Scientific, technical and medical (STM) journals have a special place in the overall progress of research. These publications bring groundbreaking findings to the public and to the various research groups operating around the world. With this important role come some needs and requirements. If the primary organ of science is beset by problems, knowledge will suffer overall. It's up to leaders within the scholarly journal world to ensure their products meet their potential and act as ideal conduits for data. This could mean embracing the new tech breakthroughs that have come to the field in recent years. E-journals could be a cornerstone of improved research.
Pushing for transparency
Nature recently presented the results of a study by the American Society for Cell Biology members that focused on scientists' experiences using peers' information. The respondents noted that it is often difficult to work with data produced by their peers and reproduce their experiments. This is uniquely bad news, because duplicating experiments is an integral part of good scientific practices. The source explained that now, reproducing results often involves contacting the scientists who performed a study. Improved procedures in publishing, including the implementation of standard reporting procedures, could eliminate this disruptive step and speed up the process of confirming and testing peer work across scientific disciplines.
"Science is messy, and publications should reflect this."
In terms of the actual mechanics of publishing research results, Nature reported that the ASCB document is in favor of diminishing the emphasis placed on causing an impact and replacing it with a focus on good, solid studies. The news source quoted microbiologist Arturo Casadevall, who explained that when academic publishers become too intent on releasing findings that have flashy results, they may be over-simplifying. He stated that science in its pure form is "messy," and it's important to have publications that reflect this complexity. Honest data presented in a nuanced way is the crux of good STM publishing.
Interactive STM journals could help researchers and publishers in efforts to re-introduce complexity and transparency into science. These electronic publications contain features that are ideally suited to functions such as peer review. For instance, advanced journals today are accessed more like Web pages than static documents, and scientists have the ability to manipulate the data reported by the study authors. Peers interacting with data is one of the major components of the modern scientific process. Building that functionality into the form of an e-journal potentially shortens the path between information's first appearance in literature and its acceptance into the canon.
"Publishing in a citation-friendly digital format can't be bad."
Today's scientific journals, equipped with easy access to facts and figures, are distinctly easy to cite. This is good, because the number of citations earned by a particular publication is a major measure of that publication's worth, according to Forbes contributor Basil Moftah. He explained that with the huge amount of research released every year, it can be hard for researchers and students to determine where to place their own articles. He recommended judging each publication by its fit with the audience the scientist is aiming to reach and the number of times other researchers have cited articles in that journal. If being highly cited is a sign of prestige, publishing in a citation-friendly digital format can't be bad.