Access Microbiology is evolving

Posted on April 20, 2021   by Alex Mulhern, Head of Journal Development

Last Summer, the Microbiology Society secured a Learned Society Curation Award from the Wellcome Trust and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. This was provided to us following our application to develop our sound science, open access journal, Access Microbiology, into an open research platform.

An open research platform combines many of the elements of a preprint server with those of an academic journal in an effort to improve the rigor, reproducibility and transparency of the academic record. A posted preprint will live on the platform, and may eventually reach publication – the Version of Record. As it all takes place on the same platform, readers can navigate through the history, reviews, and previous versions of an article. Because the preprint and Version of Record are both in the same place, citations are not split, providing further benefit to authors compared with the traditional publishing workflow when preprint and journal versions of the same research are citated separately.

You may have seen our news story this week about the planned platform launch in the Autumn.

There are several really exciting innovations we are aiming to include on the platform, including a series of artificial intelligence (AI) review tools. These tools highlight different ways that authors could potentially improve their article before they post it as a preprint. The tools will look for things like whether the article complies with our editorial or ethical policies, whether the plasmids and genomes that are referenced are correctly linked and accessible, or where language has been accidentally replicated from a previous piece of published research. 

These focus groups have been incredibly helpful, as we know that our new platform is much more likely to be successful if we ask the people who will be using it: our existing authors and Editors. Having our community guide the project and give their feedback, has emphasised just how many researchers are looking for a more transparent vehicle by which to present their work. We’ve had a series of brilliant sessions, which have highlighted many of the areas we need to consider carefully, as well as the great strengths of the planned platform. And in keeping with the open and transparent ethos of the open research platform we have just published a summary of these focus groups, so that our community is kept informed and can see exactly what was discussed. We have spent a number of months working with the developers of these tools, testing them and presenting them during a series of focus groups to determine their usefulness for reviewers, authors and Editors.

With this feedback from the focus groups, we are working with developers on enhancing the “front-end” of the platform – where we are devoting a great deal of time to ensure that the visual difference between posted preprints and Version of Record Publications is clear, and that readers can easily navigate between versions, read the peer review and AI review reports, and even cite these individually if they wish.In the coming months we will be updating you all on progress and the development of the platform. We will be introducing new technologies, new workflows, new editorial processes and much, much more. It’s a really exciting project for us here at the Society, and we really hope you can all make use of it when we launch!

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