their editorial policy that authors may freely share their data at scientific meetings. However, they “should not overtly seek media attention or give copies of the figures or data from their manuscript to any reporter.” The journal further states that scientists should limit interviews with journalists at such meetings. They should restrict it to clarifying the specifics of a presentation.

Nature has a similar policy suggesting that scientists should not talk to journalists directly at conferences. However, in 2009, an editorial in the journal stated that it was fine if the press covers the content of such conferences, as long as scientists do not directly seek media coverage. In other words, scientists can confirm the facts of presentations given at conferences to journalists. But they should not seek out press coverage of their work or discuss it in detail beyond what they present.

With these uncertain rules, it is no wonder that most scientists tend to play it safe and not risk interviews regarding their unpublished work. At the same time, there is a growing pressure for scientists to become more visible in the media. As stated earlier, media attention can attract interest and funding. In fact, universities and other research organizations want their scientists to become popular in the media.

Blogging and tweeting within the scientific community at conferences also remains a gray area. Journals like Nature do not yet have an explicit policy as to whether these activities are acceptable or not. However, with the use of social media growing, the demand to address the issue keeps on increasing as well.

What about the Journalists?

The situation is obviously a frustrating one for journalists as well as scientists. If the journalist proceeds with her story on the conference anyway, it likely won’t have any negative consequences for the scientist. This is because it falls well within the guidelines laid out by major journals. However, the reluctance of scientists to give interviews makes science journalism quite challenging. It is likely to be one of the many reasons for the lack of science reporting in the mainstream media.

Some journalists have used the strategy of sharing copies of journal embargo policies with scientist. This is to reassure them that giving a brief interview to clarify facts on their presentations would not hurt their chances of publication. Others keep spreadsheets of news articles published about research. They also keep a track of the date of the research being published. This, in turn, provides substantial proof that interviews are harmless. Regardless, many journalists find themselves in the situation described earlier. There is a lack of clarity in journal policies at present. As a result, there does not seem to be a clear strategy to avoid the problem going forward.

What do you think of press coverage of scientific conferences? Should scientists be more liberal in sharing their research with the press? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Scientific misconduct

Scientific misconduct has laid its paws again on the academic community, this time in Japan. The author of the disputed stem cell paper, also a researcher at Kyoto University, Japan, has been dismissed. The investigations proved him guilty of falsifying and fabricating all of the figures in the paper. The journal has retracted the paper earlier in March. As of now, it was fine. What has shocked the academic community more is that the director of the institute, who is also a Nobel laureate, has also been penalized by the university. However, the penalty imposed on Dr. Shinya Yamanaka, the Director of CiRA, is still unknown. But this event has definitely shook the academic community. Let us learn about the misconduct in details.

Shocking News in Stem Cell Research

Medical research experienced a major breakthrough in 2006 when Dr. Shinya Yamanaka (Yamanaka Shinya) and his team discovered the conversion of mature cells back to stem cells. This discovery launched a flurry of research and keen interest in the new field of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. It paved the way towards viable medical therapies. Dr. Yamanaka went on to organize the Center for iPS Cell Research at Kyoto University. Thus, his name became globally recognized in the field of stem cell research.

The prestige of Yamanaka and his research program faced controversy early this year. A researcher at CiRA, Kohei Yamamizu, faced the allegations of creating fraudulent images within a paper published in the journal Stem Cell Reports. The paper, which had been published in March 2017, had been retracted. Yamanaka – although not involved in any way in this case of scientific misconduct – had publicly apologized and taken full responsibility. He even suggested donating his salary to recompense for the funding of the questionable research. He had suggested that he might resign from his position as Director of CiRA if asked to.

The investigation suggested image manipulation. The data used to make these figures did not match the original data set. As a result of these modifications, the manuscript no longer supported its main conclusion. Kohei Yamamizu was therefore found guilty of scientific misconduct. Kyoto University fired him and penalized the Director of CiRA on the grounds of negligence. Dr. Yamanaka, keeping his word, would donate voluntarily to the iPS Cell Research Fund. He has also assured to conduct better preventive measures against scientific misconduct.

Scientific Misconduct: A Global Problem

Scientific misconduct is indeed a global problem. In recent years, several cases of misconduct came up, in Germany (at the Fritz Lipmann Institute), in Sweden, and in the United States (at Harvard University). The number of cases of scientific misconduct are on the rise and so are the instances of them coming to light.

Can there be any positive outcomes from these cases of misconduct? One positive outcome is the reinforcement of the importance of the foundations of peer review in science. Long-standing traditions in science, such as open criticism of published findings, replication of lab results, and third-party investigation, are what make it possible to uncover fraudulent or sloppy work.

Pre-publication checks can detect both honest mistakes and intentional frauds. Confirmatory studies prior to submission to the publisher or the sharing preliminary results on open access forums can stop erroneous results from reaching the academic press and damaging careers and institutions. Ultimately, the burden is on the individual researchers, their supervisors, and department chairpersons to instill high standards of research ethics and work against the enormous pressure to publish breakthrough research. The step taken by Dr. Yamanaka is an admirable example of leadership. The change needed in scientific culture today needs to come from the top.

Do you agree to the university’s decision of penalizing the director of the institute? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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