Repair Work

When a blood vessel is torn, various cells converge on the wounded area, and after the bleeding has been stopped, these cells create collagen to provide a scaffolding upon which the healing process can build. That scaffolding is essential as it provides protection and guidance for the cells that heal the wound. Similarly, as we work to repair and improve scientific editing and publishing from damage caused by the pandemic, social injustice, or simple growing pains, we need the strong scaffolding of the information and insights provided by colleagues, such as in the articles in this issue of Science Editor.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the need for researchers to publish quickly has cemented preprints as a now-common component of the research workflow, but not without concerns about challenges to the traditional peer review model. Especially for many in the biomedical community, preprints were originally viewed in opposition to journal articles: articles were peer reviewed and preprints were not. But that distinction is now muddled as even preprint skeptics have come to embrace the speed at which they can disseminate scientific research. As preprints have become increasingly common, the need to evaluate them outside the confines of traditional journal peer review has increased. In her article, Sciety and the Rise of the Overlay Service, Hannah Drury describes the creation of one of many new services designed to provide structured review of preprints. Sciety is a service to help curate preprints and allow organizations and groups to post their reviews while also tracking versions and publication events. Sciety and other overlay services help provide context for readers and valuable feedback that authors can use when revising and/or submitting to a journal.

But even after an article is published in a journal, what does it mean to say that it was “peer reviewed”? Within a single journal, peer review can vary greatly as different articles may go to 1, 2, or 3 (or more) reviewers, may be revised 3 times or not at all, and may or may not go to a statistical or other specialized reviewer. Open or transparent peer review can help shine some light, but even then, policies can differ between journals and it can be tricky to follow the exact path an article took. Enter DocMaps. As Tony Alves describes in his article, DocMaps Helps Tell a Story, DocMaps is a framework for machine-readable code that can be embedded in an article or other document that tells the history of that document. Once embedded, this history can be surfaced in multiple ways, such as badges, search facets, or article details, for any number of applications as described in the article. DocMaps can also provide info about the type of anonymization and other review details that could be valuable resources to researchers.

When the pandemic initially hit in early 2020, many organizations scrambled to move their conferences and meetings online, and attendees were appropriately willing to sit through whatever planners were able to put together. But as the pandemic has dragged on and the realization that virtual or hybrid conferences may continue to be the norm for the foreseeable future, the standard slideshow presentation has become harder to attract an audience. In her article, Building More Creative and Interactive Conference Sessions, Heather Staines describes the process that she and her coplanners used for developing a more interactive session involving games, artwork, quizzes, and more to discuss the intricacies of data sharing policies. The lessons learned from being forced to energize virtual sessions will be useful even when conferences begin to transition back to in-person meetings.

Along the same vein, the move to a virtual work environment forced some organizations to modernize their workflow. As reported by Matt Ferguson and coauthors in Reinventing Our Publications Department: How the COVID-19 Quarantine Pushed Us Into the 21st Century, the Publications Department at the American Urological Association had been managing an in-person, paper-based workflow fine for many years but had to change quickly when that was no longer an option. Although these changes were forced upon them, they used the opportunity to implement new efficiencies that they will likely continue no matter how or where they are working.

The recognition that transformation is now inevitable and more common can be seen in this years’ CSE Annual Meeting Reports, which took the theme of “Shaping Our Future by Embracing Adaptability.” The next group of reports are published in this issue, including the Keynote report by Peter J Olson on COVID-19: The New Reality and the Plenary report by El-shama Q.A Nwoko on Managing Science Communication in a Post-Truth Era.

Last year protests against systemic racism spurred many organizations like CSE to re-examine their mission statements with fresh eyes and acknowledge that their stated goals could not be achieved without a greater recognition of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). To that end, the CSE Board created a new DEI Task Force that is now in the process of transitioning to a full Committee to help ensure “that our organization reflects our best, most earnest, most equitable, and fair representation of both our profession and the work we publish in our scholarly communications.” As an update to members, task force co-chairs, Melissa B Schmidt and Otito Frances Iwuchukwu, have provided an “an overview of where the CSE DEI Task Force has been and where the new DEI Committee plans to go” in their article Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force Update and Future Direction.

This renewed focus on diversity and inclusion in scientific publications has also heightened the importance of shared style guides, such as CSE’s Scientific Style and Format and the AMA Manual of Style, to provide a consistent approach to sensitive topics such as race and ethnicity. Last year, Stacy Christiansen provided an overview of the draft updates to AMA’s inclusive language recommendations around race and ethnicity and she revisits this topic now that AMA has revised and published their Updated Guidance on Language Appropriate for Reporting Race and Ethnicity. This is an ever-evolving area and they “welcome writers and editors to use the guidance, to share it, and to cite it” while continuing to provide feedback as needed.

We round out this issue of Science Editor with an update from the CSE Editorial Policy Committee from Leonard Jack, Jr on Recent Updates to the CSE White Paper: Guidelines for Editor in Chief and Guest Editors of Supplements, Special Series, or Calls for Papers; Jennifer Regala advises that It’s Okay to Hit That Unfollow Button! when it comes to trolls and others who wish to cause harm online; and finally, Barbara Meyers Ford enlightens us about the growing scourge of “digital pollution” in her Gatherings of an Infovore column.


Jonathan Schultz is Editor-in-Chief, Science Editor, and Director, Journal Operations, American Heart Association.

Sections of this Viewpoint are adapted from the September 2021 edition of the Science Editor Newsletter.

Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the Council of Science Editors or the Editorial Board of Science Editor.