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The fifth edition of the STM report

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In late 2018, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) published the fifth edition of the STM Report, providing a comprehensive overview of the current status of the scientific and scholarly publishing industry. Recent trends and current challenges relating to a broad range of topics are discussed in four sections entitled: Scholarly Communication; The Journal; Open Access; and Technology in Scholarly Communications. As we enter a new year of medical publishing, here’s a summary of some of the key themes:

  • Scholarly Communication: The authors note that while journal articles remain a key form of communication, other outputs and platforms, such as preprints and social media, are progressively being used. In addition, the authors remark that with many journals offering readers the chance to add their own comments, journal articles themselves are becoming less formal and, in some cases, taking on a blog-like format.
  • The Journal: Issues discussed include the potential challenges of having multiple versions of a manuscript available through self-archiving and preprint servers. The authors also highlight researchers’ common criticisms of the peer review process, including that it can be ineffective at identifying flawed findings, slow, costly, and biased against papers reporting confirmatory or negative results. They go on to discuss different methods of peer review and possible incentives for reviewers. The authors note that the use of citations and impact factors are also increasingly being criticised as methods of judging quality and discuss a number of alternative or complementary bibliometric measures. The growing awareness of the need for ethical standards within journal publishing is discussed, along with the organisations and tools that have been developed to address potential ethical concerns.
  • Open Access: An overview of various publishing business models is provided and the social and economic effects of open access are highlighted. The authors state that there has been an increase in open access journals in recent years and, in Europe in particular, there has been a drive towards the development of open data policies. In September 2018, Plan S was launched, an initiative based around the key principle that ‘from 2020, scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms’. The authors note that much current debate on this topic is focused on how to transition to open access and how to ensure its sustainability, which relates to concerns regarding the high article publication charges associated with certain open access models.
  • Technology in Scholarly Communications: Finally, the authors consider how advances in technology significantly impact how research is both conducted and communicated, noting that current trends are centred around artificial intelligence, in the form of machine learning, and the technology blockchain. The authors also point out that while many organisations, including STM publishers, are in favour of sharing raw datasets in addition to publications, infrastructural challenges are associated with such large quantities of data.

Access the full report from the STM homepage.


Summary by Debbie Sherwood BSc from Aspire Scientific

With thanks to our sponsors, Aspire Scientific Ltd and NetworkPharma Ltd

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