PrePrints for #ecology and #watershed science @PeerJPrePrints @PeerJ

This last year from 2013 to 2014, I made a commitment to try and be more open, transparent, and accessible in how I went about my scientific business. This effort has taken a dual approach for now, and a three-pronged approach in the long run. The prongs are easy steps that I both hope and think will increase the availability and potential to reproduce my work. They go a little something like this:

  1. Make preprints available for all submitted manuscripts at venues like PeerJ PrePrints, etc.
  2. Submit at least half of my work to rigorous, peer-reviewed journals as open access articles. This includes venues like PLoS OneEcosphere, Ecology and Society, PeerJ, etc.
  3. Archive data products, posters, conference talks and grey literature at venues like Figshare, etc.

First, I'm trying to target more and more open access journals for my work (see discussions on this blog here, here, here, and here). I was able to put a paper into the newish OA journal, Riparian Ecology and Conservation (Also, here) last year, and also submitted a paper to ESA's EcosphereThe former went through a pair of reviews and the latter is currently in revision after two helpful reviews. While open access journals are a key in moving academic publishing away from the paywall, the lag times associated with scientific publishing can lead to delays in creating and exchanging information, building partnerships and working groups. Hence step number two, use preprint servers to archive submitted drafts.

The PrePrint model serves multiple purposes. By archiving a preprint, you have a citeable DOI for work that may be in review. This provides a link to conference audiences who otherwise might see "in review" or "submitted" and then have to directly email for the work being presented. It also provides transparency in results. No longer can one just present controversial or groundbreaking "preliminary" results without being expected to be held accountable and show their work. Lastly, an archived preprint sets a date of record in competitive fields where researchers are worried about being scooped. Preprints are usually versionable, meaning that you can update, correct or otherwise revise your paper to reflect peer-review, conference talk comments or any comma splices you may find.

So, if you're wondering what I've been up to in a research capacity, you can check out my coauthors and my PeerJ PrePrints. Here's one from November on riparian vegetation guild diversity and environmental filters that was submitted to Ecosphere:

Here's another one from this week comparing stream classification frameworks:

It was submitted to AGU's Water Resources Research
See Alan Kasprak's post on this paper as well.

The final step in the three-tiered approach, archiving of data and other research products, usually follows formal peer-review and publication. While journals are increasingly likely to request raw data and code as a part of an individual paper, it's nice to be able to archive data in a dedicated space for all applications (e.g. Figshare). Since the final step is often making the data publicly available, it can easily slide into the lowest priority spot. After all, the academic reward structure is usually focused on papers first and everything else behind it. At this stage in my newly identified research workflow, making preprints available, submitting work preferentially to open access journals and then completing the process of archiving data are all important.