Category Archives: News

Meeting Announcement: Transparency, Recognition, and Innovation in Peer Review in the Life Sciences (February 2018)

Over the last 50 years, journal-conducted peer review has become the foundation of how scientific work is evaluated and validated. With an interest in fairness and transparency, mounting concerns about rigor and reproducibility, and opportunities provided by the internet, we feel that the time is ripe to discuss how peer review might be advanced.

Therefore, ASAPbio, HHMI, and Wellcome are pleased to announce a meeting on “Transparency, Recognition, and Innovation in Peer Review in the Life Sciences” on Feb. 7-9, 2018 at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Due to limited space at the meeting, in-person participation is by invitation only, but all members of the community can join us via live stream.

This meeting will convene thought-leaders from the scientific community, publishers, technology developers, and funding agencies to discuss topics including:

  • Should journal peer review become a transparent and citable form of scholarly communication?
  • Should scientists receive credit for peer review and, if so, how might this be achieved?
  • What are best practices in peer review, how can they be spread? How can we train scientists in scholarly review?
  • Is it possible to overcome inefficiencies and redundancies in peer review?
  • Should reviewers be expected to review supporting datasets and code?
  • Using new tools (e.g. preprints and the internet), are there new models for feedback/evaluation that could augment traditional peer review?

To engender broad and open discussion, the meeting will be open (live video streaming) with pre-meeting deliberation (e.g. short white papers and commentary) to engage the worldwide scientific community. To be notified of these developments, please join our mailing list (to the right) and watch this space. We look forward to a conversation that engages diverse stakeholders, perspectives, and opinions.

New directions for ASAPbio: outcomes of the July 19 workshop

On July 19, preprint service providers, funders, and researchers gathered in Cambridge, MA and via videoconference for a live-streamed ASAPbio workshop about the evolving preprint ecosystem (see video recording and collaborative notes). The goal of the meeting was to assess outstanding needs in light of recent developments, including CZI’s partnership with bioRxiv. At the meeting, representatives from a number of preprint servers shared an update on their planned developments, and much of the agenda was devoted to discussing how communities of stakeholders can work together to promote constructive developments, both technological (manuscript conversion and screening tools and formats) and social (best practices and increased awareness in diverse communities).

Terminating the Central Service RFA

In learning more about CZI/bioRxiv’s plans, ASAPbio—in collaboration with representatives from the Consortium of Funders supporting Preprints in the Life Sciences—have decided to terminate the request for applications for the Central Service and the development of bylaws and election of a governance body for a Central Service. Many of the goals of the RFA (making preprints easier to find, accessible by machines, and capable of scaling to accommodate a significant fraction of the literature in the life sciences) will be accomplished by the CZI partnership and other developments in this rapidly evolving ecosystem. While we are not pursuing the CS/governing body at this time, we will continue to monitor the preprint space and may potentially revisit infrastructure developments if there is a strong need.

We thank all of the respondents who developed outstanding applications, two of which have been shared publicly, a group of ~30 individuals who provided considerable work and advice toward the development of the governance principles and bylaws, and all members of the larger community who have provided feedback and advice to us.

What’s next for ASAPbio? Preprint standards, awareness, and new directions

At our July 19 workshop, a general consensus was reached around the need for standards and best practices for preprints. This need was articulated most strongly by funding agencies who would like to be able to direct their grantees in selecting an appropriate repository for sharing their results. Currently, there are no broadly agreed-upon best practices or mechanisms by which to evaluate preprint servers in areas such as metadata, preservation, access, screening/manuscript removal, and manuscript scope/completeness. The funders have encouraged ASAPbio to create such standards in consultation with the scientific community, funders, and preprint servers. This effort will allow funding agencies to more readily adopt and use preprints, and it will also increase the reliability of preprints as a form of scientific communication. ASAPbio is committed to transparency and community engagement in all of our work, and we look forward to hearing your feedback as this process moves forward over the next several months.

Furthermore, the meeting identified a strong need for increased awareness of preprints among many communities of researchers. ASAPbio will continue to partner with our ambassadors and others to promote discussions about preprints.

ASAPbio stands for Accelerating Science And Publication in biology. We are working toward the ultimate goal of improving the entire process of communicating research. In addition to preprints, other elements of the publishing system require the attention and involvement of the scientific community. We are currently exploring these directions and will share news about upcoming plans in the near future.

 

ASAPbio launches preprint licensing task force

Every month, more and more life scientists are choosing to post a preprint. This decision can give scientists visibility in their field, establish priority of their work in progress, gain recognition by funding agencies, and elicit feedback to improve their manuscript.

But once the decision to preprint is made, authors posting to some servers are faced with another important choice: which license to pick—that is, what they will allow others to do with their work. The aggregate effect of such choices will expand or restrict the possible future benefits of preprinting.

Permissive licenses, such as CC-BY, remove barriers to the innovative reuse of content. Such reuse could include new display tools incorporating annotation (such as SciLite and SourceData), discovery tools that excerpt passages to create summaries, archives for preservation, or use of the figures in educational materials. Restrictive licenses, on the other hand, could create barriers for reuse scenarios, such as those that create modified versions of the work or that are commercially motivated. The choice of license has implications not only for potential uses, but also for the journal that ultimately publishes the papers.

The current state of preprint licensing

Some preprint servers (preprints.org and PeerJ Preprints) apply a CC-BY license by default, making all preprints full open access. Others (arXiv and bioRxiv) only require authors to grant the preprint server a license to post the article; in addition, they offer a range of creative commons licenses or the choice to retain all their rights.

Presented with choices, authors do not prefer permissive licenses at bioRxiv or arXiv. However, based on initial conversations, we find that licensing and the ramification of different licensing are issues that are very poorly understood by the scientific community.

Recently, some funders and journals have also entered the conversation. The NIH encourages the use of CC-BY licenses for preprints, while some journals have implemented policies that concern preprints posted under certain licenses, but not others.

ASAPbio’s Preprint Licensing Task Force

To stimulate informed conversation on the licensing of preprints, ASAPbio has established a Preprint Licensing Task Force.

The goals of the task force are to:

  • Understand stakeholder (author, funder, publisher, and preprint server) attitudes toward these licenses
  • Create resources to help inform stakeholder decisions
  • Potentially recommend preprint licenses that will maximize scientific progress and social benefit

The Task Force began work in late May of 2017. It is chaired by Dick Wilder, Associate General Counsel at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and non-voting affiliate on the ASAPbio Board of Directors, and contains among its members researchers, lawyers, and representatives of funding agencies and journals.

If you would like to provide your perspective on preprint licensing to the Task Force, please contact Jessica Polka (jessica.polka@asapbio.org).

New developments and plans for the Central Service RFA and Governing Body

Funding agencies are crucial to the development of the preprint movement. The adoption of preprints by the life sciences community has been accelerated by grant-making policies that recognize these manuscripts as a valid form of scholarly communication. Investments in preprint infrastructure, services, and technologies are thus necessary to build capacity for growth.

The latest strong support for preprints comes from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), which recently announced financial support for bioRxiv, the leading preprint server in the life sciences, along with resources to develop new open source software, including tools for manuscript conversion to XML. ASAPbio applauds the decision by CZI to provide funding for bioRxiv and further technological development, both of which will very positively advance the growth and readability of preprints.

ASAPbio also has advocated for funder investment in these areas. Together with a group of funders, ASAPbio developed plans for a Central Service, an aggregation site of preprint content meeting certain standards, new search tools, and software for XML document conversion. Seven applications were received on the April 30 RFA deadline. In parallel, ASAPbio also commissioned a 30 person task force to develop bylaws for a community-elected Governing Body, which have been released for public comment.

In light of the CZI/bioRxiv partnership that was announced on April 26, ASAPbio and the Funders Consortium have jointly decided to suspend the RFA and Governing Body for a four month period in order to reassess the needs of the scientific community. Since some objectives of the RFA are now being pursued by CZI/bioRxiv, we do not wish to duplicate or compete with their efforts. The need, role and mandate of any Governing Body may also require re-evaluation. During this four month period, we will gather more information from CZI/bioRxiv and engage the broad community of scientists, funders, scientific societies, and publishers to learn more about their opinions and needs. This represents an exciting opportunity to further advance scholarly communication by building upon the CZI/bioRxiv initiative and thus better serve the scientific community. Consistent with our mission, we will aim to bring together various stakeholders for conversations, identify and debate opportunities, and encourage input from open discussions with the community. We will release more information in the next few weeks regarding this planning process. Feel free to contact us with your input, suggestions or questions now or in the future.  

We appreciate the support and patience of everyone who has provided feedback on the Central Service governance and RFA process thus far, including the funders who have articulated principles for supporting preprint infrastructure, the RFA respondents who have written thoughtful and in many cases highly collaborative applications, attendees of our technical workshop and other meetings, members of our governance task force, our external reviewers, and many other individuals who have shared their feedback on our draft proposals for infrastructure and governance. We will continue to engage the broader community as we work to advance and accelerate scientific communication.

Requesting your feedback: how should life scientists set standards for preprints?

May 10, 2017 update: ASAPbio has announced a four-month suspension of the RFA process to reassess the preprint ecosystem and community needs. 

Preprints (scientific manuscripts that have been posted prior to completion of peer review) allow for the direct exchange of knowledge between scientists. They constitute a global public good that promotes scientific progress. However, preprint servers, which have a 25 year history in physics, are relatively new to the life sciences, and their recent appearance has raised many questions about how they should best be used. What content should constitute a preprint? What type of information (metadata) should accompany preprints? How should they be licensed? How should preprints be screened? How should preprints and journals interact in productive ways? How should servers handle ethical issues such as human subjects research? These issues are examples of many that have been raised, and more will undoubtedly arise as scholarly communication evolves in the future. Rather than “hard wiring” rules for preprints now, we need to consider a thoughtful mechanism for ensuring that preprints develop and adapt to serve the scientific community, both now and in the future.

Currently, preprints in the life sciences can be found on several different servers and platforms (bioRxiv, arXiv q-bio,  PeerJ Preprints, F1000Research, figshare, preprints.org, and more are on the way). A diversity of preprint servers offers more choices for authors, but each has its own metadata, formatting, licensing, screening, and preservation standards. Each makes decisions according to its own board or advisors. Collectively, this can make it more difficult to know which servers conform to policies and technological standards requested by funders, and which ones will be most visible to scientific peers.

Creating an aggregator for life sciences preprints

The provisionally-named Central Service is a proposed aggregation site similar to PubMed Central. It would provide convenient access to a corpus of life science preprints for both humans (via a search interface) and machines (via an API and bulk download). This will ensure consistent access to preprints for purposes of archiving, text and data mining, and development of other services. Moreover, the central service will be established with a community governance structure to make it responsive to the needs and developing standards of the community.  ASAPbio has received a grant to catalyze the development of this service, and we are also working with 11 other funders to establish funding over a 5 year period. We’ve released an RFA for service providers, and expect the technical components of the service to launch in 2018.

However, the technology of the service must be complemented by outstanding leadership and oversight by respected members of the scientific community. Each depends upon the other; the cart and horse must be hooked up together. It is critical that a mechanism for community governance begins operation prior to or at the same time as the Central Service.  

Establishing community governance

What can we learn from other organizations with similar missions of serving the scientific community? Many such organizations operate through governing bodies composed of elected or appointed members from their relevant scientific community. These governing bodies make decisions according to bylaws, which effectively serve as a written constitution for that organization. Even though the elected officials turn over, the bylaws ensure that the organization maintains its operating principles over time. Virtually all scientific societies have established bylaws and elect a governing body. Some scientific resources, such as the Protein Data Bank and the preprint server arXiv, also operate in a similar manner. However, scholarly communication in biology currently lacks community governance; decisions are largely made by individual publishers or mandates by funding agencies. While preprints are just starting to gain acceptance in biology, now is an opportune time for the creation of an independent, scientist-led governing body for preprints with transparent governance processes similar to those of scientific societies and community repositories. We hope to hold elections in July and begin operation of the governing body in September or October.

To prepare for this, ASAPbio has worked with an international task force composed of ~30 scientists from a variety of fields and career stages, as well experts in scholarly infrastructure, to draft Operating Principles and Bylaws for this governing body. Representatives from the Funders Consortium also have provided valuable edits and feedback on this document.

Now is the time for communities of life scientists to establish a governance structure for preprints, and we are asking for your input. Please provide your feedback on the draft Operating Principles and Bylaws by leaving comments and suggested edits in the Google Doc. You may also email jessica.polka@asapbio.org, but we strongly encourage you to leave comments publicly in order to stimulate a dialog among stakeholders.

One point on which there has been considerable discussion and no clear consensus is the definition of the community that votes to elect Governing Body members. Should it be individuals who have submitted a preprint, those who have published a scientific paper in the past 5 years, or people holding an ORCID number (for which there are no prerequisites)? Please leave your thoughts on this important issue in the comment section below this post.

 

The commenting period will close on May 21, 2017. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

ASAPbio awarded $1 million from Helmsley Charitable Trust for next-generation life sciences preprint infrastructure

Date: Thursday, February 23, 2017
Contact: Jessica Polka | Director, ASAPbio | jessica.polka@asapbio.org

ASAPbio, a biologist-driven project to promote the productive use of preprints in the life sciences, has received a $1 million, 18-month grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to develop a new service to aggregate life sciences preprints and promote their visibility and innovative reuse

Preprints are complete scientific documents posted online and made freely available to the global scientific community. They are frequently the same version of a paper that is submitted to a journal for peer review. Preprints are widely used in physics, mathematics, and computer science, but are still a new (albeit rapidly-growing) communication system in the life sciences. Mainstream adoption of preprints is challenged by the current difficulties of finding these documents, which are hosted on several unconnected servers; the lack of community governance over the standards that define a preprint; and technological barriers to accessing content for reuse.

The Helmsley award provides funds for ASAPbio to address these problems by constructing a community-governed service that will aggregate, preserve, and deliver life sciences preprints to human and machine readers. It will also develop open-source tools for manuscript screening and conversion to formats such as XML. The guiding principles of this service have been defined by a consortium of funders including the Helmsley Charitable Trust. ASAPbio has issued an RFA to identify potential technical suppliers for the service.

“The grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust is a giant step forward for the life science community to translate ideas for next-generation preprint services into a reality. This coming summer, we anticipate that other funders will follow the lead of Helmsley and provide further multi-year support for building the technologies for a powerful preprint knowledge repository that facilitates scientific progress through open sharing of data,” says Ron Vale, Founder of ASAPbio. “The support of major funding agencies and the development of new tools for discovering recent scientific findings should encourage life scientists to share their scientific manuscripts in the form of preprints.”

ASAPbio’s work focuses on convening stakeholders for discussions about the role of preprints in the life sciences (namely, an initial conference at HHMI in February of 2016 (see report in Science) and follow-up workshops for funders, technical experts, and scientific societies). Via these meetings, online discussions, and a network of local representatives, ASAPbio seeks to promote the cultural change necessary to complement new developments in technology and policy, from funders, universities, and journals.

ASAPbio is additionally supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, and the Simons Foundation. ASAPbio is incorporated as a nonprofit California corporation.

The Benefits of a “Central Service” for Biology Preprints

Preprints are complete and public manuscripts with associated data shared before undergoing peer review. Physicists, mathematicians, and computer scientists post 100,000 preprints per year to arXiv, a scientist-governed preprint server that has been in operation for over a quarter of a century. Preprints in the life sciences are in a more embryonic stage, with less than 10,000 posted manuscripts per year. However, several meetings hosted by ASAPbio have ended with the conclusion that preprints, in conjunction with journals, hold great potential for enhancing scholarly communication in biology.

Recently, eleven major international funding agencies (Wellcome Trust, National Institutes of Health, Medical Research Council (UK), Helmsley Trust, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), European Research Council, Simons Foundation, Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Department of Biotechnology (Government of India), Laura and John Arnold Foundation) have released a statement calling for further technology development and the creation of a central resource for preprints, which is being provisionally called the Central Service (CS). The CS will be a database that aggregates preprints from multiple sources, making them easier to read by humans and machines. These features will enable scientists to find new knowledge that can accelerate their research. The CS will be overseen by a scientist-led governing body, which will ensure its mission in serving the scientific community and the public good.

ASAPbio (a scientist-driven organization to promote the productive use of preprints in biology) has released a Request for Applications (RFA) for the development of this service, which is open to all. After independent reviewers select the preferred applicants(s), and pending commitment of funders, the CS is expected to launch in 2018. Here we discuss why the Central Service is needed and its potential for advancing knowledge dissemination in the life sciences. Continue reading

RFA

May 10, 2017 update: ASAPbio has announced a four-month suspension of the RFA process to reassess the preprint ecosystem and community needs.

ASAPbio is releasing a Request for Applications for the development of a Central Service (provisional name) for preprints in the life sciences issued by ASAPbio. This Request is open to all prospective bidders, and we encourage responses from interested parties able to deliver the services described below. For a concise description of the goals of this project, please see our blog post entitled The Benefits of a “Central Service” for Biology Preprints. Proposals are due on April 30, 2017.

 

 

Principles for establishing a Central Service for Preprints: a statement from a consortium of funders

At the ASAPbio Funders’ Workshop, representatives from a number of funding agencies asked ASAPbio to “develop a proposal describing the governance, infrastructure and standards desired for a preprint service that represents the views of the broadest number of stakeholders.” Following iterative discussions about the technical and organizational aspects of such a project, ASAPbio is now positioned to issue an RFA for the development of a “Central Service” for preprints. To guide this effort, a group of funders have independently formulated the following principles that will shape the Central Service.

The funders are interested in getting additional funding bodies and research performing organizations to endorse these Principles. If you represent such an agency and are interested in signing on to these principles (or would like to discuss this matter), please contact Robert Kiley, Development Lead, Open Research at the Wellcome Trust (r.kiley@wellcome.ac.uk.)

Continue reading

Societies clarify positions on preprints in grants

Following increased interest in may scientific societies’ positions on the use of preprints in NIH grant applications, several societies have released statements providing their perspectives.

ASCB

The ASCB leadership, after careful consideration, believes preprints should be able to be included in grant applications and referenced in NIH progress reports, with the proper references so they are not confused with peer reviewed published papers. In short, the pace of science is too fast and the process of publication too slow to ignore preprints.

American Society for Microbiology (ASM)

ASM also supports the proposal that NIH allow preprints to be included in grant applications and progress reports, provided they are listed separately from peer-reviewed journal publications, given that they serve different purposes and hold different status.

Genetics Society of America (GSA)

American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB)

While the ASBMB doesn’t oppose preprints being included in grant applications, some members do have concerns about how preprints will be used and whether they will increase the burden on grant reviewers.