Show me the data!

Today (2015-09-01), marks the public announcement of Research Ideas & Outcomes (RIO for short), a new open access journal for all disciplines that seeks to open-up the entire research cycle with some truly novel features

I know what you might be thinking: Another open access journal? Really? 

Myself, nor Daniel Mietchen simply wouldn’t be involved with this project if it was just another boring open access journal. This journal packs a mighty combination of novel features into one platform:

  • 1.) RIO will publish research proposals, as well as regular research outputs such as articles, data papers and software – this has never been done by a journal before to my knowledge
  • 2.) RIO will label research outputs with ‘Impact Categories’ based upon UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and EU Societal Challenges, to highlight the real-world relevance of research and to better link-up research across disciplines (see below for some example MDGs).


  • 3.) RIO supports a variety of different types of peer-review, including ‘pre-submission, author-facilitated, external peer-review‘ (new), as well as post-publication journal-organized open peer-review (similar to that pioneered by F1000Research), and ‘spontaneous’ (not journal-organized) post-publication open peer-review which is actively encouraged. All peer-review will be open/public, in keeping with the overall guiding philosophy of the journal to increase transparency and reduce waste in the research cycle. Reviewer comments are highly valuable; it is a waste not to make them public. When supplied, all reviewer comments will be made openly available.
  • 4.) RIO offers flexibility in publishing services and pricing in a bold attempt to ‘decouple’ the traditional scholarly journal into its component services. Authors & funders thus may choose to pay for the publishing services they actually want, not an inflexible bundle of different services, as there is at most journals.
Source: Priem, J. and Hemminger, B. M. 2012. Decoupling the scholarly journal. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience. Licensed under CC BY-NC

Source: Priem, J. and Hemminger, B. M. 2012. Decoupling the scholarly journal. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience. Image licensed under CC BY-NC.


  • 5.) On the technical side of things, RIO uses an integrated end-to-end XML-backed publication system for Authoring, Reviewing, Publishing, Hosting, and Archiving called ARPHA. As a publishing geek this excites me greatly as it eliminates the need for typesetting, ensuring a smooth and low-cost publishing process. Reviewers can make comments inline or more generally over the entire manuscript, on the very same document and platform that the authors wrote in, much like Google Docs. This has been successfully tried and tested for years at the Biodiversity Data Journal and is a system now ready for wider-use.


For the above reasons and more, I’m hugely excited about this journal and am delighted to be one of their founding editors alongside Dr Daniel Mietchen. See our growing list of Advisory and Editorial Board members for insight into who else is backing this new journal – we’ve got some great people on board already! If you’re interested in supporting this initiative please do enquire about volunteering as an editor for the journal, we need more editors to support the broad scale and ambition of journal. You can apply via the main website here.

Wiley & Readcube have done something rather sneaky recently, and it’s not escaped the attention of diligent readers of the scientific literature.

excellent facebook comment

On the article landing page for some, if not all(?) journal articles at Wiley, in JavaScript enabled web browsers they’ve replaced all links to download the PDF file of the article with links that direct you to Readcube instead.

This is incredibly annoying – they are literally forcing us to use Readcube. That is not cool.

Some will rush to the defence of Readcube and point out that if they detect you have the rights to, you can download the PDF from within Readcube, but that’s missing the point. No-one need waste their precious time whilst Readcube takes ages to load in your browser tab, when all you wanted in the first place was the PDF.

What Readcube provides IS NOT EVEN PDF. It’s a mishmash of JavaScript, HTML and DRM technology. Thus when Wiley has icons saying “get PDF” they’re lying. Clicking the “get PDF” link does NOT send you to the PDF. It sends you to Readcube’s proprietary, rights-restricted mock-up of a PDF.

It doesn’t even render the figure images properly, sometimes missing important bits e.g. this figure (below):

Luckily there’s a simple solution: you can block Readcube in your browser settings and get simple, direct one-click access to PDF files again by selectively disabling JavaScript on all Readcube-infected websites e.g., and

Firefox users

Install the add-on called YesScript and ‘blacklist’ all Readcube-tainted websites.

Google Chrome / Chromium users

Use Vince Buffalo’s ‘Get Me the F**king PDF‘ Chrome plugin. It’s really good.
This browser is so clever you don’t even need to install anything new. Selective JavaScript blacklisting of websites is an in-built function:

A) Click the menu button in the top right hand corner of your browser
B) Select Settings
C) (scroll to bottom) Click Show advanced settings
D) Underneath the “Privacy” section, click the “Content settings” button.
E) Under the “Javascript” section, click “Manage Exceptions” and add at least these three Readcube-infected websites:, and (example screenshot below)


Safari users

I haven’t tested this but the JavaScript Blocker extension looks like it should do the job.

Internet Explorer users

I’m tempted to say: install Chrome or Firefox but I’m well aware that some unfortunate academics have ‘university-managed’ computers on which they can’t easily install things. If so try the instructions for IE here. Let me know if you have better solutions for unfortunate IE users.

Before (left) and After (right) disabling JavaScript on the page.

Before (left) and After (right) disabling JavaScript on the page.

Added bonus function – extra privacy!

Would you want advertisers to be collecting data on you, knowing what you’ve been reading? It’s possible, though not proven AFAIK that the journal publishers themselves, or the advertisers they use are recording information about what articles you’re reading. They might know you read that article about average penis length three times last week for instance… Eric Hellman wrote quite an alarming post about the extent of this tracking at publisher websites recently. Thus blocking JavaScript at publisher websites provides extra privacy, not just protection against Readcube!

Above all I think we should #BlockReadcube not just for our own utility (easier access to the real PDF), but to send them a powerful message: we do not want the literature to be assimilated and enclosed in rights-restrictions by new technology. We do not want non-consenting ‘cubification of the research literature. We are Starfleet, and as far as I’m concerned: Readcube is the Borg.


PS If you like some of the features of Readcube, try Utopia Docs – it’s free and it’s released under an Open Source license, and it doesn’t force you to use it!

Update 2015-03-20: This post does not indicate I’m suddenly ‘in favour’ of PDF’s by the way, as some seem to have interpreted. If Wiley wanted to do something good, they should publish their full text XML on site like other good publishers do e.g. PLOS, eLife, Hindawi, MDPI, Pensoft, BMC, Copernicus… If they did this then readers could choose to use innovative open source viewing software such the eLife Lens. That kind of change would add value & choice, rather than subtract value (& rights) as they have in this case.

Further discussion of Readcube and rights-restrictions:

So, apparently Elsevier are launching a new open access mega-journal some time this year, joining the bandwagon of similar efforts from almost every other major publisher. A lovely acknowledgement of the roaring success of PLOS ONE, who did it first a long time ago.

They’re only ~8 years behind, but they’re learning. I for one am pleased they are asking the research community what they want from this new journal. One of their “key points” in the press release is: “the journal will be developed in close collaboration with the research community and will evolve in response to feedback”

Well, I’m a member of the research community. I’m a BBSRC-funded postdoc at the University of Bath. I publish research myself AND I re-use published research, so I have a dual perspective that Elsevier should find useful. Here’s my feedback on their new open access journal proposal:


  • Does the research community really need or want a new journal?

We have at least 27,000 other peer-reviewed journals (source: Ulrich’s). I can’t see anything in Elsevier’s proposal that’s really new, or better than anything that already exists – you’ll be hard pressed to beat PeerJ. More journals add to the fragmentation of the research literature – it’s already hard to search across all these journals effectively. Why not just accept more volume in existing journals? It’d be great if you flipped The Lancet, Cell, and Trends in Ecology and Evolution to full (100%) open access journals, and rejected less submitted papers that present sound science. I genuinely do not know of any researcher that asked specifically for an additional new Elsevier journal.


The definition of open access always has been, and always will be this:

By “open access” to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited. (BOAI)

If you’re going to allow the CC-BY-NC-ND licence then by definition you can’t call it an open access journal. Either don’t allow that restrictive non-open licence, or call this new journal a ‘free-to-read’ journal or a ‘public access’ journal. These are the established terms for cost-free but not open journal content that the research community uses. Speak our language for a change instead of deliberately opaque legalese.


  • Take feedback on the design of your new journal from the WORLD not just the research community

Approximately 80% of the world’s academic research is taxpayer or charitably funded. The world is therefore your customer, not just researchers. Ask the world what they want from your new journal.


Take inspiration from the Panton Principles: “Science is based on building on, reusing and openly criticising the published body of scientific knowledge” – help researchers do the best science possible by not allowing them any excuses to not share non-sensitive data with their colleagues. The ’email the author’ system has been widely proven not to work, in my own experience too.


  • Make peer reviews open for all to see, post-publication alongside the paper

At the time of review, you can do single or double blind, but after the manuscript is accepted and published, please publish the reviews alongside the accepted paper. The research community can then see for themselves how good peer review is at your new journal. Allow people to sign their reviews if they wish to (and personally I think this is best in most circumstances).


  • Encourage data citation

Do I really need to explain this one? Old school academic editors have apparently been striking these out at some journals. Please make all editors aware that this is both a good thing and is encouraged.


  • Encourage authors to provide their ORCIDs upon submission, (and ORCIDs for reviewers and editors too please)

This will help people disambiguate who’s who’s which is important when there are at least 7 million active researchers.


  • Charge a reasonable APC ($1350 or less), and be generous with fee waivers and discounts for those that cannot afford them

Anything more than $1350 per article for a new journal in 2015 is daylight robbery. For the first year of publication you should waive charges for everyone, as everyone else does.


  • Provide open, full text XML

Great for text-mining. We don’t need your API. Just give us the content.


There you go Elsevier – that’s my feedback. If you can do ALL of the above or better, I might even publish with you myself. I have stated what I think you should do; it’s up to you now to implement it. I anticipate the launch of your glorious new journal. When your new journal comes out I shall revisit this post & score your new journal against it.


I encourage all other researchers & the scholarly poor who feel similarly, to also make their feelings known to Elsevier, and to add points I have perhaps overlooked. I’d say good luck Elsevier, but you don’t need luck with your fat profit margins – it’s simple to openly publish a good peer-reviewed research journal – just get on and do it already.




Ross Mounce, PhD





I’ve just given an email interview for Abby Clobridge, for a forthcoming short column in Online Searcher.

I give many of these interviews and often very little material from it gets used, so I asked Abby if it was okay if I reposted what I wrote. Her response: “go for it” – thanks Abby! So here’s my thoughts on Generation Open, for a readership of librarians and information professionals:

1) Why are Open issues particularly important for early career researchers? 

Science is digital and online. Virtually no-one hand-writes a manuscript with pen & paper. Our digital research objects e.g. papers, data, software, if open as per can be freely copied and shared to all, for the benefit of everyone. Yet legacy business models from the past are putting awkward constraints, restrictions and obstructions on the publishing and re-use of our research objects. This is deeply wrong. For reasons of efficiency, economic benefit & morality our research should be open, particularly if it’s publicly or charitably funded. Non-open research creates horrid inefficiencies and inequalities that effect us all. Early career researchers are the future of research; we are the ones who can put things right and do research as it should be done – maximising the utility of the internet for low-cost, open dissemination, evaluation and discussion of research. If the early career community don’t act now to help change things, change simply won’t happen.

2) What kind of changes would you like to see within universities/colleges in regard to Open Access, Open Education, or Open Data? 

All lecture material material should be openly-licensed and available online. It’s mad to think that lecturers all over the world are creating new slides every year with essentially the same content. Deeply inefficient. Share teaching materials. Re-use & adapt good content you find. Save time & enrich the quality of your teaching.
Teaching in many ways stems from research. There would be a lot more open content available for worry-free re-use & adaption if research papers, particularly research figures were openly-available. I honestly don’t think research academics are all that aware of the licencing costs involved for re-using non-open research to which a traditional publisher has taken the copyright of. Peter Murray-Rust has a great example  of a Nature paper, that if you want to print 10 copies of it for teaching purposes, it costs $1610 USD, not including the paper & ink, just the licence to reproduce!


It’s ridiculously obstructive and a waste of good research. No one will use that paper for teaching because of the prohibitive licencing costs. By contrast, open access papers published under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY) can be emailed, put on Moodle, printed for no additional cost, nor does one need to ask permission before re-use. Open removes barriers and makes life easier for everyone.


With respect to data & software, institutions need to train-up their staff & students more in terms of research data management, reproducible research, git & version control. It’s mildly embarrassing that external (but brilliant) organisations like Software Carpentry & Data Carpentry are taking up the slack and giving everyone the training that they need. All Software Carpentry sessions in the UK have been packed as far as know because that kind & quality of training simply isn’t being adequately provided at many institutions.


3) What can librarians do to support ECRs in regards to being open? 


Go out into departments and speak to people. Give energetic presentations in collaboration with an enthusiastic researcher in that department (sometimes a librarian alone just won’t get listened to). Academics sorely need to know:
  • * the cost of academic journal subscriptions
  • * that using journal impact factors to assess an individual’s research is statistically illiterate practice
  • * the cost of re-using non-open research papers for teaching purposes (licencing)
  • * What Creative Commons licences are, and why CC BY or CC0 are best for open access
  • * new research tools that support open research: Zenodo, Dryad, Github, Sparrho, WriteLatex etc…


4) What action(s) have you personally taken to support or promote openness?


How long a list do you want?


5) Anything else I’m not asking that you think is important… 


What do I think of NPG’s recent #SciShare announcement. Will it help people gain access to research?


No. I think it’s just another form of #BeggarAccess. The actual terms & conditions of the scheme are extremely limiting and do not resemble the initial hype around the scheme when it was first announced. The Open Access Button and #icanhazpdf remain as the most optimal solutions for access to proper copies of NPG articles.


What do I think of the attitude and prevalence of academic copyright infringement amongst early career researchers?


Everyone is knowingly or unknowingly committing copyright infringement at the moment. If we didn’t, research would be incredibly painfully slow and inefficient. Ignoring silly laws is what my generation do. For context; the Napster generation was 1999-2001 – that was a long, long time ago. We know how to share files online. We know how to use torrents. I really don’t know why libraries don’t cut more subscription journals – the academic community is very good at routing around damage caused by paywalls. Have faith in our ability to find access, even if the institutional library can’t provide it. Cut subscriptions, let them go, we don’t need or want the restrictions they offer.