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Publishing for the First Time: An Interview with Thomas Williams

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by Emily Poznanski

Thomas Williams, a final year medical student at Cambridge University, shares his views on Open Access publishing. Having just published his first article in Open Access, he talks to OpenScience about scholarly publishing, including the peer review process, the Impact Factor and APCs.

Publishing for the First Time: An Interview with Thomas Williams from OpenScience on Vimeo

Williams points out that young academics currently find themselves in a catch-22 situation. They cannot progress in their career without publications to their name, but the necessary funding tends to be reserved for established academics, whose research institutes can easily absorb publishing costs. Although more universities now support publishing in Open Access, many emerging researchers like Thomas are still forced to find funding independently, in his case through a private contact.

When comparing the two models of publishing, the Cambridge student notes that, had he published in a traditional journal instead, the patient his research was based on would not have been able to access the results for free. This example reveals the irony of publishing in closed journals when researches are initially intended to improve the lives of people worldwide.

Today, the general consensus is that the Impact Factor remains one of the most influential criteria for authors to decide where to publish. Yet, it was interesting to hear that for many young academics, the inverse holds true. For instance, medical students receive points for publishing their research and these points increase their chance of being employed. With this overriding goal in mind, they “do not want to risk their paper being rejected by a journal with a high Impact Factor”. Moreover, this system also leads authors to neglect the relevance and overall standard of what they decide to publish – a triumph of quantity over quality.

In a recent interview with the Chronicle, Kamila Markram, CEO of Frontiers – an online platform with an innovative peer review system – draws a list of the long-standing problems plaguing traditional peer review: “cronyism, excessively subjective criteria, unaccountable reviewer behavior, unconstructive criticism, and a bias toward rejection”. Commenting on his personal experience, Williams recalls how one reviewer recommended the student to cite his paper and, despite questioning its relevance, he eventually conceded to quote the author, hinting at something of a ‘peer pressure’ review process.

It is important to expose the many challenges that young scholars face today when trying to establish their position in academia. One way to help them overcome these issues is by keeping the community up to date with the latest developments in Open Access funding, policies and other related news. As Thomas Williams suggests in his closing words, funding opportunities should be the first thing to consider when publishing in Open Access.

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