This week I will be part of the research ecosystem panel at the National Academy of Sciences’ Journal Summit. The theme of the summit is “The Evolving Ecosystem of Scientific Publishing.”
The summit encourages audience discussion and debate, so I’m hoping my fellow panelists and I can elicit (or even incite!) lively and fruitful discussions among scientific editors, nonprofit publishers, researchers, funders, academic directors, librarians, and IT specialists. It will be great fun, I am sure.
Great fun and serious business.
As NLM’s Director, it’s my job to think about the Library’s role in fostering scientific communication. But what does “scientific communication” actually entail? Is it the same as the research literature?
Many think so, and, of course, NLM is well-known for providing access to the research literature through PubMed and PubMed Central—resources we build consciously and intentionally to ensure the included publications meet key criteria and the content is reliably available, whether online or in print.
But scientific communication is rapidly expanding beyond journal articles. In our corner of the world, for example, PubMed Central has been accepting small data files (less than 2Gb) along with submitted manuscripts since last October.
But I believe the realm of scientific communication will expand even further.
I see on the horizon an era of scientific communication influenced by the principals of open science, which support sharing not only the answer to a research hypothesis but also the products and processes used to get to that answer.
Two key practices will help usher in this new era:
- Communicating early and often. For example, because ClinicalTrials.gov allows investigators to upload a range of research elements, including data collection instruments, analytical plans, and human subjects agreements, interim products of a research process can be available to others long before the final article is in place.
- Sharing all components of the research process, not simply summative reports. Last fall I suggested a library of models, properly documented and vetted, to allow researchers to apply existing and trustable models to their data. Data visualizations, source code, and videos might also prove useful. And you might have other ideas. (Please comment below and tell us about them.)
Such sharing of tools, products, and processes will save valuable time and money while also enhancing the rigor and reproducibility of the research itself by opening for examination all the procedural and methodological details. It also promises to speed innovation and knowledge transfer, which, you might say, are two of the key reasons for scientific communication in the first place.
But we still have so much to learn and to discuss. And, of course, NLM can’t shape the future of scientific communication alone.
That’s what makes this week’s Journal Summit so exciting. It’ll bring together many of the stakeholders in the research process to brainstorm strategies for tackling the numerous challenges that stand between us and open science.
But since most of you won’t be able to attend, I invite your comments regarding the research ecosystem and scientific communication below.
Among the questions I’d appreciate your input on are the following:
- Should the scientific literature remain at the center of the discovery process, with the related research elements accessible from there?
- How might preprints, which provide early looks into studies’ findings, serve as a model for the early disclosure and discussion of research methods?
- What roles and imprimaturs could be afforded by a “publisher” of data?
- What services should NLM institute to help make its collections and data FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable)?
- Where should NLM invest its resources to accelerate the discovery, use, and impact of scientific communication?
Let’s spark a debate here that will rival the best the Journal Summit has to offer!