Publishing all credible science: Where do we draw the line?

Stemming from the belief that market-driven open access publishers are inherently predisposed to publish any article for which an author is willing to pay, there is a common prejudice that the scientific quality of such articles must be inferior to those published within non-open access journals. Whether true or not for other journals, this rationale certainly does not apply to a free publication model like Cureus.

For us, ensuring scientific quality is about preserving the brand of Cureus; by undermining credibility, bad science will, over the long term, inevitably diminish every conceivable measure of journalistic success. Destroying our reputation is the last thing Cureus leadership wants to see happen. However, working against this same concern is our journal’s philosophical commitment to publish all “credible” medical science; inevitably these two contradicting objectives require a delicate balancing act.

Despite (or as a sad result of) Cureus’ idealism, our journal sometimes receives questionable submissions: carelessly prepared manuscripts, sloppily presented results, poorly argued and unfounded conclusions, etc. Authors occasionally suffer from the misperception, perhaps due to our status as an open access journal, that we will publish whatever they submit and therefore they need invest only minimal effort.

Not so fast! I must caution against such thinking. Cureus is happy to publish articles that might be rejected elsewhere due to “political” or contrarian philosophical reasons, but like most quality journals, we will not abide substandard manuscripts. Cureus takes peer review and editorial oversight very seriously. Ensuring that authors do not abuse the easy-to-use Cureus submission system is quickly becoming a full-time job for editors who, frankly, have many better things to do.

Please do not confuse the ease of Cureus submission process with a willingness to overlook second-rate science. Does your article have a clear message and can it help interested colleagues in their daily clinical and/or scientific work? Put yourself in a reader’s shoes; if you were a reader, would you feel that the author in question has shown proper respect for your time? If you cannot answer yes, please do not submit your article to Cureus.

Anyone who intends to submit a shoddy article (and yes, you know who you are), be prepared to be blocked during editorial review. And should anyone choose to abuse Cureus’ generous spirit more than once, they should expect to be banned from our platform for an eternity. Meanwhile, the vast majority of conscientious authors, who both respect their potential readers and do their utmost to produce a quality manuscript, will be amply rewarded with a hassle-free submission process, and, once published, a large, appreciative audience of readers.

Ultimately we at Cureus like to think that a beautiful article of science is in itself, the best reward possible. Thank you for your understanding, cooperation and support.

Intellectual Fascism

I have been Co-Editor-in-Chief of Cureus for about three years and in this time I’ve learned a lot about how peer-reviewed journals function. It’s often said that in water polo the real game happens beneath the surface of the water. Similarly with journals, sometimes the serious action goes on behind the scenes. From its inception, Cureus was designed to minimize the role of politics in scientific publishing by way of its post-publication SIQ scoring process. Despite these ambitions, politics have occasionally crept into our efforts to publish great medical science. So it was with one recent article, and boy did the Cureus editorial staff learn a lot through this experience!

The article in question was written by several very accomplished clinical neuroscientists and involved a complex intersection of multiple scientific fields. Despite being evaluated by three reviewers, a clear error was noted in the published article by a reader; the error was of a political nature and not scientific in the least, but still an unambiguous error. An erratum was being prepared when a big hullabaloo broke loose in social media. Two individuals, whose specialty overlapped the erroneous article, attacked the article for its political misstatement, and by extension, Cureus’ journalistic integrity for missing this error during our pre-publication review process.

I immediately invited these critics to set the record straight via our liberal comment and scoring processes, but in a series of personal (and necessarily confidential) emails, the critics refused, insisting on remaining anonymous. Over the next several days they recruited a chorus of similarly-minded colleagues who insisted that the article in question represented serious scientific misconduct and demanded it be retracted… period! In light of these demands, Cureus, by virtue of its status as a peer-reviewed journal, was obligated to investigate under ICJME (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors) guidelines.

I personally oversaw the investigation, which started by recruiting seven truly world-class domain experts, who after reading both the original and the proposed corrected manuscripts, were to advise me; I deliberately included a couple of researchers suggested by the critics of the article. In parallel, I stumbled upon the existence of a listserv community of likeminded researchers including the two critics, whose major modus operandi is to fiercely act en-mass, hyena-like, oftentimes via social media, when certain partisan political issues arise, such as the article Cureus had unwittingly published.

If ever I witnessed intellectual fascism, this was it; the only thing missing was a goose-stepping mustached man. However, this was also to be a moment of truth for our young journal. Pending the advice of the seven domain experts, would Cureus stand up for open scientific discourse? Or would we join the ranks of cowering researchers?

After almost one month of analysis by the aforementioned unimpeachable panel of experts, some of whom are at the very pinnacle of their respective fields, it was determined that the Cureus article had erred badly (yet seemingly inadvertently) in misstating a political reality. However, the science itself was credible. As a result, an erratum addressing the erroneous facts was published and the original article retracted.

Ultimately this experience reminds me, and by virtue of this blog should remind all readers, that standing up for open and honest scientific discussion, devoid as much as possible from political considerations, is a constant struggle even in our supposedly democratic world. In fact I invite the very critics of the article in question to now publish their own scientific concepts with Cureus, which perhaps might even refute the published paper. The function of journals is not to anoint “scientific truths,” but to provide a forum for scientific truths to be discovered, and refuted.

We at Cureus are especially fortunate to have such a liberal post-publication comment and scoring system. This process, which is available to everyone, is intended to provide a voice for even the most contrarian scientific ideas. The power of the Cureus community-at-large remains a great potential strength. Please don’t be afraid. Step up and use it!

Enhanced Navigation and Article Displays Have Arrived!

We’re excited to debut an enhanced navigation system designed to make reading, reviewing and publishing articles a smooth and efficient experience. The next time you navigate to the Cureus homepage you’ll be greeted by an entirely new navigation bar along with a “ticker” highlighting recent Cureus activity, including new articles, comments, SIQ scores and more. We’ve also brought back the “Submit an article” button. This button strips away everything but the essentials to get you on the road to publication ASAP.

The Cureus library is now organized into two sections: peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed content (articles and posters, respectively). Clicking on “Articles” in the journal dropdown menu will take you to the same article overview page as before. (But don’t worry, it’s going to be redesigned too!) Clicking on a specific article, however, reveals our brand new article page:

New Cureus article view

Article tabs provide easy access to author and article information, as well as figures and tables. Meanwhile, the article’s SIQ score, disclosures, acknowledgements and audience discussion are all highlighted along the left side of the page. Speaking of SIQ, we’ve also revamped our Scholarly Impact Quotient system to make rating articles more straightforward:

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 12.11.27 PM

Here at Cureus, we’re a medical journal first, and with everything we do we aim to craft a better publishing experience for our growing community. That said, we’re also very cognizant of our position at the forefront of the online, open access journal movement and we’re confident that our enhanced look and feel will make the Cureus experience even better. Remember, we’ll be overhauling the rest of Cureus in the near future so stay tuned for more updates!

Guidelines for Avoiding Authorship Conflicts

Guidelines for Avoiding Authorship Conflicts

Cur&#275us is working to become a valuable resource for medical authors and as such we are always on the look-out for good resources to pass along.

Melissa Broderick of Harvard Medical School recently published a very useful article entitled Six Tips for Avoiding Authorship Conflicts.

You can read Ms. Broderick’s guidelines below but we are also interested in your perspective and input. Have you run into this issue in your publishing experience?

How do you suggest avoiding the issue in the first place and if you do run into the issue how do you suggest handling it?

Authorship is designed to provide appropriate credit for intellectual contributions and can be a source of personal satisfaction, prestige, and a stepping stone toward academic career advancement. In theory, assigning authorship is a straightforward process; however, in practice, it can sometimes produce painful disputes over authorship order and responsibilities.

Considering these challenges, it is not surprising that authorship disputes accounted for nearly 15 percent of all self-reported issues brought to the HMS/HSDM/HSPH Ombuds Office last year.

What’s at stake in these disputes? Fair credit, collegial relationships, future collaborations and reputations, among others. Visitors often report that discussions and decision making didn’t occur until incompatible assumptions had been formed and deadlines for submission were looming, increasing the challenges of these conversations. So what can you do to avoid such conflicts?

1. Familiarize yourself with the HMS Authorship Guidelines and encourage the same of your colleagues and collaborators. If you oversee a lab, provide authorship guidelines to all newcomers to the lab and a description of the lab’s usual ways of deciding authorship and authorship order.

Key Definitions and Responsibilities of the HMS Authorship Guidelines include:

  • An author should have made a substantial, direct, intellectual contribution
  • The funding and provision of technical services, patients, materials alone are not sufficient
  • Everyone making a substantial intellectual contribution to the work should be an author
  • Everyone making other substantial contributions should be acknowledged
  • All authors should review manuscript drafts and approve the final version
  • One author should take primary responsibility for the whole work, including compiling a concise written description of everyone’s contributions that all authors have approved  and filing it with the sponsoring institution
  • Authors should describe each author’s contributions and how order was assigned to help readers interpret roles correctly

2. Talk early about authorship and authorship order for each project’s manuscript(s)

  • the specific criteria to be used for your project
  • the decision making process—who provides what input, how decisions are made, who has final say if a consensus agreement is not reached
  • how to address disagreements if they arise

3. When gathering input about contributions, ask everyone to put in writing and share:

  • her/his contributions
  • what s/he thinks every other author contributed (this can reveal misunderstandings and provides the opportunity for clarification)

4. If authorship determination seems straightforward, set forth authorship designations but with a caveat that this could change if contributions change significantly.

5. Create a culture of transparency and collaboration and revisit the issue of specific authorship periodically in case contributions or assumptions about contributions have changed.

6. If a disagreement arises, make every effort to resolve the dispute locally:

  • among the authors
  • by involving the lab chief or other appropriate person
  • by involving the HMS/HSDM/HSPH Ombuds Office (additional resources exist within Harvard’s affiliate institutions)

Steps Towards An Open Model For Medical Publishing

Steps Towards An Open Model For Medical Publishing
Thomas Edison

The New Yorker is the latest publication to pick up on the myriad of issues surrounding scientific publishing in their article Cleaning Up Science by Gary Marcus.

Science is no more immune to mistakes and dubious activity than any other discipline because in the end it involves humans. When you add the “publish or perish” pressure to the equation then issues are going to arise.

Introducing more efficient publishing models and systems of checks and balances helps minimize the kinds of issues John Ionnidis, MD of Stanford has revealed for years.

Cur&#275us was created to better serve medical authors in a number of ways including the introduction of a more democratic form of scientific discovery. On Cur&#275us the potential for politics is removed…reviewers are positioned to help an author improve his or her paper without giving this select group of reviewers the ability to “kill” a paper.

Paper quality is determined after a paper is published through our crowd-sourcing system called Scholarly Impact Quotient (SIQ). Authors also retain copyright and their papers are published quickly and at no cost.

For example, papers on Cur&#275us may be rejected for the following reasons; scientific fraud, misleading or potentially clinically dangerous material, as well as obvious copyright violations.

In the end, we believe this open model for medical publishing not only better serves authors, but patients as well.

“The best science is cumulative, not just a list of fun results; as people push deeper, bad ideas that are invalid eventually crumble. Even if nothing changed, we would eventually achieve the deep understanding that all scientists strive for. But there is no doubt that we can get there faster if we clean up our act.” – The New Yorker

 

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.

One Week Extension for Poster Contest Submissions

One Week Extension for Poster Contest Submissions

As a result of requests from several medical schools and residency programs to extend the poster contest deadline, the Cureus editorial staff has decided to change the submission deadline to October 12 at 5PM PST.

We are pleased to see that more and more programs have been getting involved in the competition with entries from medical schools all over the United States, Europe and now the Middle East. As of this post, top honors go to:

  • Stanford
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Penn
  • UW
  • Case Western
  • University of Central Florida
  • Washington University in St. Louis

The schools from the eastern half of the US are definitely dominating those from the west to this point with the exception of Stanford and UW. Where are USC, UCLA, OHSU, UC San Diego? Time to get moving!

Note: voting is open once a poster is submitted, so the authors who get their posters submitted before the deadline and begin promoting them have a head- start toward finishing among the top 10 finalists. The Cureus editorial board will select the top 3 winners from among the 10 finalists.

Fall 2012 International Poster Competition is Now Open

Fall 2012 International Poster Competition is Now Open

Several months ago we started a revolution in medical publishing by offering tools for physician authors unlike any in the industry.  Today we expand the revolution to include medical and graduate students, residents, fellows and anyone who has or will publish a medical poster.  There are thousands of posters discarded after conferences every year and yet they represent hard work, creative thinking and many will lead to the next full academic papers.

Dust off those posters sitting on your hard drive and upload them to Cureus where they can receive new life.

To have some fun we are introducing our Fall 2012 International Poster Competition which includes a $1,000 Grand Prize and $100 prizes for each of our 40 categories.  Each category will have a winner for a total of 40 First Place prizes.  We are honored to have Varian Medical Systems participate as the sponsor of the competition.  They are a company that values innovation and are strong supporters of physician authors who are pushing to advance medical science and discourse.

As authors you may submit any poster you have created over time and as many as you like.  Once you upload your poster, its time to promote….get friends, family, professors etc. to come vote for your poster.  The top 10 vote recipients in each category will make it to the final round where our esteemed Editorial Board members will select the Top 3 Winners in each category.  Top 3 winners will get noted in their profile and can add this distinction to their CV…plus bragging rights.

Go to www.cureus.com/posters to get started.…the sooner your poster is submitted, the sooner you can begin getting votes and head toward victory.

Let the games begin.

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Download the official Fall 2012 Poster Competition Press Release.

 

Cureus People – Rod Oskouian, M.D.

Cureus People – Rod Oskouian, M.D.

Cureus met with Rod Oskouian, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Swedish Neuroscience Institute who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of complex spinal disorders. He talked to us about the sometimes lengthy process of peer-reviewed medical publishing.

“One of the reasons why I got involved in Cureus and why I’m on the editorial board is pretty simple – I want to have open access to journals, be able to publish journals and review journals in a timely fashion so it doesn’t take two years to get a paper out.” – Dr. Rod Oskouian, told Cureus.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ee89PlWN-g

“I think the younger generation we’re all using mobile applications, going online a lot – the traditional journals where you have to subscribe to some obscure article that costs the institution thousands of dollars in some corner of the library that you have to go look up is not happening.” – Dr. Oskouian added.