Deciding What to Share: Evaluating Content in a Self-Publishing World

Copyright: cuteimage / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: cuteimage / 123RF Stock Photo

A BuzzFeed News analysis of “news” stories during the final three months of the 2016 US presidential campaign revealed that on Facebook, the 20 top-performing fake-news stories from hoax sites and hyper partisan blogs generated 8,711,000 instances of engagement (shares, reactions, or comments) while the 20 top-performing stories from news web sites generated 7,367,000 instances of engagement (1). Basically fake news generated 1.5 million more responses than real news.

This is particularly concerning given that a Pew Research study from July 2016 indicated that 63% of Americans say that family and friends are an important way they get news—they get their news from their social networks (online or offline) rather than from vetted broadcast or print media (2), and 54% of people asked in this same study responded that they “sometimes” or “often” received news from social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

I too must confess that quite often it’s a tweet or a Facebook post that alerts me to a news story or world event. Often it’s even a tweet or a post that leads me to the latest science news. I can’t remember the last time I deliberately watched the 6:00 news, though it was a staple in my house when I was growing up.

So what does all of this mean for science communication, science literacy and a basic understanding of what is really going on in the world? Continue reading “Deciding What to Share: Evaluating Content in a Self-Publishing World”

Prepublication: Everybody’s Doing It?

Imagine for a moment this conversation between a senior graduate student and his dissertation adviser:

“Everybody’s doing it. Physicists and computer scientists do it all the time. And even Carol Greider has done it, and she’s a Nobel laureate.”

“Yes,” his adviser from her work, “she is a Nobel laureate; she can take that risk. But, I don’t have tenure, and I am still working on my first NIH grant. You don’t have a degree yet. None of these things—your PhD, the grant renewal, my promotion—come without publications in a peer-reviewed journal, and most peer-reviewed journals in our field, at the least the ones that count for grant renewals and promotion, don’t allow publication of previously released data.”

“But why let the publishers decide what is good science—why not let the scientific community decide and crowd source the review?”

“I agree, but I also want a future. We write the paper and submit it. So do your homework, let’s go to a journal with a short turnaround time, open review, and a reputation for publishing good science.”

Open Data and the Biological Sciences

The debate over prepublication in biology is raging.  Prepublication is the standard in physics, computer science, math, and economics to get results publicly available quickly for scientific commentary, and it doesn’t seem to interfere with career advancement and grant renewals. Is there a good reason that the same practice isn’t followed in the life/biological sciences? Continue reading “Prepublication: Everybody’s Doing It?”