Research Ideas & Outcomes (RIO) is the latest scholarly journal seeking to fix the broken scientific publishing system. It has been created specifically to enable and encourage the entire research cycle to be published, including research proposals and ideas. Founding editor Ross Mounce outlines what the journal seeks to achieve and how it will speed up the publishing process by eliminating the need for an outsourced typesetting process.
Few like to admit it, but the traditional process of research is immensely wasteful. Inefficiency occurs in every part of the research cycle, perhaps none more so than the research proposal stage. For example, nearly 90% of EU Horizon 2020 grant proposals were rejected. Many of these proposals are extremely good works, written by teams, over many months of work. Significant effort goes into crafting research proposals, yet as research outputs in themselves, they are hugely under-utilised. After the proposals are scored and either funded or not funded, typically via closed processes, what happens to these documents? Most stay hidden, never to be seen again, regardless of whether they were funded or not.
The Suffragist Publishing Office (Wikimedia Public Domain)
What if we treated proposals like other outputs of the research cycle: like data, like software, like research articles? What if we published proposals in a journal, regardless of whether they were funded or not, to enable the citation of ideas not yet tested, to foster collaboration, to demonstrate the quality of proposed research, and to help others see what good proposals look like…
Launched yesterday, a new journal called Research Ideas & Outcomes (RIO) has been created specifically to enable and encourage the entire research cycle to be published, from start to finish, specifically including research proposals and ideas; the earliest stages that rarely get published (see the video below for more explanation).
Efficient publishing technology does away with the need for typesetting
The innovations provided by RIO journal do not stop there though. Another of the major features of the journal is its authoring, reviewing and publishing system called ARPHA for short. This system is a revolution in itself: if used fully, it eliminates the need for an outsourced typesetting process and all the associated errors that entails which frustrate authors and delay publication. It also speeds up the publishing process; no delay waiting for typesetters, and it reduces the cost of production as good typesetters charge a non-negligible sum per page.
Read yr tweet, laughed. Then realised this is our manuscript! :S RT @omearabrian: Just looked page at proofs "Phylomatic" -> "Phlegmatic"
— R⓪ss Mounce (@rmounce) August 29, 2012
I remember only too well getting manuscript proofs back from a different publisher and seeing that the typesetting process had converted the word ‘Phylomatic’ into ‘phlegmatic’ (see tweet above) – the latter word was not in any submitted author version! This error had been introduced by mistake during the shadowy typesetting process, something publishing companies typically keep very quiet about as it’s a remarkable inefficiency in the publishing process. Typesetting is arguably an anachronism and doesn’t need to exist if authors use tools that are specifically designed to produce structured academic outputs. Don’t take my word for this: memorably, Dr Kaveh Bazargan, who runs a high-quality, successful typesetting business (River Valley) stood-up at a conference in 2012 and said of typesetting: “It’s madness. I’m here to say I really shouldn’t be in business”.
Pensoft have cracked the authoring tools problem with a solid solution that has been successfully developed & tested with the Biodiversity Data Journal and shown to be a robust system. By combining the ARPHA publishing system, with a broad subject-scope, a philosophy of publishing the entire research cycle, and low cost open access publishing, I genuinely think RIO journal offers a distinctive and attractive option for authors, significantly better in production workflow than most other journals. Alongside Dr Daniel Mietchen, I am proud to be a founding editor of this visionary new journal.
RIO journal will be open for submissions for any and all parts of your research cycle from 1st November 2015. Official Website: http://riojournal.com/ Twitter: @RIOJournal
Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Impact of Social Science blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our Comments Policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.
About the Author
Dr Ross Mounce is a postdoctoral researcher at the Natural History Museum, London doing text mining to discover and link-up published information about NHM specimens. He is working with The ContentMine team to encourage the adoption and use of content mining tools and techniques. As a keen advocate for open scholarship, you can find him at OpenCon2015 (Brussels) – the student and early career researcher conference on Open Access, Open Education and Open Data.
Kudos to the effort and I am happy to offer my services as subject editor!
Despite that, I must say I am somewhat skeptical of specifically the proposals thrust of the journal. Sure, a vast portion of proposals do not get funded, which is a big inefficiency of the process. But, most infused proposals do get recycled at least in part, and if the authors feel this is likely (as I suspect often is the case), what would be their motivation to share their toil this openly? And what would prevent others from applying for money from essentially the same pot without properly attributing the source?
I believe this is something that needs to be addressed and argued firmly for that part to receive significant uptake.
This is a good initiative, but then several questions come to mind:
1- how does it work for intellectual property? I might be wrong, but my guess is that only rejected proposals will be submitted. But once published, and of the public domain, can anyone use the proposal’s idea?, write a proposal of their own, and getting funded without collaborating with the initial author?, as the second author can use the first proposal as reference, the same way we use research articles.
2- If the authors chose the peer review option, what would be the criteria to use in the review process, as each funding agency has their own criteria and funding priorities, what would be the criteria used ?
Kudos to this approach, but this idea is not as new as you make it sound like. JMIR Research Protocols (http://researchprotocols.org) is an open access journal which has been publishing proposals, research protocols and formative research in the area of health and technology since 2012. It is Pubmed-indexed and most protocols are actually already funded and peer-reviewed (in which case the peer-review reports are published as well).