Trouble at CIHR continues

Looks like CIHR continues to have trouble with the Project Scheme Live Pilot. Applicants are waiting for results of the competition to release today, and by the sound of it there was an unintended early release for some applicants that included the names of their reviewers. The message from CIHR is below (emailed to applicants today):

ResearchNet funding decision release incident

This is to advise that at 21:30 on July 14, 2016, a system breakdown caused by a local power failure resulted in ResearchNet releasing funding decisions for the Project Competition prematurely. In addition reviewer names were accessible for a maximum of 49 applicants for 17 minutes. Corrective actions were immediately undertaken and the system was restored to normal operating status. Reviewer names can no longer be accessed. CIHR is in the process of advising each of the reviewers whose name could have been accessed.

At this time, competition results are being released as scheduled. CIHR sincerely regrets this situation and recognizes its significance given the importance of confidentiality in the peer review process. CIHR is currently assessing the technical cause of this incident with ResearchNet in order to ensure that it is not repeated. 

Canadian Institutes of Health Research

This is clearly a big issue for the integrity of the review process. Its good to hear it was caught early, but this is not an encouraging development for an already controversial process. The most recent developments have been covered by CBC and Science magazine.

NSERC-funded research open access policy

It looks like the earlier draft policy on open access for federal Tri-council funding in Canada has been made official. NSERC grants starting after May 1, 2015 will have to comply with the new policy. This seems similar to many other agencies, such as the NIH, which require access within 12 months of publication.

The “deposit elsewhere after publishing” model is usually referred to as “green” open access, and many journals now support this model after funding agencies have begun requiring it. This is usually a zero-cost option for the authors (which is a good thing.) “Gold” open access (where the authors pay a fee at the time of publication to allow immediate OA) costs grant money, and is not always an option when budgets are tight.

ACS journals allow users to deposit their work after 12 months in a repository, such as PubMedCentral, for NIH funded work. Presumably a similar policy will be developed for NSERC. RSC journals also allow OA archiving, as does Nature Publishing Group, Wiley, Elsevier, and others. Some of these (like Elsevier) are journal-specific, and may be worth reviewing before submitting a paper for review.

Open access repositories that NSERC funded chemists are likely to use include PubMedCentral, PubMedCentral Canada, and Institutional Repositories.


RSC takes Chemical Science open access

To follow up on the last post regarding open access journals in the chemistry space, it looks like Chemical Science will be going to a gold open access model. The most notable feature here is that the publisher says they will waive any publication charges “for at least two years.”

This seems like a serious move from RSC, and one hopes that other chemistry publishers will follow suite.

For comparison to other gold open access chemistry journals, some stats on Chemical Science (in 2013):

  • Chemical Science, $0 (until at least 2016), 596 articles (658 if you count front/back/cover material)

Open access publishing in Bio/Chemistry – Whatever happened to PLoS Chemistry?

I’ve been a fan of the open access (OA) movement for a while. However, I can’t say that I’ve voted with my feet: I typically publish in society/specialty journals that are not open access. Of course, some of these publishers now give you the option of paying them to make your paper OA, so they can argue that one can still publish in those venues and just pay to allow access to your work.

I’m not a fan of this model – having an essentially random sampling of papers does not make for a good presentation to the reader, nor does it address the idea that an open archive of research data and conclusions is a benefit to the community. I would argue that opting to pay OA charges at these closed journals is basically supplementing the journal’s advertising budget with your research grant. At the end of the day, if readers want full access they must get their libraries to pay for the rapidly growing cost of closed journal subscriptions.

Which brings me to the subject of this post: What are the best OA venues for chemists to publish their work right now? I’m specifically interested in “gold road” journals, those that make their content freely available immediately upon publication. Here’s the list I put together in an hour or two of searches, I was targeting Organic Chemistry, Chemical Biology, Biochemistry, and related fields. I doubt this is exhaustive, and I’d appreciate any suggestions from others. (Journals listed with current publication charge, and number of articles published in 2013):

Clearly PLoS One is the largest venue, Scientific reports seems to be growing (about a 3X increase from 2012-2013). I hadn’t realized until now that Molecules, Arkivoc, and the Bielstein journals were OA. Some of the ones low in the list may need some incubation time to reach critical mass. I ruled out some smaller journals if they were not indexed on Web of Science, PubMed, or SCOPUS. Any others that I’m missing?

There was once some talk of a PLoS Chemistry, but I can’t seem to find any indications that its happening. I don’t see many of these venues competing with premier society level journals without buy-in from leaders in the field. My impression is that this has allowed the PLoS brand to take off, with a few of those journals having become top-tier venues.

Its worth noting that archive servers are a mechanism for OA publishing. This is dominant in some field (but sadly lacking in Chemistry/Bio): is the new kid on the block here, and it remains to be seen how readily preprint servers are become adopted in biomedical research.

A comparison of funding in different countries per-capita by researchers (or “Let’s all move to Luxembourg”)

The state of science funding in North America is not great, and there is plenty of discussion about just what a crisis we are all in. However, one does sometimes wonder how funding really compares across borders. As a US-trained researcher now working in Canada, I’ve paid a lot of attention to the differences between funding models in those two countries. Perhaps an obvious (and difficult) question is: Which is the best system to be in as a researcher?

There are government statistics for the amount of R&D funding in many countries. Statistics Canada has some information broken down by province (as of 2009), the EU has a detailed report (2008/9), the World Bank has historical trends for many countries in total funding (up to 2010), and Wikipedia even has some data assembled for many countries. All of these stats are usually compared by absolute dollars or by % GDP. Many reports will refer to the GERD (Gross Expense on Research & Development) which lumps together business, government, and academic expenditures. Recent reports following R&D spending as a percentage of GDP have been making the rounds as the data suggest that China has started to outpace Europe and is catching up to many others.

But do these statistics reflect conditions on the ground for researchers? While the US still appears to rank at the top of lists by total expenditures, does that mean the US researchers have access to the most resources? If you work in a country that has a lower GERD but fewer researchers, is there more funding per researcher (PR)?

Lets start with that question, since it should be easy enough to calculate, and I was unable to find these types of comparisons elsewhere. Here is my calculation of funding for select countries per researcher based on GERD stats in this report:

Funding per researcher (OECD 2009)

A couple of points on these data: The US still comes out close to the top, but we see that small countries (like Luxembourg) shoot to the top due to a small population of researchers (there are about 500-times more researchers in the US for comparison). To avoid the extremes, lets just look at the top 10 most populous countries (by researcher).

Country Table (top 10)From the table, again the US is on top while still being the most populous. Canada is in the middle of the pack with approximately 60% of the funding level in the US. Germany, France, Japan and Korea are all at competitive levels with the US.

Keep in mind that these numbers combine Government, Academic, and Business funding of research. So any given segment could be very different in a side-by-side comparison. There is also no breakdown by research segment, or any inclusion of differences in funding models. On top of that, the numbers are a bit out of date – most of these are from 2009 and a lot has changed on the research scene since then (both in industry and academia). These are all topics for future posts, but hopefully these numbers are food for thought.