Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Sarah Hewitt

This week, we learn that eLife has developed a new system to ‘referee’ preprints and that several organizations have pledged to help smaller publishers to transition to open access. We also hear from a Global Publications Director, learn about the perils of PubMed searches and examine gender bias in the peer review system. Finally, we look at the steps that authors can take to keep data from predatory journals out of systematic reviews.

eLife to introduce ‘refereed’ preprints via eLife | 3-minute read

The journal eLife is introducing a new system to peer review preprints. Preprints are invaluable for the rapid dissemination of scientific information and have been particularly important during the pandemic. However, there have been growing concerns over the validity of papers that are yet to be peer reviewed. eLife will now facilitate the assessment of preprints on medRxiv by clinicians and clinician-investigators to enable readers to understand the impact and implications of the research.

Support for independent publishers to transition to open access via cOAlition S | 1-minute read

In response to a recent report by Information Power, several organizations have pledged to support small independent publishers in their transition to open access publishing models. The agreement hopes to minimize the complexity and maximize the efficiency of open access transitions by small publishers. Signatories include the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, Center for Research Libraries, cOAlition S, the Efficiency and Standards for Article Charges initiative, Jisc, LYRASIS and Open Access 2020.

Perspectives from a publications planner via The Publication Plan | 9-minute read

Global Publications Director at AstraZeneca Lucy Turner discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on publication schedules, data sharing and congresses. Lucy advocates a hybrid approach to congresses, with virtual elements continuing after the pandemic as well as increasing digital innovation and reforming poster layouts. She would also like to see the continued use of machine-readable content to facilitate data mining as well as more moderation and monitoring of preprint platforms.

The perils of PubMed via McGill Office for Science and Society | 4-minute read

The McGill Office for Science and Society has a mission to separate sense from nonsense, promote critical thinking and tackle fake news. This piece urges caution when searching for information in PubMed because indexing in this ubiquitous academic database does not guarantee that an indexed article is trustworthy. In fact, articles from predatory journals are often present in the database, as are papers concerning purely theoretical medical hypotheses and other low-quality studies. The authors remind us that reliable science comes from an accumulation of evidence from rigorous concurring studies.

Gender bias not found in the peer review system via The Publication Plan | 2-minute read

A study of 145 scholarly journals published in Science Advances has indicated that manuscripts submitted or co-authored by women are not generally disadvantaged during the peer review process.

The study looked at differences between the selection of referees, referee recommendations and editorial decisions in studies led by women compared with studies led by men. However, several trends were found, including a tendency for reviews from women to be more positive and articles with a greater proportion of female authors being more likely to be reviewed by women. The article cautions that gender bias may still be present indirectly via factors such as age, ethnicity or institutional prestige.

How to systematically screen predatory journals from systematic reviews via Systematic Reviews | 11-minute read

Systematic reviews risk capturing unreliable data from predatory journals, which may ultimately impact clinical care decisions. Finding no current standard guidelines to manage predatory publications that are eligible for inclusion in systematic reviews, this study proposes a number of steps that authors of systematic reviews can take when handling these articles, including prior detailing of how to deal with studies published in predatory journals and checking to see if the suspect journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.

We at Open Pharma would like to continue to encourage all our readers to look after themselves and their community and to continue to follow advice from their country’s government and health organizations.

Coronavirus mental health and well-being resources:

Mind UK

Mental Health Foundation UK

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention