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An introduction to using Philica

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  1341 Articles and Observations available | Content last updated 23 February, 05:23  
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What’s the problem with academic publishing?

Academics work hard to produce innovative cutting-edge research, often with very little financial support, but submitting a finished article is by no means the end of their difficulties. We all know that the peer-review process is important for maintaining high standards of work, but the reality is that the traditional system of peer-review, where an editor sends the paper off to two or three anonymous reviewers, is full of serious problems—

  • Unnecessarily lengthy review periods
  • Papers rejected for trivial reasons
  • Reviewers not reading work properly owing to time pressures
  • Publication blocked because a reviewer is working on something similar
  • Reviewers reacting unprofessionally to criticism of their work
  • Tendency for reviewers to be established authors, with subsequent bias against novel ideas and methodologies
  • Good reviews, followed by, “However, I’m not sure it is right for this journal — why not submit to X instead?”

—and even if your paper is eventually accepted, the long lag between acceptance and publishing means someone else might beat you to publication, perhaps just because they were luckier with the reviewers they happened to get.

If not immediately accepted, recasting a paper in light of reviews can put the authors in a difficult position. Disagreeing with a reviewer, no matter that they might be wrong in what they said, probably means that the work will not get published. Altering the work may mean a compromise of opinion or standards.

The option to send to a different journal more often than not means a full or partial rewrite and a significant edit to ensure adherence to the house style of the target periodical. This means more time, and more compromise. The review process begins all over again.

The process may take a month, or it may take years. One unfavourable review can be the difference between publishing and not publishing, and the ideas — often strong, thought-provoking ideas — contained in these papers are all too often relegated to the filing cabinet.

Academics want to publish.

Academics need to publish.

Philica lets them do it.

How does Philica work?

You submit Articles or Observations using our submission page. Here’s the interesting bit: Your work is published to the community instantly and for free. It is available for free viewing by everyone and anonymous refereeing by any other professional researcher. In the following days, weeks, months and years it will be reviewed by your colleagues and has the potential to reach anyone in the world who has access to the internet, from Professors to High School students. Philica has enabled you to put your thoughts into the open as never before.

If the material in your submission is good, other academics will review it favourably for everyone to see; if it is not, the reviews will reflect this. The process is dynamic and open, so that readers see not only the work, but also the opinions other people have of it. Never before have reviews been made available in this way. A negative review will not prevent you from publishing, but it may be a sign that you need to rethink, or that other people should interpret what you say with caution. And think of the possibilities for developing your ideas when your work is reviewed by thirty people instead of just two!

Conference papers and work in progress can be sent to Philica and the academic community can give feedback and advice. Papers and research posters, long since relegated behind filing cabinets, can be seen again. Indeed, in the light of new research, older work may take on a whole new meaning. Philica lets this happen.

And because Philica is the “Journal of Everything”, never again will you read that awful phrase, “Your work is great — but this isn’t the right place for it”.

The review process

Philica is like eBay for academics. When somebody reviews your article, the impact of that review depends on the reviewer’s own reviews. This means that the opinion of somebody whose work is highly regarded carries more weight than the opinion of somebody whose work is rated poorly. A person’s standing, and so their impact on other people’s ratings, changes constantly as part of the dynamic Philica world. Ideas and opinions change all the time — Philica lets us see this. This really is publishing like never before.

The importance of a given review is affected by many things. Some of the most critical are:

  • Ratings of the reviewer’s own work on Philica — People whose work is highly rated (and so who can be thought of as “good” researchers) carry more weight.
  • Whether the reviewer has confirmed status — People who have proved to us that they are bona fide professional researchers are a lot more influential (more details).
  • The age of the review — Newer reviews carry slightly more weight than older reviews, to reflect changing opinions towards any given work

More information

Wikipedia has a useful article on the traditional process of peer-review, which discusses in more detail the rationale for the peer-review system and many of the problems with it — the alert reader will notice that the open peer-review process of Philica mitigates or avoids these problems.

Wired magazine published an article on the costs to authors of publishing through other open-access routes. Note the figure of $9,000,000 of grant money to set up PLoS, and that still doesn’t even allow authors to publish for free! You can also read interview with Philica’s founders in Martin Gardiner’s Really Magazine.

We use the excellent system of Creative Commons licensing to protect authors without placing undue restrictions on users of their works. For more information visit Science Commons.

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