– the scholarly peer review platform – has launched , a reviewer search and matchmaking tool to enable journal editors to confidently and reliably find, screen, and connect with reviewers. The AI-powered technology combines Publons’ cross-publisher peer review platform of more than 400k reviewers with Web of Science – the world’s largest curated author and citation database to deliver a high number of precise recommendations from more than seven million authors.
Clarivate Analytics has announced the acquisition of Publons, and its leading global platform for researchers to share, discuss and receive recognition for peer review and editing of academic research
At the splendid Publishers Forum meeting in Berlin last month , I had the pleasure of chairing a panel that included the CEO , Mark van Mierle , of veteran education publisher Cornelsen . Our panel was looking at Virtual and Augmented Reality , so it seemed natural to ask why his company was making a significant investment in these technologies . After reminding me that it was an area in which they thought they could make money , and that it took them away from failed or failing product lines in print textbooks and re-orientated them towards the service economy of education , he refocused us on another truth . Every now and then , he said , we need to rebadge and rebrand , so markets see us differently and the sort of people we want to employ are more likely to be attracted to us . With this valuable lens firmly in place , the two important acquisitions in scholarly communications that have taken place this week take on a new importance . Neither deal moves the graph of market size or share : both have huge significance for the market and the companies concerned .
It is always refreshing and slightly shocking when one’s wishes come true . When I wrote in this blog about Colwiz and Wizdom.ai in February that” As I left their Oxford offices the most frequent thought in my head was “why hasn’t a publisher invested and acquired this yet!” http://www.davidworlock.com/2017/02/, I suppose I was father to a thought that had already crossed the minds of others . But Taylor and Francis have made a really valuable acquisition here , and one that puts them into the forefront of the emerging service economy . A collaborative research platform ( Colwiz – collective wizdom ) backed by a prototype big data environment for using artificial intelligence and machine learning in discovery and categorisation of results represents a five year forward programme of service derivation and development for T&F , while Colwiz will benefit hugely from the widely differing range of HSS and STM communities within T&F as the experimental base of their work . The usual messages apply of course : start-ups are tender plants , and grow best when managed less . Keeping inventive minds happy in process driven companies can be tough etc etc
But at the moment this is an event to celebrate . Rebadging T&F is long overdue . In former management contexts T&F was the milch cow that went on giving , but as academic research marketplaces change , content as data becomes commoditised , researchers cannot keep pace with the global rate of research reporting, more and more machine reading is needed to keep the map of what is known current and valuable , and companies like T&F have to re-invest and reposition . As a company currently with without a CEO and caught in a swirl of private equity supposition about its own collaborative future , this announcement must be hugely re-assuring to staff and researchers alike : Informa clearly have a plan for asset enhancement and are driving the company towards the future or research marketplaces .
Meanwhile , another staple of the industry is signalling its determination to rebuild and refocus . The Science side of Clarivate Analytics , based around Web of Science , was a famous Thomson Reuters cash cow . When Thomson bought ISI three decades ago , the ideas of Eugene Garfield and the use of the impact factor were already industry standards . While all sorts of evolutionary changes took place along the way ( Scholar One , Web of Science etc ) no one fundamentally wanted to rethink the model for research in a digital , networked research community , and one where library budgets were under huge pressure . And although many librarians felt that Web of Science was a cornerstone acquisition , as soon as alternative metrics became available and grant-funding bodies became uneasy that the impact factor was too narrow a guage , the pressure began to be felt to develop a response. Yet the attractions of the business model and the thought that they might divest seems to have slowed the thinking , so it is wonderful now to see Clarivate , under new ownership , new management and with a lively board of non-executive thinkers , getting stuck into change with the announcement , today , of the acquisition of Publons .
Peer review , once regarded as the last bastion of publisher control of journal publishing , has itself become a contentious area of activity . Set aside the questioning of pre-publication reviews , the suppression of ground-breaking work by self-interested elites , and the ” fake reviews ” issues . Think about the huge value of post-publication reviewing , the adherence of both Gates and Wellcome to F1000, and the continued growth of blogging and social media commentary around the scholarly workflow , from idea generation to post publication. Publons is the leading exponent of concentrating the gamut of critical input around scholarly communication and creating a reference environment within which all of this material can be shared . Of course , Publons could not exist isf we had not made huge strides – Orcid , Cross-Ref etc – in categorising authors , articles , and contributions within the network . But all of the enablers post-date the impact factor . If Clarivate is to re-establish itself as the value register of record then this is just the type of acquisition it must make . Its neutral position – Thomson sold its journals via Wolters Kluwer to Springer many years ago – is vital here , and a move of this type gives renewed faith that the job can yet be done . Certainly researchers yearn for the certainty that the impact factor once delivered .
And lets conclude where we started . Two important industry players who once appeared to be playing behind their strengths have re-asserted themselves this week .This sends a clear signal to researchers , markets , and above all to the young staff they will need to employ . We still do not know if , as was mooted in the Saale process , Calarivate Analytics will split , withe the patents data business going in a different direction to the Science business . But we do know that the Clarivate Science management , and the T&F management , are in a determined mood to rebuild their positions , which makes this one of the most re-assuring weeks in STM this year .
In just a few short years, Publons membership has reached more than 80,000, comprising of researchers, editors, and publishers, and by December 2016, that number rose to a solid 100,000 expert reviewers! At present, they currently have over 150,000 researchers. The company recognizes that not all reviewers are equally dedicated to the process, so recognition might help them feel more attached to their assignment. To this end, Publons has invited editors to rate the reviewers using a four-point scale and to provide written remarks. Those with excellent scores are recognized with a gold star on their individual profiles, which can be used as a selling point of their skills in a particular field of study. Written remarks can also be good training tools to improve performance and determine what editors deem important. With continuous feedback from all involved, Publons intends to continue increasing the ways by which researchers, editors, authors, and publishers interact.
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A scientist’s fairy tale might go something like this: gather enough significant data, publish your paper, the end. However, far from a simple ‘happily ever after’, the story of what happens between the collection of great data and publication is far more complex.
First-time authors are usually a bit naïve, thinking the publication process is going to be quick and easy as long as they target the right journal and their paper is well written. But once you discover peer review and the struggle to publish, you realize that having gathered your data was actually only the beginning. I’m in the middle of the
process myself right now.
I know that some of the papers I read are old news by the time they reach me. No one would read the news with months of delay, but that’s what we scientists do.
Even before submission, you may have lengthy discussions with your co-authors, because suddenly everyone claims that they deserve a better spot than you on the authors list. Once you have agreed on the details of authorship and submitted your paper, you start the lengthy and complicated process of peer review.
I’m not an expert on peer review or an editor. I’m just a frustrated scientist. Getting published is essential to building a career and it’s not easy. It is frustrating to know that my research won’t be published for months. I know that some of the papers I read are old news by the time they reach me. No one would read the news with months of delay, but that’s what we scientists do.
Science often uses state-of-the-art modern technologies, yet the publishing process hasn’t changed in decades. It is subject to numerous flaws, so in the following I am going to concentrate on the ones that stood out for me – as a non-expert in publishing – in the discussions at #SpotOn2016.
- Single-blinded peer review: with this type of peer review, the names of the reviewers are hidden from the authors (the authors are ‘blinded’ to the reviewers’ identities) but the reviewers know who the authors are. A potential issue could be that some reviewers may see the authors as competition and thus review a
paper more harshly than may be warranted. This may lead to an unfair disadvantage for the authors based on things like the history between ‘competing’ labs. A way around that would be either double-blinded peer review (where both reviewers and authors remain anonymous) or, even better, open peer review where reviewers are not anonymous and their comments are openly available. But open peer review comes with problems of its own. For example, a junior scientist might not feel comfortable reviewing a more senior scientist’s work if they know that their name is going to be published alongside their review.
- Incentive to review: Many reviewers make an effort to judge manuscripts honestly and on merit. However, peer review is a lot of work and reviewers don’t get rewarded for it. Initiatives like Publons are trying to change that.
- Early-career researchers and peer review: Meanwhile, early career researchers who may make great reviewers don’t get invited to review because they are not known by editors as experts in their field. These issues suggest that a system change may be in order – not just changes to peer review itself but also to how peer
reviewers, authors and their work are evaluated.
A junior scientist might not feel comfortable reviewing a more senior scientist’s work if they know that their name is going to be published alongside their review.
These changes involve all of us and #SpotOn2016 was a great opportunity to share ideas on how this could be achieved. For me personally, it also opened my eyes to the fact that other people are struggling with the publishing process too – and in many different ways.
Before I came to #SpotOn2016, I hadn’t realized how many people were already working on new initiatives such as Authorea, Overleaf and Paperhive, to improve peer review and publishing, and to facilitate collaboration between researchers.
Change may not happen overnight but it certainly feels like it’s coming.
As a first step towards that change, I would like to see double-blinded review introduced as standard so I wouldn’t feel I was being judged based on my boss’s, my colleague’s or my name but rather on the work I present in the paper I submit. Maybe a change like that could lead the way towards more complex changes. Also, maybe publishers could find ways of allowing researchers to apply to be reviewers, so that junior scientists not yet known to the editors would be given the opportunity to become reviewers.
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