Science Communication: Self-Publishing's Benefits

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Science  06 Dec 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6163, pp. 1169-1170
DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6163.1169-c

The News story “The seer of science publishing” (T. Rabesandratana, special section on Communication in Science, 4 October, p. 66) draws attention to F1000Research, a journal offering immediate publication with post-publication peer review and revision.

The idea of post-publication review is not new. Fifteen years ago I launched naturalSCIENCE (http://naturalscience.com), which offered free online publication of original research with post-publication comment. However, scientists were reluctant to contribute and publicly comment. If thinking has changed, I see little necessity for publishers or publication fees. All that is required is a science-friendly blog platform that handles scientific notation and math, edits tables, and forces standardized formatting of references. Volunteered peer reviews could be handled with standard blog comment machinery; reviewers could be required to establish their bona fides by making their identities and scientific resumés publicly available. If revised, earlier drafts could remain available for the benefit of those interested in following the development of the paper.

However, most scientists currently still depend for advancement on publishing in high-impact journals that, whatever one may think of citations analysis, undoubtedly attract the majority of the better papers and do a great deal more than most low-impact journals to add value through reviewing, fact checking, copyediting, graphics editing, table editing, and rewriting.

If it emerges at all, science self-publishing seems unlikely to have great impact on top journals but will divert content from the proliferating multitude of low-impact journals. Such a development could have many benefits, such as a reduction in cost of science communication; a leak-proof channel for the immediate announcement of breakthrough results; a convenient means for the dissemination of negative results; the opportunity for novice scientists to receive a wider range of advice and criticism than they could expect from the perfunctory review process used by marginal commercial journals; and a means for reviewers to receive recognition for ideas or information disclosed in the course of a review.

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