[open-science] Fame, glory and neglect in meta-analyses

Peter Murray-Rust pm286 at cam.ac.uk
Tue Aug 16 08:48:06 UTC 2011

On Tue, Aug 16, 2011 at 9:33 AM, Ross Mounce <ross.mounce at gmail.com> wrote:

> > > Is this within the remit / related to Open Science? I hope so...
> > Absolutely
> Great! I've been conscious I've been rather quiet on this list so far.
> As a meta-analyst myself I'm genuinely concerned that when I come to
> publish my analyses - the original authors who in some cases even took
> the time themselves to send me their datasets and explain things about
> them to; just won't get the credit they deserve, even though I myself
> am extremely happy and really *want* to give them that deserved
> credit.
> This is a very important issue - and I think we should address it in a
Panton paper or similar when we come to discuss Open Data. I know some
people are concerned about the recursive acknolwedgement cascade (e.g. if
people cite your meta-analysis should they also attribute the sources you
have used.) There is no simple answer.

> Original authors of primary datasets are the very lifeblood of my
> research, so I'd go to great lengths to keep them happy with how I use
> & cite their data.
> But depending on which journal I submit to, it seems thoroughly out of
> my hands; even as an author it seems I have little control over this
> problem (another hangover from the age of Paper-only publishing?)!
> Needless to say as a very early career researcher I can't afford to
> pick and choose where I publish for the sake of issues like this -
> even if I am fully cognisant of them.

Agreed. I think that getting buy-in from responsible publishers is an
important way forward.

> Gold OA, or not. Proper credit giving citations, or not. Open Data, or
> not... It seems scholarly authors have a lot of choices, and it's all
> too easy to passively choose "not" (~lazy / bad) atm.   :S

It is hard to put in proactive effort when there is no community norm and no
good tools to help. If there was a button which implicitly said "cite these
sources recursively" then most people would probably do it.

There is a different between acknowledgment and citation. A simple
acknowledgment is could be "I thank the authors listed in document X and
acknowledge that this is their work". That makes it claer - on inspection by
humans - who actually did the work. The problem is that "citations"have
grown into this hideous, imprecise currency. There is no mechanism for using
it properly - we are reduced to accepting the stuff that comes out of
commercial companies who have no fundamental business motive to ensure it is
either useful, relevant or accurate. I have been supplied with "citations"
from commercial companies where my name was used for someone else's title.
OK, this is not common, but it shows the system is fundamentally broken. I
am less concerned about author ID (OK, I am unique) than transparency of the
process and the ability to create innovations.

But there is no incentive for the supplying companies to innovate. They have
a monopoly and people buy their products.

Peter Murray-Rust
Reader in Molecular Informatics
Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
University of Cambridge
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