16 April 2014

Kabuki theatre versus the mosh pit: notes from my Neuron article on post-publication peer review

I have a new article in Neuron! This is a pleasant surprise to me, because I never thought I would ever get anything in that journal.

One of the Neuron editors emailed me out of the blue in December, asking if I would be interested in doing an opinion piece for them about social media. (In this journal, opinion pieces are called “NeuronView.”) After a follow-up phone call, it became clear that she was interested not just in social media, but particularly how people are using it for post-publication peer review.

I wanted to do it, because it’s nice to be asked. As I said... Neuron!? Neuron! Being asked to write this article is an example of what is one of the most important points in it:

One of the most profound things about social media is that it has lowered the barrier to creating and spreading conversations.

Without social media, I don’t think someone like me would have had a shot at being asked to write a feature like this. There would be too many obstacles for me to start conversations: there are geographic barriers (physical isolation), disciplinary barriers (I’d never published in Neuron), and so on.

Even so, I was initially a little reluctant. I was in the middle of writing my Manuscript of Desperation (more on that one later). I was in the thick of prepping for the parasite symposium I was co-organizing with Kelly Weinersmith, and I knew manuscripts from that would be due early in the new year. I asked when it would be due. “End of February.” I decided I could probably make that happen.

I managed to get the article submitted a little early and exactly on length. From there, the editorial and proofing process was very fast and completed in early April.

My last task was to create an image for the Neuron home page (shown above). The production team decided they didn’t want to use an image with the Creative Commons credit text on it, but used it as a template to create a new image:

The problem with writing an article like this is that no matter how fast you write it, and how quickly it’s published, there will be things coming out after you sent in the article that you wish you could have talked about.

For instance, the day after I sent back the checked page proofs, I read this article about how blogging about a research paper leads to increased corrections.

I thought of adding in at the eleventh hour was a mention of the current STAP stem cell kerfuffle. When I submitted the article, this story hadn’t really taken off, but during the intervening time of reviewing, production, and proofreading, it just got bigger by the day. Bigger by the hour, almost. But I decided that the STAP case didn’t yet have any clear lessons for post-publication peer review that wasn’t shown by examples already in the paper.

Then, I learned of this story by Haier and colleagues concerning the editorial process at Neuron, the journal I had just written for (my piece was in press by then). The short version is that authors had been asked to write a preview piece. Haier and company submitted a critical article, and the journal pulled the plug on it. Commentary on the Neuroskeptic blog ensues (Haier et al. link to the blog, but not the specific article, which is here), which includes remarks from someone who had knowledge of the typically anonymous review process.

This is an excellent example of one of the issues I talk about in my Neuron article: the difficulty of getting critical commentary published. Haier and colleagues started this process in the second half of 2012, and only more a year later, in April 2014, are they able to detail their concerns about the editorial process.

I could have talked about the importance of sites like ScienceSeeker, Faculty of 1000, and Researchblogging in providing portals for post-publication peer review. ResearchBlogging was certainly critical to my own development as a science blogger.

But despite all that, I’m pretty happy about this piece. Sometimes, when you keep having to re-read something you wrote, you get a little sick of it. I’ve had to re-read this one quite a lot, and there are some turns of phrase in it that I still quite like.

Now, I’m looking forward to the post-publication peer review of my own paper! Whether you think I had anything interesting to say or whether you think I was wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong, please comment here on the blog, tweet your thoughts to me (@DoctorZen), write your own blog post, or whatever form of social media turns your crank.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy seeing this on the home page of Neuron for the next two weeks:

Additional: The cycle begins... my article gets post-publication peer review on PubPeer. And thanks to those who have tweeted so far!

Update, 17 April 2014:  My article is open access at the Neuron home page here, but, weirdly, paywalled at Science Direct.

After a little after one day, I’m also very happy to see this article’s Altmetric score:

(T)his article has done particularly well and is in the 98th percentile: it’s in the top 5% of all articles ever tracked by Altmetric.

It is not surprising that an article about social media does particularly well on social media. But, as I said, it is nice nevertheless.

I’ve also created a Storify of some of the responses so far.


Faulkes Z. 2014.The vacuum shouts back: post-publication peer-review on social media. Neuron 82(2): 258-260. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2014.03.032

External links

The new dilemma of online peer review: too many places to post?
Online exposure ‘leads to higher research paper correction rate’
What can we do about junk science?
How intelligent is IQ?
Stick to Your Ribs: The Problems With Calling Comments “Post-Publication Peer-Review”
A guide to post publication peer review


The Neurocritic said...

Congratulations on such a great commentary ("NeuroView") in Neuron! It's nice to see PubPeer, blogs, twitter etc. get such high-profile exposure as serious outlets for post-publication peer review.

You said:

"The problem with writing an article like this is that no matter how fast you write it, and how quickly it’s published, there will be things coming out after you sent in the article that you wish you could have talked about."

This is what blogs are for! Hopefully you'll pick up new readers to join in the conversation.

Oh, and thanks very much for mentioning my blogs...

Diane Clark said...

Wow! My heartiest congrats! Having an article in such a publication is an important achievement worth a thousand of words. And you really deserve it. I'd even take my hat off to you (if I were wearing a hat of course).