CB on ENCODE Embargo

CB on ENCODE Embargo

We just read an interesting commentary from Casey Bergman that links together our last two commentaries -

(i) ENCODE paper and Ewan Birneys Interview

(ii) Is Basic Science a Business?

Today everyone is talking about the fantastic discoveries reported by thirty ENCODE papers, but Casey Bergman discussed about what goes on behind the screen based on his experience with fly genome paper. Usually high-visibility journals hold on to many accepted manuscripts for months so that all papers on the same topic can get published together with the major genome paper. That way, the genome issue can make an impressive press release. Casey

Casey Bergman correctly argued that this process serves the major journals, not the scientists, or the people, who pay for the research through government funding.

Personally, I cannot see how this embargo system serves anyone in science other than the major journals. There is no valid scientific reason that major genome papers and their companions cannot be made available as online accepted preprints, as is now standard practice in the publishing industry.

Our insider knowledge about multi-month embargo came from another insect genome project - honey bee. The delay was so unbearable for some researchers that it almost caused civil war among the members of genome project !! Many scientists are on shoe-string budget to start with, and waiting six months for a paper may mean postponing grant submission by one year, losing tenure, getting divorce, or realizing what basic science is all about.

Essentially, basic scientists may think that they are pure souls searching for laws of nature, but all aspects of their work from grant applications to paper publication are controlled by various business entities and commercial interests. When the scientists understand the nature of the system, they express shock.

Casey Bergman:

Seeing this process unfold first hand was shocking to me, and has made me very skeptical of the power that the major journals have to dictate terms about how we, and other journals, publish our work.

We agree completely, but we expect them to succumb to even bigger power as argued by several others in CB’s comment section.

Written by M. //