Amidst political pressure, over-interpretation of individual studies by the media, the inability to replicate scientific findings, and sometimes precarious working conditions - it is essential to rethink science!
Those who want to enter the sciences often begin their research unpaid and without a structured introduction or close supervision – with only the frequently criticized status quo offering orientation on how science should go.
A huge, profit-oriented publication industry produces an increasing number of articles every year, only a fraction of which are read. In fact, some express concern that a large proportion of published results are spurious. Where academic advancement or tenure depend on positive results and their publication, young researchers become unwilling pawns of a limping system.
In the end, everyone is happy and the system has won once again?! Students obtain their PhDs, principal investigators gain a stronger basis for negotiating research funding, established journals increase their profits, and the (scientific) world benefits from supposedly reliable evidence (if they can access it). - A brief history of science!
Students are the researchers and science users of tomorrow and can push boundaries and realities with their idealism. They have the freedom and flexibility to think creatively, critically and, above all, differently and to try out new ideas that hardly find a place elsewhere in the competitive academic system. Those with first-hand experience of how science can and should be different Those with first-hand experience of how science can and should be different will perceive the process of scientific discovery differently from the very beginning and develop their own critical ideal of science.
With the Student Network for Open Science (NOS, formerly Berlin Exchange Medicine), the first student-run open science journal, education and training network and student think tank in the life and health sciences, we are establishing the infrastructure to do just that.
In doing so, NOS is active on four levels sustainibly contributing to a more open, equitable, inclusive, and thus better science of the future:
Providing well-supervised and critical publication and review opportunities for students.
We want to break open the black box of scientific publishing and peer review for students! We are convinced that first publication experiences should be well accompanied and free of pressure. And that these experiences should be made at an early stage of studies, with structured feedback by peers as an integral part of students entry into science. Through our publication infrastructure, we want to provide a new gateway into science: Students’ first impression of science should not be an unfair, monetized juxtaposition, highly dependent on the prestige and funding of the respective home institution. And the first impression should not be one of fearing for one's own scientific existence and future, pushing young researchers to find significance where there is none, just so their hard work can be published. In our understanding, publishing is a cooperation of authors, journal and reviewers in the pursuit of clean, reproducible and reflective scientific knowledge.
Therefore, our journal combines open science principles and innovative elements of peer review while providing close supervision of student authors by our editorial team. We offer low-threshold, multi-faceted publication opportunities and encourage interested students to preregister in order to have their research ideas critically reviewed at an early stage.
Behind our review structures stands a new understanding of peer review: In order to open the scientific discussion to everyone as early as possible, we publish submitted papers directly as preprints. We provide transparent presentation of the development of an article over the course of the review process in the framework of an open peer review, mention our trained student-reviewers by name, and allow open feedback by all members of the scientific community on our website (public review).
Training students to critically read and evaluate scientific publications
Besides publishing, peer review is one of the most important tasks of researchers, which unfortunately, due to a lack of appreciation and time constraints, often shifts into the background. Current review processes have a prone to several biases and do not adequately meet the interdisciplinary challenges of our time.
Principles of scientific literacy, open science and peer review are rarely taught in a structured manner, leaving many young researchers unprepared for the honorable task of peer review. We address this issue with our broad range of training and continuing education programs, providing students with the tools to evaluate scientific articles in a structured manner and helping them to formulate constructive and fair feedback. By this we hope to promote good scientific practice beyond NOS. Through our courses, student reviewers can train hands-on from the beginning, getting to know 'science from the other side' and actively immersing themselves in the scientific discourse.
Students have valuable ideas! - And this is not only true for their own research or reviewing.
In the founding process of our project, we experience how valuable students' impulses are for the existing publication system. From digital solutions, making peer review more efficient and transparent, to the integration of scientific literacy into curricular teaching, to open science: idealism and the motivation to make a difference are what moves students to question existing publishing structures.
We give them the basic knowledge and skills to do so, and with the NOS-Tank, our own think tank, we create an experimental space to reflect, discuss and improve the scientific publication system on a meta-level. This allows us to continuously evaluate and improve the structures of our journal, while at the same time students can actively learn about science from a meta-perspective and help shape it bottom-up [Positionspaper "Open Science"].
Interdisciplinary solutions to complex challenges
We live in a time where challenges can no longer be solved in silos, but require networked, cross-disciplinary thinking and research. NOS is a founding member of Berlin Exchange, a platform for student journals from different academic disciplines. Our cooperation is not limited to sharing resources and expertise, but also includes efforts to jointly address the question of how we can shape and use interdisciplinarity in publishing, peer review, and communication of science.
In the end, all of this does not only helps students and the scientific community, it also benefits society as a whole! In order to be able to act, treat, advise or inform on the basis of reliable scientific findings, i.e. "evidence-based", future experts must be able to critically evaluate evidence and explain it in a way that is understandable for laypersons!
These are central steps, so that discussions and decisions can be based on scientific facts with society and science finding closer together again.
Let's work together, across generations and disciplines, to make scientific publishing more transparent, inclusive, fair, reliable, objective, and efficient in small, bottom-up steps.
Let's engage students in research!