6 Publisher Policies Antithetical to Research

The Authorea Team

How researchers communicate with one another and the world has changed very little over the last 350 years. Attempts to improve the process have been implemented throughout the years, not all of which have been to the benefit of research. Here we highlight some policies implemented by various publishers that we believe are antithetical to research communication and what we're doing to try to fix them.

Policy: Limiting the number of authors arbitrarily.

Aim: Conserve journal space.
"The reason for selecting these maximums, which are admittedly arbitrary, is that it is difficult to imagine that more than 12 people can have the comprehensive intellectual involvement necessary to fulfill the criteria for authorship" (Kassirer 1991).

Outcome: Arbitrary constraint later reversed.
"By extension of this reasoning, it is logical that those who meet the criteria for authorship not be excluded as authors. However, our current editorial policy limits to 12 the number of authors whose names can be printed under the title of an article. With advances in medical research, investigators with a broader range of skills than were required in the past are often needed to take new ideas from the bench to the bedside and to conduct large clinical trials. For this reason, we are modifying our policy on the number of authors we will list" (Drazen 2002)

Our approach: We encourage collaboration and in fact were built to facilitate it. We think collaboration will be key towards the advancement of research and because we're a web-native platform, constraints on space are not a concern.

Policy: Restricting Data Sharing. Should seek co-authorship and/or collaboration before using data. 

Aim: Limit how data is used. Encourage collaboration and co-authorship (Taichman 2016 & Longo 2016).
"[data sharing] will be taken over by what some researchers have characterized as “research parasites.”

Outcome: Major push back from researchers research community.
"We are strictly against such a monopoly based on data and for this reason suggested publication rules that prevent this from happening and plead for a data sharing with “research parasites” in the interest of the patients from whom the data originate" (Emmert-Streib 2016).

"Currently, a scientific output only corresponds to a study report published in a medical journal, while in the near future it might consist of all materials described in the manuscript, including all relevant raw data. We need to change how we think about data (Drazen, 2015). Data sharing and open science are the future of science" (Barbui 2016).

"Longo 2016 miss the very point of scientific research when they write that researchers may “even use the [open] data to try to disprove what the original investigators had posited.” It is at the core of the scientific paradigm that researchers take nothing as final truth. In fact, using research data to try to disprove a result is good scientific practice, especially in light of the replication crisis" (Fecher 2016). 

"One of the most shockingly anti-science things ever written.” Michael Eisen, https://twitter.com/mbeisen/status/690345273793605633

Our approach: We encourage data sharing and data citation. With Authorea we allow you to directly link your raw data with your figures or tables or even your iPython notebook.

Policy: Do not accept preprints or unclear policies.

Aim: Discourage other citations of record, maintain value proposition of journal publishing, ensure content is peer reviewed before dissemination.

Outcome: Unnecessary delays in communication amongst researchers.

"In my experience, this lag time [between submission and publication] is on average about six months, with a non-trivial long tail of papers that take much longer. To put this in context with some back-of-the-envelope calculations, lets define a unit of time called a Scientific Career (SC), and let 1 SC equal 30 years. If there are 50,000 papers published in biology per year (this number is somewhat random, but probably within an order of magnitude given that about 500k papers are added to PubMed per year), and on average each paper takes 6 months to go through the review process, then each year ~800 Scientific Careers are spent bringing papers from initial submission to formal publication. It would be a laughable to argue that 800 SCs of research or value have been added to the papers during this process (lets be honestfor most of that time the papers are just sitting on someones desk waiting to be read). The system of pre-publication peer review thus dramatically retards scientific progress." - Joe Pickrell

“Scientists often fear the so-called Ingelfinger Rule more than they have to, but it has a real chilling effect on the flow of scientific information,” - Ivan Oransky, the cofounder of Retraction Watch

Our approach: You can write securely in private or in the open--your choice.  Many use Authorea as a place to create their manuscripts and then leave them up as preprints. See some here.

Policy: Paywalls-- require monthly or one-time fees to access scientific research.

Aim: Profit and sustainability. Keep the journal going by having readers pay rather than charging authors to publish.
"If a switch to open-access publishing led scientists to drive down fees by choosing cheaper journals, it would undermine important values such as editorial quality" - Nature

Outcome: Large barriers for those who wish to access papers; essentially a halt in the road to scientific discovery and progress.
"Publishing behind paywalls is immoral. More than that, it's oxymoronic: if it's behind a paywall, it hasn't been published." - Mike Taylor, the Guardian

Our approach: By making things open access to begin with, research is open and accessible to anyone who needs it.

Policy: Reference limits-- only a certain number of references allowed per publication.

Aim: Publish in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Additionally, it supposedly forces authors to be critically selective in what references they use.

Outcome: Truncates important information, potentially jeopardizing the integrity of the article.
"Other consequences of the trend toward less critical evaluation of cited literature include not only a gradual erosion of scholarly rigor, but also a dilution of the value of the impact factor as a measure of journal prominence." - William Pearce, The Scientist

Our approach: Put as many references as you need-- we'll make a format that fits to your needs.

Policy: Read-only PDFs to present online information.

Aim: Read freely and share articles while preserving control and tracking over the content (Nature).

Outcome: Limit discoverability and restrict information sharing-- many PDFs require a fee and make it impossible to copy or print
“To me, this smacks of public relations, not open access... With access mandates on the march around the world, this appears to be more about getting ahead of the coming reality in scientific publishing. Now that the funders call the tune and the funders want the articles on the web at no charge, these articles are going to be open anyway,” - John Wilbanks, senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

Our approach: Information is meant to be shared. It's the spirit of science and discovery.  Our documents are formatted in HTML to enhance discovery and machine readability.


  1. Jerome P. Kassirer, Marcia Angell. On Authorship and Acknowledgments. New England Journal of Medicine 325, 1510–1512 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM/MMS), 1991. Link

  2. Jeffrey M. Drazen, Gregory D. Curfman. On Authors and Contributors. New England Journal of Medicine 347, 55–55 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM/MMS), 2002. Link

  3. Robert Aboukhalil. The rising trend in authorship. The Winnower The Winnower LLC, 2014. Link

  4. Darren B. Taichman, Joyce Backus, Christopher Baethge, Howard Bauchner, Peter W. de Leeuw, Jeffrey M. Drazen, John Fletcher, Frank A. Frizelle, Trish Groves, Abraham Haileamlak, Astrid James, Christine Laine, Larry Peiperl, Anja Pinborg, Peush Sahni, Sinan Wu. Sharing Clinical Trial Data A Proposal from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. New England Journal of Medicine 374, 384–386 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM/MMS), 2016. Link

  5. Dan L. Longo, Jeffrey M. Drazen. Data Sharing. New England Journal of Medicine 374, 276–277 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM/MMS), 2016. Link

  6. Frank Emmert-Streib, Matthias Dehmer, Olli Yli-Harja. Against Dataism and for Data Sharing of Big Biomedical and Clinical Data with Research Parasites. Front. Genet. 7 Frontiers Media SA, 2016. Link

  7. C. Barbui, O. Gureje, B. Puschner, S. Patten, G. Thornicroft. Implementing a data sharing culture. Epidemiol Psychiatr Sci 25, 289–290 Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2016. Link

  8. B. Fecher, G. G. Wagner. A research symbiont. Science 351, 1405–1406 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2016. Link

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