Reactions to "Science" OA piece top our week in review

[September 30-October 4, 2013] The editor’s note about your science week

Today, a news story published in the journal Science has caused an uproar in the open access community. MyScienceWork joins its voice to those calling it a flawed piece of sensationalism. Also on the menu this week: months-long strikes plague students in Nigeria; turning to cancer cells to learn about our chances of immortality; and learning French with the Italian mafia, in the latest episdoe of Knock Knock Doc.

Today, a story published in the journal Science has caused an uproar in the open access community. The article in question – a news story, not a piece of scientific research – revolves around a false pharmacological study whose author does not even exist. In the context of an investigation of practices in open access publishing, the journalist submitted the fraudulent manuscript to several hundred OA journals. It was accepted for publication by around half of those that responded, despite the obvious flaws.

Predatory publishers exist in the realm of open access, yes. But from there to saying that peer review does not work in the open access system? No! That logic is as flawed as the imaginary study at the center of the Science story. PLOS ONE, for example, a publication of the leaders in gold OA publishing, did indeed reject what was a submission with serious problems. The same cannot always be said for traditional (subscription-based) publishers. Anyone who remembers the “arsenic life” study that passed Science’s own peer review process in 2011 will see why. But the comparison between the two systems is impossible to make in this latest case as only open access journals – and no traditional publications – were under scrutiny.

Still, there are lessons, already acknowledged, but now confirmed by this story, that should be taken from this. The publishing community does need stronger mechanisms to identify reliable and rigorous OA journals and publishers and to strengthen its process of open access peer review. Subjects that should feature prominently in discussions round the world during the quickly approaching International Open Access Week.

For more reactions to the Science news piece see:

OASPA’s response to the recent article in Science entitled “Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?”

Open access publishing hoax: what Science magazine got wrong

I confess, I wrote the Arsenic DNA paper to expose flaws in peer-review at subscription based journals

Back to your regularly scheduled weekly wrap-up!

Before this questionable investigation of open access publishing came to light, MyScienceWork was busy with several other subjects.

Did you know, for example, that for three months Nigeria’s academic system has been plagued by strikes, with students’ education as its principal victim. Is it a necessary evil for the greater good, or all about money? Clio Bayle got in touch with local Nigerians to find out.

Three months in, university strike in Nigeria threatens students’ future

The University of Ibadan, the oldest in Nigeria, has interrupted its final semester
Source: Wikipedia Commons

The troubled educational system in Nigeria, unfortunately, encourages many academics and professionals to leave the country. Moving abroad can, of course, mean learning a new language. This is the subject of the thesis work of Laura Nicolas, the star of episode 2 of the new season of Knock Knock Doc. She studies the methods that let language teachers and learners surpass their traditional roles in the classroom to arrive at even better results. Learn about Laura and her work in:

Knock Knock Doc – Episode 2 # Season 2: Easy Rider


Lastly, if you had all the time in the world, what would you do? Learn a new language? Travel the world? For that matter, how likely are we to ever significantly extend the human lifetime and find the time to catch up on the last five seasons of Breaking Bad? James Bowers, a PhD student at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris explores the question, venturing into the world of the immortal – cancer cells – to ask if we can ever hope to possess the same power. It’s a tricky situation, as James explains. One might even call it:

Immortality: the Catch-22


Have a great weekend,

The MyScienceWork Team