Non-traditional publishing choices for biologists

Zeba Wunderlich and Kishore Kuchibhotla of Harvard University write in Nature’s Correspondence page (451, 887; 2008):

The paramount importance of publishing in biology dissuades many young scientists from making non-traditional choices with regard to where and how we publish our work. My colleagues and I believe it is in our own interests to identify the shortcomings of traditional publishing and to explore other publishing possibilities that are free of those problems.

What can we do? First, learn about our options. There are several innovative developments poised to change the publishing landscape dramatically. Video publications, preprint archives and high-throughput online journals are but a few that have recently surfaced (for a discussion, see Nature Network’s Publishing in the New Millennium forum).The onus is on all of us to investigate these resources and to consider how they might enrich our science.

To make a difference, we also need to contribute. Frustrated by technical difficulties in reproducing published experiments? Then publish a video protocol in the Journal of Visualized Experiments. Have you benefited from a colleague’s comments at a conference? Then extend the experience, and comment on articles published by PLoS One and posted on Nature Precedings. These initiatives will take hold and achieve their full potential only with strong support from the scientific community.

If we collectively embrace these ideas, publishing will become more effective. Although the psychological and social barriers to submitting a contribution initially are surprisingly high, becoming involved has proved to be rewarding. Ultimately, scientific progress and the published record have a symbiotic relationship — improved communication will enhance the pace, progress and efficiency of research.

[Note added by Maxine: In addition to the resources mentioned above, Nature Protocols is an online resource which welcomes the upload of protocols, in video or written form, and provides users with an interactive network for comments and additions.]


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