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Publicly Available Published by De Gruyter May 24, 2017

Beware the Hype of Digital Publishing

Creating Useful Information Requires Work

Martin G. Hicks and Carsten Kettner
From the journal Chemistry International


Scientific publishing is changing; Open Access allows for published information to be freely shared, and Open Data repositories [1] are improving our ability to share and (re-)use data. These and initiatives such as RDA, FORCE11, and FAIR, [2, 3, 4] are changing the way we perceive the notion of publishing science. In the laboratory, equipment is becoming interconnected and new technologies are producing vast amounts of data; transformative change is underway. New publication practices are required that address the needs of the data producers and the data users. Many community-based grassroots projects and initiatives have already successfully set up infrastructures for storing and sharing data.

With this background of change and disruption, we must not lose sight of the fact that science can only thrive if the research produces high quality, reproducible results and data. ‘Publish or perish’ is the result of false incentivization. More and faster often translates into superficial and incremental. Thus, while new technologies should be embraced, they need to be implemented in ways that ensure good data reporting and allow validation, verification, and sharing.

The Beilstein-Institut publishes two platinum Open Access journals: the Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry and the Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology. These two journals are unique in their fields, in that neither have APCs nor any other fees for authors or readers and both have been awarded the DOAJ Seal, [5] confirming an exceptionally high level of publishing standards and best practices. The Beilstein-Institut was one of the first publishers to check all incoming manuscripts for text similarity. In addition to the standard peer-review process, submitted manuscripts are checked by PhD scientists for consistency and plausibility. Through our internal editorial team, we see the many advantages that electronic publishing brings. However, there are disadvantages, such as the contribution of easy copy and paste to the prevalence of text plagiarism, and many potential advantages have yet to be realized, for example the routine reporting of validated experimental data.

 Figure 1. The workflow for STRENDA-DB. The linking of validated data input with peer-reviewed article publishing ensures that the data are not only complete but have also been reviewed by experts.

Figure 1. The workflow for STRENDA-DB. The linking of validated data input with peer-reviewed article publishing ensures that the data are not only complete but have also been reviewed by experts.

With its longstanding history in high-quality chemistry data, the Beilstein-Institut has initiated and runs two data standards projects: STRENDA and MIRAGE, [6, 7] guidelines for data reporting in the areas of enzyme chemistry and glycomics. Both projects aim at proposing reporting guidelines to allow the readers to analyse, validate, corroborate, and interpret the findings in the publications. The guidelines are developed by a panel of leading international scientists in each of the corresponding fields in a consensus-driven process and in close consultation with the wider community. The STRENDA reporting guidelines are recommended by the major journals in biochemistry and the MIRAGE guidelines are starting to be adopted by the major journals in glycobiology. To improve their practical use by both authors and journals, the STRENDA guidelines have recently been implemented as a web-based front-end for STRENDA-DB. [8] This supports authors by providing a data submission form that automatically checks the manuscript data for compliance with the STRENDA guidelines prior to or during the publication process. The successful formal assessment is documented in a fact sheet that can be submitted with the manuscript to the journal. In addition, each dataset is assigned a DOI to allow the easy tracking and referencing of data. The data become publicly available in the open access database only after the corresponding article has been peer-reviewed and published in a journal. The workflow for manuscript and data processing is shown in Figure 1.

STRENDA-DB demonstrates how a community-driven initiative can not only produce data reporting guidelines, but, when combined with innovative software, can turn those guidelines into a practicable data validation and reporting system for research scientists, putting the data at the center of the publication process.


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Online erschienen: 2017-5-24
Erschienen im Druck: 2017-7-26

©2017 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston