Scientific sinkhole: The pernicious price of formatting

Authors : Allana G. LeBlanc, Joel D. Barnes, Travis J. Saunders, Mark S. Tremblay, Jean-Philippe Chaput


To conduct a time-cost analysis of formatting in scientific publishing.


International, cross-sectional study (one-time survey).


Internet-based self-report survey, live between September 2018 and January 2019.


Anyone working in research, science, or academia and who submitted at least one peer-reviewed manuscript for consideration for publication in 2017. Completed surveys were available for 372 participants from 41 countries (60% of respondents were from Canada).

Main outcome measure

Time (hours) and cost (wage per hour x time) associated with formatting a research paper for publication in a peer-reviewed academic journal.


The median annual income category was US$61,000–80,999, and the median number of publications formatted per year was four. Manuscripts required a median of two attempts before they were accepted for publication.

The median formatting time was 14 hours per manuscript, or 52 hours per person, per year. This resulted in a median calculated cost of US$477 per manuscript or US$1,908 per person, per year.


To our knowledge, this is the first study to analyze the cost of manuscript formatting in scientific publishing. Our results suggest that scientific formatting represents a loss of 52 hours, costing the equivalent of US$1,908 per researcher per year.

These results identify the hidden and pernicious price associated with scientific publishing and provide evidence to advocate for the elimination of strict formatting guidelines, at least prior to acceptance.

URL : Scientific sinkhole: The pernicious price of formatting


Worldwide inequality in access to full textscientific articles: the example ofophthalmology

Authors : Christophe Boudry, Patricio Alvarez-Muñoz, Ricardo Arencibia-Jorge, Didier Ayena, Niels J. Brouwer, Zia Chaudhuri, Brenda Chawner, Emilienne Epee, Khalil Erraïs, Akbar Fotouhi, Almutez M. Gharaibeh, Dina H. Hassanein, Martina C. Herwig-Carl, Katherine Howard, Dieudonne Kaimbo Wa Kaimbo, Patricia-Ann Laughrea, Fernando A. Lopez, Juan D. Machin-Mastromatteo, Fernando K. Malerbi, Papa Amadou Ndiaye, Nina A. Noor, Josmel Pacheco-Mendoza, Vasilios P. Papastefanou, Mufarriq Shah, Carol L. Shields, Ya Xing Wang, Vasily Yartsev, Frederic Mouriaux


The problem of access to medical information, particularly in low-income countries, has been under discussion for many years. Although a number of developments have occurred in the last decade (e.g., the open access (OA) movement and the website Sci-Hub), everyone agrees that these difficulties still persist very widely, mainly due to the fact that paywalls still limit access to approximately 75% of scholarly documents.

In this study, we compare the accessibility of recent full text articles in the field of ophthalmology in 27 established institutions located worldwide.


A total of 200 references from articles were retrieved using the PubMed database. Each article was individually checked for OA. Full texts of non-OA (i.e., “paywalled articles”) were examined to determine whether they were available using institutional and Hinari access in each institution studied, using “alternative ways” (i.e., PubMed Central, ResearchGate, Google Scholar, and Online Reprint Request), and using the website Sci-Hub.


The number of full texts of “paywalled articles” available using institutional and Hinari access showed strong heterogeneity, scattered between 0% full texts to 94.8% (mean = 46.8%; SD = 31.5; median = 51.3%).

We found that complementary use of “alternative ways” and Sci-Hub leads to 95.5% of full text “paywalled articles,” and also divides by 14 the average extra costs needed to obtain all full texts on publishers’ websites using pay-per-view.


The scant number of available full text “paywalled articles” in most institutions studied encourages researchers in the field of ophthalmology to use Sci-Hub to search for scientific information.

The scientific community and decision-makers must unite and strengthen their efforts to find solutions to improve access to scientific literature worldwide and avoid an implosion of the scientific publishing model.

This study is not an endorsement for using Sci-Hub. The authors, their institutions, and publishers accept no responsibility on behalf of readers.

URL : Worldwide inequality in access to full textscientific articles: the example ofophthalmology


Open Access — Towards a non-normative and systematic understanding

Authors : Niels Taubert, Anne Hobert, Nicolas Fraser, Najko Jahn, Elham Iravani

The term Open Access not only describes a certain model of scholarly publishing — namely in digital format freely accessible to readers — but often also implies that free availability of research results is desirable, and hence has a normative character.

Together with the large variety of presently used definitions of different Open Access types, this normativity hinders a systematic investigation of the development of open availability of scholarly literature.

In this paper, we propose a non-normative definition of Open Access and its usage as a neutral, descriptive term in bibliometric studies and research on science.

To this end, we first specify what normative figures are commonly associated with the term Open Access and then develop a neutral definition. We further identify distinguishing characteristics of openly accessible literature, called dimensions, and derive a classification scheme into Open Access categories based on these dimensions.

Additionally, we present an operationalisation method to assign scientific publications to the respective categories in practice. Here, we describe useful data sources, which can be employed to gather the information needed for the classification of scholarly works according to the presented classification scheme.


Different Preservation Levels: The Case of Scholarly Digital Editions

Authors : Elias Oltmanns, Tim Hasler, Wolfgang Peters-Kottig, Heinz-Günter Kuper

Ensuring the long-term availability of research data forms an integral part of data management services. Where OAIS compliant digital preservation has been established in recent years, in almost all cases the services aim at the preservation of file-based objects.

In the Digital Humanities, research data is often represented in highly structured aggregations, such as Scholarly Digital Editions. Naturally, scholars would like their editions to remain functionally complete as long as possible.

Besides standard components like webservers, the presentation typically relies on project specific code interacting with client software like webbrowsers. Especially the latter being subject to rapid change over time invariably makes such environments awkward to maintain once funding has ended.

Pragmatic approaches have to be found in order to balance the curation effort and the maintainability of access to research data over time. A sketch of four potential service levels aiming at the long-term availability of research data in the humanities is outlined: (1) Continuous Maintenance, (2) Application Conservation, (3) Application Data Preservation, and (4) Bitstream Preservation.

The first being too costly and the last hardly satisfactory in general, we suggest that the implementation of services by an infrastructure provider should concentrate on service levels 2 and 3. We explain their strengths and limitations considering the example of two Scholarly Digital Editions.

URL : Different Preservation Levels: The Case of Scholarly Digital Editions


From Academia to Software Development: Publication Citations in Source Code Comments

Authors : Akira Inokuchi, Yusuf Sulistyo Nugroho, Fumiaki Konishi, Hideaki Hata, Akito Monden, Kenichi Matsumoto

Academic publications have been evaluated with the impact on research communities based on the number of citations. On the other hand, the impact of academic publications on industry has been rarely studied.

This paper investigates how academic publications contribute to software development by analyzing publication citations in source code comments in open source software repositories.

We propose an automated approach of detecting academic publications based on Named Entity Recognition, and achieve 0.90 in F1 as detection accuracy. We conduct a large-scale study of publication citations with 319,438,977 comments collected from active 25,925 repositories written in seven programming languages.

Our findings indicate that academic publications can be knowledge sources of software development, and there can be potential issues of obsoleting knowledge.


The diverse niches of megajournals: Specialism within generalism

Authors: Kyle Siler, Vincent Larivière, Cassidy R. Sugimoto

Over the past decade, megajournals have expanded in popularity and established a legitimate niche in academic publishing. Leveraging advantages of digital publishing, megajournals are characterized by large publication volume, broad interdisciplinary scope, and peer‐review filters that select primarily for scientific soundness as opposed to novelty or originality.

These publishing innovations are complementary and competitive vis‐à‐vis traditional journals. We analyze how megajournals (PLOS One, Scientific Reports) are represented in different fields relative to prominent generalist journals (Nature, PNAS, Science) and “quasi‐megajournals” (Nature Communications, PeerJ).

Our results show that both megajournals and prominent traditional journals have distinctive niches, despite the similar interdisciplinary scopes of such journals.

These niches—defined by publishing volume and disciplinary diversity—are dynamic and varied over the relatively brief histories of the analyzed megajournals. Although the life sciences are the predominant contributor to megajournals, there is variation in the disciplinary composition of different megajournals.

The growth trajectories and disciplinary composition of generalist journals—including megajournals—reflect changing knowledge dissemination and reward structures in science.

URL : The diverse niches of megajournals: Specialism within generalism


Revisiting “the 1990s debutante”: Scholar‐led publishing and the prehistory of the open access movement

Author : Samuel A. Moore

The movement for open access publishing (OA) is often said to have its roots in the scientific disciplines, having been popularized by scientific publishers and formalized through a range of top‐down policy interventions. But there is an often‐neglected prehistory of OA that can be found in the early DIY publishers of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Managed entirely by working academics, these journals published research in the humanities and social sciences and stand out for their unique set of motivations and practices.

This article explores this separate lineage in the history of the OA movement through a critical‐theoretical analysis of the motivations and practices of the early scholar‐led publishers.

Alongside showing the involvement of the humanities and social sciences in the formation of OA, the analysis reveals the importance that these journals placed on experimental practices, critique of commercial publishing, and the desire to reach new audiences.

Understood in today’s context, this research is significant for adding complexity to the history of OA, which policymakers, advocates, and publishing scholars should keep in mind as OA goes mainstream.