Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Scientific journal


Most researchers acknowledge an intrinsic hierarchy in the scholarly journals (“journal rank”) that they submit their work to, and adjust not only their submission but also their reading strategies accordingly. On the other hand, much has been written about the negative effects of institutionalizing journal rank as an impact measure. So far, contributions to the debate concerning the limitations of journal rank as a scientific impact assessment tool have either lacked data, or relied on only a few studies. In this review, we present the most recent and pertinent data on the consequences of our current scholarly communication system with respect to various measures of scientific quality (such as utility/citations, methodological soundness, expert ratings or retractions). These data corroborate previous hypotheses: using journal rank as an assessment tool is bad scientific practice. Moreover, the data lead us to argue that any journal rank (not only the currently-favored Impact Factor) would have this negative impact. Therefore, we suggest that abandoning journals altogether, in favor of a library-based scholarly communication system, will ultimately be necessary. This new system will use modern information technology to vastly improve the filter, sort and discovery functions of the current journal system.

Concepts: Scientific method, Logic, Impact factor, Scientific journal, Technology, Journal, Kurt Cobain, PageRank


Clarity and accuracy of reporting are fundamental to the scientific process. Readability formulas can estimate how difficult a text is to read. Here, in a corpus consisting of 709,577 abstracts published between 1881 and 2015 from 123 scientific journals, we show that the readability of science is steadily decreasing. Our analyses show that this trend is indicative of a growing use of general scientific jargon. These results are concerning for scientists and for the wider public, as they impact both the reproducibility and accessibility of research findings.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mathematics, Science, Research, Impact factor, Scientific journal, Falsifiability, Pseudoscience


The assessment of scientific publications is an integral part of the scientific process. Here we investigate three methods of assessing the merit of a scientific paper: subjective post-publication peer review, the number of citations gained by a paper, and the impact factor of the journal in which the article was published. We investigate these methods using two datasets in which subjective post-publication assessments of scientific publications have been made by experts. We find that there are moderate, but statistically significant, correlations between assessor scores, when two assessors have rated the same paper, and between assessor score and the number of citations a paper accrues. However, we show that assessor score depends strongly on the journal in which the paper is published, and that assessors tend to over-rate papers published in journals with high impact factors. If we control for this bias, we find that the correlation between assessor scores and between assessor score and the number of citations is weak, suggesting that scientists have little ability to judge either the intrinsic merit of a paper or its likely impact. We also show that the number of citations a paper receives is an extremely error-prone measure of scientific merit. Finally, we argue that the impact factor is likely to be a poor measure of merit, since it depends on subjective assessment. We conclude that the three measures of scientific merit considered here are poor; in particular subjective assessments are an error-prone, biased, and expensive method by which to assess merit. We argue that the impact factor may be the most satisfactory of the methods we have considered, since it is a form of pre-publication review. However, we emphasise that it is likely to be a very error-prone measure of merit that is qualitative, not quantitative.

Concepts: Scientific method, Academic publishing, Assessment, Psychometrics, Peer review, Impact factor, Scientific journal, Open access


In the past few years there has been an ongoing debate as to whether the proliferation of open access (OA) publishing would damage the peer review system and put the quality of scientific journal publishing at risk. Our aim was to inform this debate by comparing the scientific impact of OA journals with subscription journals, controlling for journal age, the country of the publisher, discipline and (for OA publishers) their business model.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Peer review, Scientific journal, Publishing, Open access


Inaccurate data in scientific papers can result from honest error or intentional falsification. This study attempted to determine the percentage of published papers that contain inappropriate image duplication, a specific type of inaccurate data. The images from a total of 20,621 papers published in 40 scientific journals from 1995 to 2014 were visually screened. Overall, 3.8% of published papers contained problematic figures, with at least half exhibiting features suggestive of deliberate manipulation. The prevalence of papers with problematic images has risen markedly during the past decade. Additional papers written by authors of papers with problematic images had an increased likelihood of containing problematic images as well. As this analysis focused only on one type of data, it is likely that the actual prevalence of inaccurate data in the published literature is higher. The marked variation in the frequency of problematic images among journals suggests that journal practices, such as prepublication image screening, influence the quality of the scientific literature.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Science, Peer review, Literature, Scientific journal, Publishing, Open access, Scientific literature


In August 2015, the publisher Springer retracted 64 articles from 10 different subscription journals “after editorial checks spotted fake email addresses, and subsequent internal investigations uncovered fabricated peer review reports,” according to a statement on their website.(1) The retractions came only months after BioMed Central, an open-access publisher also owned by Springer, retracted 43 articles for the same reason. “This is officially becoming a trend,” Alison McCook wrote on the blog Retraction Watch, referring to the increasing number of retractions due to fabricated peer reviews.(2) Since it was first reported 3 years ago, when South Korean researcher Hyung-in Moon admitted . . .

Concepts: Scientific method, Academic publishing, Peer review, Review, Scientific journal, Publishing, Open access, Retraction


Journal policy on research data and code availability is an important part of the ongoing shift toward publishing reproducible computational science. This article extends the literature by studying journal data sharing policies by year (for both 2011 and 2012) for a referent set of 170 journals. We make a further contribution by evaluating code sharing policies, supplemental materials policies, and open access status for these 170 journals for each of 2011 and 2012. We build a predictive model of open data and code policy adoption as a function of impact factor and publisher and find higher impact journals more likely to have open data and code policies and scientific societies more likely to have open data and code policies than commercial publishers. We also find open data policies tend to lead open code policies, and we find no relationship between open data and code policies and either supplemental material policies or open access journal status. Of the journals in this study, 38% had a data policy, 22% had a code policy, and 66% had a supplemental materials policy as of June 2012. This reflects a striking one year increase of 16% in the number of data policies, a 30% increase in code policies, and a 7% increase in the number of supplemental materials policies. We introduce a new dataset to the community that categorizes data and code sharing, supplemental materials, and open access policies in 2011 and 2012 for these 170 journals.

Concepts: Scientific method, Evaluation, Academic publishing, Science, Scientific journal, Publishing, Open source, Open content


The Internet has transformed scholarly publishing, most notably, by the introduction of open access publishing. Recently, there has been a rise of online journals characterized as ‘predatory’, which actively solicit manuscripts and charge publications fees without providing robust peer review and editorial services. We carried out a cross-sectional comparison of characteristics of potential predatory, legitimate open access, and legitimate subscription-based biomedical journals.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Peer review, Scientific journal, Internet, Open source, Open content, Open access, Preprint


The body of science evaluating the potential impacts of unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) has grown significantly in recent years, although many data gaps remain. Still, a broad empirical understanding of the impacts is beginning to emerge amidst a swell of research. The present categorical assessment provides an overview of the peer-reviewed scientific literature from 2009-2015 as it relates to the potential impacts of UNGD on public health, water quality, and air quality. We have categorized all available original research during this time period in an attempt to understand the weight and direction of the scientific literature. Our results indicate that at least 685 papers have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals that are relevant to assessing the impacts of UNGD. 84% of public health studies contain findings that indicate public health hazards, elevated risks, or adverse health outcomes; 69% of water quality studies contain findings that indicate potential, positive association, or actual incidence of water contamination; and 87% of air quality studies contain findings that indicate elevated air pollutant emissions and/or atmospheric concentrations. This paper demonstrates that the weight of the findings in the scientific literature indicates hazards and elevated risks to human health as well as possible adverse health outcomes associated with UNGD. There are limitations to this type of assessment and it is only intended to provide a snapshot of the scientific knowledge based on the available literature. However, this work can be used to identify themes that lie in or across studies, to prioritize future research, and to provide an empirical foundation for policy decisions.

Concepts: Scientific method, Epidemiology, Human, Academic publishing, Science, Research, Peer review, Scientific journal


Despite growing interest in Open Access (OA) to scholarly literature, there is an unmet need for large-scale, up-to-date, and reproducible studies assessing the prevalence and characteristics of OA. We address this need using oaDOI, an open online service that determines OA status for 67 million articles. We use three samples, each of 100,000 articles, to investigate OA in three populations: (1) all journal articles assigned a Crossref DOI, (2) recent journal articles indexed in Web of Science, and (3) articles viewed by users of Unpaywall, an open-source browser extension that lets users find OA articles using oaDOI. We estimate that at least 28% of the scholarly literature is OA (19M in total) and that this proportion is growing, driven particularly by growth in Gold and Hybrid. The most recent year analyzed (2015) also has the highest percentage of OA (45%). Because of this growth, and the fact that readers disproportionately access newer articles, we find that Unpaywall users encounter OA quite frequently: 47% of articles they view are OA. Notably, the most common mechanism for OA is not Gold, Green, or Hybrid OA, but rather an under-discussed category we dub Bronze: articles made free-to-read on the publisher website, without an explicit Open license. We also examine the citation impact of OA articles, corroborating the so-called open-access citation advantage: accounting for age and discipline, OA articles receive 18% more citations than average, an effect driven primarily by Green and Hybrid OA. We encourage further research using the free oaDOI service, as a way to inform OA policy and practice.

Concepts: Academic publishing, Peer review, Impact factor, Scientific journal, Open source, Open content, Open access, Citation index