Adventures in Signal Processing and Open Science

Tag: publishing

My problem with ResearchGate and Academia.edu

TLDR; you can find my publications in Aalborg University’s repository or ORCID.

ResearchGate – wow, a social network for scientists and researchers you might think. But think again about the ‘wow’. At least I am not so impressed. Here’s why…

I once created a profile on ResearchGate out of curiosity. It initially seemed like a good idea, but I soon realised that this would just add to the list of profile pages I would have to update, sigh. But so far I have kept my profile for fear of missing out. What if others cannot find my publications if I am not on ResearchGate? And so on…

But updating my profile is just the tip of the iceberg. What I find far more problematic about the site is their keen attempts to create a walled garden community. Let me explain what I mean. Take this paper for example (this is not a critique of this paper – in fact I think this is an example of a very interesting paper): One-Bit Compressive Sensing of Dictionary-Sparse Signals by Rich Baraniuk, Simon Foucart, Deanna Needell, Yaniv Plan, and Mary Wootters:

  1. First of all, when you click the link to the paper above you cannot even see it without logging in on ResearchGate.
    “What’s the problem?”, you might think. “ResearchGate is free – just create an account and log in”. But I would argue that open access is not open access if you have to register and log in to read the paper – even if it is free.
  2. Once you log in and can finally see the paper, it turns out that you cannot read the actual paper. This appears to be because the author has not uploaded the full text and ResearchGate displays a button where you can “Request full-text” to ask the author to provide it.
    “Now what?!”, you are thinking. “This is a great service to both readers and authors, making it easy to connect authors to their readers and enabling them to easily give the readers what they are looking for” – wrong! This is a hoax set up up by ResearchGate to convince readers that they are a great benevolent provider of open access literature.

The problem is that the paper is already accessible here: on arXiv – where it should be. ResearchGate has just scraped the paper info from arXiv and are trying to persuade the author to upload it to ResearchGate as well to make it look like ResearchGate is the place to go to read this paper. They could have chosen to simply link to the paper on arXiv, making it easy for readers to find it straight away. But they will not do that, because they want readers to stay inside their walled garden, controlling the information flow to create a false impression that ResearchGate is the only solution.

As if this was not enough, there are yet other reasons to reconsider your membership. For example, they are contributing to journal impact factor abuse-like metric obsession with their ResearchGate score. The problem is that this score is not transparent and not reproducible contributing only to an obsession with numbers driving “shiny” research and encouraging gaming of metrics.

I don’t know about you, but I have had enough – I quit!

…The clever reader has checked and noticed that I have not deleted my ResearchGate profile. Why? Am I just another hypocrite? Look closer – you will notice that the only publication on my profile is a note explaining why I do not wish to use ResearchGate. I think it is better to actively inform about my choice and attack the problem from the inside rather than just staying silently away.

Update 6th of July 2016…

I have now had a closer look at Academia.edu as well and it turns out that they are doing more or less the same, so I have decided to quit this network as well. They do not let you read papers without logging in and they also seem to have papers obviously scraped from arXiv, waiting for the author to upload the full-text version and ignoring the fact that it is available on arXiv. Again, they want to gather everything in-house to make it appear as if they are the rightful gate-keepers of all research.

As I did on ResearchGate as well, I have left my profile on Academia.edu with just a single publication which is basically this blog post (and a publication which is a link to my publications on Aalborg University’s repository.

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Thoughts about Scholarly HTML

The company science.ai is working on a draft standard (or what I guess they hope will eventually become a standard) called Scholarly HTML. The purpose of this seems to be to standardise the way scholarly articles are structured as HTML in order to use that as a more semantic alternative to for example PDF which may look nice but does nothing to help understand the structure of the content, probably more the contrary.
They present their proposed standard in this document. They also seem to have formed a community group at the World Wide Web Consortium. It appears this is not a new initiative. There was already a previous project called Scholarly HTML, but science.ai seem to be trying to help take the idea further from there. Martin Fenner wrote a bit of background story behind the original Scholarly HTML.
I read science.ai’s proposal. It seems like a very promising initiative because it would allow scholarly articles across publishers to be understood better by, not least, algorithms for content mining, automated literature search, recommender systems etc. It would be particularly helpful if all publishers had a common standard for marking up articles and HTML seems a good choice since you only need a web browser to display it. This is also another nice feature about it. I tend to read a lot on my mobile phone and tablet and it really is a pain when the content does not fit the screen. This is often the case with PDF which does not reflow too well in the apps I use for viewing. Here HTML would be much better, not being physical page-focused like PDF.
I started looking at this proposal because it seemed like a natural direction to look further in from my crude preliminary experiments in Publishing Mathematics in e-books.
After reading the proposal, a few questions arose:

  1. The way the formatting of references is described, it seems to me as if references can be of type “schema:Book” or “schema:ScholarlyArticle”. Does this mean that they do not consider a need to cite anything but books or scholarly articles? I know that some people hold the IMO very conservative view that the reference list should only refer to peer-reviewed material, but this is too constrained and I certainly think it will be relevant to cite websites, data sets, source code etc. as well. It should all go into the reference list to make it easier to understand what the background material behind a paper is. This calls for a much richer selection of entry types. For example Biblatex’ entry types could serve as inspiration.
  2. The authors and affiliations section is described here. Author entries are described as having:

    property=”schema:author” or property=”schema:contributor” and a typeof=”sa:ContributorRole”

    I wonder if this way of specifying authors/contributors makes it possible to specify more granular roles or multiple roles for each author like for example Open Research Badges?

  3. Under article structure, they list the following types of sections:

    Sections are expected to be typed using the typeof attribute. The following typeof values are currently understood:

    sa:Funding (which has its specific structure)
    sa:Abstract
    sa:MaterialsAndMethods
    sa:Results
    sa:Conclusion
    sa:Acknowledgements
    sa:ReferenceList

    I think there is a need for more types of sections. I for example also see articles containing Introduction, Analysis, and Discussion sections and I am sure there must be more that I have not thought of.

Comments on “On the marginal cost of scholarly communication”

A new science publisher seems to have appeared recently, or publisher is probably not the right word… science.ai is apparently neither a journal nor a publisher per se. Rather, they seem to be focusing on developing a new publishing platform that provides a modern science publishing solution, built web-native from the bottom up.

The idea feels right and in my opinion, Standard Analytics (the company behind science.ai) could very likely become an important player in a future where I think journals will to a large extent be replaced by recommender systems and where papers can be narrowly categorised by topic rather than by where they were published. Go check out their introduction to their platform afterwards…

A few days ago, I became aware that they had published an article or blog post about “the marginal cost of scholarly communication” in which they examine what it costs as a publisher to publish scientific papers in a web-based format. This is a welcome contribution to the ongoing discussion of what is actually a “fair cost” of open access publishing, considering the very pricey APCs that some publishers charge (see for example Nature Publishing Group). In estimating this marginal cost they define

the minimum requirements for scholarly communication as: 1) submission, 2) management of editorial workflow and peer review, 3) typesetting, 4) DOI registration, and 5) long-term preservation.

They collect data on what these services cost using available vendors of such services and alternatively consider what they would cost if you assume the publisher has software available for performing the typesetting etc. (perhaps they have developed it themselves or have it available as free, open-source software). For the case where the all services are bought from vendors, they find that the marginal cost of publishing a paper is between $69 and $318. For the case where the publisher is assumed to have all necessary software available and basically only needs to pay for server hosting and registration of DOIs, the price is found to be dramatically lower – between $1.36 and $1.61 per paper.

Marginal Cost

This all sounds very interesting, but I found this marginal cost a bit unclear. They define the marginal cost of publishing a paper as follows:

The marginal cost only takes into account the cost of producing one additional scholarly article, therefore excluding fixed costs related to normal business operations.

OK, but here I get in doubt what they categorise as normal business operations. One example apparently is the membership cost to CrossRef for issuing DOIs:

As our focus is on marginal cost, we excluded the membership fee from our calculations.

However, in a box at the end of the article they mention eLife as a specific example:

Based on their 2014 annual report (eLife Sciences, 2014), eLife spent approximately $774,500 on vendor costs (equivalent to 15% of their total expenses). Given that eLife published 800 articles in 2014, their marginal cost of scholarly communication was $968 per article.

I was not able to find the specific amount of $774,500 myself in eLife’s annual report but, assuming it is correct, how do we know whether for example CrossRef membership costs are included in eLife’s vendor costs? If they are, this estimate of eLife’s marginal cost of publication is not comparable to marginal costs calculated in Standard Analytics’ paper as mentioned above.

We could also discuss how relevant the marginal cost is, at least if you are in fact

an agent looking to start an independent, peer-reviewed scholarly journal

I mean, in that situation you are actually looking to start from scratch and have to take all those “fixed costs related to normal business operations” into account…

I should also mention that I have highlighted the quotes above from the paper via hypothes.is here.

Typesetting Solutions

Standard Analytics seem to assume that typesetting will have to include conversion from Microsoft Word, LaTeX etc. and suggest Pandoc as a solution and ast the same time point out that there is a lack of such freely available solutions for those wishing to base their journal on their own software platform. If a prospective journal were to restrict submissions to be in LaTeX format, there are also solutions such as LateXML and ShareLaTeX‘s open source code could be used for this purpose as well. Other interesting solutions are also being developed and I think it is worth keeping an eye on initiatives like PeerJ’s paper-now. Finally, it could also be an idea to simply ask existing free, open-access journals how they handle these things (which I assume they do in a very low-cost way). One example I can think of is the Journal of Machine Learning Research.

Other Opinions

I just became aware that Cameron Neylon also wrote a post: The Marginal Costs of Article Publishing – Critiquing the Standard Analytics Study about Standard Analytics’ paper which I will go and read now…

It’s all about replication

ReScience logoA new journal appeared recently in the scientific publishing landscape: ReScienceannounced at the recent EuroSciPy 2015 conference. The journal has been founded by Nicolas Rougier and Konrad Hinsen. This journal is remarkable in several ways, so remarkable in fact that I could not resist accepting their offer to become associate editor for the journal.

So how does this journal stand out from the crowd? First of all it is about as open as it gets. The entire publishing process is completely transparent – from first submission through review to final publication. Second, the journal platform is based entirely on GitHub, the code repository home to a plethora of open source projects. This is part of what enables the journal to be so open about the entire publishing process. Third, the journal does not actually publish original research – there are plenty of those already. Instead, ReScience focuses entirely on replications of already published computational science.

As has been mentioned by numerous people before me, when dealing with papers based on computational science it is not really enough to review the paper in the classical sense to ensure that the results can be trusted (this not only a problem of computational science, but this is the particular focus of ReScience). Results need to be replicated to validate them and this is what ReScience addresses.

Many of us probably know it: we are working on a new paper of our own and we need to replicate the results of some previous paper that we wish to compare our results against. Except for that comparison, this is essentially lost work after you get your paper published. Others looking at the original paper whose results you replicated may not be aware that anyone replicated these results. Now you can publish the replication of these previous results as well and get credit for it. At the same time you benefit the authors of the original results that you have replicated by helping validate their research.

The process of submitting your work to ReScience is described on their website along with the review process and the roles of editors and reviewers. So if you have replicated someone else’s computational work, go ahead and publish it in ReScience. If it is in the signal processing area I will be happy to take your submission through the publishing process.

Publishing mathematics in ebooks – part 1

This is the first part of what I hope will be a series of posts on my explorations of how to author maths-heavy writing in ebook format.

I have for quite some time now been annoyed with PDFs on mobile phones and tablets. Although there are some fine PDF viewers avaible, it usually still takes a lot of annoying scrolling to read a scientific paper on my phone or tablet. On the other hand, I have recently read a few novels as ebooks on my phone and my tablet and this has been an entirely different, enjoyable experience. The main difference is that the text in ebooks is re-flowable so as to make it easily adaptable to the screen size and preferred font size. This makes ebooks seem like a promising choice as an alternative to PDF for distributing scientific papers in more screen-friendly format. There is just one hurdle: mathematicsRead the rest of this entry »

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