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Chemists Skeptical about Open Peer Review

CEN imageThe Nov. 26 issue of Chemical & Engineering News has a cover story on the recent developments in peer review, including the reluctance of the chemistry community to embrace the trend toward more transparent processes of reviewing manuscripts for publication.  These include revealing the identities of peer reviewers, publishing the reviews alongside the article, and experimenting with crowd-sourced reviews.  An accompanying article profiles Thieme's Synlett, which has given authors the option of requesting traditional or anonymous crowd-sourced review. 


More Light on Article Retractions

retractedRetractionWatch has released a database of over 18,000 journal retractions back to the 1970s.  A recent article in Science explores these data and ponders recent trends in an aspect of the scientific literature that is usually shrouded in mystery and silence.  It also reveals countries and publishers, as well as individual authors, that show up in the list with disturbing frequency.


ChemDraw License Renewal

The campus license for ChemDraw Professional 16 has been renewed as of October 1.  To reactivate your software you'll need to reinstall and enter the new registration code, which will be sent to you as part of the download process.  For more information see the ChemDraw page under "Key Tools" on this Guide. 


ACS and Elsevier Sue ResearchGate - Again

RG logoThe American Chemical Society and publishing giant Elsevier are continuing their legal battle against the social media site ResearchGate, and have filed suit in US federal court seeking to stop the uploading of copyrighted articles to the sharing site.  This follows a similar suit filed in Germany in 2017 over the same issue.  ACS and Elsevier accuse ResearchGate of illegally encouraging and facilitating the uploading of copyright-protected articles by the site's users, as well as actively scraping the Web looking for copies itself.  Read more:  C&EN (the ACS news magazine); and Inside Higher Education.


Google Launches Dataset Search

google logoGoogle has launched another piece of its growing search toolbox, Dataset Search.  Its aim is to help researchers locate openly available datasets - either that they already know about or don't - using metadata tags applied by the data's creators.  (Google does not index the contents of the datasets.)  It will complement widely used tools such as Google Scholar (which indexes articles and patents) and Google Books.  Read more about it in Nature


European Funding Agencies Announce Major Open Access Plan

unlockThe primary research funding agencies in 11 European countries have announced an ambitious plan to require all researchers to publish only in fully open-access journals, starting in 2020.  This means that authors would not be allowed to publish their findings in many of the world's leading scientific journals, most of which still charge lofty fees for subscription access.  Dubbed "Plan S," it includes funders from the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Italy, and several others, but so far not Germany, Switzerland, or Sweden.  Other countries and the EU have expressed support and may join the plan soon, however.  Publishers, predictably, are alarmed by the short-term effects this change, if carried out and enforced, would have on their business models.  Read more about it in Science and Nature (both of which would be banned under the plan). 


140 Years of JACS

JACS 1879 title pageNext year the flagship journal of the American Chemical Society will celebrate its 140th year of continuous publication.  Since 1879 it has evolved from a slim record of the fledgling society's meetings and papers to one of the premier journals in the field.  UT Austin chemistry professor Allen Bard served as editor-in-chief of JACS from 1982 to 2001.  ACS has created a JACS Timeline sight that presents highlights from the long history of this eminent title. 


Unpaywall Brings More Open Papers out of the Shadows

A startup called Impactstory has been gaining traction with its Unpaywall plugin tool, which surfaces nearly 20 million freely (and legally) available versions of published papers located in many repositories around the world.  This provides researchers with easy access to papers they may not otherwise get to see because of publisher paywall restrictions.  Web of Science recently incorporated Unpaywall functionality into its database, exposing many more paths to access than previously existed, and other databases are following suit.  Read more about it this Nature article.


ACS Launches 4 More Journals

ACS applied energy materials  acs applied nano materials ACS applied bio materials cover ACS Pharm Transl Sci cover

If you think there just aren't enough journals to keep track of, ACS has your back.  In 2018 they have launched three new titles under their ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces umbrella: ACS Applied Energy Materials, and ACS Applied Nano Materials, and ACS Applied Bio Materials.  In addition, there's also a fourth new title, ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science.  ACS now has more than 60 journals in its rapidly growing publishing portfolio. 

[rev. 6/8/18]

ChemRXiv: Killer App or Novelty Killer?

Chemical & Engineering News has published a podcast interview with several researchers and editors discussing the new ChemRXiv preprint server, which launched in 2017 under the auspices of ACS, RSC, and GDCh.  While electronic preprints have thrived in physics for decades, and more recently in biosciences (see BioRXiv), they have faced greater headwinds in chemistry, where the culture of traditional peer review is virtually sacrosanct.  The podcast explores some of the dilemmas facing chemists as they consider a balance between conventional publication and faster, more open options.  The critical factors of priority and intellectual property are also in play.  Paraphrasing an editor from Science, it comes down to what's more important:  being first, or being careful?  This dilemma is visible in the varying editorial policies of journals, which reflect the discipline's level of comfort with change.  For example, JACS, the flagship journal of ACS, refuses to consider submissions that have appeared as preprints - including those on a platform that ACS helped to establish, and that irony is not lost on observers.  (Most other ACS journals apart from Organic Letters do allow them.) 

ChemRXiv does not disclose how many preprints have been deposited on its site.  (SciFinder has indexed about 300 of them so far.)  The site has generated 73,000 downloads after a year of operation - a relatively tiny number given the size of chemistry and its literature.  So far, not many authors are taking the leap into preprints, and not many readers are looking at them.   These numbers imply that the key questions have yet to be answered, and that it will take some time before a preprint culture takes hold in chemistry - if it ever does. 

[4/30/18; updated 9/10/18]

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