The Social Structure of Consensus in Scientific Review

Authors : Misha Teplitskiy, Daniel Acuna, Aida Elamrani-Raoult, Konrad Kording, James Evans

Personal connections between creators and evaluators of scientific works are ubiquitous, and the possibility of bias ever-present. Although connections have been shown to bias prospective judgments of (uncertain) future performance, it is unknown whether such biases occur in the much more concrete task of assessing the scientific validity of already completed work, and if so, why.

This study presents evidence that personal connections between authors and reviewers of neuroscience manuscripts are associated with biased judgments and explores the mechanisms driving the effect.

Using reviews from 7,981 neuroscience manuscripts submitted to the journal PLOS ONE, which instructs reviewers to evaluate manuscripts only on scientific validity, we find that reviewers favored authors close in the co-authorship network by ~0.11 points on a 1.0 – 4.0 scale for each step of proximity.

PLOS ONE’s validity-focused review and the substantial amount of favoritism shown by distant vs. very distant reviewers, both of whom should have little to gain from nepotism, point to the central role of substantive disagreements between scientists in different « schools of thought. »

The results suggest that removing bias from peer review cannot be accomplished simply by recusing the closely-connected reviewers, and highlight the value of recruiting reviewers embedded in diverse professional networks.

URL : https://arxiv.org/abs/1802.01270

Science Concierge: A Fast Content-Based Recommendation System for Scientific Publications

Authors : Titipat Achakulvisut, Daniel E. Acuna, Tulakan Ruangrong , Konrad Kording

Finding relevant publications is important for scientists who have to cope with exponentially increasing numbers of scholarly material. Algorithms can help with this task as they help for music, movie, and product recommendations.

However, we know little about the performance of these algorithms with scholarly material. Here, we develop an algorithm, and an accompanying Python library, that implements a recommendation system based on the content of articles.

Design principles are to adapt to new content, provide near-real time suggestions, and be open source. We tested the library on 15K posters from the Society of Neuroscience Conference 2015.

Human curated topics are used to cross validate parameters in the algorithm and produce a similarity metric that maximally correlates with human judgments. We show that our algorithm significantly outperformed suggestions based on keywords.

The work presented here promises to make the exploration of scholarly material faster and more accurate.

URL : Science Concierge: A Fast Content-Based Recommendation System for Scientific Publications

DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0158423