A chance discussion between two Elsevier publishers sparked an idea that led to the launch of Elsevier's latest journal, MethodsX. While reminiscing about their days as researchers, Dr. Andrea Hoogenkamp O'Brien and Dr. Irene Kanter-Schlifke recalled some of the frustrations they had experienced. Here they explain how MethodsX will address one of the major pain points they confronted as researchers.[divider]
As former researchers, we know how much time and effort can be spent on establishing the methodology behind your experiments.
We surveyed more than 200 researchers, and some of them reported spending as much as 80 percent of their time adjusting technical protocols in order to make them work in their particular settings.
Not only is this frustrating, but when you do get the method to work, it is often buried in a lab book and never sees the light of day. Some of this information may be published in the "material and methods" section or as supplementary material in the final research manuscript, but that has its disadvantages — it isn't search-friendly, it often lacks the details necessary to allow others to reproduce the steps, and it is never citable as a standalone piece of work. Only in a very few cases are the adjustments considered significant enough to be published in a traditional journal, and then only if authors take the time to write up a full paper.
Submitting to MethodsX
For a MethodsX article, all you need to submit is:
- An abstract to outline the customization
- An image, graph or other visual to illustrate what you've done
- The methodological protocol(s), including any relevant figures, tables or videos
- At least one reference to the original description of the method you're using
MethodsX is now accepting papers. Because the aims and scope are relevant for any field doing experimental work, we welcome submissions from all research disciplines.
All manuscripts are peer-reviewed prior to publication, and the first accepted articles are already live on ScienceDirect. In order to give the MethodsX's content the visibility it deserves, it has been launched as an open access journal.
Really, we are hoping to achieve two things: see researchers finally receive credit for all the blood, sweat and tears they invest in establishing a method, and make this information available to others working in the same field so they don't have to reinvent the wheel.
Indirectly, MethodsX may also address the issue of reproducibility and validation of published methods, a rising problem highlighted in the recent article "Trouble in the Lab" in The Economist. The piece mentions an example reported in Nature, where American drug company Amgen tried to replicate 53 studies they considered as well established, and were only able to replicate six, despite working closely with the original researchers.
MethodsX Advisory Board member Dr. Gregory J. Tsongalis, who is Director of Molecular Pathology at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, said the journal will fulfill the need for researchers to publish their work on developing and tweaking methods so that they can easily be found by others, repeated and validated. "It's also good for researchers as they can get the credit they deserve for spending their time and effort on developing a method," he added.
Fellow Advisory Board member Dr. Loren Wold, Director of Biomedical Research in the College of Nursing and an Associate Professor in the Colleges of Nursing and Medicine (Physiology and Cell Biology) at Ohio State University, said: "MethodsX will dramatically change how we assess and build on recognized techniques, saving researchers' valuable time."
Ultimately, we hope the journal will develop into the primary platform where researchers can share variations of existing methods to fit specific needs. This may include a method that was developed in one discipline but, with adaptations, is applicable in another field.
If we achieve this, I think we will have done something extremely useful for the scientific community. And that's really all we wanted when we came up with this idea one morning – to do something useful.
Elsevier Connect Contributors
After studying Biology at the University of Vienna (including a semester in Montpellier, France), Dr. Irene Kanter-Schlifke went on to do her PhD at the Section for Restorative Neurology at Lund University in Sweden. She then worked in the pharmaceutical industry in the Netherlands with Janssen Biologicals in Leiden before joining Elsevier as Publisher for journals in Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Since last year, she has moved on to be Executive Publisher in Psychology and Cognitive Science.
Dr. Andrea Hoogenkamp O'Brien studied Microbiology at the University College of Cork in Ireland and went on to do her PhD at London South Bank University. She then did a four-year postdoc at the University of Amsterdam before joining the FEMS society journal office in Delft, the Netherlands. She joined Elsevier in 2010, first working as Editorial Communications Manager in Publishing Services and, since 2012, as Publisher in Biotechnology.