Alternative modes of publication
When we think of scholarly publications we immediately tend to think of journal articles, books and conference papers. Whilst these publications have traditionally been seen as the most desirable locations to publish academic work, there have been changes in the scholarly communications landscape over the last few years that have seen a widening of opportunities for research to be disseminated and communicated which have coincided with a drive for greater transparency in research processes. Some of the modes of publication below have been around for some time whilst others are relatively new; some offer researchers platforms for publishing on different aspects of the research lifecycle whilst other provide opportunities for publishing rapidly. Many of the routes below provide opportunities to publish open access, and so can be a great way of extending the reach of your research to as wide an audience as possible.
A pre-print is a version of a scholarly or scientific paper that is shared on a public server before formal peer review and publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Publishing pre-prints allows research to be shared quickly and encourages feedback outside of peer review. It also helps to establish priority and enables your work to be cited as soon as possible.
Publishing pre-prints does not stop you from publishing in peer-reviewed journals although it’s worth checking journal policies to see whether or not they will accept submissions that have been published as pre-prints (the Sherpa Romeo website can help you check this). Many funders (e.g. Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust) are encouraging researchers to share preprints and cite them in grant applications and reports.
Researchers can share their pre-prints on pre-print repositories in a range of disciplines:
arXiv (physics, mathematics, computer science, statistics)
bioRxiv (biology/life sciences)
earthArXiv (earth sciences)
MediArXiv (media, film, and communication)
medRxiv (health sciences)
RePEc (psychological science)
SocArXiv (social sciences)
SportRXiv (sport, exercise, performance, and health)
SSRN (social sciences)
Multidisciplinary preprint servers:
Data journals publish datasets or data papers. Papers in data journals focus on datasets and methodological and practical data management issues such as the context of data collection, access, and the use of software packages. They provide opportunities for data collectors and researchers who generate a lot of data to gain credit for their work as data papers are peer reviewed and can be cited like conventional journal articles. Data papers may also link to the datasets they refer to and can provide greater visibility for those datasets.
A useful list of data journals where you might want to consider publishing data papers has been created by the University of Edinburgh and can be found here. The list includes data journals covering the humanities and social sciences as well as scientific disciplines.
The FOSTER portal also provides details of open data journals.
Blogs are a quick and simple way to publish content on the web and can be a handy way of promoting your research and increasing your research profile. Blogs offer a more informal and personal platform for writing about your research and can take your work to a wider audience outside of your research area. They are visible in search engines and the content can be retrieved more quickly than the content of websites (search engine optimisation helps with this so it’s worth spending a bit of time getting your head around it). Blogs can be a great way of publishing news, project updates, and commenting on other blogs and current issues. Furthermore, they are an easy route to publishing on the web as they are much easier to manage than websites.
Wordpress provides a useful guide to for anyone who would like to find out more about how to blog.
Websites, whilst more work than a blog, are a crucial way of disseminating research and are particularly helpful when communicating the work of projects. When creating your website you’ll need to think about audience, searchability, visuals, content and accessibility.
Open Access Publishing Platforms
Open access platforms publish original research papers. Some of these platforms are associated with particular funders where beneficiaries of funding can provide rapid open access to their research. These platforms allow researchers to comply with the open access requirements of their funders and to facilitate open and constructive discussions related to their research. Research outputs that can be published on these platforms include articles, data, posters and slides.
Examples of open access publishing platforms:
Wellcome Open Research (Wellcome Trust)
Open Research Europe (Horizon 2020)
Gates Open Research (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
Commercial publishers have also started to offer publishing platforms - these tend to involve charges for authors to publish their work.
A micropublication (also referred to as a single figure publication) is a journal that publishes single, validated results. Micropublications communicate research findings rapidly, and they may include new research findings, negative results, reproduced/replicated results, as well as results not thought to have high impact. The idea behind micropublications is that single results can stand alone as publications and do not need to be framed by a narrative.
Octopus is a new platform that is being launched in partnership with the UK Reproducibility Network. It allows researchers to publish work that cannot be published elsewhere, including hypotheses, small data sets, methods, and peer reviews.
Other micropublication platforms and journals include:
An even smaller publication unit has been gaining popularity within the life sciences called the nanopublication. A nanopublication is the ‘smallest unit of publishable information’ and is essentially a single statement and information about the author. Although there currently isn’t much of a developed infrastructure to support them, this may change so that these publications become easier to find and cite.
More information about micropublications and nanopublications can be found in this blog by Frank Norman.
As research priorities change and develop, so does the landscape of scholarly publishing, and there are an increasing variety of ways in which researchers can publish their work. Many of the routes highlighted above help to provide greater transparency for research, allowing diverse aspects of the research life-cycle to be opened up and communicated, as well as providing space to encourage and build on feedback. Micropublications in particular demonstrate how aspects of research can be communicated quickly without the overarching narratives present in traditional publications. Whilst not a complete picture of all of the available locations researchers may publish their work, it is hoped that the above list offers an insight into some of the options that are out there.
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