How times have changed


At the end of January I gave a talk at the British Library in London at an event organised by WriteLaTex. The presentation was about the most important developments in scientific publishing in 2013, and touched on what I thought would make the news in 2014. Top of my list was open access. In April 2013, the UK Research Councils mandated that all ‘peer-reviewed research articles and conference proceedings that acknowledge funding from the UK’s research councils should be published via open access routes. This is an incredibly complex issue, with various options and funding models available, and funding bodies and governments around the world mandating policies that are not only country- but also subject-specific. As such, it is likely to remain at the top of the agenda for at least the next 12 months. 
 
I also mentioned Randy Sheckman, winner of the 2013 Nobel prize in physiology or medicine. He made the news at the end of the year when he criticised a research culture that rewards publication in ‘luxury journals’, namely Nature, Science and Cell. Controversially, he has committed his lab to boycotting such journals, and encouraged others to do the same. 
 
Also in the list were the takedown notices that Elsevier has issued to academics who have shared their papers on the web. In the last few months of 2013, the publisher escalated enforcement of its copyright transfer agreements, causing quite a reaction within the scientific community. 
 
Peer review developments were also noteworthy, with a proliferation of new initiatives, such as reviews that can be transferred between journals with Rubriq, or F1000Research offering post-publication peer review.  
 
The audience, made up of people working in the science, publishing and start-up communities was, unsurprisingly, incredibly knowledgeable about all the issues, and very positive about the changes. One thing I found amusing was that members of the audience were wearing t-shirts carrying tributes to PeerJ, Mendeley and Figshare. This is, of course, consistent with the type of audience we had – but it contrasted greatly with the fashion of my youth, when we would have proudly sported the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin. How times have changed...
 

International Year of Crystallography

To mark the centenary of the beginning of crystallography, the United Nations (UN) has declared 2014 the International Year of Crystallography
 
This celebration recognises the impact of crystallography and its role in developing new materials as a powerful tool for structure determination. Indeed, ‘100 years ago William Bragg and his son Lawrence first showed that the pattern of x-rays reflected from a crystal encodes the spatial coordinates of its constituent atoms.’ These are words by Philip Ball, who pays his tribute in ‘Crystallography 101’ and argues that the UN could equally have taken the decision to celebrate crystallography in 2013 or 2015. 
 
And in case you missed it, I recommend Andrea Sella’s Classic kit column, ‘The Braggs’ spectrometer’ – it starts all poetic, quoting Philip Larkin on parental relationships.

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