Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Warburg's Lens: A pre-print discussion forum for the mathematical oncology community

As I posted about earlier, there is a growing movement in the biological sciences to post #preprints of manuscripts on openly accessible fora to circumvent the problems with standard academic publishing.  Most worrisome are the issues surrounding #openaccess and the length of time it takes to get information from one's brain to the literature - drastically slowing down the pace of science.  This is an issue in every field of science, but in Cancer Research it is unconscionable, as it literally slows down the pace of novel treatments coming to bear.

To this end, our group (Integrated Mathematical Oncology) and others, have begun to utilize the forum that the high energy physicists started quite some time ago: the arXiv.  This is an imperfect solution for a number of reasons, but one that I still think is worth utilizing.  The thing that I find most frustrating about it is the lack of specificity and the associated difficulty in finding the papers you are interested in while 'browsing'.  A secondary issue is that there is no way to publicly comment on the papers there, and you are restricted to emailing the authors (which is better than nothing).

The population and evolutionary biology community (a strongly quantitative community working in the biological sciences) has cleverly gotten around this by making a blog (Haldane's Sieve) which they use to post relevant preprints and serves as a discussion forum.

I approached them about creating a scion of their existing blog for use by our  community (theoretical/computational oncology), but they demurred, for good reason.  Their reasoning was that they wanted to keep the population small to encourage submission of preprints and proper discussion in a field (biology) that has been historically gunshy about preprints. So....

I and some of my colleagues, +Paul Macklin+David Basanta+Russ Rockne+Philip Gerlee, Dominick Wodarz and +Alexander Anderson have decided to start a mathematical oncology preprint discussion forum, which we've named Warburg's Lens.

Our goals for this forum are to have a post every Monday/Wednesday/Friday that consists of the title and abstract of a recently posted #openaccess #preprint plus a short paragraph describing the salient points to get discussion going.  As we'll be using the #blogger software, all of the discussion will be visible on Google+. We hope that we can develop a community that is interested in open, objective discussion of the science and that is interested in contributing their preprints for posting as well.  We aim to be able to offer a wider dissemination and discussion and thereby help improve the quality of people's work presubmission.  In a perfect world, this would also speed up the acceptance process as the final product would have already had one round of review, in essence.

So - without further ado:

Go visit Warburg's Lens and check out the first preprint!

Also - feel free to follow along @WarburgsLens on twitter, and spread the word!