It is impossible to touch on the theme (concerned the possibility scientific papers publication) when we continue to discuss the citation index (see Chemistry and Life, 2004, ¹ 12 and 2005, ¹ 4). It happened that not long ago we have received a letter from the scientific worker (from the Institute of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Siberian Department of Russian Academy of Sciences) Shagaev Alexander. He and his Spanish colleague Juan R. Gonzalez-Alvarez have begin project devoted to the revision of the system of publication and estimation of scientific papers. The following reasons were their motives to start this crusade:
1) A big time time domain (from 3 month to 1 year and even more) between submission and publication of scientific papers.
2) The decision about a paper publication is taken by the anonymous reviewers. It is impossible to contend with them very often. They cant know everything and they practically arent absolutely impartial.
Express monopolism of separated scientific directions takes place, also. So, the representatives of alternative points of view cant publish their results, because their results dont correspond to the common point of view.
3) The editors try to save the quality of scientific papers when they review any scientific paper. However, the quality is the subjective criterion. Practically all first papers of Nobel Prize laureates were at first rejected by the reviewers. Even John Maddox (the previous editor-in-chief of the Nature) said onetime if Isaac Newton had submitted his theory of gravitation these days, his work would be rejected for peer-review publication. Today is much more difficult to publish a revolutionary scientific paper in a high-quality journal that 50 years ago.
4) Young scientists, with little established track record, find it hard to place printed papers in the top tier journals.
5) Some journals and their papers are inaccessible, due to their exorbitant price (The student rate for the single ACS biochemistry journal is over $350.
6) The High scientific organizations in some countries(e.g. High Certifying Commission in Russia) refuse to consider the independent scientists papers, in Internet, (even published at the leading foreign scientific centers sites) as scientific papers.
The project authors think that all the system is the the nutrient medium for different illustrations of corruption (e.g. contractual defense of scientific degrees, squandering of financial resources, premeditated rejection of papers agreeing with alternative points of reviewer owns). This situation is the reason of the leaving science by young and active scientific workers, specially in those fields where there just one standard point of view that is hard controlled by a number of leading scientists. The project author (Alexander Shagaev) believes that jeremiads of leaders of scientific organizations (in such countries like Russia) about small financing are right only in part. The real reason of this situation is the prevailing monopolies of separate groups in scientific society (that cling to their official positions and possibilities to control financial resources), the absence of discussions and, as result, in absence of progress. Some scientists agree with such point of view. It is illustrated at the project site. The project authors proposals (here we illustrate some of them only. Detail information see at the project site (http://electrochemist2.narod.ru/index.html) are illustrated bellow:
1) Every highly tailored scientific journal must have different free and public subject discussion forums, located at its Internet Web site. Authors can public papers at the journal site, or inform editor board about their sites where submitted paper is located. The journal site must have public archives, containing all submitted papers located at every discussion forum. The storage time of submitted papers in the archive mast be unlimited (all papers can be copied at the united database of Academy of Science or corresponding scientific communities.). This archive will decrease, at least partly, plagiarism and redundancy (unfortunately, the submission of similar results in different journals is an usual technique for obtaining more elevated rankings and C.V.) in scientific community.
2) All submitted papers must be published without any review (forum members can evaluate them some time later) or with minimum review. The journal editor can remove rejected paper to the folder Rejected papers. He must inform all forum readers about this facts and its reasons. So, any reader of the journal can read such rejected paper and make his/her own conclusion about the paper. The papers will be published at the discussion forum site just after submission. The author is responsible for both his submitted results and their representation form (orthographic, syntactic, stylistic errors).
3) The members of the discussion forum takes a decision about the scientific meaning of a submitted paper based on public discussion (one proposal is to take into account the points of view of scientists which have corresponding scientific degree only. Other proposal is to take into account the points of view of all scientists which have enough practice in the corresponding field of science). Papers, approved by discussion forum and accepted at electronic journal at any country must be described as scientific papers by all dissertation councils. The transfer a paper at the folder Rejected Papers and even it removal from the electronic journal (if author agree with this action) as a result of the discussion.
4) Unclassified dissertations materials must be sited at the journals (scientific organizations) sites for public discussion on the discussion forums by all scientists interested in them. The scientific results of these discussions must be taken into account during the defense of dissertations, other scientific degrees, and research programs.
5) The best papers of the discussion forums are published at the journals after editing (orthographic, syntactic, stylistic). Thus, only best papers will be published in any scientific journal.
editor-in-chief of the journal Journal of Russian
Chemical Society called by the name of D.I. Mendeleev
Georgiy Vasilievich Lisichkin civilly agree to
comment this problem.
The review process is the basis of a good journal.
First off all, Id like to note that the letter authors attempt to improve the system of the publication of scientific papers (including the papers containing new ideas) must be saluted. The are undoubtedly right when say that it is necessary to use new possibilities (that are given by the electronic communication facilities). However, concrete authors proposals provoke my objections.
Id like to note (at the beginning), that my notes are concerned with the Russian chemical journals, because I well know the situation, concerned with scientific publication at this field. I cant judge about situation in other fields, in medicine particularly, because I assume that situation (in these fields) arent univocal.
Let start from the statement that there is a big retention interval from the moment of paper submission to it publication. It is the reason of the poverty of Russian science and accordingly our scientific journals. It is necessary to have additional staff (editors, typesetters, makers-up, adjustors) to make such retention interval equal to 3-4 months (it is the time that is necessary for the release delta and polygraphic works). It is necessary to pay adequate hire to all of them.
It is necessary to pay adequate fee (for the fast review) to reviewers that mainly work on a voluntary basis. It is one of the reasons of a big retention interval from paper submission to it publication. It will be useful to increase the journals volume and their numbers during a year. For example, Russian chemical journal Journal of the Russian Chemical Society called by the name of D.I.Mendeleev have not state or any other systematic financial support. It is the reason why retention interval is equal from 3 months to 1 year.
Now about reviewers. Of course, the knowledge of any scientific worker is limited, but the fact that a paper is evaluated by limited number of reviewers (but not all world) is right. It is so, because reviewers are specially selected scientists which have highest qualification. Every journal, as a rule, is proud of his reviewers. Furthermore, editors select reviewers, also, on the basis of their human merits (they must be well-wishing, patient and, composed people). Two (or even four in some journals), but not one reviewers review (at the same time) every submitted paper in serious scientific journals to prevent any subjectivism. Only the system of careful review is the basis of good reputation of the journal. Interesting, high level journal is the journal where any paper was reviewed by two reviewers at least. You can compare, for example, Langmuir with any departamental collection of articles (here the author, by himself, must send to editors a review).
The problem of anonymity is very far-fetched very largely. In some journals, for example Sorosovsky Educational Journal the review is open. Most of editors propose choice right to reviewers, but not force them sign their notes. Reviewers dont hide their names very often. It is impossible to demand complete and absolute openness of all reviewers, because there are some people which have unstable psyche and which are looped on their super problems. The open review of such people papers can to represent a danger (to reviewer) to devote all his (reviewer) future life to sterile discussions with this inadequate person. It is known tragic cases murder of reviewers.
A good paper written by unknown author (without well-known boss, as co-author) will be published if it really good. It is the real problem to refuse (in publication) when well-known boss is between co-authors. However, it dont mean that the paper of unknown scientists will be not accepted. The example when reviewer rejected (50 years ago) Belousovs paper (devoted to oscillation reactions) is illustrated every time in such cases. It is necessary to note, that science become more democratic during last time. There are many journals publishing papers, devoted to similar themes now. Thus, Boris Pavlovich Belousov can to submit his paper to 5 Russian journals (and to some number of foreign journals), at least, if he was rejected at the Russian Journal of Physical Chemistry now. At time when he lived he had only one possibility to publish his paper at the Russian Journal of Physical Chemistry only. He had not possibility to publish his paper at foreign journals, because he worked at the secret institute. Thus, it is more easier to publish revolutionary paper now, in comparison with time 50 years ago. However, revolutions in science take place very rarely, but not often as think the project authors.
It is the solution, also, of a problem when highly tailored journals dont accept papers devoted to adjacent themes/branch of science. The academician O.M. Nefedov founded and leaded the journal «Mendeleev communications» that publish papers from any fields of chemistry. Time delay (between submission and publication) is equal to 4 months. It accept papers from any fields of chemistry and publish them on English at once. The papers, submitted to this journal is reviewed by Russian and English specialists. This journal was specially created for the fust publication of good papers. Another journal (Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Sciences, chemical series) presents all fields of chemistry, also, and papers size can be enough big. . Time delay (between submission and publication) is equal to 6-7 months. The third journal Progress of Chemistry publishes reviews on all fields and, some time, problematic themes, devoted to new ideas. These journals are the journals of Academy of Sciences. Them accept any papers from institutes of higher education, applied-research scientific research institutes. The submitted paper must be good only. All these journals have high (in comparison with other Russian journals) impact factor.
(The scientific journals level is evaluated by means of impact factor, that is determined by the American Institute of Scientific Information. Its value is depends on often cited papers number in the journal. Russian journals have low impact factor, but this fact isnt the consequence of level of Russian science. This low impact factor is the consequence of language barrier (the number of these journals readers is very small), and Americans assurance that all science are made in USA. Chemistry and Life editor camment).
When can I agree with the project authors? A paper is confronted with such opposition level that proportional to its (paper) novelty level. People are working within the bounds of common paradigm and usual work is more easy then revolutionary. We tried to solve this problem 12 years ago at our Journal of the Russian Chemical Society called by the name of D.I.Mendeleev. At 1994 we started to publish the special journal number with the motto New ideas and hypothesises. We wanted to give possibility to publish their papers to all people which devised or developed anything cardinally new. We specially decreased barrier for the authors of such papers and even dont demanded detail confirmation of their idea or hypothesis (for facilitation of their task). The new ideas must be correspond to conservation laws, dont have any self-contradictions and to have cause-and-effect relations only. From 1994 to 2003 it ware published 10 such journal numbers. We created the first such number by ourselves. However, drift takes place then and we were forced to reject 50% of submitted papers, because they dont correspond to our simplest demands. Our editorial board cruelly rejected some paper, which author insisted that 8,5 millions kilocalories are released during the decomposition of 1 kg of Na2Si3O7 (so called silicate energetics). However this gibberish was published in one scientific journal, in one popular science journal and in tens departmental journals. We carefully studied all published papers after we published journal number 10 (each of them contains 15 papers). The result of this analysis was published at the Journal of the Russian Chemical Society called by the name of D.I.Mendeleev ¹ 2, 2003. It was founded that, only 15% percents of papers have essential novelty. It isnt so much as was waited by the authors of this project. So, we dont publish such numbers now, but we publish such papers in current journal numbers in the rubric New ideas and hypothesises. Some of such papers are really interesting and dont corresponded to the present concepts. For example, we have published very non-trivial S.E. Shnolia papers, devoted to the fine structure of the radioactive decay. Opposite example is when we rejected a paper, devoted to the transmutation of elements in the electric discharge (electric spark). This paper was rejected because absence of clear confirmations of the flowing of reactions, but not because the energetic level (in the accordance with well known physical lows) is small for nuclear reactions. Any experiment must be reproductible and it is very important criterion. The theme devoted to the reproductible of experiments merits to the separate discussion.
Now about the open publications at the sites. There arent any doubts that big number of scientific journals will appear in the Internet at the nearest time. This process have begun now. The time delay (between submission and publication) will be smaller in such journals (in comparison with usual journals). However, one can confidently assert that the quality of electronic journals will be formed by the level of its reviewers (by specialists, exactly, but not by the voting of readers as offering the project authors). The truth isnt determined by a majority vote.
Discussion forums, as I think, it are very useful. We want to organize such forum at our site for the discussion of new ideas. We must dont do any organizational conclusions from these discussions, but just to take them into consideration.
The main problem, now, is small accessibility of foreign scientific journals for Russian scientists. The printing versions of these journals are very expensive. There isnt, practically, even one library that can be subscribed to complete list of chemical journals. Institutes of higher education and Scientific Research institutes have not financial resources for the access to electronic versions of scientific journals. The main problem is financial problem (like in the case of time delay).
Full text electronic versions of some our journals, for example Journal of the Russian Chemical Society called by the name of D.I.Mendeleev, are free illustrated at the Internet (http://www.chem.msu.su/rus/journals/jvho/welcome.html), but publication of electronic versions only is premature. First of all our universities dont describe the publications at electronic journals as scientific paper that can be used as links at dissertation or other paper. They scarcely agree that they must describe such papers as scientific papers. Who force them to do it? By the way, the quality of Russian electronic journals are essentially smaller then the quality of corresponding printing journals. Secondly, the time of the life of the printing journal version is bigger in comparison with the time of life of the corresponding electronic journal version. I am not sure that electronic versions of scientific journals (in Internet) can have enough time of life. It maybe this situation will change in future.
Additional information from the Chemistry and Life editor board:
We decided dont study this situation (with scientific publications) at the other fields of science. Chemistry is our field of science. However, we asked (about this problem) two famous medicine professors which have well known name in the medicine field. It was found that time delay (between submission and publication) is more bigger (1, 5 year is very big lucky). Their fields of view, concerned with review process are similar: the review process is need to eliminate the number of poor papers, that number is very big. They admit, also, that even well-wishing reviewer can dont read submitted paper during 2 month, because he/she is very busy. They also agree that it is very difficult to refuse to accept a paper when one co-author is well known person.
The question about the ideas conflicting with common conceptions is very dangerous. The medicine is mainly descriptive and statistical science and so filed for the fantasy is essentially more. However, our interlocutors were unanimous that why not if a paper is reasoned?.
A small accessibility of scientific information is the reason of serious anxiety. So, they think that idea of parallel publication of papers (in electronic journals) isnt insensible. Such method was used by biologists in the program Genome of human. All news were set at the site and time delay was equal to 0. It maybe it is the method of future science.
Editor board note: the open folder Rejected papers maybe very useful. There will be no offended persons. However, only independent professional reviewer must transfer rejected papers to this folder, but not discussion forum. It is very difficult image that active scientists will have any time to control (on a voluntary basis) all submitted papers.
Electronic science is accessible for all.
It is necessary to note that West scientists worried essentially early. The main their problem was accessibility of scientific information. The price of the subscription (on scientific journals) increased 3 times more during last 10 years. So, libraries were forced to refuse to subscribe to most of journals. Scientific journals publishers make no secret of the fact that scientific journals publication is very profitable business. For example, The American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS) finances most of its projects by means of profit, concerned with the publication of the journal Science.
All begun from private initiative. At 1991 Internet server www.arxiv.org start its function. It offers to send physical papers and make from them free public archive. This site is increased now and it become the main scientific library not only in physics, but in informatics, astronomy and mathematics. About half of all papers (in physics) are sended at this server now before their publication in printing form. About 2000 papers appear at the arxiv.org during every month and more than 140000 people visit this database during every day.
United free public medicine electronic database (PubMed Central) was created at 2000. Its aim is to collect all papers in one place and lighten the information search for scientists. PubMed Central call all journals to send to him all published papers as soon as possible (maybe half of year or year after publication). Big number of publishers dont want to send their published papers to anywhere even they (publishers) make these journals free and public at their journals web sites after some time. Some journals have agree to send their published papers to PubMed Central. So, the process has begun.
Public scientific library (Public Library of Science PloS) was founded at October 2000. It is coalition of scientists researchers which have the main aim to make world science and medicine literature open for all. They prepared open letter signed by about 34000 scientists from 180 countries. This letter contained their demand to open (in Internet) scientific papers (half year after their publication) for all. It was offered to found a special electronic archive (with search service), containing full text electronic versions of all published (in English) papers. Anybody must found (in this archive) any information, concerned with results of scientific research. Scientists, signed this letter threaten with boycott to publishers if they dont react to this action. Nature» and «Science» organized electronic discussions at their sites. Some of publishers started to think about taking money from authors, but not from readers. As a result any revolutionary change was not, but some scientific journals begun to open their published papers for all.
As a result of this turmoil PloS got grant that used for the foundation electronic scientific resource (www.publiclibraryofscience.org) where 2 virtual scientific journals are published now: Biology (from 2003) and Medicine (from 2004). All papers published in these journals (now its number is about 200) are accessible and free for all. Publishers take money from authors which want to publish their papers. Publication price is not small and it equal to 1500 USA dollars/paper. The submitted papers are necessarily reviewed by most qualified and respected (in corresponding scientific fields) scientists. The editor board of a journal can postpone payment, cancel it or take its part only if author has not money (and reviewer agree). The paper published in such electronic journal is considered as full value scientific paper (for the quoting). The journal Biology hopes to get a high impact factor to this summer. This public library have a plan to begin publication 5 additional journals (concerned with biology, genetics and medicine) at the nearest year.
The American Chemical Society begun expand access to scientific papers, publishing in 33 their scientific journals. Part of the papers (that are made on the basis of grants of National Institute of Helth) will be sended at the open Internet portal National Medicine Library (PubMed Central) 12 month after their publication. Furthermore full text of all papers will be accessible by means of web links, controlled by authors. This additional option is more democratic in comparison with the present time optiona when it is possible download only 50 copies of a paper 1 year after it publication (09.03.2005, agency Newswise).
Belshtein Institute declared about the beginning publication (at 2005) the new free electronic journal, concerned with organic chemistry. This journal (electronic version with full open access) will be published by means of join support of Belshtein Institute and BioMed Central. BioMed Central publish, now, about 130 journals. You can free read them in Internet. The new organic chemistry journal will be included in this portal (that has good search system). New Belshtein journal will publish original papers from all fields of organic chemistry and adjacent fields. Such form gives possibility to all chemists to become familiar with their colleagues papers. The papers will be at the continuous online access form, but their one year archive will sell. Belshtein Institute will finance publication accounts, so papers authors dont need to pay for their papers publication. (11.03.2005, AlphaGalileo).
Click here if you want to read Alexander Shagaev notes, concerned with this articles.