The traditional model of academic publishing restricts access to research by putting it in the hands of private companies. As a result, I’ve had to work hard to make my research available to those who wish to read it. I’ve done so by publishing accessible summaries on this blog, by publishing as much as I can in open-access journals, and by establishing profiles on file-sharing sites like Academia.Edu and ResearchGate, which allow you to store and share full-text uploads of papers with anyone. I will keep doing the first two going forward, but I’ve grown leery of the latter and have increasingly come to realize that these file-sharing websites aren’t an effective solution to the problems of academic publishing. In fact, I’ve grown quite concerned about these sites and have come to realize that academics need to pursue other means of sharing their work. Let me explain.Read More
I made a major career move this summer. After working ten years as a college professor, I decided it was time for something new: I left academia to become a full-time author. My reasons for this were both personal and professional.
It was a tough decision to leave the academy because there are a lot of things I love about it. So here are four things I’ll miss about being a college professor—and four things I won’t miss at all.Read More
Open-access (OA) science journals such as PLoS ONE operate under a different model of editorial and peer review than the traditional non-OA journals. Perhaps the biggest difference is that, at the traditional journals, reviewers and editors are usually encouraged to take into account what they perceive to be the potential impact and importance of a given study in determining whether or not it merits publication. In contrast, such judgments are irrelevant at many OA journals, where the focus of review is on whether the science itself is technically sound. At OA journals, whether a given study is important is a determination that is made by research consumers themselves rather than by editorial boards. This difference in focus has led some scientists to view OA journals with skepticism and to perceive that their review process is “watered down.” However, I would argue that by not focusing on perceived impact and importance, OA journals take a lot of the subjectivity out of the review process and, in the end, this is ultimately beneficial to science.Read More
In my previous post, I talked about why I no longer want to be a part of the traditional academic publication system: the acceptance criteria are entirely too subjective, the process takes years, and scientists are forced to sign over their copyright to a greedy industry that gouges anyone who wants to access our work. As a result, I have started publishing in open-access journals. I have many scientific colleagues who have never published in such journals and are quite curious about the process, so allow me to tell you about my recent experience publishing a paper in the journal PLOS ONE entitled Social Networking Smartphone Applications and Sexual Health Outcomes in Men Who Have Sex With Men.Read More
As a graduate student, I was taught that I needed to publish, publish, publish if I ever wanted a job. So I spent countless hours conducting study after study and carefully writing up the results. The fruits of my labor were submitted to the top journals in the field where I quickly discovered the nightmare that is modern academic publishing. It routinely took four to six months to hear anything at all from the editors (and in one case, it took a year), and much of the time, the decision was a flat out rejection. While the reviewers and editors almost invariably saw something interesting and worthwhile in my efforts, all too often I was told that it just wasn’t “enough of a contribution” for a journal that accepts less than 15% of papers submitted. I can’t begin to describe how many times I was told something to the effect of “I really like this paper and it deserves to be published…just not here.” It all felt very arbitrary because no one was really judging my work on its merits—instead the reviews had a very subjective quality, focusing on questions such as: Is it “worthy” of this journal? Does it make a “big enough” contribution to the literature? Is this paper going to get cited a lot?Read More
Any reputable scientific journal utilizes a peer-review process, in which each manuscript received is sent to a small group of experts to evaluate the work and determine whether it merits publication. This process is vital to maintaining the highest possible scientific standards, because (ideally) it serves to identify and weed out flawed research, correct errors and inaccuracies, and ensure clarity. Although this process is certainly far from perfect and every scientist who has gone through it has their gripes, it’s the best system we have for ensuring that only good quality research makes it into our journals.
Unfortunately, very few scientists receive formal training in how to conduct a proper article review. As a result, many reviewers end up focusing on the wrong things, which yields comments that are unhelpful and not constructive in the eyes of editors and authors. Moreover, it is common for reviewers to write much more than is necessary, which wastes time for everyone involved in the process. Because I have seen these and other problems arise again and again in my publishing experience, I have decided to share my philosophy on how to write a helpful and constructive article review with the hope that others will find it useful as a teaching and learning tool. While the steps below apply primarily to reviews of journal articles in the field of psychology, many of these points would likely be applicable in other disciplines.