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twoday.net AGB

Biology Direct - First publications online

The recently launched Biology Direct differs from the vast majority of scientific journals in that it publishes under an open peer review scheme. The names of the reviewers and their reports are published alongside the original publication. Announced in October 2005 it focusses on genomics and bioinformatics and is backed by an impressive line up of scientists. The first publications went online yesterday, accompanied by a editorial that underlines the experimental nature of the journal.

Launching a new research journal in biology in the year 2006 takes a lot
of hubris…and/or a clearly defined goal. The crucial open access niche has been taken by
the highly successful and still proliferating BMC and PLoS journals, so a new journal
hardly would stand a chance and be worth the efforts of the editors and the publisher
unless it defines itself in a fundamentally new way. Thus, our goals with this new journal,
Biology Direct, are unapologetically ambitious: to establish a new, perhaps, better system
of peer review and, in the process, bolster productive scientific debate, and provide
scientists with useful guides to the literature.


Are peer reviewed publications really a good way to foster scientific debate? Peer review is beneficial to the point of being unmissable for primary research publications but I am not convinced that it enhances debates. For Biology Direct, the facility to comment on the work is included for most BMC titles anyway, though I fail to see widespread use of it, and I don't see where Biology Direct provides additional means. A system that would not require peer review but imposes more structures than blogs, wikis of news forums could provide more to discussion by many different scientists - not that I would know what exactly to implement.

I had hoped for publications with higher profile - the four current papers are somewhat interesting but I would have expected that Landweber, Lipman, and Koonin would have been able to pull higher impact papers into the new journal. Probably, most scientists submitted rather solid but not controversial work and reserve their high profile papers for journals with higher impact (or with an impact factor to begin with).

Still, the direction that Biology Direct will take in the next couple of years will tell us how flexible the publishing scheme really is. PLoS changed quite a bit of it already and there's undoubtedly more coming.


[via F&L]

Decay of the correspondence possibilities

EMBO journal carries a serious survey [f] of how communication between scientists erodes over time due to "decay" of email addresses. Their survey is based on Medline, analyzed over the last ten years.

One in four e-mail addresses becoming invalid within one year of publication is an alarming rate of decay as it has an impact on the ability of scientists to communicate and exchange material.

The analysis includes - amongst typos and organizational problems - the factor that many email addresses are abandoned voluntarily - unhindered communication might be seen as a nuisance also. Recommended (and it's free).

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