Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Nature Precedings Rocks

Following up on my initial comments, my first two posts in Nature Precedings have appeared.

Most people have been posting Powerpoint presentations so I started there with a recent presentation at the American Chemical Society about Open Notebook Science.

Open Notebook Science Using Blogs and Wikis (doi:10.1038/npre.2007.39.1)

Next, I posted an update on the CombiUgi project by basically combining two blog posts (one and two).

It took a lot longer to do this than I expected, experimenting with the format and trying to make it fairly self-contained. I ended up using Powerpoint, which I like for its modular nature and flexibility with image-rich materials. For example, it is easy to spin off as a SlideShare document (which I just noticed supports hyperlinks while embedded - nice!).

There are a few reasons I think Precedings will be one of the key breakthrough apps for Open Science.

1) Nature Publishing Group brings a serious amount of credibility to the table. That is going to make it much easier to convince people in mainstream scientific circles to contribute and read.

2) Flexibility of format: although files must currently be submitted as Powerpoint, Word or PDF file types, the organization of the information within these files is fairly open. The "article" format is not currently required. Although there is no peer review requirement, there is definitely editorial control (which I experienced as I was asked to rewrite my first abstract). They want to make sure that submissions are genuine scientific communications.

3) Referenceability: each accepted submission gets a DOI and clear citation instructions.

4) A convenient system for acknowledging collaborators as co-authors, including affiliation info.

5) Web 2.0 bells and whistles: tags, comments, RSS feeds, etc.

6) The price is right - free read/write.

7) Creative Commons License - Non-Commercial Use with Attribution.

What they do not yet accept are large data files but it looks like that is coming down the road.


At 6:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see the advantages of the open science model, transparency, collaboration, access to expertise to name a few, but I am skeptical (aren't we all?). I am not so worried about "stealing ideas", but how the community will deal with open science. For example, if I were coming up for a promotion (and/or tenure), how do you think contributions to open science endeavors will be measured when the usual metrics are number of papers, impact of papers, grant funds, etc. At my institution, things evolve very slowly.


At 5:16 AM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

Certainly, your concerns are valid. Open Science metrics are evolving and are not yet part of traditional tenure committees. That is something that we can change over time as a community by supporting fellow open scientists explain their contributions.

It would be risky for pre-tenure faculty to shift completely to an open format. But a researcher could experiment by making some projects open with little risk. And even work carried out openly can still be published later using a traditional vehicle.

At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think precedings is great, and I've been waiting for something like this. However, as I've been talking about it with my colleagues, I've found a lot of misunderstanding. One woman noticed a colleague reading a partial manuscript she submitted, and asked where and how he got it. When I explained that anyone could download it from precedings, she seemed surprised. Needless to say, she didn't quite understand the whole point.

Another, more serious issue is that Precedings has variable support among publishers. Looking at the Romeo project, I see that Science and Cell both do not allow the use of Precedings for materials you would like to have published with them. Another large journal in my field, Stem Cells, doesn't allow preprints either.

So, I'm glad Nature has decided to do this, and it's a great service, but I do with that they could have made more of a effort to make it a project of a publishing alliance, so that it would have more support from the publisher side.

At 9:12 AM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

Mr. Gunn,
Yes, one needs to be aware of the consequences of using services like Nature Precedings. But not everything suitable for Nature Precedings will eventually make it into a traditional journal article. In fact what makes Precedings attractive is that it can serve as a vehicle to communicate ideas and results that would otherwise not get voiced (for example speculation, failed experiments, etc.).

But even if you do use Precedings to "pre-publish" some work that will eventually be incorporated into a traditional paper, does it really matter that some publishers won't take the work, as long as at least one of them will?

At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The true value of Nature Precedings seems to me to come from the ability to open up your work for comment without having to travel to a conference to present it, whether it's eventually destined for publication or not. Would you agree?

In that respect, it's a shame that they didn't work to get wider support from other publishers so that they could attract a larger share of material.

As far as whether it matters which journal your work is published in, well, I don't suppose it does, except that there's this small matter of journal rankings....

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley said...

Putting up your work for comment is one motivation - another is being clear about who knew what when. There are many different reasons for using Precedings and it would be interesting to see survey results from the contributors at some point.


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