A short argument for why the big publishers cannot be part of a publishing reform effort

Science is stuck in a vicious cycle it is hard to escape from. The decision to publish a scientific paper is made based on an evaluation of its likely importance and technical correctness. Scientists are evaluated based on these publication decisions, and resources (jobs, grants and promotions) are distributed accordingly.

The current system distorts scientific priorities. Science is incredibly competitive, resources are allocated on a short term basis, and the primary metric used to evaluate scientists is their publication record. As a consequence, there is an unavoidable pressure to select problems and design studies that can lead to results that are likely to be favourably evaluated and published in the short term. This is in opposition to the long term scientific value, a fact that appears to be widely acknowledged by working scientists (vox.com/2016/7/14/12016710/sci).

The current system is a vicious cycle and stable equilibrium. In principle, we could choose to evaluate scientists and their work in a better way. However, no individual or small group can do this alone. If an institution chooses to hire scientists who do work that they believe will be of enduring scientific value despite being unlikely to win short term grant funding, they will take a huge financial hit. Public research is under such severe resource constraints that this is simply not feasible for most institutions even if they wished to do so. Similarly, a public funding body that makes decisions based on long term scientific value and not short term publishability is likely to be able to count fewer high profile papers in their output, and compared to other funding bodies will appear to be underperforming when they are reviewed at the government level. Individual scientists have even less flexibility than these institutions.

Journal prestige cements this problem. It is the widespread availability of an easily calculated metric based on journal prestige that makes this cycle so hard to break. If there were no such metric, different groups could try different approaches and the effect would not be so obvious in the short term. The availability of the metric forces all institutions to follow the same strategy, and makes it hard to deviate from this strategy.

The majority of big publishers commercial value rests on their journal prestige. If there were no funding implications to publishing in one journal rather than another, scientists would be free to choose based on price or features. There are widely available solutions with better features at virtually no cost. Consequently, the entire business model of these publishers would collapse without the journal prestige signal.

Big publishers therefore cannot be part of the needed reforms. The success of these reforms would untie the evaluation of the quality of scientific work from the journal it is published in, and this would destroy the business model of these publishers. They will therefore do everything in their power to resist such reform.

Divorcing from the big publishers will not be enough. Journal prestige is the cement of the current negative stable equilibrium, but eliminating that will not guarantee a globally better system. We need systems for publishing and evaluating science that is diverse and under the control of researchers. This is what we intend to do with Neuromatch Open Publishing (nmop.io/).

Since announcing our new publishing model, we’ve been pleased with the engagement and questions we’ve had from the scientific community. We’ve compiled four of our most frequently asked questions and their answers here: elifesciences.org/inside-elife

Closing soon!

We’re seeking a postdoc to develop computational accounts of how humans and other animals make foraging decisions, in collaboration with the groups of @Brain_apps (Birmingham) and Nathan Lepora (Bristol).

Post is until 14th Feb 2025. Closing March 30th 2023.

Email me for queries

Pls Boost!

More details and application: jobs.nottingham.ac.uk/vacancy.

We just covered this paper at Journal Club and it is impressive:
"Tracking neural activity from the same cells during the entire adult life of mice". Nature #Neuroscience 2023

Flexible implants such as this (and Neuralink's) are ideal because they move with the brain. An issue with this one is that it cuts lots of axons during implantation. But its longevity is amazing. And this study counts the gray hairs on mice!

@mattreynolds I think your article on about cruelty to insects is a bit misguided considering how important (for the future of humanity) it is to reduce our dependence on cows, pigs, etc.

Jonathan Birch's views on animal sentience are influential, but they are not necessarily mainstream.

Great paper by @anneurai & C. Kelly in @eLife : academia must change to respond to the climate crisis, by shifting from a business producing papers and graduated students to a system that works towards well being, community building and fairness ! 🌈 🤝

I wrote this post about my experience striking for the first time as an early career researcher


Despite the stress and unpleasantness, I've found immense inspiration in the strikes.

@OxfordUCU #ucuRISING #ucustrikes #ecrchat

Heard about MyST, a nice new way of writing papers using Markdown, but overwhelmed by how to get started? You could try this GitHub template I just created. Each time you edit and commit files in the repo, GitHub automatically builds a docx and pdf.

This is a pretty simple implementation for the moment, but I'll hopefully be adding some more features to it as I experiment with MyST. Thanks to Rowan Cockett and team for building the tech and advice.


Catastrophic (and to be frank - hugely depressing)

This new research in @PNASNews suggests earth will cross the 1.5 degrees C temperature increase threshold in the next decade (within just 10 to 15 years) and is likely to exceed 2 degrees C by around 2060.

This should be THE lead story on the news today (and onwards) and the lead action point for our governments. It should trigger a massive call for real global action to combat the #climateemergency - sadly though I fear this news will barely register.

We have to stop believing the siren calls of future technology solutions and #carbonoffsets - the immediate need is a rapid end to the use of #fossilfuels and a massive rollout of #renewableenergy


#ClimateChange #ClimateCrisis

cognition is neural computation that is not implement through one-hot encoding.

agree or disagree?
@NicoleCRust @markdhumphries @albertcardona

Just sent this email to a student who is in that final stage of paper-writing where you tweak shit endlessly and just can't let it go. It's advice I wish I'd realised a lot sooner, and I think many of us in #academia could do with internalising...

RT @pedrobeltrao
Life science researchers are submitting the fewest number of ERC grants. The funding rate is balanced by discipline so more submissions means more grants given to that area. A reminder for life science scientists to submit more ERC proposals. twitter.com/ERC_Research/statu

It's a simple experiment. Take some of the ChatGPT generated content, then cut and paste into a browser in quotes.


Word for word lifting from some sources.

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Zotero just informed me that a paper in my database has been retracted. What an excellent feature for a reference management system to have! As if I needed additional reasons to love Zotero even more than I already did 🤩

this looks good!
"Trial-history biases in evidence accumulation can give rise to apparent lapses"
from @dikshagupta
Diksha Gupta, Brian DePasquale, Charles D. Kopec, Carlos D. Brody
#neuroscience #cognition

And I recommend this update made by Gopen last month: "Getting the point across". It focuses on the "stress position". americanscientist.org/article/

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Scientists! Have you read Gopen and Swan's 1990 classic "The science of scientific writing"? If not, you are in for a treat.

It's here, albeit weirdly formatted: americanscientist.org/blog/the.

And if you prefer good pagination, check out this scan of the pre-web version: drive.google.com/file/d/1R9urP

Not bad at all, #chatGPT, not bad!
RT @bardmital
Asked #ChatGPT to rewrite the lyrics of "Blowing in the wind" as if it is about a scientist applying for grants...

My project right now is #BikeHopper, an open-source directions app for transit+bikes.


It uses #OpenStreetMap and a modified version of GraphHopper.

Two main benefits over other trip planning apps:
1. Bike-on-bus, bike-on-train etc. options
2. Tries really hard to find low-stress routes, avoiding main roads

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