The Crastina Column, May 2021: The future of scientific publishing

The future of scientific publishing

This Crastina Column by Dr Natércia Rodrigues Lopes, initiates the theme ”The future of scientific publishing” at the website.

Is scientific publishing perishing?

Much like happiness, science is only any good if it is shared. Scientists today see much of their success measured as a number of published scientific articles – a reality that is at the heart of the infamous ‘publish or perish’ culture. The quality of the articles themselves is also commonly measured in terms of an ‘impact factor’ which essentially provides an arguably flimsy notion of how likely the article is to get picked up and cited by other scientists.

But is the current publishing system the best way to share science? Is the current scientific publishing industry, worth approximately ten billion dollars, fit for purpose?

The many perspectives on this topic are the basis of Crastina’s new theme. In particular, the debate around this topic tends to focus on the high price scientists pay to publish their science in high impact journals, often in the thousands of euro or dollars. These costs contrast starkly with the fact that not only scientists themselves are the ones producing the work, but the peer review process is also based on unpaid labour. In addition, unless scientists pay extra fees to have their articles published under ‘open access’ agreements, only the abstracts to their work will be available online for free, with the rest of the content being protected by paywalls.

The debate on scientific publishing does not only surround cost and logistics, however. With science moving at breakneck speeds these days, it is virtually impossible to keep up with the reading of every relevant paper published in one’s field, especially when they follow long introduction-experimental-results-discussion-conclusion formats. And if it is difficult for scientists to keep up with reading – and sometimes even to keep up with the narrative in a single article – how are non-scientists making use of this information? Can science journalists access and navigate these scientific articles? What about the general public? If only scientists, and sometimes even just scientists from a given field, can follow a scientific article, how useful can it really be to society at large?

The Crastina Crew would like to invite you to join the conversation in answering these questions and asking new ones. With our reader’s help, we want to create a bold vision for what the future of scientific publishing should (or could) look like.

For The Crastina Crew
Dr Natércia Rodrigues Lopes, Writer

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