Innovation in Publishing

Happy birthday MethodsX!

As the journal MethodsX prepares to celebrate its first birthday, we look back at the publishing boundaries it’s hurdled, and discover what lies in store

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MethodsX logoOne year ago this month, the multidisciplinary open access journal MethodsX was born with a catchy video ("MethodsX to the rescue!") and a promise to challenge the traditions of publishing.

How? By dedicating itself to the small but important customizations you make to methods every day. While some of this information may be published in the final research manuscript in the "material and methods" section, or as supplementary material, 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.

MethodsX provides an outlet for technical information that can be useful for others working in the same field, saving them time in their own research, while giving you the credit you deserve for your efforts.

All manuscripts are peer reviewed prior to publication and the pioneering 'microarticle' format MethodsX offers makes it quick and easy to prepare submissions: A detailed protocol and brief explanation are all that is required.

Researchers have responded positively, searching through their notes and submitting their modified methods to the journal. But one thing took the publishers by surprise.

"Early on, we still had a lot of people sending their articles in with introductions and discussions," notes Publisher Dr. Irene Kanter-Schlifke. "Researchers are well taught when it comes to writing scientific articles! Unfortunately, what it meant was that we would ask them to make revisions. It's not easy getting used to a new format, but we're getting there."

Making waves, making changes

Originally, MethodsX was set up with a large Editorial Board, responsible for supporting the reviewing process, and one Managing Editor responsible for the final decisions. As the volume and breadth of submissions increased, the journal reached a crossover point at which the publishers decided to rethink the structure.

"It's great that we're getting so many articles in – we had a record 74 submissions in December 2014 alone – but it means we've had to take a step back and rethink," says co-Publisher, Dr. Andrea Hoogenkamp-O'Brien.

The result is that Editors-in-Chief will be appointed for 12 to 14 subject areas with responsibility for driving submissions and decision-making. Recruitment is now in progress.

The popularity of the journal in some subject areas has also taken the team by surprise. "We have a background in life sciences, so we could clearly see its usefulness in that area," says Dr. Kanter-Schlifke. "However, we've also recently started an engineering section, and we're getting a lot of enquiries about mathematics. We're now working on getting experts in these areas on board."

MethodsX - the numbers

  • Articles submitted: 228
  • Articles published on ScienceDirect: 57
  • Subject areas covered: 16
  • Editorial board members: 47
  • Countries represented in submissions: 35
  • Downloads in 2014: 37,226

Advice to authors

MethodsX is still a relatively new channel for publishing and sharing methods so what advice do the publishers have for authors?

Remembering MethodsX as a publishing option is the first step – it might not be an avenue that immediately springs to mind, but it offers a way to publish another aspect of your work, and ultimately get credit and citations for it.

And once the article is published, you can help it make a splash. This year, the team will email authors a link to their articles, encouraging them to share it with their networks. The more it's shared, the more useful it can be to other researchers, and the more downloads and citations it can get.

Authors are already enjoying the benefits. K. Melican, a member of the MethodsX advisory board from Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, didn't hesitate to submit. "The idea that you can find and publish 'hidden gems' from your lab book really resonated with us. It allowed us to publish a useful finding that may otherwise have stayed in the lab book or been buried in another manuscript."

The main message for MethodsX this year is: get involved. "It's been a fantastic first year for MethodsX, and it continues to get bigger and stronger," says Dr. Hoogenkamp-O'Brien. "We're adding more and more subject experts, welcoming new advisory board members and encouraging everyone to submit their papers. You've done the work, now get the credit!"

What are people reading? scores show how popular an article is online by monitoring the number of times it is mentioned on social media and in the mainstream media. These are the top three articles in MethodsX, ranked by score.

"Continuous damage parameter calculation under thermo-mechanical random loading"
Originally, this method was derived for closed cycles and isothermal mechanical loading. The MethodsX article describes how the researchers extended this to arbitrary cycles and non-isothermal mechanical loading.

"Game controller modification for fMRI hyperscanning experiments in a cooperative virtual reality environment"
Hyperscanning is an emerging method that records data simultaneously from the brains of subjects that are interacting, for example via phone. The MethodsX article shows how this has been modified for use in a virtual reality environment, with a Playstation 3 game controller.

"Method and validation of synaptosomal preparation for isolation of synaptic membrane proteins from rat brain"
Researchers need to isolate proteins from nerve synapses and preserve them exactly as they are, to determine what is happening at a molecular level in disease. The technique for this requires an ample protein sample. The MethodsX article describes alterations to the method that result in a high yield of synapse proteins, making the method an improvement on the original.


Contributor biographies

Irene Kanter-SchlifkeAfter 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.

Andrea Hoogenkamp-O'BrienDr. Andrea Hoogenkamp-O'Brien, PhD studied microbiology at University College 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 then as Publisher in biotechnology and, since last year, as Executive Publisher in biomedicine.

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