Interview with PeerJ Editor Fabiana Kubke

This is the second in our Series of Interviews with PeerJ Editors, giving them a voice to express their thoughts about academic publishing, open access and PeerJ.

This time around we spoke to Fabiana Kubke who is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Medical Sciences (Department of Anatomy with Radiology) and a member of the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.


PJ: What do you see as wrong with the current system of publication?

FK: Where do I start? There are many issues that I can group into 3 main themes: Access and reuse, flexibility and attribution. Most of the scientific literature continues to follow the format that was suitable for the printed press. By that I mean that the architecture of the scientific text was a slave to that technology. Its linguistic expression had to be linear and the narrative needed to be contained or encapsulated by the “article” as a unit. There were advantages to this, the main one being that science publishing houses offered editorial, printing, and distribution services that would have been too expensive to undertake by any individual researcher. But with the expansion of the capability and use of the internet over the last few decades, there is no a priori reason to continue to publish under these constraints. What is brilliant about the internet is that it allows for such articles to acquire new narratives and new dimensions. Users can interact with the articles in ways that could not be foreseen when the first article got published in the 17th century and that better reflect the dynamic process of science discovery and reuse. But for this flexibility to reach its full potential, the scientific literature needs to be licenced in ways that minimise restrictions on access and reuse.

PJ: Given your experience, what would an ideal publishing venue look like?

FK: I would like to see a publishing venue that exploits the networking potential of the internet. For example, there are some of my articles that I would love to “update” based on new discoveries (mine and others’) that have changed the way I interpret those same data. Whether that can be achieved by commenting or by direct edits to the actual article, I am not sure it matters that much right now, but I think it will also be important to attach these changes to individual contributors. I think that it is essential that users can interact with the article in useful ways: editing, text mining, accessing the data and metadata, being able to extract data from figures, etc. Another thing I would like to see is more granularity at the level of citation and attribution. For example, being able to cite parts of the article rather than the article as a whole is a good start. But, especially with multi-authored works, it is unlikely that all authors contributed equally to all artifacts within the article. I would love to see some granularity in the author attribution to the different elements of the work.

PJ: What are your thoughts about the value of Open Access publishing?

FK: As I implied before, a scientific output is of little value if it does not become a building block for new knowledge. But for that to happen the outputs need to be not just accessible to view (free) but also available for reuse (libre). Open Access does not necessarily offer full value unless it is published under a license that places minimal restrictions on what can be done with that work. While I think that there is value in Open Access that is just free (and a good first step), we will not fully see the return of science until all work is made libre.

PJ: What excited you about PeerJ that persuaded you to become an Academic Editor (AE)?

FK: I had met Peter B and Jason H back in 2009, when they challenged me to reconsider my views on the value of the scientific literature. I’ve had nothing but respect and admiration for both of them since, so when I heard they were pairing up for a new project my interest was sparked. I was struggling with my letter to offer my services as an AE (fearful I would be rejected!) when I got the invite from Peter B to join the team. So there was no persuasion needed. Both Peter and Jason have been thinking about this for a long time, and there is a great amount of trusting their thinking that made me jump at the opportunity.

PJ: Which aspects of the PeerJ functionality do you find the most useful or interesting?

FK: I think the best thing that PeerJ probably did was to do away with what was already there and think of the problem as a fresh one. The submission and editorial interfaces are so simple and straightforward that it is actually easy to work with the journal. The published articles I have seen have been beautifully crafted too as has the site where they are listed.  The one thing that I didn’t like is how the figures open in my browser when I click on them – I find it difficult to scroll and I don’t see the figure legend – but maybe this is me just being picky. What caught my eye was the “report an issue” flag at the top left of the article, although I would love to see how that gets incorporated into the article in the end. I also liked being able to “follow” an article, and loved how the citation could be downloaded straight into my Zotero library while on FireFox with just one click. And one of my favourite things is that clicking on a citation takes me to the actual paper rather than to the references list!  Lots of nice navigation features, a very nice navigation experience overall.

PJ: In your opinion, why should researchers submit to PeerJ?

FK: Probably the word most used by researchers when describing what they do and why is “important”. If it is important enough to do and get funding for, then it should too be important to share as widely and quickly as possible. When I think of Open Access I think of the old phrase “put your money where your mouth is”. And at under $100 per author, PeerJ offers a solution for even the smallest of mouths.

PJ: Thank you for your thoughts, is there anything else you want to highlight?

FK: I would love to highlight the access the peer review history of the article. I think this is hugely important. Not only does it make the process of publication transparent (and acknowledges the role that many reviewers and editors make to the final published version of the article), but it is also a wonderful resource for teaching and mentoring. Seeing the types of critiques that authors large and small get on their submissions (and how they deal with them) is a highly valuable tool to share with students and young researchers. I am hoping it will too help dispel the conspiracy theories about who gets published!

PJ: Be sure to follow Fabiana on Twitter and read her blog musings at The Building Blogs of Science. PeerJ is now open for your submissions, and Fabiana and our other Editors are looking forward to seeing what you submit.

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