'F1000' Will Make Science Faster and Transparent
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of RealClearScience.
"Science news" is never actually new. When scientists publish a new scientific discovery, that discovery is at least several months old. It has gone through a long and anonymous review process that is meant to check and improve published research, but often ends up holding back the dissemination of new research. F1000Research is on a mission to change this system, and make scientific publishing faster and more transparent.
Who Decides What Gets Published?
Before a manuscript is published in the academic literature, it will have undergone a lengthy selection and revision process. The first step for scientists is usually to find a journal that will publish their work. Many journals only accept those papers that they think will have the highest impact on the science community. Good scientific papers without that thrilling high impact finding will have a hard time getting published. This leads to a publication bias favoring the “sexy” or “contentious” studies over scientifically sound, but perhaps less glamorous, findings.
To remove part of the publication bias issue, open access journals such as PLOS ONE decided to ask reviewers not to judge the importance of the work, but rather focus on whether the work is scientifically sound, well described, and adheres to ethical standards.
Peer Review Delays
After scientists send their manuscript to a journal, an editor will decide whether it’s a good fit for the journal, and – if it is – will then send the manuscript off to other researchers working in the same field, who act as peer reviewers. They might ask the authors to make changes to the manuscript or propose additional experiments to support the findings. Once the peer reviewers approve, and the editor agrees, the manuscript is published.
Although it is important to have other researchers check each article, the traditional peer reviewing process delays scientific progress by holding back publications. Authors of a paper under review are often presented with a long list of things that need improving, or worse, a letter from the editor saying that the paper has been rejected. This leads to lengthy revisions, the need for extra experiments, or completely starting the submission process again with another journal. It doesn’t help that the peer review process happens entirely behind closed doors, and the authors of the article (and ultimately the readers) don’t know who their reviewers were. It leaves very little incentive for reviewers to do a good job.
Transparent Peer Review, After Publication
To solve these issues, F1000Research has developed a new way of publishing science. By using a combination of immediate publication, transparent refereeing, removal of editorial bias, and inclusion of all supporting data, this model enables the scientific community to have all the information they need to properly evaluate new scientific findings, and allows research to be published much faster.
Rather than waiting several months for peer reviewers to critique the article and the authors to respond and make changes, F1000Research publishes manuscripts immediately after a brief in-house check (to ensure the manuscript is meeting ethical and editorial requirements). The peer review process then happens after the paper has been published: F1000Research invites expert reviewers, but doesn’t keep them anonymous. The reviews, along with the names and affiliations of the reviewers, are published alongside the paper.
After peer review, authors can create an independently citable new version of their article, to accommodate referee suggestions, revisions, and updates to their work. The new version is accompanied by an update box, which tells the readers what has changed from the previous version. Once an article passes peer review, it will be open access and indexed in scholarly databases, such as PubMed, giving the article a much larger audience.
Publishing All Research Data
Like PLOS ONE, F1000Research publishes all sound science. Sharing all new findings, including negative or null results, may save millions of dollars in wasted effort caused by studies being repeatedly conducted because they weren’t considered newsworthy enough to be published, not to mention the potential to save lives from the rapid sharing of new discoveries, regardless of outcome.
To further improve the sharing of new discoveries, F1000Research also asks authors to share the underlying data that they used to create the figures in their paper. By making the data available, researchers, referees and readers can access the data, check it, reuse it, and pave the way for more reliable scientific reporting.
By creating a fully transparent way of publishing, F1000Research is determined to take science publishing one step further: to Open Science.