Effective Tips for Dissertation Writing

Pursuing a doctoral program in science and technology requires at least 3-4 years of rigorous work in a laboratory. A dissertation summarizes the research project that was carried out for three to four years.

Defending the dissertation is the important aspect of receiving a Ph.D. A researcher is entitled Ph.D. only after successfully defending the dissertation. It is an important landmark in the career of a researcher who can now be called an independent researcher or scientist.

Having said that, not all scientists are great wordsmith and a poorly written dissertation may be a death knell to one’s career. In fact, a researcher may not be able to receive Ph.D. if the dissertation is poorly written.

In this article, we explain steps that must be followed to write a dissertation effectively.

1. Start writing the dissertation right from the beginning of the research program: Most doctoral students tend to think that dissertation must be written at the final stage of their doctoral program.

They consider dissertation as just a scholarly paper that can be “written up” once the experimental study of their doctoral program is completed. They consider research experiments as the “real work” and scholarly communication as completely secondary.

Most doctoral students of science and technology are engrossed with work in the laboratory. They have to design the experimental study, perform complex experimental procedures, perform statistical analysis, derive results and finally present conclusion. With this rigorous work in the laboratory, most doctorate students procrastinate “dissertation writing.”

Although writing and defending thesis is the last component of a Ph.D program, science students should start writing their thesis/dissertation right from the start of their doctoral program. This is because the doctoral program extends for uptill three years and thesis must a cumulative reflection of their entire period. It is not something that can be “written up” at the fag end of the doctorate program.  

Dissertation writing rightly reflects the “art of science” as it is a skill that requires scientists to hone their skills as wordsmiths in science communications.  Every paper and presentation written from the first day of the doctoral program is important; doctorate students should start preparing their thesis from the very first day of their graduate careers.

2) Spend some time each on writing dissertation: It is essential that all doctorate students hone their skills in science writing. Therefore, science writing must be a part of your routine. There are many resources and style guides of science writing. Each doctoral student must spend some time daily reading these resources in order to get a grasp of science writing.

3) Consult your advisor throughout the process of dissertation writing: To pursue Ph.D. program successfully, it is very essential to have a rapport with the supervisor. It is essential to have an effective communication with your supervisor while pursuing your Ph.D.. This will certainly help a doctoral student in completing their dissertation in a timely manner. Most doctorate students feel afraid to show the rough draft of their thesis to the supervisor. Such an attitude can prove to be “fatal” in dissertation writing.

It is very important to communicate with the supervisor on a daily basis. Always seek advice on the progress of your work while pursuing your doctoral program. Professors and mentors would always help in different aspects of thesis writing, not just in terms of English language but also in refining the scientific aspect of this study.

If the student has a poor rapport with the supervisor, then it becomes very difficult for the student to defend their thesis at the fag end of their doctoral programs. Quite a few times, their dissertation is rejected as the supervisor is not just aware of the student’s research work right from the beginning. Following the rejection of dissertation, the student is crest-fallen as it is back to square one or ground zero for the student.

4) Students must maintain an annotated bibliography: This is a very important strategy for writing an effective dissertation. This strategy must be followed by a researcher throughout their career. Apart from compiling a conventional reference list of different papers, students must prepare an annotated bibliography that includes personal reading notes on each paper that they have read.

While writing a formal paper, a researcher must compile annotated bibliographies relevant to the topic. These may be personal reading notes obtained from several projects that serve as an interactive background for the current work in progress. Commentary, updates, and references are some of the kinds of additional writing that must be incorporated into a formal paper meant for publication in scholarly journals.

5) Students must consider “stepping stone” assignments:

Most PhD thesis of scientific disciplines contain “Introduction” and “Discussion”  sections in which previously published papers are referenced and quoted for arguments and evidences. Published papers are the resources on which the dissertation of the current study has to be based. Therefore, science students must write evaluative reports of all experiments periodically. It is important to write about failures and obstacles as they can be then included in the discussion section of the formal paper.

Apart from published papers, students may also refer to meta-analyses, literature reviews for referencing. A book review may also prove to a good resource in rare cases. New methodologies and techniques should also be evaluated periodically. All these types of scientific literature are very useful in writing a dissertation paper.

6) Attend workshops, conferences, and seminars: Students must present their research work at any relevant academic workshop, be it conference or less formal meetings of graduate students. When students make presentations at these events, they receive constructive feedback in improving the quality of the final draft of the dissertation.

Many universities hold formal meetings of students who are in similar stages of their doctoral programs. At these meetings, students discuss and review each other’s work to improve the quality of their work. It is highly recommended that students join such writing groups and workshops, wherein fellow students offer feedback and proofreading services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do researchers need ORCID account

We live in information age where everything is available at the click of a mouse and search engines are an integral part of our lives. Likewise, the world of scientific research has also undergone metamorphosis with onus shifting toward digital age. Check out the success of Google scholar, PubMed, ResearchGate, and Mendeley: the most powerful tools for researchers all over the world. Just a thought for magnitude: PubMed is the biomedical literature library that provides upto 1 million papers each year. PubMed makes medical literature available to the common man, a digital innovation of the US government.

With digital nature of publications, information science has also undergone metamorphosis. Today we live in a world of digital libraries, and a system was required to integrate and collaborate researchers all over the world. The latest data and science had to be available to researchers living anywhere in the world, thanks to the internet of things.

An ORCID iD account

ORCID is the acronym for Open Researcher and Contributor ID. It is an important digital platform that connects researchers with latest research publications and innovations all across the world. ORCID Inc was launched on October 16th, 2012. ORCID ID is a digital identifier, which is an alphanumeric, 16 digit code. It is a unique identification number, which stands for the digital identity of each individual working in the research industry: professor, independent scholar, post-doc researcher, science writer, academic author, doctorate student, etc.

These digital numbers are used by each researcher to get access to scientific research across the globe. At the same, ORCID creates a massive integration of the entire research publication process, right from submission of grants to the publication of manuscripts. It is a unique way of getting research work recognized, advertised and promoted.

Uses of ORCID ID

As an ORCID account holder, your efforts in terms of publications and conferences are provided to all members of ORCID; researchers across overseas and domestic frontiers can easily collaborate and gather resources for research grants and funding. ORCID number traces the following activities:

 

  • Research publications
  • Research papers related the researchers’ papers
  • Published patents
  • Research grants
  • Research blogs
  • Affiliations to institutions and research organizations
  • Awards and recognition
  • Evaluation scores
  • Wikipedia articles

In totality, ORCID account simplifies the manuscript submission/acceptance process for any scientist bridging the gap between academia and industry. ORCID is acceptable by all scientific publishers, so researchers can submit their papers easily to all publishers. They do not have to refurbish their information and credentials each time.

In terms of manuscript writing, ORCID account provides access to most scientific literature. Thus, scientists can easily scour the literature and cite relevant literature in their manuscript for improving the authenticity/quality of their research study.

Here is the list of prominent publishers which have mandatory ORCID requirements for authors:

  • Hindawi
  • PLOS
  • Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Science
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering
  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Chemical Society
  • Nature
  • Wiley

Today researchers from different universities and research organizations from across the world can collaborate and gather research funding, thanks to the most successful platform: ORCID. The most prestigious governmental research funding in Australia is received from NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) and ARC (Australian Research Council). They have made ORCID compulsory for all researchers in Australia for receiving grants. In the USA, the research funding agency NIH (National Institute of Health) has streamlined the process of integrating their user name with ORCID.

 

 

 

 

 

Avenues for Young Researchers on Research Grants

Although funding agencies have diminished resources today for research studies, scholars and budding researchers should never lose hope. Advanced countries continue to have funding for international students who are bright and innovative in research and academia. Principal investigators are senior professors in research labs, with scholarships and grants being offered to deserving scholars. To most young people from developing countries, it opens floodgates of international prestige as they get a chance to collaborate on the latest developments of science and technology.

An academic resume with high scores in bachelor’s and master’s degree is not sufficient for receiving research grants and scholarships in international universities. Young scholars from developing countries also need to submit a truly innovative research proposal that needs to be reviewed and approved by the supervisor at international universities; an eminent team of full professors includes subject matter experts in specialized fields. These professors screen various research proposals and academic resumes of candidates to select the eminent ones for funding.

In this article, we provide a gist of some of the most prominent channels advertising vacancies and openings for research grants and scholarships. These are channels that normally feature openings of research in various prestigious universities all across the world.

1) The World Academy of Sciences: https://twas.org/

Based in Italy, this is a prestigious organization geared toward helping scientists in developing countries through collaboration. The organization provides research grants, fellowships, prizes and awards to deserving young researchers from developing countries. The fellowships received by these researchers can be used to pursue doctoral and post-doctoral studies. Researchers with terminal degrees (PhD) from their home countries may work as post-doc researchers, independent scholars, and visiting professors with these research grants. This prestigious organization has regional offices in India, Egypt, China, South Africa, and Brazil: these are countries that are now known as emerging economies.

2) EURAXESS https://euraxess.ec.europa.eu/

Researchers in Motion: This is a unique initiative by this organization that is backed by the European Union. Its main objective is to provide funding to scientists and researchers with an aim of increasing mobility of science. Thus, various initiatives are laid down to building concerted efforts for dissemination of scientific expertise from European scientists to the rest of world. Scientists from developing world can gain access to scholarships and funding to work as researchers in Europe and in other emerging/developed countries (Japan, India, etc).

 

Science4Refugees: In a war-torn world, the number of people fleeing their home countries to foreign land is increasing tremendously; these people are known as refugees and they are simply victims of their circumstances. This organization is geared toward providing support to scientists migrating as refugees to foreign lands.

 

  1. NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program    https://www.nsfgrfp.org/

National Science Foundation (NSF) is the federal government organization of the United States of America. Deserving students receive grants and fellowships for pursuing post-doc research in various prestigious universities of the USA. Most fellowships are geared toward sophisticated advancement programs in science, technology, engineering, and math. The candidates receive grants based on their Intellectual Merit Criterion, which is a cumulative average of their grades as well as the experimental study design of their research proposal. Previous research publications also add weightage to the candidates’ resume.

  1. Fellows from AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science)

https://www.aaas.org/ http://www.sciencemag.org/careers

At this platform, there are many jobs advertised for scientists; these are not just restricted to research and academia. This website advertises many positions and opportunities for pursuing doctorate, post-doctorate, and research careers are advertised at this website. These opportunities are available not just at leading universities and research organizations but also at various scientific conglomerates. Moreover, it provides complete guidance to master’s and bachelor’s students on how to pursue their admission and research proposal while applying for doctorate programs.

Conclusion: Research grants are very competitive and strict; however, most research proposals having an interdisciplinary study design are usually approved by the principal investigating team of professors. Funding is a prestigious honor and it creates great room for innovation; funding grants provided at these channels also cover benefits such as travel and health insurance, including when researchers are required to go to international conferences.

 

 

 

 

 

The nexus between predatory journals and academia: the result is bad science and medicine

discard blacklist

With highly strict standards of publication set by SCI journals (Elsevier, Springer, Nature, Wiley, etc.), the acceptance rate of manuscripts is just 15%. This puts a lot of stress on young researchers in academia. Failure to publish papers in these noted journals spells a doom on their career in research and academia.

Thus, it is a classic case of where supply (manuscripts) exceeds the demand (acceptance rate by publishers). The number of people graduating from most colleges in the USA with terminal degrees (PhD) far exceeds the availability of research jobs in academia.

To cash on this opportunity, today there are many “predatory” journals that will publish any manuscript for a royalty. These predatory journals have total disregard for the authenticity of the research study and would even publish a completely plagiarized paper. This trend is often witnessed in community colleges as they do not receive sizable federal grants for the advancement of their career in scientific research. Most predatory journals would charge about some hundreds of dollars for publication under the garb of the word “Open Access” or “Hybrid publishing.”

How do academics from less known community colleges fall prey to these journals? Well, most of these predatory journals have names that have strong resemblance to that of famous journals. They quite often provide bulk discounts for publication of many manuscripts and also invite these academics for workshops and seminars. We found that despite knowing the poor credentials of these journals, researchers oblige to have a symbiotic relationship with these predatory journals. Scientific credibility is not just lost but wrong science is also promoted by these predatory journals, which means our future generations would have to suffer due to these unlawful practices in academia and research.

According to the latest sting operations carried out by a scribe of Nature publisher, the number of predatory journals now stands at 10,000. This implies that there are as many predatory journals as legitimate ones. For example, consider the legitimate journal publisher by Springer “The Journal of Economics and Finance.” The predatory journal by an independent publisher is named similarly as “The Journal of Finance and Economics.”

Predatory journals have minimum cost of publication and earn good revenue. They do not have peer reviewer and editorial team. Most journals only publish papers online, with some of them having a “print on demand” model as well. One of the tricks that these journals do is by having names resembling standard journals of SCI. Moreover, they also claim to have been indexed by Google scholar while sending direct marketing emails to academicians all over the world. It is important to note that “Google scholar” is a search engine, so being indexed by Google does not mean Google has authenticated the credentials of the predatory journal. This is something most academics are not wary of, unless they have a solid background in computer science.

One of the detrimental results of the naivety of researchers is the proliferation of bad science. To make matters worst, these publishers also include the name of researcher in the list of presenters/speakers at a conference for a hefty fee. The academic may OR may not attend the conference, but the conference can be certainly enlisted in the academic resume of the researcher. Most of the so-called conferences are published at respectable venues of universities and hotels. In reality, these conferences are held in dingy hotels undergoing renovation, with more than 50% academics giving it a miss.

Do predatory journals have a detrimental effect on the career of researchers? Nope. A recent survey and analysis done by a leading researcher at his university threw open a can of worms: ten faculty members had got promoted this year and nine of these academics had published papers in both SCI (legitimate) journals as well as predatory journals. In fact, many of them had published at least four papers in predatory journals, which explains why these predatory journals are making good money despite being completely shady and unethical in their practices.

Conclusion:

Academics are promoted when their resume is loaded with a long list of publications. The list of published papers may be long, but the authenticity of journals is never verified. In totality, academics are now relieved that they do not have to stress on publishing in legitimate journals having strict standards. Bad science is being promoted by academia with the help of predatory journals, and there needs to be a regulatory authority to stop this menace in research industry.

 

 

 

Guidance to Peer Review after Manuscript Submission

A manuscript is published in top journals only after it is approved by peer reviewers, who are subject matter experts and noted scientists who have published high quality papers in top journals.

As young researchers and graduate students, peer review is the process that defines their career in research and academia. Peer review can be a daunting process, especially for scientists who are not native speakers of English (ESL). Once the author submits their work to the journal, the manuscript is evaluated by anonymous group of peer reviewers to whom the paper is sent by the journal editor. The author never gets to know the peer reviewers and so it seems like a one-sided trial in a court-room.

The peer review process evaluates the scientific accuracy and language presentation of a manuscript. In other words, a manuscript that is poorly written in English may be rejected outright by the journal. Moreover, issues with the scientific accuracy of the manuscript may be pointed out by peer reviewers. Most ESL scientists seek the help of native English scientists to polish their manuscript for English language errors.

Researchers and graduate students have to make sure that they receive a favorable outcome from peer review process: “Accepted” or “Revise and Resubmit” verdict. If the verdict of peer review process is “Rejected,” it sounds a death knell to the career of graduate students and young researchers who have spent several months or even years pursuing their doctorate program. They must have even spent a lot of time writing their manuscript. A translated manuscript of ESL scientist has to break even the barriers of language.

Here are some excellent tips to ESL scientists for handling the daunting process of peer review.  

In the peer review process, noted scientists evaluate the manuscript on the following parameters: hypothesis, data, evidence, and conclusions. A paper that meets the requirements of all these parameters is accepted by the journal editor.

English language errors

Most ESL scientists face the barrier of language when they submit their work to English journals. A good scientist may be innovative in the laboratory but that does not necessarily mean that they are well aware of the nuances of English language. Thus, although an ESL scientist must have made path-breaking discoveries, the ESL scientist ends up writing a paper that has several English language errors. Hiring a native English scientist can certainly help an ESL scientist to improve the quality of the manuscript in terms of English language errors.

Reference citations

It is very important to cite references for your work to avoid plagiarism issues. Peer reviewers evaluate hypothesis, data, evidence and conclusion based on the references cited in the manuscript. The references serve as evidence to the experimental study design. A peer reviewer goes through the bibliography in the reference list after perusing through the paper.

A sparse bibliography is one of the major reasons for rejection of manuscript by peer reviewers. Another red flag would be a manuscript with few primary sources as citations. This error is often committed by graduate students who usually cite only online sources. Papers lacking original sources of literature reviews as primary citations raise a red flag among peer reviewers. It is important to remember that peer reviewers are expert in their field and a paper lacking proper reference citation to back novelty of experimental study is often rejected.

Stacked bibliographies

An experimental study seems to be biased and skewed if the reference list contains papers published by a single laboratory/research institute/university. This implies that the authors of the experimental study are biased by the point of view of a single institution or group of researchers. The scientific study is unbiased and rational when the bibliography includes work of different sources.

Abstract overloaded with excess information

Quite often, peer reviewers come across abstracts that promise more than what is delivered in the entire manuscript. The abstract is quite often written by scientists at the start of the experimental study. However, research projects depend completely on funding and grants; therefore, many experimental studies are altered during the course of execution and implementation. In totality, the manuscript that scientists end up writing may not be the one that was envisioned at the start of the research project. In such cases, it is imperative to rewrite the abstract that precisely describes the current context and content of the manuscript. The abstract should precisely describe the research study within 250 to 300 words.

Submission to incorrect journal

A paper must be submitted to a journal that correctly defines the scope and aims of the study. Therefore, a researcher must peruse through different journals in a particular discipline before identifying the one that correctly fits within the scope and aim of the manuscript. A paper submitted to a wrong journal is usually met with rejection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mantra of academic publishing: Publish or Perish

Academic publishing is a dynamic field with high quality standards. The adage “Publish or Perish” stands true for most researchers in academia. The painful reality of academic publishing is the fact that perishing is more probable than publishing, given the extremely high and rigid standards of top journals in academic publishing.

Let us consider a case study of American Psychological Association (APA). In 2013, the peer reviewed journals of APA received 12,000 manuscripts as submissions. Out of these 12,000 manuscripts, more than 76% manuscripts were rejected by journal editors. In fact, the rejection rate was more than 90% in top peer reviewed journals. Given the high rejection rates of manuscripts, researchers are always stressed out despite toiling for years on research studies and grants. Recently, a survey was conducted at the University of California to understand how researchers cope with the stress of academic publishing.

In this survey, we send academic inquiry by email to numerous researchers. Only 130 researchers responded to our academic review requests. In the survey, we asked researchers about their academic position, personality traits, the manuscripts they were reviewing presently (the journals to which they had submitted the manuscript for review), how they were coping with academic stress of publishing in peer reviewed journals.

Depending on the nature of the individual and the field of study, researchers had different coping mechanisms. It is important to note that most people had stressful periods of uncertainty. For example, the outcome of job interview and selection, the diagnostic tests, results of competitive examinations, and decisions of college admissions.

The objective of this survey was to understand whether researchers were coping with the stress of academic publishing productively or not. Most researchers were coping with anxiety-related stress disorders due to the uncertainty of manuscript publication in peer reviewed journals.

The long waiting periods for manuscript publication was causing lot of stress. Many researchers suffered from anxiety, neuroticism and developed a pessimistic attitude. The academic history of researchers played a pivotal role in shaping their attitude. The amount of anxiety and uncertainty were less among researchers who had successfully published their manuscript at least once in a peer reviewed journal.

Academics who had submitted a manuscript for the first time to a peer reviewed journal had maximum stress and anxiety during the waiting period. The situation was similar to those of recent graduates who anxiously wait for the outcome of interviews at various job fairs. However, there were some new scholars who were very excited after submitting their manuscript to a peer reviewed journal for the first time.

There were young scholars who thought that their manuscript would be accepted by noted peer reviewed journals as their experimental study design presented path-breaking effects. These young scholars had spent years completing their research work. However, their excitement was short-lived when their manuscript was rejected by peer reviewed journal editors.

The results of this survey are as follows: negative feelings of neuroticism, anxiety, and stress were higher among academics who had published few papers. Similar feelings were observed among academics who had few submissions currently. These academics had higher waiting periods and they were highly anxious about whether their manuscript would be accepted by journals. The level of uncertainty and anxiety was certainly much higher among these academics. They had conditioned their brains to accept the worst case of rejection.

Researchers who had been working in academia for a long time were more adept at coping with uncertainty as they had been battling the cycle of rejection, re-submission, and eventual publication. Academics who had successfully published many papers were not really worried about rejection of their manuscript by journal editors.

Graduate students had the highest level of uncertainty as they had submitted their manuscript to peer reviewed journals for the first time. Compared to post-doc and adhoc faculty members, graduate students had high levels of stress and anxiety. The coping skills were the poorest among graduate students as they braced for the worst.

When is the waiting period hardest for academics?

Waiting period is highly stressful and uncertain for graduate students as they have spent years working on their experimental study design while pursuing their doctorate degree. Following the successful publication of their manuscript, they gain greater confidence in their line of work. Young academics are always encouraged by the adage: If you want something done right, do it yourself. Nevertheless, waiting period is most stressful and uncertain among graduate students as they have invested years of hard-work pursuing their research study.

More anxiety and stress were reported by academics with the following traits:

  • Numerous positions of authorship
  • Higher investment into research study
  • Fewer authors on a research study

These academics checked the websites of journal publishers quite often after submitting their manuscript. While recording the experiences of academics during the waiting period, we found that stakes were highly screwed given the poor rate of acceptance by top journals and publishers. Although researchers need to have many publications for a thriving career in academia, all published papers are never treated as equal. Only manuscripts published in top peer reviewed journals of Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, and Nature can be considered prestigious and relevant for career advancement in academia.

 

 

 

 

How patent citations have revolutionized science and technology

Science and technology are intertwined fields in modern world; science envisages theoretical principles and applications. Technology is the application of scientific experiments. In the continuously evolving world of academia, researchers publish papers and file for patents of their inventions. Most academic researchers also work as consultants in R & D laboratories. For example, they may be adjunct professors in universities and also subject matter experts for industries. In totality, technology is the application of science. It is important to note that citations cannot be a measurement of innovations and disruptions. Patent applications include detailed information about novel information. By filing patents, scientists and consultants can avoid legal disputes about its authenticity. Moreover, patent citations also lay foundation to novel areas of licensees. Examiners of patents play a pivotal role in examining the patent applications.

Patent citations are an essential component of scientific literature

Country:  European and American patent offices have different sets of standards for filing patent applications. Some patent examiners cite papers published in their countries, while other patent examiners cite papers published internationally. This introduces domestic bias in the process of patent citations.

Field: The number of patents filed also depends on the field of study. For example, life science fields such as Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Genetics are fields of study in which large number of non-patent technical documents are filed currently. On the other hand, Engineering is a field in which large numbers of patent documents are filed in current times.

Journal: It is important to note that there is absolutely no connection between patent citation and the impact of citation in a journal. In a patent application, there will be information cited from papers published in average journals. Papers are cited in noted journals of science and technology as they break the technology barrier. Within scientific literature, there are many factors that govern patent citations. In certain disciplinary subjects, more references are included.

In some countries, scientists prefer citing articles that are published in their own countries; however, there are countries wherein scientists prefer publishing in international journals. Nevertheless, citations cannot be an indicator of impact factor and quality of research. The data receives interesting insights whenever we make comparison between inventions in a patent office. In World Intellectual Property Organizations (WIPO), most patents included research publications from the UK. Moreover, patent citations of US research publications is stable and while there is a downtrend of variance for patent citations from China.

Conclusion Patent citation is an integral component of innovation and research in academic publishing.

The disruption of academic publishing market

As the world evolves from the print medium to digital medium in the internet of things, the relevance of printed journals has been losing relevance. Traditional academic publishers like Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley followed the traditional business model of printed journals for decades. However, with the evolution of computer and internet, things seem to be changing at a dynamic speed. Researchers bypassed academic journals and stocks of printed academic publishers seemed to have doomed down in the 1990s.

Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, and Nature evolved rapidly due to the changing dynamics of this industry. These traditional publishers have overcome the changing dynamics of research industry. Currently, Elsevier’s annual revenue has increased to $25.2 billion. As the academic publishing market evolves from the print to the digital medium, the business model is perfect for making lot of profits. In academic publishing, the consumer and producer are researchers. They need to publish their work in their high impact factor journals where they receive maximum viewership. Elsevier is the most prestigious journal that has overcome all barriers of the changing dynamics of academic publishing.

DISRUPTION OF SCI PUBLISHING

Open access is the answer to the disruption of academic publishing market. Given the capitalist, aggressive, and unrealistic approach of traditional publishers like Elsevier, Springer, and Nature, open access model provides a fertile ground for dissemination of research information. The fate of a researcher is not dominated by prestige of deans and committees. Currently, there are more than 10 thousand open access journals enlisted in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). University authorities in Netherlands have pressed for Open Access journals over Subscription journals at the headquarters of Elsevier in Netherlands. They have threatened to boycott Elsevier journals if they do not shift to Open Access model. Education and knowledge are fundamental human rights, and the open access movement of academic publishing means free dissemination of knowledge. With the current business model of SCI journals, high subscription fees prevent dissemination of knowledge to everyone.

Currently, capitalist equity investors are trying hard to sustain their capitalistic, commercial values. To get tenure and promotion, researchers are forced to publish in SCI journals of traditional publishers: Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, and Taylor & Francis. With the demand of open access movement growing presently, SCI model of publishers will no longer have access to assessment. To bring about a balance between the power struggle of these two evolving and changing dynamics, Fair Access to Science and Technology (FASTR) bill has been drafted recently by the US Congress.

How English became the lingua franca of scientific publishing

English is the lingua franca of scientific publishing in the 21st century, with more than 75% of research studies being published in international English journals. (Refer the book “Does Science Need a Global Language by Scott Montgomery). However, the situation was quite different in the 19th century before the First World War. An almost equal number of scientific studies were published in German, English, and French. Nevertheless, German was the lingua franca of scientific publishing till 1900s. Today the situation has reversed with massive proliferation of English scientific journals and a steady decline of publications in German.

Purists may argue that Latin is the original language of science, and this hypothesis is partially correct in that Latin dominated the scene of scientific literature from the medieval period till the 17th century. In fact, Galileo was the first scientist from the medieval Renaissance period to publish his thesis extensively in Latin. Thereafter, the thesis was translated from Latin to other European languages. However, Latin became just another language of scientific research with the advent of industrial revolution in Western Europe.

Cut to the 20th century: German language lost its dominance even in scientific literature as Germany had to concede defeat in both the World Wars held in the 20th century. During World War I (1914 to 1918), scientific research studies from Germany and Austria were vociferously boycotted by scientists from Britain, France, and Belgium. Thus, German and Austrian scientists were also debarred from publishing in Western European journals at that time. Thus, the World War led to the division of scientific communications into two sections: Central Powers (Germany and Austria) and Western Europe (predominantly English and French). However, the hatred toward German scientific journals persisted following the First World War. In the United State of America, all things German received widespread hatred as the country joined England during the World War I in 1917.

During this period, many international organizations of scientific publications were also established. This included the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemists (IUPAC). These organizations functioned in only Western European languages of English and French. German, the erstwhile dominant language of chemistry, was completely banned by these organizations during World War I.

Following the entry of United States of America in World War I in 1917, a strong anti-German wave swept the country. Although there was a sizeable population of Germans in the USA, the language was banned in 23 states. With the implementation of this ban, public speaking of German language stopped, including radio shows. Schools stopped teaching German language to children younger than 10 years of age. Thus, German as a foreign language lost its sheen in the USA during that period. Nevertheless, the ban on German language was lifted in 1923 in the USA; however, the damage was already done.

With ban of German language, the US witnessed a large population of English speaking scientists who had limited knowledge of foreign languages, such as German and French in the 1920s. Meanwhile, scientific publishing in American English gained significance in the international community.

To escape World War I in Europe, many scientists fled from Europe and migrated to the USA. With the ban on foreign language education, English was adopted by these European scientists in the USA. In the year 1902, only 293 scientists completed their doctoral studies in the USA (Source: National Science Foundation). Contrast this with the year 1990: more than 30,000 students graduate with PhD in the USA. Thus, more than a million new scientists from the USA are today working, writing, and publishing in English. This has made English language the indisputable lingua franca of scientific communications.

What one needs to know is that population of native English speakers in the world does not exceed 5%. This means that English is the second language of most researchers, including those living and working in the USA. Thus, lot of valuable scientific research fails to get published in English journals as ESL (English as Second Language) scientists struggle to elucidate their scientific discoveries in English. This is especially true for ESL countries like China, Russia, and French. English speaking scientists must have sympathy toward these ESL scientists and collaborate with them to develop “English as the universal language of science.”

 

 

Challenges facing research scientists in academia

With the recently held rally “March for Science” on April 22, 2017 in Washington, DC, the Donald Trump administration must have felt pressure to concede to the demands of research scientists. The Trump administration received severe criticism for reversing climate change policies and reducing funding of academic research projects. In this article, the challenges facing research scientists in academia have been summarized as follows:

1)     Reduction in government grants toward scientific research

Scientists need money for performing research studies. With Donald Trump mulling over a further reduction in financial grants toward scientific research, scientists would grapple with various issues as research projects are already struggling at various levels. However, research funding has been drying up over the last few decades. Most path-breaking research discoveries happen in projects that last over a decade, while grants allotted by serial governments in the USA last for just three to four years.

In such a scenario, scientists have to seek grants from external sources to cover lab costs, research assistant salaries, and to implement procedures. The funding received from universities covers only the salaries of scientists working on projects. The sources of external funding are limited and most researchers have to primarily depend on the federal grants provided by the US government.

As funding is getting limited, the process of grant approval is becoming stricter. In the year 2000, more than 30% NIH research proposals received federal grants. Today, the situation is grim with only 17% NIH research proposals receiving federal grants.

All this cost-cutting measures have led to dismal status: researchers shy away from unconventional subjects today and stick around to publishing short papers with a faster turnaround period. Thus, mediocre science is the current state of academia.

2)     Conflict of interest from external sources

As the federal grants become highly competitive and meager, scientists turn to industries and commercial establishments for funding their research work. This ultimately leads to conflict of interest, with most reviewers questioning the authenticity of results. Scientists are compelled by these industries (FMCG, pharma, food, etc.) to produce results that favor the commercial prospects of the sponsoring agencies.

3)     The study design of most experiments is biased, all thanks to poor incentives

Most research scientists are compelled to create study design of experiments and produce “novel” results, which will ensure the publication of work in prestigious journals. The “path-breaking discoveries” do not occur often, so scientists introduce bias early on in the experimental study design to embellish results. As they are pressurized to produce “significant results” for publication, scientists are helpless as they also need to save their research careers. Most scientists manipulate the analysis of results, rather than providing an honest assessment of their findings. For example, most biomedical researchers conduct extensive p-test to statistically analyze their results against other hypothesis. They only publish “statistically significant” results, which are easily achieved by this so-called “p-hacking”

Can you believe how poor incentives has jeopardized insignificant results? More than 30 percent of the so-called high quality medical research papers are now found to be containing exaggerated or wrong results. In monetary terms, this has translated to a wastage of $200 billion, that is, 85% of the money spent on scientific research globally.

4)     Peer review process is faulty

Although most journals have peer review process to improve the quality of manuscripts and to prevent wrong studies from getting published, the process seems to be losing its sheen. As peer reviewers are NOT paid by the journals for providing constructive feedback of the manuscript, they do it under obligation. Thus, many systematic reviews have now found out that peer review is a faulty process: it fails to ensure that bad science is NOT published. Time and again, many manuscripts with faulty results and plagiarized content seem to have got published. As the editor and peer reviewers know the authors of the study but the authors do not know about the editors and peer reviewers, there could be instances of biases toward researchers from certain institutions and countries.

5)     Scientific research is inaccessible to the public owing to high subscription prices of journals

Publishing a research study in a journal is not enough to disseminate science. Most journals are extremely costly as leading companies like Elsevier acquire numerous journals and sustain the print model for their vested interest. Most articles in journals can be accessed by readers at a hefty fee. For example, a yearly subscription to the Journal Cell costs around 279 $. If an educational institution subscribes to the 2000 Elsevier journal for a year, the cost would soar to anything between 10,000 $ to 20,000 $. Most US universities pay for these journals and their students can access it whenever they want; however, PhD scholars in developing countries like Iran need to shell out from their pocket, which means they would need at least 1000 $ a week for reading some novel research papers.

It is indeed a sad story that the common man’s tax returns are funding research studies at universities and government labs, but the common man has to again pay a hefty sum of money to access this work in scientific journals. Can you believe the annual revenue of Elsevier was pegged at around $3 billion in 2014?

Conclusion

Science is not yet doomed and there are methods for fixing these issues. The process needs to be modified to include more proofing and to mitigate biasing: this can be achieved by rectifying the peer review process and by ensuring better allocation of federal grants. With more federal grants being processed at regular intervals, scientists would be happier to pursue unconventional subjects. The tendency to suppress non-significant results would diminish, leading to better transparency. Thus, the more frequent sources of bias would be eliminated in academic publications and scientific research.