You Call it High Academic Standards, I Call it Racism

I’m not a big fan of identity politics, where, in my opinion, allegations of racism are too often used as a political cudgel to bludgeon an opponent. But sometimes it really is important to call out blatant racism, especially when there is a greater societal good at stake, such as in this case protecting the integrity of peer-reviewed science. I had this very “opportunity” thrown at me just last week.

To introduce our journal, and its unique crowd sourced quality score (SIQ) to new physician authors, Cureus utilizes email to reach specific communities of authors who have published articles in other Open Access journals, inviting them to promote the scoring of their articles via social media and email. While away on business in Beijing last week, I was surprised to see one email and two voicemails on my phone from a (unknown to me) senior and accomplished author in other journals. His messages quickly revealed a surprising anger over having his article promoted by Cureus. I replied with a brief email explaining how the Creative Commons copyright system supported such fair usage by Cureus, but this merely precipitated yet another profanity-laced email volley. Not wanting to inflame matters further, and even more so wanting to understand the true source of his angst, I decided to call the author. To say the call was unpleasant would be an understatement. I am a neurosurgeon and have fairly tough skin but it is never fun to have all kinds of profanity thrown at you, especially when you’re sure it is unjustified.

I let him vent a little, as my primary goal was figuring out why he was so upset. No matter how patiently I asked this guy to explain the source of his anger, he repeatedly deflected. Finally, after having asked multiple times, this rather accomplished researcher frustratingly blurted out that he did not want his article promoted “alongside the University of Pakistan.” In that instant, everything became clear. There is no institution named The University of Pakistan. Cureus, however, recently published several articles from South Asian-based institutions, namely India and Pakistan. What I suddenly realized is that this person was merely pissed (and seemingly offended) that his “aristocratic” article (allow me some artistic license here) might appear alongside “unworthy” South Asian articles. To put it more bluntly, this otherwise truly accomplished author was just a racist old fool.

In an effort to defuse the situation I complied with his request to remove his article. Upon further reflection I now feel a deep sense of gratitude to this old racist for providing me the opportunity to expose how racism—implicit and overt (like this case), sadly lurks in the background of all peer-reviewed journals. Truthfully I am amazed that so many in this day and age are still clueless about what is happening in medical science. As I sit writing this in a world-renowned Chinese hospital, I am surrounded by the very type of medical excellence that my racist critic deems unworthy of his association. A close American friend of mine (and Cureus editorial board member) is one of the premier pediatric cardiac surgeons in the world, having invented several important heart operations. He has visited several South Asian hospitals that have refined his original operation, enabling them to operate on vastly more patients than him, and do so at less than 10% the price of a U.S. hospital. In light of this, it strikes me as complete foolishness to restrict such important medical knowledge. Scholarly racism is utterly self-defeating for authors, readers and the world at large.

Although I could find no formal studies documenting the extent of racism within scholarly journals, there is a modest body of research and other evidence pointing towards the existence of sexism, as well as prejudice against non-academic physicians, in the world of academic publishing [1-3]. Perhaps it is time to formally study the extent of racial bias in peer-reviewed journals. Any takers?

Recently, the CEO of an authoritative digital health website shared an interesting statistic with me: 40% of the articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine, arguably the most important medical journal, originate within a 200 mile radius of the journal’s headquarters. No one would disagree that Boston, New York and New Haven are centers of academic excellence, but the medical community that dominates the NEJM represents but a tiny fraction of world physicians, thus excluding an immense amount of clinical experience and knowledge. Although such willful blindness or elitism is not as blatant as the prejudice exhibited by my new acquaintance, does a hugely influential and even entitled societal institution like the NEJM not have a responsibility to open itself up to more of the world of medicine?

While I will continue to respect the world’s leading medical journals for the important work they publish, I remain proud that Cureus serves the vast numbers of physicians truly in the trenches of medicine who have been disenfranchised through what might be best termed “scholarly elitism.” Lastly, I want to thank this narrow-minded dolt for reminding me yet again why Cureus’ mission is so important to the world of medicine.

References:

1). Pololi LH, Civian JT, Brennan RT, Dottolo AL, Krupat E. “Experiencing the Culture of Academic Medicine: Gender Matters, A National Study.” J Gen Intern Med. 2012 Aug 31; [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 22936291. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

2) http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/05/plos-one-ousts-reviewer-editor-after-sexist-peer-review-storm

3) From abstract to impact in cardiovascular research: Factors predicting publication and citation. Eur Heart J. 2012 Winnik S, Raptis DA, Walker JH, Hasun M, Speer T, Clavien PA, et al. From abstract to impact in cardiovascular research: Factors predicting publication and citation. Eur Heart J. 5 June 2012 [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 22669850. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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Luxury vs. Quality: Why Journal Prestige Doesn’t Guarantee Good Science

In an op-ed in last week’s The Guardian, this year’s Nobel Laureate in Medicine, Randy Schekman, declared that he would no longer be publishing his papers in the big prestigious “luxury” journals that have dominated scientific discourse for generations such as Science, Nature and Cell. Dr. Schekman declares that the processes required for publishing in these journals have distorted the “incentives” for creating quality science and thereby undermine humanity’s deep and abiding interest in scientific progress. In his op-ed, Schekman recounts numerous instances of big name journals publishing articles on popular “sexy” subjects at the expense of quality, efficiency, and at times, truth.

Sadly the marketing of science, even within what should be the most objective of scientific forums, i.e. peer-reviewed publication, appears to not be that different than Louis Vuitton handbags and Rolex watches. If the LV brand label is attached, the handbag is widely assumed to be high quality! Alternatively among many consumers (readers) of scientific journals, if Nature publishes an article, it is assumed to be good science. But truthfully, how many handbags are merely cheap knock-offs of what is currently fashionable? While this analogy may make many scientists recoil in horror, there is clearly an element of truth which makes it so painful.

The rewards for publishing in the big name journals can make careers for many a determined academic; in the process of academic promotion, the importance of the journal in which an article is published, as typically measured by journal impact factor, has become the primary yardstick for assessing quality and importance. But is it? Yes, the average article in a prestigious journal is very good, but not all published papers within such journals are necessarily good or important.

The converse argument is important to emphasize; through the lens of hindsight, many great peer-reviewed articles were published in less than famous journals. Despite this reality, nearly all promotion committees continue to fawn over journal brand names. Shockingly, one is left to conclude that even scholarly groups are incapable of or unwilling to, read the articles of young academics and gauge for themselves the quality of a scientist’s work.

The above reality has corrupted the truth and beauty that is supposedly at the core of scientific publication. Most troublingly, in (seemingly) rare cases unscrupulous academics will of course stop at nothing to publish in luxury journals, even if it means scientific fraud. Can the madness spawned around prestige journals, some of which are nearly two centuries old, be reversed? Fortunately yes. The move towards publishing in online open access journals is gradually shaking up the antiquated and counterproductive world of publishing. When reading open access journals, the reader is compelled to judge for themselves the quality of the science being presented. From many vantage points, but especially because of its unique crowd sourcing tool (SIQ), a measure of paper quality, almost no journal is better positioned than Cureus to fix the very broken world of scientific publishing.

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Cureus Creates Academic Council to Guide Medical Publishing Revolution

Cureus Creates Academic Council to Guide Medical Publishing Revolution

Cur&#275us is disrupting a 200-year old medical publishing industry.
Cur&#275us, the new generation medical journal, today announced the creation of the Cur&#275us Academic Council to help launch its revolution in academic publishing.

Formed to help ensure Cur&#275us aspires to the highest academic standards, the Academic Council includes a select group of world-renowned academics and past presidents from such leading institutions as Stanford University, the Salk Institute, the University of Chicago, the National University of Singapore and the American Medical Association.

By leveraging broad ranging experience of the members, and their formidable understanding of the medical and scientific research communities, the Academic Council will help Cur&#275us to drive change within the medical publishing industry. This new model for scholarly publishing will focus increasingly on authors and reviewers of science thereby accelerating the process of paper publication and breaking down barriers to much wider readership.

“Cur&#275us is disrupting a 200-year old medical publishing industry wedded to outdated peer review practices that needlessly delay the creation and dissemination of medical knowledge,” said John Adler, MD, Cur&#275us founder and editor-in-chief. “The depth and breadth of knowledge represented by the members of our Academic Council and Editorial Board will ensure that we deliver on our promise of true and meaningful change, resulting in a far more effective means of progressing medical science.”

In addition to the Academic Council, Cur&#275us has created an editorial board comprised of nearly 150 members from major medical schools in the United States and around the world, including a who’s who of leaders from most of the major medical specialties. This broad-based coalition of Cur&#275us Editorial Board members provides both the necessary expertise and influence within the medical research community to enable a single, open-access, cross-disciplinary alternative to the nearly 6000 siloed medical journals that exist today.

“It is time for those who publish innovations to innovate the process itself,” said Jerrold F. Rosenbaum, MD, Harvard Medical School.

The complete roster of the Cur&#275us Academic Council includes:

• Professor William R. Brody, MD, PhD, President of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
• Peter Carmel, MD, Chair of the New Jersey Medical School Department of Neurological Surgery; past President, American Medical Association
• Samuel Hellman, MD, University of Chicago Medicine
• Donald Kennedy, PhD, President Emeritus of Stanford University
• Professor John Wong Eu Li, MBBS, Deputy Chief Executive, National University Health System, Singapore

More information about the Cur&#275us Editorial Board can be found at http://www.cureus.com/editorial_board.

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About Cur&#275us

Based in Palo Alto, California, Cur&#275us is the new generation medical journal. Leveraging the power of an online, crowd-sourced platform, Cur&#275us promotes medical research by focusing the publishing process on the people who create it, resulting in better research, faster publication and easier access for everyone. Leading physicians from all over the world have joined the unparalleled Cur&#275us Editorial Board to lend their support to the medical publishing revolution. For more information, visit http://www.cureus.com.

Cureus Introduces ‘Social Ownership’ to the Internet Age

Cureus Introduces ‘Social Ownership’ to the Internet Age

New Co-Op Model Turns Contributors into Owners

Cur&#275us, the new generation medical journal, today announced a new co-operative ownership structure that enables those who produce, review and contribute medical research to the Cur&#275us eco-system to share in the company’s financial success.

Cureus will reward them for their contributions with shares in the company.
For the first time in the Internet Age, a Web-based company whose business success is based on content generated by its end-user audience will reward them for their contributions with shares in the company. With Cur&#275us, the key stakeholders who contribute to the medical research journal, including the authors, reviewers and editors, can share in the company’s success through a co-op ownership program that converts their work into equity depending on their level of participation.

Under the current system of medical publishing, medical researchers, authors and reviewers receive no compensation for their work. In fact these all-important contributors must relinquish copyright, and in many cases, even pay to get their scientific papers published or access their own paper post publication. Ultimately, the journal and publisher reaps all financial benefits as well as much of the recognition.

As part of its mission to revolutionize medical publishing, Cur&#275us’ publishing model returns control of published research to those who create it – giving content creators full copyright and enabling free access to all readers. The Cur&#275us co-op ownership model builds on this foundation by implementing a system, which tangibly rewards both physician and PhD contributors.

“We believe that the current model for medical research publishing is fundamentally broken,” said Tobin Arthur, president, Cur&#275us. “The future success of Cur&#275us’ depends on the efforts of its users, including authors, reviewers and other workers. Our ground-breaking publishing model recognizes and rewards the critical efforts of these individuals.”

How Cur&#275us Social Ownership Works
When joining Cur&#275us, members are automatically assigned an account meter to their profile. Each time they publish, review or score a paper, produce a medical poster or other type of contribution they earn points. At the end of the calendar year, the top point-earners on the site will be offered an opportunity to convert those points into equity in the company.

“The current medical publishing model offers very little incentive to those participating in the process,” said, Thomas J. Fogarty MD, Fogarty Institute for Innovation. “Cur&#275us puts its money where its mouth is by giving contributors the recognition and compensation they deserve.”

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About Cur&#275us
Based in Palo Alto, California, Cur&#275us is the new generation medical journal. Leveraging the power of an online, crowd-sourced platform, Cur&#275us promotes medical research by focusing the publishing process on the people who create it, resulting in better research, faster publication and easier access for everyone. Leading physicians from all over the world have joined the unparalleled Cur&#275us Editorial Board to lend their support to the medical publishing revolution. For more information, visit http://www.cureus.com.

Changing The Rules of Traditional Medical Publishing

Changing The Rules of Traditional Medical Publishing

We don’t typically associate rejection with elation but a recent article in The Scientist suggests that getting your academic paper is not be such a bad thing.

A study of rejected academic papers compared their citation history after eventual publication with those never having been rejected. Somewhat surprisingly there appears to be upside to the initial repudiation.

Vincent Calgano, an evolutionary biologist and ecologist at the Institute for Agricultural Research in Sophia Antipolis, France gathered and studied data from The Thomson Reuters Institute for Scientific Information Web of Knowledge citation indexing service. They studied papers from 16 different fields published between 2006 and 2008 and emailed more than 200,000 corresponding authors from the papers. Not surprisingly, papers that were rejected tended to be resubmitted to journals with a lower Impact Factor.

Wikipedia killed me.

What did surprise researchers was the fact that these previously rejected papers tended to be cited more frequently than papers that didn’t go through the submission gauntlet.

The research group concluded that papers that get rejected are often rewritten and polished more than others. This continued editing may have improved the paper, therefore enhancing its likelihood to be cited. Alternatively, authors only went to the effort of resubmitting a manuscript when they were convinced the paper did have merit.

Regardless of why rejected papers might get cited more frequently, this study illustrates the absurdity of the traditional review process in an era where technology has allowed us to evolve. For instance, it has been convincingly demonstrated that Wikipedia is at least as accurate as the “expertly” edited Encyclopedia Britannica and that Top Songs on iTunes are far more reflective of broad public interest than the Billboard 100.

Cureus has designed its medical publishing system so that editorial capriciousness, which is common to traditional peer review, is replaced by intelligent crowd-sourced scoring. The Cureus Scholarly Impact Quotient (SIG) is designed to separate the wheat from the chaff.

So while all papers are published, only the best articles with the highest SIQ tend to be read by the most number of people. Lower quality papers are still available to the public online. While they may not be as popular as the higher scored paper, they will serve as a valuable resource for a niche segment. And all of this content is good for the scientific community at large.

Ultimately the Cureus SIQ system facilitates a process for a much wider body of ideas to enter the conversation of scientific discourse. Unlike the traditional review process where individual papers can be “killed” as a result of personal bias, politics or a bad day at the office, crowd intelligence becomes a core filter.