Trainees as easy open access cannon fodder

Nov 04 2014 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Ladies and gentlemen, I have nothing against Open Access publishing. In fact, I take steps to ensure all my lab's publications are available to anyone, either in published or preprint form. I am happy to get our science out to as many people as possible and agree that open science is the way forward.

So why am I writing a post with a title like the one above? Because there's a difference between supporting open access and supporting OA journals that have little standing in the field.

Specifically, I'm talking about journals like PeerJ. I got into an argument on twitter this evening when someone with a tenure track job suggested that another person who is on the market publish there. The argument was rapid turn around, but the reality is that speed is not the issue if the trade-off is a publication that will not be counted.

Like it or not (and I don't), trainees are not in a position to dictate the terms in which they will be assessed. Hiring committees are unknown commodities and they almost certainly have a mix of people with different expectations on them. What I can promise you is that a publication in any unknown journal is barely going to register with the majority of hiring committees, as we currently stand.

Now, we can argue all night whether this is just or fair or right, or whateverthefuck, but it. is. reality. Feel free to test that reality all you want, but have a back-up plan. Unless you happen to be applying to a place that happens to be severely pro-OA and has a majority of people on the committee who feel that way, you'll need it.

And here's where the rubber hits the road: Feel free to be the campion of OA in your career. That's on you. But do not require that of others who have yet to attain the position you inhabit. There are labs in this world that can get away with publishing exclusively in OA journals that are not considered "high impact" and still place their trainees in TT positions. They do so on the reputation of the PI. But those labs are currently few and far between. Would it be great if that were not the case? Sure, but we live in today.

Again, we can harp on the ideals and what should be practice, but to ask trainees to suffer the consequences of your revolution is a mind-numbingly arrogant thing to do. They should not be held accountable for your religion.

9 responses so far

  • Cynric says:

    I am happy to get our science out to as many people as possible and agree that open science is the way forward.

    Again, we can harp on the ideals and what should be practice, but to ask trainees to suffer the consequences of your revolution is a mind-numbingly arrogant thing to do. They should not be held accountable for your religion.

    I'm not sure how compatible those two sentiments are.

    It is possible to publish in OA journals of high status (PLOS Biology, eLife), and it is possible to have a mixed economy of publication destinations that allows middle ranking OA journals to survive long enough to accrue a reputation. And many of the PIs that "harp on ideals" and support OA are also on recruitment committees.

    Heh. I guess your post helped me recognise that I support OA more than I realised!

  • dr24hours says:

    I competely agree with this. OA has noble ideals which I support. And it is disgraceful to shame trainees and junior faculty for trying to succeed through traditional routes.

  • Cynric,
    You bring up an important point which I though more about after posting this. I'm unnecessarily conflating OA and new obscure journals here. I made that mistake because the move to many of the rapid turn-around journals is mostly being pushed by vocal advocates of OA, but they are different. I completely agree that highly recognizable OA journals should be a target for publication.

    What I dislike is asking trainees to sacrifice journal recognition for an ideal of the PI. There will be papers that people just need to dump somewhere, and those are a different issue. But if you have results that would work in a recognizable journal, a trainee needs to shoot for that to advance their career.

  • I always hear this point

    'Feel free to be the campion of OA in your career. That's on you. But do not require that of others who have yet to attain the position you inhabit.'

    and wonder which accomplished scientist publishes original research without his underlings?

    I get the point of this post, but you are factually saying that nobody should ever publish in a new journal unless it's a brand from one of those well established big publishers, or elife.

  • odyssey says:

    I happened to be lurking reading that twitter convo last night. PlS, your protagonist is an extremist. Like many extremists he's willing to sacrifice young idealists for the sake of his "moral imperative." People like that will do the whole OA movement far more harm than good.

  • PaleoGould says:

    I have many issue with how strongly the PeerJ and PLoS ONE are pushed by certain OA advocates, one of which being that it conflates the Glam and OA issues. The other being, I am still not convinced that handing two institutions control of most of scientific publication is a smart move.
    On a tangential note, do you think that the strong government and funder mandated OA pushes going on in Europe will help boost the profile of OA journals? And which ones?

  • Dennis, If the movement to some of these journals is going to gain traction, it has to come from high powered labs that can use their reputation to advance the careers of their people despite where the publications end up. There's no way smaller labs can take this path without knowing outright that it's going to keep people from getting jobs.

    I think there is a general move (NIH as well) to push for OA publications or allowing preprint access. I don't know yet how it will alter the landscape, but I do know that having to spend $2K per pub, on average, is non-sustainable in the current funding structure.

  • PaleoGould says:

    "I do know that having to spend $2K per pub, on average, is non-sustainable in the current funding structure"
    And unsustainable for ECRs in career holes (which happens in some of the less well funded fields). And, yes, people always argue that PeerJ is cheap and PLoS ONE has the waiver. But that's basically saying "I published here because I was broke". Which, I suspect, is in and of itself not a great a look.

  • mytchondria says:

    PeerJ is crap nuggets w a side of vomit stew. Telling a trainee otherwise distinguishes you as a crappe slinger.
    PLoS One is where I publish the shitte that is reasonable but I got scooped on for what would have been a midtier publication or is something I just need to get out to demonstrate I can do the fuckken technique.
    Your boss gets to pick where you publish. You get to suggest they go a rung higher. You then get to rewrite and revise if it doesn't get in or bitch slap your boss if it does. Read your science handbooks. Those are the rules.

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