The gatekeepers of the future

The future gatekeepers panel at ESOF2014

The world around us has transformed dramatically in the last 20 years, and the world of science is being shaped by technology. Crowdsourcing and citizen science are made easy by the internet and mobile apps. Article metrics and peer review experiments allow us to challenge processes that have decided science for hundreds of years. Career structures are able to change and diversify thanks to industry’s and technology’s demands. But does this truly affect research and its impacts, and are the gatekeepers for science really changing?

A few weeks ago I attended the EuroScience Open Forum meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark. EuroScience Open Forum, or ESOF, is a pan-European meeting that happens every two years in a different city – …

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Beyond ENCODE – let’s continue the conversation


As the human genome sequence was completed, so the deep analysis of it began in earnest with the ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project – intended to identify all functional elements in the human genome.

The project involved a worldwide consortium of research groups and the data emerging can be accessed through public databases. BioMed Central has published a selection of the early findings.

ENCODE initiatives lead to modENCODE a project aspiring to identify the functional elements in the genomes of the model organisms Caenorhabditis elegans (nematode) and Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly). The extension of the ‘ENCODE approach’ to other model organisms allows further biological validation of the findings coming from the human genome project.

And building on ENCODE doesn’t …

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The diverse world of citation indexing services

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When assessing the impact of a published research article, it might seem logical to look at the Impact Factor of the journal that you find it in. But as journals and scholars have moved online, and citation indexing has been automated, the wealth of information for citation discovery and analysis has vastly increased.

Citation counts can tell a more accurate story about the scholarly impact that an individual article has made than the journal Impact Factor. But where should you look for these counts? There are a number of indexing services tracking and providing information about citations, each with advantages and disadvantages.

To highlight just how different the citation counts can be between the different indexes, we’ve had a look at some …

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Polio eradication – the race continues…


In May 2014, the World Health Organisation declared the rapidly increasing spread of polio an international public health emergency. The virus, which usually affects children under five years old, is typically spread through faeces contaminated drinking water, causing irreversible paralysis and death in the most severe cases, where respiratory muscles are immobilised.

Polio is currently endemic in three countries; Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is an amazing feat considering that polio was rife worldwide little over 60 years ago. Advances in vaccines in the 1950s, and the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, led to an enormous 99% reduction of cases narrowing the incidence of polio to just a handful of countries.  March 2014 marked a …

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“I am a man who sees death every day” – health and the Syrian conflict


It’s over three years since the conflict in Syria began. With people dying daily, crucial services and support systems disrupted, and challenges in providing international aid, the health and welfare of millions of people hangs in the balance. In this guest post for the journal Conflict and Health, Joseph Fitchett and Lalitha Bhagavatheeswaran, Director and Coordinator (respectively) of the Global Health Film initiative, write about how a new film can help us to recognize the challenges faced.


Recent UN reports estimate 9.3 million people are in need of assistance in Syria. There are 6.5 million internally displaced persons, and over 100,000 people killed since the start of the conflict in March of 2011.


In a relatively short span of time …

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Publish or perish – are women disadvantaged by current measures of scientific ‘success’?

Margaret D Foster

87% of the most highly cited articles are authored by fewer than 1% of scientists. That is the finding of a recent study by John Ioannidis and colleagues published in PLOS One.

The authors examined the entire SCOPUS database to determine the number and characteristics of scientists who had an uninterrupted continuous publication record (UCP) for a period of 16yrs from 1996 to 2011.

Out of over 15 million authors, 150,608 had such a UCP record, and of those, 73.3% could be deemed ‘successful’ as determined by citation metrics and the author’s H index – a measure of their productivity as well as the impact of their work. This proportion is significantly diminished to 43.7% for researchers who skipped only one …

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Where’s the evidence for how we run clinical trials?

trial forge

No one ever said that doing a clinical trial was easy. Indeed it often feels like a Sisyphean task, when faced with obdurate funding committees, or centres that seem unable to recruit a single patient, when just six months previously they were inundated with them. Every piece of research has its pain points; however, sometimes we do have a tendency to over-complicate things.

This was exactly the message of Shaun Treweek’s talk at the 2nd Clinical Trials Methodology Conference in November last year, where he asked if we were making our own lives more difficult than they needed to be. We have a tendency to do trials the way we do because that’s the way we do …

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What is the BioMed Central and SpringerOpen Membership Program?

Alicja Dobrzynska

Did you know that BioMed Central has had various Membership options for more than 8 years now? Even though some of the world’s best known research institutions are our Members (think Princeton and King’s College London to name just two), we’ve noticed that a lot of people aren’t 100% sure what our Membership Program is or what it provides them. Here, Alicja Dobrzynska from our Membership Team answers some of the questions we get asked on a regular basis.

When I go to conferences, one of the questions I get asked a lot is ‘what exactly is BioMed Central Membership?’ There’s a lot of confusion it seems about how our Membership system actually works, and we’ve seen people calling …

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Real evidence-based medicine: a shift away from GPs’ box-ticking exercise

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Mr Jones shuffled into the room. “Good morning, Mr Jones, please take a seat.”

Obligingly Mr Smith settled himself in the little wooden armchair beside the desk, as the GP reclaimed his position at the computer.

“So what seems to be the problem” enquired Dr Smith, eyes fixed on the computer screened.

Mr Jones stared down at his lap. His bony hands cradled one another. He slowly rubbed his thumbs in a soothing rhythmic ritual as he hesitated with his response.

“How’s your appetite? Have you had trouble sleeping or difficulty getting to sleep?” The drilling questioning had begun.

“Well, I haven’t been feeling myself lately. It’s hard to describe.” He paused. Shuffled his feet and slumped forward slightly, curling himself “I feel like …

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Football – is it good or bad for your health?

football and advertising

Football might be a sport that gets its players fighting fit, but as it turns out the story isn’t quite so simple for its dedicated fans.

We’ve had the highs and lows, tears and cheers, and now we’re reaching the end of 2014’s World Cup. So I thought this seemed a good opportunity to see what football-related research we’ve published over the years.

Looking back through the articles – some of which refer (wrongly in my British opinion) to ‘soccer’ rather than football – I noticed that there’s an interesting contrast in the research.

On the one hand, we have articles looking at the fitness benefits of football, the fitness levels of both professional players and amateur enthusiasts, and how players can influence …

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