Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals

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Randy Schekman says his lab will no longer send papers to Nature, Cell and Science as they distort scientific process.

Leading academic journals are distorting the scientific process and represent a "tyranny" that must be broken, according to a Nobel prize winner who has declared a boycott on the publications.

Randy Schekman, a US biologist who won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine this year and receives his prize in Stockholm on Tuesday, said his lab would no longer send research papers to the top-tier journals, Nature, Cell and Science.

Schekman said pressure to publish in "luxury" journals encouraged researchers to cut corners and pursue trendy fields of science instead of doing more important work. The problem was exacerbated, he said, by editors who were not active scientists but professionals who favoured studies that were likely to make a splash.

Written By: Ian Sample
continue to source article at theguardian.com

13 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting and something I never thought about.

    Randy Schekman makes a point well worth thinking about. Prestige universities have been accused of somewhat analogous failings. The Harvard grade inflation story for one. Perhaps Cell, Nature and Science are getting too big for their britches and need to remember science has no hierarchical structure. Ideally, anyway..

  2. This comes from a man who is editor in chief of a rival journal, eLife. I’d be wary of an ulterior motive here.
    Then again, he may have a valid point and eLife is an active measure taken to avoid these problems.

    • In reply to #2 by Stuart Coyle:

      A man who is editor for an online journal that publishes free papers. So, what would his motive be? He is not hiding the fact that he is an editor. In fact, the whole reason he is an editor is because he is not satisfied with many conventional journals. Yes, he might have an hidden agenda but I have seen no such evidence. Especially not in this article. Do you have any such evidence or are you just trying to discredit him for no good reason?

      This comes from a man who is editor in chief of a rival journal, eLife. I’d be wary of an ulterior motive here.
      Then again, he may have a valid point and eLife is an active measure taken to avoid these problems.

  3. I wonder who funds those journals. If they are wholly independently funded and do not need to worry about subscription income, then I would say the ongoing effort to print flashy stories is unconscionable. If they depend to any extent on subscription, I still reproach them, but understand a bit. With commercial publications, it is critical to maintain a certain level of readership. Does anyone know the answer to this?

  4. Right up to this year, Randy Shekman has published quite a lot of work in Cell, Nature and Science, the three journals he now claims to boycott. One rule for those with a Nobel Prize and another for the rest of us, perhaps?

  5. Here’s some more on this topic from our friends at Mother Jones (September, October 2013). The author, Michael Mechanic, has a “masters in cellular and developmental biology from Harvard.” This article in more in-depth than the OP including costs for university libraries to carry subscriptions to these publications and how the current system keeps the knowledge out of the reach of the public.

    http://www.motherjones.com/media/2013/09/michael-eisen-plos-open-access-aaron-swartz

  6. Publishing:

    The unnecessary process step by which information is disseminated to the general public.

    In some cases (news, literature, music, film and other arts): The unnecassary addition of arbiters and promoters into the process by which they are disseminated to the general public.

    Copyright:

    Censorship.

    In particular: The art of restricting public access to important works.

    Peace.

  7. This is well out of my depth of course but I do agree that the editors of such journals ought to be scientists first and businessmen second. What makes these journals prestigious is their reputation among scientists. If they lose that hard earned reputation, its game over for them. Ulterior motives or not, Mr. Schekman does raise a valid point.

  8. FrankMill @5 – Right up to this year, Randy Shekman has published quite a lot of work in Cell, Nature and Science, the three journals he now claims to boycott. One rule for those with a Nobel Prize and another for the rest of us, perhaps?

    I’m not really in a position to judge, but it does look like a case of, “You can pull the ladder up now – I’m over the wall”!

  9. This man is a hero! These kind of people are exactly the ones we need more of. People who have a passion for the truth not profits or prestige. I agree fully with him that modern science in many fields is more dictated by the free market than by actual scientific progress. Yes even from a free market perspective science, in the end, needs to work. Otherwise you can’t make money out of it, in the long term. The problem is that long term scientific progress and basic research is sacrificed for short term benefits. This is of course the problem with free market capitalism. It can’t afford more noble pursuits that does not convert into profit in the short term, and it encourages researchers to do science that is “safe” and more likely to generate short term profits. In reality, this means little scientific progress in the long term.

  10. I mostly view big name publishers as parasites. They need to go. All papers can be published at tiny cost. Peer reviewing should be a post publishing process and can consist of formal and informal processes. Formal reviewing is done by academics licensed in specific fields by their universities and would be a license to earn from full formal reviews they elect to write on papers. These reviews are sold to those interested through a formally created public channel funded by the sale of reviews. BUT a minimum abstract of the review specifying all the major aspects of its acceptability or otherwise is required to be made public for free. As many who are licensed can write reviews. (I expect all academics to be licensed in their main field.)

    This serves all interests better I think (except the parasite publishers). Access is opened up to papers and high quality review abstracts. Important papers will attract many reviews. Income is generated only by reviewing and in a manner that passes most wealth to the reviewer. Ancillary businesses will spring up for review analysis, value weighting and aggregation perhaps feeding the investment industry. But scientists will be able to form their own value weighting judgement seeking out particular reviews from favoured reviewers.

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