Sci-Hub – A New Napster for Academic Publishers

Sci-Hub or Scientific Hub is an open access online search engine that has gained popularity in the academic publishing industry in recent years. It is a repository of scholarly works with more than 58,000,000 published researches that are available for free and can be directly downloaded by the scholars.

How does it work?

Users can look up publications based on three search criteria: URL of the article, digital object identifier (DOI), and text search. The platform searches for the particular article in its library called Library Genesis (LibGen). If the platform is not able to locate the publication in LibGen, it tries to do so by using various institutional access systems. This can also enable access to articles published in the subscription mode by bypassing the paywall. These articles are usually donated by scholars or publishers.

Benefits of using Sci-Hub

This is a hub for not only research articles but other forms of research publications like monographs, books, book chapters, and so on. It offers free access to most of these researches and saves both money and time of the users. Sci-Hub shares similar goals as open access journals, making many scholarly publications available to anyone who searches for them. The site seeks to remove barriers to science through clear hints of piracy for those who cannot afford to pay the high subscription charges levied by journals or publication houses.

Sci-Hub has accomplished certain important breakthroughs. Its ambit covers many publications by scientists or researchers who have opted to publish in open access journals that can be accessed by anyone. In addition, it has brought academic publishing to the mainstream. As scientific credibility mostly depends on scientific publications, most of the chargeable journals own the copyright for their published articles. In this scenario, Sci-Hub helps researchers access these articles without any hidden cost.

Is the world of academia facing the gender disparity issue?

Gender-biased selection is a prominent concern in academics. This gender disparity is not only restricted to scientists and researchers, but also in evidence during the selection of peer reviewers.

Peer review is a vital process before acceptance of a paper in order to evaluate the research methods and validate the findings. It is conducted by subject experts and researchers of the concerned faculty. Despite having the same expertise and knowledge, male authors are preferred as peer reviewers over their female counterparts. Although nearly two-thirds of published authors in Australia are women, peer reviewers of two-thirds of the books are men. This disproportionate ratio has been valid for the last 30 years.

A recent analysis has revealed that most of the authors or scientists suggest male reviewers instead of female ones. Based on these recommendations, the journals also narrow down their list of peer reviewers by adding few male reviewers from their panel.  Eventually, the list comprises more male reviewers than their female counterparts that leads to gender disparity.

Being assigned as a peer reviewer is also considered as a networking tool for scientific collaborations; these reviewers seek out authors whose work they admire. Moreover, they also mention the journals that selected them to review papers in their resumes while applying for positions in faculties, research grants, and awards.

Brooks Hanson, an earth scientist and publication director at the American Geophysical Union in Washington, commented that peer reviewing is not only about the manuscript or author that are being examined, but the reviewers also get varied benefits from it. Besides, the reviewers get a chance to view the manuscripts instead of only reviewing the substantial and factual data. Consequently, the process turns out to be a learning session for the reviewer also.

Empirical data also supports the existence of gender-biased selections. In its annual report, the Australian international body of Vida showed the disparities between the writings of women and men in Britain and the US. In another survey in UK, women were found to be the buyers of two-thirds of the total books sold in Britain, and 50% of women consider themselves avid readers compared to 26% of men who felt similarly inclined. However, male authors are recorded to be winning more awards for their research, which are included in course syllabi at both high school and tertiary levels. In short, male authors are considered (erroneously) to be academically more talented than female authors.

The world of academics cannot afford such gender disparity in writing and research. Therefore, decision-makers are urged to encourage the academics fraternity by providing writers, reviewers, and readers an equal opportunity, irrespective of their gender, for a more wholesome future of the scientific and academic community.

Trump releases his 100 days plan- What for Science?

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Electing Donald Trump as the 45th American President will bring about scads of policy reforms, even faster than the people realize. Starting from freezing the employee recruitments to the scrapping of Obamacare initiatives are all on the list! In addition, the breakneck statements and views of Donald Trump on various scientific facts have also sparked strong reactions among academics. However, the term “Science” has turned out to be a jargon for the Republicans and has found no special mention in the 100 days plan. However, we will have a bird’s eye view on the Trump’s blueprint that he would gift the Americans and the world community this New Year, and figure out if the science facts have been addressed to.

Trump – Throwing on off Policy fetters
Trump’s hard-line positions on immigration — including his commitment towards barring Muslims or terror-prone nationals from entering the US, a plan for wall building across the Mexico borders, imbibing visa restrictions, prioritizing American workers, and the termination of job programs for foreign youths, have surely perturbed the research advocates. Such decisions could sidetrack many talented international students or researchers from studying or working at US institutions. The future of foreign research scholars in the USA could be jeopardized due to such visa restrictions.

Science Facts vs. Trump’s Contradiction- Will it affect R&D funding?
The US has been a major investor of federal dollars in the field of R&D. “The entire business of the US academic biomedical research enterprise is based on federal dollars. Without that, it would collapse,” says Ethan Weiss, an associate professor, University of California. Trump’s shockingly ignorant views on vaccination for children with autism, and calling climate change a hoax and data to be unrealistic, pulling out US (the second most carbon generator) from the Paris climate change submit), curtailing the funds to UN for supporting climate change initiatives, and calling NASA as a logistics agency, have surely put him under the scanner of the intellectuals.
As per the statement released in September, by Donald Trump, he says that “there are increasing demands to curtail spending and to balance the federal budget; we must make the commitment to invest in science, engineering, healthcare and other areas that will make the lives of Americans better, safer and more prosperous.” In an interview by sciencedebate.org, Trump added that “scientific advances do require long-term investment.” In spite of such speculations, the fate of R&D industry is too early to predict. However, before the commencement of 2017, the present US Congress Govt. could approve spending bills before Christmas. These bills will raise the National Institute of Health funding as well as the NSF budget. During the first year of Trump’s presidency, the public funding will be secured.

Uncertain change in the climate
Trump’s election could factor into climate negotiations and be a setback for the upcoming climate change meets. When the world is thinking of implementing Paris agreement, the exit of the US from the Paris summit can be an unfortunate development and the pledge of 800 million USD as the annual contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change may cease. However, legally Trump would not be able to sign off the Summit within his four years tenure.

Donald trump on Healthcare reforms
The Affordable Care Act, an initiative by Obama, which is in its current incarnation, won’t survive if Trump makes good on his campaign promises. By this logic, the funds linked to birth control programs would fade away, though not immediately. Trump may defund Obamacare and associated programs like state grant for medical care. A Trumpian shift to insurance premium deductions and insurance plans sales and the opening of tax-free Health Savings Accounts may not remedy the ultimate problem of high-cost health care services in the US.

Tech Boost and Trump
The Silicon Valley may be benefitted by the manufacturing revival initiative by Trump’s govt. “There are several things that a Trump administration could do that would be beneficial to tech,” says Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. The export industry will flourish over the import, which will be part and parcel of the shifting away from the traditional start-up model and the adjusted tax and trade policy.

We know very little
The research policies and development across a wide spectrum in the US political scenario are still up in the air and have kept the scientific community optimistic (though cautiously). The outcomes of Trump’s immigration policies are also not clear. This is considered as the central pillar of his campaign, which might or might not affect research. Leighton Ku, a professor at George Washington University, said that “it’s likely that the kinds of highly-skilled scientists who immigrate to the US for school or work would still be welcome. But will they want to come?” This is a billion dollar question that still remains unanswered.

Post-submission actions: Editorial decision and peer review process

Post submission action : Peer Review

Annually, approximately 3-4 million manuscripts are submitted to various journals for publication. Each journal initiates the ensuing publication process with the screening of the manuscript before finalizing it for the peer-review process. Screening includes analysis of the paper based on the journal’s aim, scope, and reader’s interest. The decision is also influenced by the clarity of the content and adherence to journal instructions. In most journals, around 60-70% manuscripts are rejected during the initial screening process.

Once selected by the journal editors, the paper is sent to peer reviewers. Peer reviewing is a critical assessment of the manuscript by subject experts who are not part of the journal’s editorial team. Hence, journal editors carefully select the reviewers, also known as referees, based on the latter’s expertise in the subject area so that they are competent to review papers that include technical aspects. Some journals ask the authors to recommend both preferred and non-preferred reviewers to save their time while searching for appropriate reviewers for the paper.

Peer review has become an intrinsic part of the journal publication process because it gauges the quality of the paper and determines whether the manuscript is worth publishing. Generally, journals complete the peer-review process within 3-4 weeks; however, some journals have no time restrictions.

The peer review process is categorized into three types: single-blind, double-blind, and open. The first type hides the identity of the reviewers, whereas the second hides the identities of both the authors and the reviewers. Conversely, an open peer review reveals the identities of the authors to reviewers and vice versa.

Based on the feedback received from the reviewers, the journal arrives at the following decisions:

  • Acceptance. The manuscript can be published in the submitted format.
  • Rejection. The manuscript is rejected.
  • Acceptance with minor revisions. The manuscript needs minor revisions and can be published after incorporating the revisions.
  • Acceptance after major revisions. The manuscript needs major revisions by the authors and can be considered for acceptance after the revisions are incorporated.
  • Revision and resubmission. The paper requires additional statistical and/or editorial revision followed by resubmission.

Apart from these decisions, there are few more scenarios in which a manuscript can be published. Some journals follow a reject and resubmit policy. For the authors, this involves a repetition of the entire submission process after making fundamental changes in the paper as advised by the journal editor and peer reviewers. On the other hand, few publication houses reject the paper for the target journal and advice the authors to transfer the submission to another journal within the same publication house. This is referred to as the journal cascading process.

Even if the post-submission processes apparently showcase more cons than pros of the submitted manuscript, they eventually help enhance the quality of the manuscript.

Preparing tables for research papers

How to effectively prepare tables for research papers

Tables and illustrations are important tools for efficiently communicating information and data contained in your research paper to the readers. They present complex results in a comprehensible and organized manner.

However, it is advisable to use tables and illustrations wisely so as to maximize the impact of your research.They should be organized in an easy-to-understand format to convey the information and findings collected in your research. The tabular information helps the reader identify the theme of the study more readily. Although data tables should be complete,they should not be too complex. Instead of including a large volume of data in a single unwieldy table, it is prudent to use small tables to help readers identify the important information easily.

Here are some points you should consider before drafting the tables in your research paper:

  • Finalize the results that are required to be presented in tabular form.
  • Include the data or results that are relevant to the main aim of the study without being choosy and including only those results that support your hypothesis.
  • Create each table in a lucid manner and style without cluttering it with in-table citations.
  • Number the tables in a sequence according to their occurrence in the text.
  • Don’t mix tables with figures. Maintain separate numbering systems for tables and figures.
  • Create tables in a storytelling manner. Remember that your tables communicate a story to the reader that runs parallel to the text.
  • If you are using or reproducing tables from other published articles, obtain permission from the copyright holder (usually the publisher) or/andacknowledge the source.
  • Do not repeat the tabular contents in the text again; that will create confusion among readers.
  • Use clear and informative text for each table title.
  • Take extra care while extending the data in your tables. If you have too many tables, consider using them as appendices or supplementary materials.
  • Create tables with sufficient spacing in the layout so that they do not look messy, crowded, or cluttered.
  • Do not forget to spell out abbreviations used in the tables, ideally in the footnotes.

For the reader, a research paper that is dense and text-heavy can be tiresome. Conversely, tables not only encapsulate your data lucidly, but also welcome a visual relief for the reader. They add value to the layout of your paper. Besides, and more importantly, reviewers often glance at your tabulated data and illustrations first before delving into the text. Therefore, tables can be the initial draw for a reviewer and deliver a positive impact about your research paper. If you can achieve an optimum balance among your text, tables, and illustrations, it can go a long way toward being published.

Preparing your figures for research papers

How to prepare your figures for research papers

Often a research paper is embedded with loads of data and complex results and it might not be viable to include all them in the space-constrained paper. Hence, this calls for effective presentation of the information in the form of figures or diagrams. In fact, figures are the most powerful tools that leave a strong visual impact for both reviewers and readers.

Here are few tips on how you can improve the presentation of figures in your research paper.

  • Ensure that the components of the figures are clearly visible including the lines and text.
  • Always use a standard font style and size for the figure text.
  • Every figure needs to have a legend. The legend should support your figure entirely. The reader should be able to understand your figure, paired with its legend, without going to the results or method sections.
  • All abbreviations in the figure legends need to be consolidated and spelt out.
  • All parts of the figure need to be labelled. The symbols, lines, colors, abbreviations, error bars, scale bars, and other components need to be defined and described properly.
  • If you are using photographs of your human subjects, don’t forget to obtain an informed signed consent for the same.
  • Do not be afraid to use lengthy figure and table captions—better that than confusing or incomplete ones.
  • Do not forget to cite the figure that has been taken from another source and supports your present study. Use the same citation style throughout the paper.
  • All journals have their specific requirements for formatting figures, such as file format, font size, font style, image resolution, style of numbering, etc. Adhere to these guidelines before submission.
  • Cite figures in the main text at the appropriate place where the text is supported by a particular figure.

The figures in your research paper communicate a parallel story to the reader. In fact, the reader can derive a fairly good idea of your paper by just scanning the figures in the paper. Remember that figures are not just tools to beautify your text; they are the heart of your research and an intrinsic part of your research paper. This highlights the importance of organizing the figures well so that they are able to perform as an excellent prop for your text.

Research problem: A statement of intent

Research problem: A statement of intent
How do I devise my research problem?

A research problem is a statement based on the area of research, which is the first step in a research process. Devising an appropriate research problem depends on the in-depth knowledge, skills, and expertise of a researcher in their particular subject field. Therefore, a researcher needs to devote considerable time to select a suitable research problem.

Steps to formulate a research problem

There are two essential steps to follow while selection:

  • Identification of a research problem
  • Selection of a broad research topic and narrowing it down to a precise statement.

Sources to derive a research problem

Several factors, both extraneous and intrinsic to the research per se, help the researcher in identifying a research problem. They include the following:

  • Field conditions: The rich experiences in the field provide relevant ideas for developing an apt research problem.
  • Personal experience: This might help generate new ideas for formulating the research problem.
  • Previous related researches and theories, and critical review of the available literature: Relevant questions might crop up in our mind when we evaluate the articles, reports and reviews related to the subject area.
  • Expert advice: Subject matter experts are vastly experienced in the field of study. Hence, they may help the researcher find the current problem related to the research, and even devise a research problem.

What should be the nature of the research problem?

There are several guidelines that need to be followed while selecting a research problem. Your research problem needs to be:

  • An original and unique one.
  • An encapsulation of the nature of research.
  • Feasible vis-a-vis time required for its completion.
  • A realistic statement that can be achieved with the available financial resources.
  • Backed by support from your affiliated institution and peers.
  • Formulated in accordance with ethical considerations.
  • Based on recent or current problems persistent in the field of study.

Types of research problems

Research problems can vary according to the field of study and the scope of the research. Basically, there are three types of research problems:

  • Descriptive
  • Relative
  • Casual

A well-framed and appropriate research problem presents the researcher’s view in a clear and lucid manner, and helps readers understand the purpose of the research better.

Authorship Disputes: Tips to avoid conflicts

Tips to avoid Authorship DisputesAuthorship’ denotes the practice of providing truthful credits for intellectual contributions and innovative concepts. It not only helps authors acquire the credit for the work, but also ensures that they assume responsibility for the research conducted and presented. Moreover, it is perceived as a tool for personal satisfaction, prestige, and especially, a stepping stone in a writer’s academic career. Though the term sounds interesting, it involves high risks and problems in practice.

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) often receives disputes regarding authorship. These cases usually involve disputes like the omission of a deserving junior researcher’s name from the authors’ list or a proposal by a sponsor for including the name of a non-contributing author. However, it also received a shocking complaint from a female author, who said that her name was replaced with that of her boss in the final version when she was away on maternity leave.

Apart from having a direct impact on the publication in question, authorship disputes can also have repercussions on a writer’s fair credit, collegial relationships, future collaborations, and reputations.

Following the adage that prevention is better than cure, the following are some guiding principles to avoid conflicting situations like authorship disputes.

  • Adhere to the authorship criteria of the publication

Each publisher follows specific authorship guidelines enunciated by organizations such as the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), World Association of Medical Editors (WAME), Council of Science Editors (CSE), Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), and Good Publication Practice (GPP2). Non-compliance with the concerned guidelines—i.e., unequal application of authorship criteria, granting authorship to undeserving individuals, and/or omitting authorship to deserving individuals—is considered to be a serious offense in the academic world and can be construed as  research misconduct.

  • Hold prior discussions with co-authors

All the authors of a paper should discuss and finalize the authorship order and contributions along with respective responsibilities before beginning to prepare a manuscript and, if possible, even before starting a study.

  • Stick to the plan of action

In few cases, it has been observed that even if the authors have agreed to the sequence of authorship and contributions, fraudulent authors make last-minute changes in the manuscript or research paper just before submission. This leads to conflicts in publishing the paper, and some even end with retraction of the paper. To avoid such anomalies and unpleasant situations, it is advisable to comply with the agreement made between the author and co-authors.

However, even the best plans sometimes fail. So it is better to track and revisit the issues and monitor any changes or modifications in authorship or contributions. If one discovers any changes before publication, it can be revised after discussions with the co-authors. Conversely, if the detection is made post-publication, one can contact the journal along with the written agreements and evidence of contributions, and request for a correction or a retraction of the paper.

How to promote your published articles for maximum impact

Tips and ways to promote your published research articles

Now-a-days, you need to utilize various online mediums to get the added eyeballs for your research articles and promote your research findings and publications to a wider audience. These mediums include social media, search engine optimization (SEO), and blogs.

Nearly one million scholarly articles are published each year. However, for authors like you, that should not be an end in itself. You must promote your published articles and increase the impact of your research and cultivate a stronger reputation as a researcher. That added exposure can help you move your career forward

Here are some effective ways to promote your published research.

Leverage your social media presence

Once your paper is published, take advantage of the many social media platforms to inform your close peer groups, followers, and other academicians in your network to read and follow your research. If you have an account on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, you can update your research status by sending them a message. Some social media also offer features to track feedback and count “likes” generated by your article.

Connect with scholarly reference platforms

The top rated scholarly or academic reference managing platforms such as Academia.edu, MyNetResearch, ResearchGate, and Mendeley help keep scholars of the same discipline or research branch connected and updated about their latest achievements.

Link your publication to your academic profile

Provide links to your latest articles on your institutional website and online academic curriculum vitae. Interested readers can read, follow, and cite your latest research and publications.

Blog

Maintain your own academic blog and link your article to your blog to enhance the chances of discoverability on web crawlers and search engines. Moreover, post small write-ups about your published research works. Every day, scholarly articles are receiving approximately 12,000 mentions via blogs, otherwise known as Altmetrics. You could be among them.

Attend scientific conventions

Present your papers at conventions. That will enable not only fellow researchers, but also the journalists covering the conventions, to access your research and promote your publications.

Apart from these post-publication tips, you can also promote your article even before it is published. You can use SEO tools for increasing the number of hits. Use clear and widely searched keywords, especially in the title and the abstract. You can add these keywords while creating headings and subheadings for better visibility in search results. But you need to avoid overdoing this because unnecessary repetitions can have a detrimental effect on the visibility in search results.

Thalidomide: Is it the next-gen cancer drug?

History of the wonder drug “Thalidomide”

In 1957, thalidomide was first marketed under the trade name Contergan in Germany. It is one of the most widely used immunotherapeutic agents to treat immune responses that involve suppression or induction of the immune system. It was prescribed as a sedative in cases of hypertension, sleeplessness or insomnia, and anxiety attacks.

Thalidomide was subsequently administered to pregnant women to reduce the symptoms of morning sickness and nausea. However, the drug was found to cause deformities in the neonates. The deformity, called phocomelia, mainly affected the limbs. It was concluded that thalidomide causes two major health complications: Embryo-Fetal Toxicity and Venous Thromboembolism. Besides, risks increase significantly when the drug is used in combination with other potent chemotherapeutics, such as dexamethasone.

Potential of thalidomide

Despite its dark past, thalidomide has many beneficial attributes that are continuously being explored by researchers and scientists. In fact, thalidomide is now being considered as an effective drug for treating cancer, especially blood cancer known as myeloma.

The drug is found to inhibit the COX-2 gene activity that plays a vital role in the upregulation of cancer. Another wider class protein called NF-κB is an active regulator of anti-apoptotic factors.  This protein is also inhibited by thalidomide. Thalidomide elevates the levels of immune cells, such as T-cells and natural killer cells.

Although researches on thalidomide as a potential cancer therapy drug are yet to reach a conclusion, they have shown the efficacy of the drug in shrinking and attenuating malignant tumors.

There are other drugs available in the market with similar cancer treating properties as thalidomide, but they are not cost-effective and have many side effects. Conversely, thalidomide is cheaper and off-patent, which makes it more conducive for exploring its potency in cancer treatment.