Category Archives: Publication

Why shouldn’t journals publish translations of articles alongside the English version?

Update (14 April 2022): If you’re interested in the notion that something is lost when we default to English as the language of scientific communication, you may be interested in this reflective podcast by Shaun Cleaver that was prepared as part of the 2020 In beta unconference.

A few days ago I received a submission to OpenPhysio from someone who was clearly a non-English first language speaker. After a few rounds of email to make sure I understood the general structure and claims of the article, I decided that we’d go ahead and work together to tidy it up a bit, before sending it out for peer review. I know that reviewers can sometimes take on an editorial role as part of the process and wanted to make sure that the central ideas were clear.

However, it occurred to me that this may also be an opportunity to offer the author the option of preparing a translation of the article in their home language, to be published alongside the ‘original’ i.e. the English version. Authors go to a lot of effort to translate their work into English, which has this weird side-effect of closing it off to a population of non-English speakers, who may nonetheless have benefitted from reading it. I can only see upsides to this practice and almost no disadvantages, other than it adding a bit more work to the publishing process. And of course, authors would have to agree to take on the translation themselves (I’m talking from the context of a fee-free journal, like OpenPhysio, that wouldn’t be able to pay for this service).

There are no technical limitations that would prevent this. Making a second version of the article available is as simple as providing a link to the file. To start with, we could even say that the translation will be available as a ‘stripped back’ version, with no formatting and design i.e. it could simply be a PDF with the the original citation that points back to the canonical (English) version. Of course, the author can do this anyway but I think that making it available alongside the original would add some ‘credibility’ to the translation. This first iteration would just be a proof of concept. You can imagine that, over time, you could have it available in HTML (to help with discoverability), and also assign a DOI to the translated version to differentiate it from the canonical version. And you’d need to have a translator verify that the articles are the same.

I can’t think of any reasons for why we shouldn’t do this.

Resource: Internet Archive Scholar

This fulltext search index includes over 25 million research articles and other scholarly documents preserved in the Internet Archive. The collection spans from digitized copies of eighteenth century journals through the latest Open Access conference proceedings and pre-prints crawled from the World Wide Web.

I’m a big fan of the work being done by the Internet Archive, so I was especially interested to read about a new project they’ve initiated: Internet Archive Scholar (although I’m less excited about their logo, which looks like something designed in Microsoft Word in the 90s). The database is a collection of documents retrieved from:

  • public web content as preserved in The Wayback Machine and Archive-It partner collections
  • digitized print materials from paper and microform collections
  • general materials from collections, including collaborations with partners

Read more about IAS here.

Publishing essays as scholarly work

A few days ago the OpenPhysio journal published a collection of speculative fiction essays, called Physiopunk, written by first-year physiotherapy students at UiT The Arctic University of Norway. The project was an initiative of Filip Maric and colleagues in the department, and is an attempt to help students think creatively about the kinds of futures we may arrive at in the profession.

Speculative fiction is a literary genre that often has a focus on possible futures.

The concept, in its broadest sense, captures both a conscious and unconscious aspect of human psychology in making sense of the world, and responds to it by creating imaginative, inventive, and artistic expressions. Such expressions can contribute to practical societal progress through interpersonal influences, social and cultural movements, scientific research and advances, and the philosophy of science.

Urbanski, H. (2007, p. 127). Plagues, apocalypses and bug-eyed monsters: how speculative fiction shows us our nightmares.

Through the choice of speculative fiction rather than a more conventional approach to undergraduate essays, Filip and his colleagues opened up a space where students were set free from the more rigid boundaries of traditional assessment tasks. They were able to explore creative, inspiring, and hope-ful narratives of a physiotherapy practice that’s far removed from our current conception of what and where the future of the profession lies. For that alone, it is remarkable.

However, the project has gone further for me and helped to think more carefully about what ‘counts’ as scholarship. In the past I’ve wondered if and how podcasts might be incorporated into the corpus of scholarly works but I’d never thought about the role that essays could play.

Scholarship (as proposed by Boyer, 1990) has four separate but overlapping meanings:

  1. The scholarship of discovery (research): original research or the search for new knowledge.
  2. The scholarship of integration: putting isolated facts into context.
  3. The scholarship of application or engagement (service): goes beyond the service duties of a faculty member to those within or outside the University and involves the rigour and application of disciplinary expertise with results that can be shared with and/or evaluated by peers.
  4. The scholarship of teaching: involves the systematic study of teaching and learning processes.

Traditionally academic journals have focused almost entirely on only the first of Boyer’s frames for scholarship i.e the scholarship of discovery; we publish – and privilege – peer-reviewed original research. While this form (and format) of scholarship is an essential part of the scientific method, I’ve also come to think of it as the “sterile uniformity of journal formats” (Carrigan, 2021). In order to standardise knowledge production we’ve converged on a specific type of publication which, ironically, is poorly optimised for general understanding.

As Sarah Kember has noted:

We need to make contact with a sense of writing as something that evades and exceeds the possibility of measurement.

Kember, S. (2016). Why publish? Learned Publishing, 29(S1), 348–353.

I’m not suggesting that we place reflective essays in the same category as RCTs, but I do think that they provide spaces for us to explore ideas and practices that don’t yet exist. And for that reason alone, I think that well-designed essays should be incorporated into the corpus of scholarly works.

I see this project by Filip and colleagues as a first tentative step by the OpenPhysio journal as a reflection on the “sterile uniformity” of traditional publication, and to integrate a form of scholarship that actively seeks to “evade the possibility of measurement”.

Exciting times.

Michael Rowe

November 26, 2021

I’ve just been asked by the editor of a very popular journal if I’d be willing to peer review one of their submissions and the deadline is Christmas eve. I realise that this is an automated email and the editor probably doesn’t know that this is the deadline. I can also obviously complete the review before the deadline. But this doesn’t sit right with me.

Am I being overly sensitive about this?

Comment: A billion-dollar donation: estimating the cost of researchers’ time spent on peer review

We found that the total time reviewers globally worked on peer reviews was over 100 million hours in 2020, equivalent to over 15 thousand years. The estimated monetary value of the time US-based reviewers spent on reviews was over 1.5 billion USD in 2020. For China-based reviewers, the estimate is over 600 million USD, and for UK-based, close to 400 million USD.

Aczel, B., Szaszi, B., & Holcombe, A. O. (2021). A billion-dollar donation: Estimating the cost of researchers’ time spent on peer review. Research Integrity and Peer Review, 6(1), 14.

Caveat: I haven’t read this article yet but wanted to add some thoughts while it’s on my mind.

I have no problem with publishers making a profit, or with peer reviewers doing their work for free. The problem I have is when there is such an enormous gap between those two positions.

If publishers make billions in profit (and they do), while at the same time reviewers are doing a billion dollars worth of work for free, that seems like a broken system.

I think there are parallels with how users contribute value to social media companies. In both cases, users/reviewers are getting some value in return, but most of the value being captured goes to the publisher/tech companies.

I’d like to see a system where more of the value accrues to the reviewers. This could be in the form of direct payment, although this is probably less preferable because, among other things, of the challenges of trying to convert the value of different kinds of peer review into a dollar amount.

Another problem with simply paying reviewers is that it retains the status quo; we keep the same system with all of it’s faults and merely redistribute profits. This is an OK option as it at least sees some of the value that normally accrues to publishers moving to reviewers.

I also don’t believe that open access – in it’s current form – is a good option either. There are still enormous costs associated with publishing; the only difference is that those costs are now covered by institutions instead of the reader. The publisher still makes a heart-stopping profit.

A more elegant solution, although a more challenging one, would be for academics to simply step away from publishers altogether and start their own journals, on their own terms.

OMW, Fermat’s Library looks amazing

Fermat’s Library is a service that allows members to upload papers and annotate them to provide some of the context around research articles, through annotation and discussion. The website creators talk about the importance of understanding the backstory to a lot of academic research.

For example, in the image below you can see a summary of Richard Feynman’s Value of Science paper, along with points worth highlighting in the text. You can respond to comments left by others as part of a longer discussion, if you’d like.

Click on image to embiggen.

I haven’t spent much time browsing papers yet but it feels like the emergent emphasis is on older articles that are more philosophical in nature. I say ’emergent’ because don’t appear to be any top-down conditions dictating what to upload and yet most articles I noticed were older, and ‘philosophical’ because the ones that stood out to me are the ones that ask questions rather than try to provide answers.

I learned about Fermat’s Library from the Lex Fridman podcast (which may be my new favourite podcast, by the way). The episode on Fermat’s Library talks about the platform itself, as well as the reason it exists, and problems with scientific publication in its current form, including the challenges of determining research impact.

This looks like a brilliant service and I’m excited to spend more time browsing papers on the site.

Comment: Podcasting as scholarship

With the rise of podcasting as a forum for academic conversations and as a teaching tool, Hannah McGregor of SFU’s Publishing department set out to investigate — and enact — podcasting as a form of scholarly communication, knowledge mobilization, and open pedagogy. Hannah is in conversation with host Am Johal about her research into the exciting potentials of scholarly podcasting, and the power of the podcast as a grassroots, decentralized medium.

Johal, A. (n.d.). Podcasting as Scholarship. Retrieved August 12, 2021, from

A couple of years ago I described a process for inserting podcast creation into a workflow that integrated with traditional models of academic and scholarly practice. The idea was to demonstrate that there’s a lot of overlap with creating a podcast and what we think of as scholarship and that with a few minor tweaks, we could probably start adding podcasts to our other, more formal, academic outputs.

This episode adds several other dimensions to what I initially described, including the notion that the ‘podcast-as-academic-output’ should not conform to formal academic outputs, as well as the idea that the peer review process could be collaborative and published as a podcast. I really like both of these ideas.

Podcasts are informal and to try and force them into a traditional publication workflow would probably take away something that makes them enjoyable. I also like the fact that adding too many layers on top of what is already a relatively time-consuming process would limit the utility of the format.

And then I obviously love the suggestion that peer review could be 1) collaborative, and 2) published as a podcast. Peer review should be more like a collegial conversation with colleagues who have an interest in the topic, as well as in making the output the best version that it could be.

There’s a lot of food for thought in this episode. If you’re interested in scholarship and more creative expressions of academic output, this is well worth a listen.

purple leaf

Weekly digest (07 May 2021)

This is an experiment that I’m going to try for a while. Sometimes I come across articles that I think are interesting and would like to share – with a short comment – but which don’t warrant a full post. I’m going to try and aggregate these into a weekly digest that I’ll publish on a Friday. In the past I would have pushed these out to Twitter but I’m trying to bring more of my work into my own site instead. We’ll see how it goes.

O’Grady, C. (2021). Fifteen journals to outsource peer-review decisions. Science. Retrieved May 6, 2021, from

Some scholarly publishers have already outsourced operations like copy editing and printing. Now, 15 journals are outsourcing something central to science itself: the peer-review process. The journals, which include BMJ Open Science and Royal Society Open Science, say they will accept articles reviewed by a nonprofit “peer community” organization.

Now that journals are starting to outsource peer review, how on earth will they justify the cost of publishing with them? At OpenPhysio we charge nothing. Not a cent for authors or for readers. Granted, OpenPhysio is a very small journal with a different vision for academic publishing but that actually makes it harder to do the work.

On a related note, I have an article coming out soon with Physiotherapy Theory and Practice, which we had hoped to publish under an open access license. The cost: $3000! We should have looked into the details before submitting but none of us thought it would be this much. Something has to change.

Harada, J. (2021, May 4). The Instagram ads Facebook won’t show you. Signal Messenger.

Companies like Facebook aren’t building technology for you, they’re building technology for your data.

Facebook is more than willing to sell visibility into people’s lives, unless it’s to tell people about how their data is being used. Being transparent about how ads use people’s data is apparently enough to get banned; in Facebook’s world, the only acceptable usage is to hide what you’re doing from your audience.

This is such a great example of a subversive activity, albeit one that Facebook quickly saw and banned. Facebook sees you as an input into their advertising algorithms, and there’s not much more to say about it.

Young, S. (2021, April 26). Should You Use Flashcards to Learn? Scott H Young.

If you want to learn a topic with a lot of stuff to memorize, flashcards will help you do it better than almost anything else. Mnemonics are trendy, but for medium-to-long-term purposes, flashcards are probably better. It’s also easy to waste your time with flashcards. You can spend a lot of time memorizing something you don’t need to, or fail to memorize the important things you do. Flashcard practice can also be a convenient way to avoid doing the real thing you need to learn.

Nice, short piece about when you should consider using flashcards for your learning, and when they should probably be avoided. It also starts with a short description of how flashcards are linked to memory via spaced repetition practice.

Beighton, F. (2021, April 25). DM168 Reflection: Things that we should find in the ashes: Love Thy Library. Daily Maverick.

Libraries, by their nature, are sanctuaries. They are designed to feel like safe spaces should feel; orderly, calm, a refuge from the noise and madness of the world, where you’re invited to slow down, to be quiet and to feed your mind.

Last month (18-21 April) Cape Town experienced one of it’s worst wildfires in a decade. Luckily no-one was killed, but the Jagger Reading Room in the library at the University of Cape Town was destroyed. I love books and I love libraries, so this felt like a deep loss, not only for scholars and students at UCT but for humanity. It may have also felt more significant because I’m reading Rebecca Knuth’s Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction. I liked the idea that the author suggests…looking at libraries as more than repositories of content from the past and are connected to the future:

Libraries need to move from the transactional – get your library card, borrow a book, return it late, pay your fee – to the membership model, in which they are the central hub of community, a cornerstone of democracy, thought leadership, social change and connection.

Call for papers – Towards a new normal in physiotherapy education

By responding to this global disruption, we are placed in a situation where we are having to rethink our approaches to physiotherapy education. All over the world physiotherapy educators are engaged in what is possibly the most extensive programme of pedagogical change in our professional history. We see colleagues responding with creativity, empathy and flexibility, creating a unique opportunity for us to capture and share what may be a series of transformative changes in physiotherapy education at a global scale.

I’m excited to announce that OpenPhysio has put out a call for papers aimed at learning how colleagues from around the world are responding to the changes they’re currently experiencing within their professional programmes. We’re interested in the changes currently underway that have the potential to transform physiotherapy education, both in the short- and long-terms.

Submissions should be short (1500-2000 words) research reports or notes with a clear problem, a maximum of 3-5 citations, early findings (even if only in the form of observations), and provide a single focused recommendation.

You can find out more about the call on the OpenPhysio website.

Article: Predatory journals: No definition, no defense.

Everyone agrees that predatory publishers sow confusion, promote shoddy scholarship and waste resources. What is needed is consensus on a definition of predatory journals. This would provide a reference point for research into their prevalence and influence, and would help in crafting coherent interventions.

Grudniewicz, A. (2019). Predatory journals: no definition, no defence. Nature, 576, 210-212, doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-03759-y.
There exist a variety of checklists to determine if a journal is widely recognised as being “predatory” but the challenge is that few lists are consistent and some are overlapping, which is not helpful for authors.

The consensus definition reached by the authors of the paper:

Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.

Further details of the main concepts in the definition are included in the article.

Note: Some parts of this article were cross-posted at OpenPhysio, an open-access, peer-reviewed online journal with a focus on physiotherapy education. If you’re doing interesting work in the classroom, even if you have no experience in publishing educational research, we’d like to help you share your stories.