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48 Octopus: a revolution in scientific publishing
  1. Alexandra Freeman
  1. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK


Objectives Octopus is a new publishing platform designed to replace journals and papers as the means of sharing scientific knowledge and ideas. It is designed to serve the needs of science and scientists above all else: to use every digital tool possible to ensure that good scientific practice is recognised and rewarded, and that there is no longer any advantage to questionable research practices.

Method Essential features of Octopus include:

  • Complete language–agnosticism: every user reads and writes in their language of choice, maximising access.

  • Free open access to read and publish

  • The unit of publication is not a ‘paper’ but instead one of 8 shorter forms:

    1. Scientific problem

    2. Hypothesis

    3. Method/protocol

    4. Results/data

    5. Analysis

    6. Interpretation

    7. Implementation

    8. Review

Each publication must be linked to at least one ‘above it’ in the chain, apart from a Review, which can be linked to any other publication.

  • Rating of each publication by readers (1-5 stars) on each of three predefined criteria, chosen to represent best practice in each kind of work => work is judged on the most appropriate criteria.

  • Red flagging of publications by readers if they suspect misconduct (scientific, ethical, legal - eg. plagiarism) or serious error (eg. statistical).

  • Every author has a page listing their contact details, affiliations, potential conflicts of interest, and publications, with their ratings (and who rated them).

Results The structure of Octopus would lead to a raft of improvements:

  • Smaller author groups (for the smaller publication units) give more accessibility, meritocracy/accountability

  • It encourages fast publication (to establish priority)

  • It values each part of the scientific process regardless of subsequent or previous work (e.g. data can be published regardless of size or what it suggests about previous work) removing the pressures for questionable resarch practices

  • It values perceptive reviewing and hence collaboration.

  • It allows obvious flagging of potential issues in publications or with conflicts of interest.

  • It removes many potential causes of bias (eg. removing first names in favour of initials in author lists)

It could also replace the wasteful process of grant funding submissions and improve the hiring/promotion systems within institutions by providing a crowd-sourced view of the quality of work.

Conclusions Octopus is not technically difficult to achieve and is now being built, with support and grants from several sources. It has the potential to change the way that scientific work is funded, carried out and shared - for the better.

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