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Can pharma improve the publishing of scientific research?

A recent meeting of stakeholders in the publication of scientific research sought to determine what can be done to advance the current model of publication in traditional journals. The meeting, organised by Oxford PharmaGenesis, considered how the current system, viewed by some to be flawed, could be improved and the potential role of the pharmaceutical companies in this evolution. With more than half of biomedical research funded by pharma, the question arose as to why there seems to be a reluctance within the industry to shift from the status quo. Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal and consultant for F1000, chaired the meeting and wrote about it in a recent blog.

Smith begins by describing the perceived inadequacies of the traditional journal system, including lack of transparency in the peer review process and inadequate access and dissemination of research. He also highlights the many innovations, such as fully transparent peer review, the use of preprints and links to social media, developed by entrepreneurs and by funders such as Wellcome Open Research and The Gates Foundation to address these issues. He hypothesises that the continued reliance of academics and universities on journal impact factors as a measure of research quality has played a part in preventing some pioneering innovations from flourishing.

The meeting revealed that pharma companies often share the same frustrations with the current system as others. However, although they may fund the work it’s the study authors, typically academic researchers, who select the journal for publication. Due to the focus on impact factors within the field, authors are likely to opt for high-impact, traditional journals. A confounding factor may be reluctance within pharma companies to push researchers to publish in open-access journals or on certain platforms. Smith concludes that the general consensus was that pharma should be doing more to try and improve the publishing of science, and that future meetings will be held to look at how exactly this can be done.



Summary by Alice Wareham, PhD from Aspire Scientific

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