The threat to science and scholarship of Donald Trump’s election has been the subject of a number of excellent posts, both here on The Scholarly Kitchen and elsewhere. From removing the EPA website’s climate change pages to jeopardizing scientific collaboration as a result of the notorious US travel ban on researchers, students, and others from seven mostly Muslim countries, the politicization of scholarship has, for many of us, gone way too far. Equally, if not more alarming, is the growing use of ‘alternative facts’ (aka lies) and the explicit rejection of expert opinion by some (mostly rightwing) politicians on both sides of the Atlantic.
As a result, public trust in science and scientists is at risk. Many people don’t understand how science works and, instead, rely on attention-grabbing (and often misleading or downright erroneous) headlines; their distrust is compounded by media coverage of what is wrong with science, rather than what is right – peer review is broken, fraudulent science is on the rise, sham journals scam authors, and predatory publishing abounds. This, in turn, makes it easy for those who seek to discredit genuine academic research to claim that their ‘alternative facts’ are just as valid.
Some of this, without doubt, is our own fault. In an effort to stay competitive by reducing costs, corners have been cut. Rigorous training and support for peer review isn’t as widespread as it could and should be. Fake authors and reviewers, like predatory publishers, really do exist. There is still too much emphasis on the publish or perish dichotomy, which can lead to bad science getting published. And more…
So, how can we (re)build trust and in scientific and scholarly communications? The good news is that there are already a number of tools, services, and initiatives out there that we can use to ensure that the scholarship being published is as rigorous as possible. Some are commercial, others are non-profit; some open, others proprietary. They have been launched – and are supported by – organizations across all sectors of scholarly communications: associations, funders, publishers, research institutions, service providers, and researchers themselves. Many encourage or enable increased transparency as a way of increasing trust. Not all of them will be appropriate for every organization, but they all represent an opportunity not just to make research more trustworthy, but also to make it work better – for everyone.
- Educate your researchers about the dangers of predatory publishers through the Think, Check, Submit initiative, which provides them with valuable advice on why and how to decide where to publish
- Improve clarity around who did what work on a research paper by implementing CRediT’s taxonomy of researcher roles – and enable better recognition for the role of co-authors at the same time
- Sign up to the Transparency and Openness Guidelines launched by the Center for Open Science – signatories include large publishers such as Elsevier, Springer Nature, and Wiley as well as several smaller publishers and associations
- Encourage or, if appropriate, require reproducibility. PLOS, Science Exchange, and Figshare’s Reproducibility Initiative is a good example of organizations collaborating to address this problem
- Consider more open alternatives to traditional double-blind peer review. While this may not be appropriate for all disciplines, in some areas it can represent a big step forward in terms of transparency. eLife, F1000, and ScienceOpen provide three good, but different, examples of this in practice
- Open annotation tools are also a great way to increase transparency. One such tool, Hypothes.is, is already being used by scientific fact checkers, for example, the Climate Feedback Group
- And, for open data, check out – and support – Force 11’s Fair Data Principles, which call for data to be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable
- Make it easy for your authors to disclose their conflicts of interest, for example, by using a system like Convey, developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges
- Make the most of persistent identifiers. Collect validated ORCID iDs during the submission process to enable your authors to reliably (and seamlessly if they sign up for auto-update) connect themselves with the DOIs for their publications*
- Support the Committee for Publication Ethics (COPE). You don’t have to be a member to access many of their great resources such as flowcharts and sample letters for implementing their Code of Conduct, but members do benefit from access to additional ones, including their ethical audit tool
- Help improve peer review education for researchers. Several publishers and other organizations already do this both directly and through their support for Sense About Science, which has some great publications on peer review as well as running workshops for early career researchers
- Use a reputable software tool such as Crossref’s Crosscheck during the submission process, to minimize the risk of publishing plagiarized work
- Crossmark, also from Crossref, aids transparency after an article is published, by alerting readers if it has been updated, corrected, or retracted
- Abide by industry standards. Organizations such as CASRAI and NISO work with volunteers from right across the scholarly community to identify and develop global standards from which everyone can benefit
- Get involved! Join an industry association if you don’t already belong to one. Attend a meeting. Volunteer for a committee. Make sure your organization’s – and your researchers’ – voice is heard as our community debates how best to tackle the challenges facing scholarship today
This is by no means a comprehensive list but, like Kent Anderson’s original 2012 post, “A Proposed List – 60 Things Journal Publishers Do“, which has subsequently grown to 96 things due to suggestions from other Scholarly Kitchen Chefs and the community, I hope many of you will add to this one too, as well as comment on it.
*Full disclosure: I am ORCID’s Director of Community Engagement & Support