Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.
The last few years have seen a number of projects emerge to try and make the research process better. For instance, last year saw the launch of Hypothes.is.is by the Annotating All Knowledge project, which aims to provide a conversation layer that sits on top of research and allows people to easily provide reviews and feedback.
“The Hypothes.is platform is designed to allow publishers to highlight and curate the notes and conversations that they want to promote as part of their content, while giving users the freedom to bring other conversations to the same content. This represents a new and exciting phase of our organization as a service provider to the global community of researchers, scholars and knowledge makers,” the team say.
They’ve recently teamed up with the open access journal eLife to further develop the platform, with the journal taking advantage of Hypothes.is’ open and interoperable annotation platform, its software development services, and its focus on bringing the scholarly community together around open standards.
Another project along similar lines is PubPeer, which offers people the ability to comment anonymously on research papers. The site, which launched in 2012, has not been without criticism, in large part due to the anonymous nature of the comments, which as we see throughout the web can offer disadvantages as well as advantages.
This has culminated in a court case that revolves around discussions that began back in 2013 on the work of cancer researcher Fazlul Sarkar, with Dr Sarkar demanding that the site reveals the identity of commenters he believed slurred his name. The case has rumbled on for years, with even Google and Twitter getting involved earlier this year.
Regardless of the direction the case goes in, it does underline the challenges inherent in allowing open peer review to take place. Whether it eventually shifts towards a system more akin to that of Hypothes.is whereby commenters are identified remains to be seen.
Of course, making peer review a more open, accessible and transparent process is not the only way that the research community are trying to make things better. There is also a significant effort to try and make clinical trials more transparent, both in terms of publishing the data behind the trials, and ensuring that all trials get published, regardless of the results.
This is a major issue, as currently half of clinical trials don’t publish their results, and so TrialsTracker has launched to try and rectify that.
The platform, which was created by the Evidence-Based Medicine Data Lab that’s based at Oxford University, utilizes open data from the clinicaltrials.gov database, which provides data on clinical trials from 193 countries.
The tool will automatically track whether the results from any trial have been made public, and report on the findings. Contrary to popular opinion that it’s companies that cover this sort of thing up, the early results from the site suggest the worst offenders are academia and government, although due to the volume of trials undertaken, the pharmaceutical industry is still a considerable offender. On the plus side, it also reveals that companies such as Eli Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb do particularly well.
It’s clear that there won’t be a silver bullet to improve the research process, but there are certainly a few different approaches being tried that will collectively make a difference.
Article source: Making scientific research better.