The HighWire blog has moved

The HighWire blog has moved to a new location:

The above link will take you to the list of the latest posts, with a filter on the right so you can include only material you are interested in.   E.g., clicking the “[ ] Article” filter essentially shows you the type of material that was found on the old blog.

The most recent item on the new blog is: “12 must-know trends in scholarly research and the research communication ecosystem

PLOS and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Enter Agreement to Enable Preprint Posting on bioRxiv

Editor’s Note: This press release also appears on the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Newsstand.

Public Library of Science (PLOS) and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) announce an agreement that enables the automatic posting of research articles submitted to PLOS journals on bioRxiv, CSHL’s preprint server for the life sciences. This collaboration between bioRxiv and PLOS empowers authors to share their work on a trusted platform before peer review, accelerating the pace of biomedical research.

Continue reading “PLOS and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Enter Agreement to Enable Preprint Posting on bioRxiv”

I want to create alternatives to traditional publishers. What platform do I use?

After launching Flockademic, a service to help researchers start alternatives to the traditional publishers, one of the most frequent questions I received was: how is it different from Open Journal Systems, the Open Science Framework, arXiv, and other initiatives?

Sometimes it’s easiest to understand a project by comparing it to others. So with that in mind: let’s do a comparison. Continue reading “I want to create alternatives to traditional publishers. What platform do I use?”

“Let the community decide”? The vision and reality of soundness-only peer review in open-access mega-journals


Microtransactions, Blockchain, and the Future of Publishing

While you may not be familiar with the term “Blockchain,” I’m willing to bet you’ve heard of bitcoin. The crypto-currency is getting a lot of attention lately, as some early adopters and investors are seeing massive returns.

Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoin, the system used to secure the currency. Rather than belaboring the details of how Blockchain works, suffice it to say that the system creates a secure ledger for the tracing of individual pieces of content or data. This article from Harvard Business Review goes into more detail – The Truth About Blockchain. Wikipedia also features an extensive and well-sourced entry on Blockchain. Continue reading “Microtransactions, Blockchain, and the Future of Publishing”

Yet Another Turning Point….

As some readers at this place already know , the boring fact is that I started work in the publishing and information industry in October 1967 , and am thus over fifty years as an observer of change in these parts . And , in what some regard as a fifty year dotage , , I am prone to remark that change is the new normal etc etc and pour scorn on the wealthy publisher who I approached for work in 1993 and who replied “ tell me when your digital revolution thing is over and then help me to cope with the next five hundred years of the post-printing world “ . And I quite see the point . Revolutions are not for everyone . And there were comfortable years in my twenties when it seemed possible to believe that Longman ad OUP, Nelson and Macmillan , could go on ruling the post colonial world of school textbook publishing  with nothing more exciting than a revised Latin syllabus to stir the waters of their creativity . Yet in truth the world of print , from the rise of Gutenberg to the fall of the house of Murdoch , has been full of change . It just happens faster and more completely now . Continue reading “Yet Another Turning Point….”

Making Peer Review More Open

Traditional peer review relies on anonymous reviewers to thoughtfully assess and critique an author’s work. The idea is that blind review makes the evaluation process more fair and impartial–but many scholars have questioned whether this is always the case. Open review has the potential to make scholarship more transparent and more collaborative. It also makes it easier for researchers to get credit for the work they do reviewing the scholarship of their peers. Publishers in both the sciences and the humanities and social sciences have been experimenting with open review for almost two decades now, but it is only recently that open review seems to have reached a tipping point. So what exactly is open review, and what does it entail? Continue reading “Making Peer Review More Open”

An Open Letter to the Community from PLOS CEO, Alison Mudditt

As the new PLOS CEO, I’ve spent my first months assessing the organization and planning for a thriving future. We are in the midst of shaping our next innovative steps in pursuit of maximal openness and transparency in research communication, and assessing what changes we need to make as an organization. Some of these changes will likely go unnoticed outside of PLOS. Others may cause speculation. For clarity and transparency’s sake, I’ve chosen to write an open letter to the communities PLOS serves, so we can encourage open dialogue and so that you can share in our continuing evolution. Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Community from PLOS CEO, Alison Mudditt”

Breaking Down Barriers: Search and Knowledge

One of the perpetual challenges academics must address in publishing their work is the paywall. Yes, organizations like Elsevier add value to the work through proofreading, peer review, and copyediting; but that value comes at a steep cost. Because companies that supply the means of production do so for profit, academic material like research papers, dissertation, and other knowledge-driven content becomes a commodity for sale. Continue reading “Breaking Down Barriers: Search and Knowledge”

Unrestricted Text and Data Mining with allofPLOS

Content mining, machine learning, text and data mining (TDM) and data analytics all refer to the process of obtaining information through machine-read material. Faster than a human possibly could, machine-learning approaches can analyze data, metadata and text content; find structural similarities between research problems in unrelated fields; and synthesize content from thousands of articles to suggest directions for further research explorations. In consideration of the continually expanding volume of peer-reviewed literature, the value of TDM should not be underappreciated. Text and data mining is a useful tool for developing new scientific insights and new ways to understand the story told by the published literature. Continue reading “Unrestricted Text and Data Mining with allofPLOS”

PLOS Channels Provide Opportunity for Discovery, Exploration and Contextual Insights

Last month, the new PLOS Cholera Channel joined existing Veterans Disability & Rehabilitation Research, Tuberculosis and Open Source Toolkit Channels in providing distinct and cohesive scholarly homes for research communities. These innovative forums increase the visibility of curated, quality research and reliable news and commentary, bridging a gap in relevance that contributes to public misunderstanding of research.

The Channels Program launched with Veterans Disability & Rehabilitation Research (VDRR), and as Veterans Day in the US approaches it’s an opportunity to take a moment to relay the channels origin story, highlight the latest content and re-introduce the editors behind this program. Continue reading “PLOS Channels Provide Opportunity for Discovery, Exploration and Contextual Insights”

The Scholarship Monopoly

No I don’t mean the game we all played as kids with railroads and hotels and a questionable gentleman in a top hat.

Scholarship monopoly is a very serious concern for academics of all sorts. Really, any monopoly is a concern in any kind of business or industry. It’s a given that competition helps us grow, inspires us to try harder, and pushes the best ideas and products to the fore. Academia is slightly different, in that competition is more about comparing and checking theories and ideas with peers. Rather than directly competing with each other, academics work off each other to verify data and draw conclusions.

So where does the monopoly come into this?

The publishers of academic content, those responsible in a large part for disseminating academic findings and pairing academics with peer reviewers. But what if those publishing were concentrated into a very few, for profit companies? The potential for a monopoly arises.

This is exactly the current dilemma academic publishing is in. Much like the traditional publishing industry, academic publishing is dominated by a “Big 5” group of publishers, accounting for almost 50% of all academic publishing per year.

To get a more complete understanding of the academic publishing and dissemination lifecycle, let’s first break down the stages of this process:

  1. Research
  2. Publishing
  3. Evaluation

Research is the meat of the content creation process, and rests entirely with the academic—be it a professor, researcher, or student. The individual finds and evaluates data, forms a hypothesis, and gathers their conclusions to form their content.

With content gathered, the publishing process begins. Traditionally, this involves sending the content to a publisher, who has a staff of editors and designers to layout and prepare the content. What begins as data ends up a fully formed paper or even a book. In most instances, the content creator is detached from this step.

Finally, the content in it’s completed form is evaluated by other academics. Once the content is deemed as complete by peer reviewers, it becomes a part of the greater body of academic work. Student’s learn from it, professors teach from it. The content takes a place among all other academic material.

The problem academia faces stems from the handling of this three-stage process. From From the “Knowledge Gap” project:

“At first sight, there is an obvious concern of a conflict of interest. This is especially true when the supplier of academic journals is also in charge of evaluating and validating research quality and impact (eg: pure, plum analytics, Sci Val), identifying academic experts to direct to potential employers (eg: Expert Lookup), managing the research networking platforms through which to collaborate (eg: SSRN, Hivebench, Mendeley), managing the infrastructure through which to find funding (eg: plum X, Mendeley, Sci Val), and controlling the platforms through which to analyze and store your data (Eg: Hivebench, Mendeley).”

The acknowledgement is that companies like Elsevier have begun to rebrand themselves as Analytics tools for the gathering and dissemination of academic knowledge materials, distancing themselves from the strictly publishing oriented role they previously focused upon. Because Elsevier (and the other large academic publishers) owns a disproportionate amount of the existing publications of academic value, they are well positioned to capitalize on this content by offering increased analytical data from this content. But the control over such a portion of the academic content creates a monopoly, limits competition, and provides academics no real choice other than to buy into the monopoly.

Glasstree is but one of many alternatives to the traditional academic publishing and review mechanism. I am not writing this piece today as an advertisement for Glasstree in specific terms, as we often have in the past. What’s more important is to acknowledge the process of academic publishing and the stranglehold large academic publishers, under the guise of “Information Analytics Companies” and residing behind a paywall, have on the availability of knowledge.

There have been and continue to be pockets of opposition to the academic publishing model, but the cost of avoiding the mainstream publishing methods is steep. Academics find themselves without the needed means of reviewing and disseminating their data, trapped outside the broader field of knowledge. Research and data published outside of traditional means have a perceived lack of credibility.

Coupled with the reduced cost of digital printing and the connectivity of modern communications tools, the means and costs of academic publishing should be plummeting, while the openness and access to materials should be broader than ever. This is not the case, and one possible (if not likely) cause is the grip large academic publishers have on the entire process. Anytime so much data is concentrated with so few entities, the risk of monopoly is great. This data is crucial, as it represents the broad knowledge of all of academia.

As one of many alternatives to the currently accepted academic normal, Glasstree wholeheartedly encourages all researchers, students, and educators to carefully consider their options when disseminating their knowledge, and to take any opportunity they can to break from the normal models with self-publishing, independent reviews, and institution based printing.

The independent publishing revolution has slowly asserted itself on the traditional publishing industry; now it is widely considered a formidable adversary of the old publishing model, and the publishers of years’ past are scrambling to take on digital printing tools to remain competitive. Academia can learn from this despite their differing needs. The financializing of academic publishing will not stop now that it has proven to be profitable. As such, academia must adapt if the individuals and institutions hope to maintain the standards for their work and to prevent the overwhelming monopoly traditional academic publishers, under their new moniker “Information Analytics Companies,” are quickly attaining.




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