If you can think back to your high school or college days, you undoubtedly remember research papers being a royal pain. Not only did you need to come up with your own hypothesis, but then you had to go out and support it. Of course, you couldn’t just support it with any old information you found. Instead, you needed to use scholarly information. How boring is that!? Whether you felt this way or not, you likely realize now the process of writing a research paper was important to your education and though many adults seemed to have forgotten how important a properly researched argument is, perhaps you still remember your education. Despite acknowledging the importance of high level scholarly information, some scientists have decided to throw in a curve ball and many of their cohorts are not happy with the results.
For centuries, the method of publishing scientific research has been a uniform endeavor. One would conduct their research, perform their experiments, put together their data in an organized fashion, and then write up their paper. This research would then be submitted to a scientific journal for peer review and once it passed through this review process it would be put into print. Most accepted that this was the best way to get scientific information out there, but some became frustrated with the wait, typically taking a minimum of six months to get research through for publishing and often taking years. Perhaps this is why some modern scientists are looking to make a change.
Uniting under the hashtag #ASAPbio, some scientists have begun publishing their findings using an open online, pre-print server that anyone can view. In the past, these servers have existed to help with scientific review, but allowing them to be open to the public leads to some alarming implications; at least that is what many of the scientific authorities are asserting. According to supporters of this initiative, like Nobel Laureate Carol Greider from John Hopkins University and neuroscientist Steve Shea from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, it is actually a great step forward for the scholarly community. After all, getting this information out to the public right away can help increase interest in their research and therefore help improve funding. It also is more inclusive, allowing a larger group of scientists to question their findings and come to stronger conclusions.
While there might be some debate whether this movement is a good idea, the truth that not many scientists seem willing to address is that these peer-reviewed journals are not always the most reliable to begin with. For starters, they sometimes still pass mistakes through and publish findings that are quickly debunked after their release. Though it might sound like a conspiracy theory, some also suggest they are completely closed off to anything that might question certain set ideas. Considering that the foundation of science is asking questions, it can seem at times that the publishers of these journals are less interested in scientific advancement and more in just pushing forward their own agenda. As a result, some significant findings might never make it into a peer-reviewed journal simply because they don’t lineup with the overall interests of the community.
That’s just bad science.