OA: it’s not just about the access

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It has been over a decade since the launch of the first major open access (OA) journals by  BioMed Central and PLoS, but controversies still  surround the field. Many of these concern the legitimacy of some of the many open access journals that are now available. Of these, a subset of OA journals have collectively been termed ‘predatory’ due to their questionable publication practices. As with every new business model, there are people who try to exploit it, and it is important to know who to trust and how to identify the miscreants. In this blog, I want to continue that discussion about how you - as readers, researchers and prospective authors -  can know which journals to …

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Arthritis discovery hailed as ‘exceptional example’ of translational research outcome

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Sir Ravinder Maini and Sir Professor Marc Feldmann were last week awarded a prestigious 2014 Canada Gairdner International Award for their discovery of anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

 

Rheumatoid arthritis is a common, chronic, painful and disabling autoimmune disease that affects over 21 million people worldwide. In the mid-1980s, Professors Maini and Feldmann discovered the first treatment for it using monoclonal antibodies, which are genetically engineered natural defense molecules, against the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα – this became known as ‘anti-TNF’.

 

Not only was this a novel treatment, but it was the first demonstration of the efficacy of a biological therapy for a chronic autoimmune disease. This led to recognition by …

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Final countdown for the EU Clinical Trials Regulation

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Transfer of documents.

“Truth never damages a cause that is just” – Mahatma Gandhi

Today, European Parliament will vote on the EU Clinical Trials Regulation, including changes to legislation regarding transparency in Europe.

Over the last 30 years, the battle for increased access to clinical trial data has grown in strength. Without publically-available clinical trial results and methods, it is impossible to make informed clinical decisions. The huge, collaborative support seen for the AllTrials initiative is a clear sign that campaigns for greater transparency are gaining momentum.

The estimated percentage of unpublished clinical trials is hotly debated, and lies somewhere between 10% and 50%, depending on what methodologies were used or what article you read. Furthermore, positive results are more likely to be published than …

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Identifying and supporting informal carers

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Young carer

In this guest post, Dr Emma Carduff and Dr Anne Finucane, co-authors on a new paper published today in BMC Family Practice explain why it’s important to support the carers of people approaching the end of their lives.

Approx. 10% of the UK population have an unpaid caring role for a family member or friend. Many of these carers make a significant contribution to supporting people who are approaching the end of their lives.  With increasing numbers of older and frailer people in the population, informal carers will play a vital role in caring for family members as health deteriorates and end of life approaches. In particular, care from informal carers, …

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Is cancer preventable? The role of diet and obesity

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Cancer is a metabolic disease. So asserts a growing body of evidence, supported by twin pillars. On one hand is strong data from population studies showing that those with metabolic disorders, such as obesity and diabetes, have altered risks of specific types of cancer. Elio Riboli, Director of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, lists the cancers associated with obesity in a revealing interview for BMC Biology: breast post-menopausal, colorectal, endometrium, kidney, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and cardia, and prostate (tentatively).

The second line of evidence is the severe metabolic dysfunction within cancer cells. Familiar oncogenes such as c-myc, that are known to drive forward cancer growth, are now known to also reprogram cellular …

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The prostate cancer debate: pros & cons of screening and preventive drugs

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Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed in the UK every year. There is intense debate over whether men should undergo regular prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, as outlined in our previous blog post, and clinical trials have come to opposing conclusions about whether PSA screening saves lives or causes unnecessary harm. On one hand, the European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer (ERSPC) showed that routine PSA testing reduced the risk of dying from prostate cancer by around 20%, whereas the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial found that regular PSA screening did not lead to fewer prostate cancer deaths.

Could stratified screening

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Fostering open access in Asia

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Research output in Asia is growing fast. According to National Science Foundation indicators published in February this year, the number of articles published by researchers in Asian countries increased from 89,000 in 1997 to 212,000 in 2011.

If that trend continues, Asia – with China very much in the vanguard – is likely to overtake both the US and European Union in terms of research output in the very near future. A Royal Society report from 2011 predicted that China would overtake the US sometime around now!

Given this trend, it makes sense that we’re also seeing an increase in the number of researchers from Asia choosing to publish their research open access. According to Joyce Li, our Journal Development …

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Santa Fe loves mobile DNA

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Santa Fe village

The field of mobile DNA is currently a very exciting area of genetics and genomics research. It was once assumed that transposable elements were useless DNA sequences that incorporated into host genomes, forming ‘junk DNA’. In recent years, however, the significance of these genetic elements has been increasingly realized, with studies regularly being published hinting at the function of transposable elements in the host genome.

It seems that some of these suspected functions are damaging to the host, and others may even be beneficial; either way, the contribution of mobile elements to genome evolution is now a hugely interesting area, providing new insights into the evolutionary ‘arms race’ between organisms.

 

On March 9-14th, BioMed Central attended the Keystone meeting Mobile …

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Publication ethics in Europe – COPE European Seminar 2014

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This year the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) European Seminar was held in Brussels, the first time it has taken place outside of London. Delegates were treated to a varied and thought provoking program covering the vast topic of European perspectives on publication ethics. Publication ethics is a vitally important topic for editors, as it underpins the integrity of the published literature.

Simon Godecharle, PhD fellow at the Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Law, University of Leuven, began the day with an engaging talk on guidance on research and publication ethics in Europe. He presented his work on identifying national guidance on research integrity, which found that these documents are hard to access and vary between countries, …

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Goats, the boffins of the farmyard

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Goats are well known for their high adaptability and ability to survive in inhospitable and food scarce  environments. It turns out that this behavioural flexibility has played a key role in the evolution of complex cognition in goats, which are much more intelligent than had previously been thought. Goats are able to quickly learn to solve complex tasks – at least when the reward is food related! – and even remember how to solve these tasks up to ten months later.

Researchers from the Queen Mary University London tested the intelligence of 12 goats living at Buttercup Sanctuary for Goats using a food box cognitive challenge (essentially a box containing food which the goats were trained to open …

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