O'Really?

May 11, 2012

Journal Fire: Bonfire of the Vanity Journals?

Fire by John Curley on Flickr

Fire by John Curley, available via Creative Commons license.

When I first heard about Journal Fire, I thought, Great! someone is going to take all the closed-access scientific journals and make a big bonfire of them! At the top of this bonfire would be the burning effigy of a wicker man, representing the very worst of the vanity journals [1,2].

Unfortunately Journal Fire aren’t burning anything just yet, but what they are doing is something just as interesting. Their web based application allows you to manage and share your journal club online. I thought I’d give it a whirl because a friend of mine asked me what I thought about a paper on ontologies in biodiversity [3]. Rather than post a brief review here, I’ve posted it over at Journal Fire. Here’s some initial thoughts on a quick test drive of their application:

Pros

On the up side Journal Fire:

  • Is a neutral-ish third party space where anyone can discuss scientific papers.
  • Understands common identifiers (DOI and PMID) to tackle the identity crisis.
  • Allows you to post simple anchor links in reviews, but not much else, see below.
  • Does not require you to use cumbersome syntax used in ResearchBlogging [4], ScienceSeeker and elsewhere
  • Is integrated with citeulike, for those that use it
  • It can potentially provide many different reviews of a given paper in one place
  • Is web-based, so you don’t have to download and install any software, unlike alternative desktop systems Mendeley and Utopia docs

Cons

On the down side Journal Fire:

  • Is yet another piece social software for scientists. Do we really need more, when we’ve had far too many already?
  • Requires you to sign up for an account without  re-using your existing digital identity with Google, Facebook, Twitter etc.
  • Does not seem to have many people on it (yet) despite the fact it has been going since at least since 2007.
  • Looks a bit stale, the last blog post was published in 2010. Although the software still works fine, it is not clear if it is being actively maintained and developed.
  • Does not allow much formatting in reviews besides simple links, something like markdown would be good.
  • Does not understand or import arXiv identifiers, at the moment.
  • As far as I can see, Journal Fire is a small startup based in Pasadena, California. Like all startups, they might go bust. If this happens, they’ll take your journal club, and all its reviews down with them.

I think the pros mostly outweigh the cons, so if you like the idea of a third-party hosting your journal club, Journal Fire is worth a trial run.

References

  1. Juan Carlos Lopez (2009) We want your paper! The similarity between high-end restaurants and scientific journals Spoonful of Medicine, a blog from Nature Medicine
  2. NOTE: Vanity journals should not to be confused with the The Vanity Press.
  3. Andrew R. Deans, Matthew J. Yoder & James P. Balhoff (2012). Time to change how we describe biodiversity, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 27 (2) 84. DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2011.11.007
  4. Shema, H., Bar-Ilan, J., & Thelwall, M. (2012). Research Blogs and the Discussion of Scholarly Information PLoS ONE, 7 (5) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035869

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