Sunday, May 25, 2014

A success story for Warburg's Lens

I've been travelling a lot of late, which I'll blog about on its own in a bit (including a 'best of the best' coffee machines post), but I heard a story from a friend, which triggered a memory which I want to share. It took a moment, but I realised that a whole chain of events that I was unaware of, yet intimately involved in) added up to a success story for Warburg's Lens, the theoretical oncology preprint discussion forum that some colleagues and I started to try to speed up the process of scientific discussion.

So the story goes like this:

I was trolling the qBio section of the arXiv, as you do on a Friday night, looking for interesting papers. For the record, I also always scan the +bioRxiv Preprints. On this night, I came across one from one of my favorite authors, +Arne Traulsen, who has an evolutionary theory group at the Max Planck Institute in Plon, Germany. The #preprint, entitled, Cancer initiation with epistatic interactions between driver and passenger mutations, seemed like a very interesting one, so I put it on Warburg's Lens for discussion. It generated some nice discussion on the site which even included the authors, who were able to defend some of the points, but also take on board some very relevant (non-anonymous) feedback.

Fast forward a bit, and I'm minding my own business trying to get a job, and I get a request from a journal to review an article.... lo and behold it is the same one we are talking about. For various reasons, I declined to review it, but I remembered that there were some very constructive criticisms from people on Warburg's Lens (people who have published significant works in this direct area), so I knew who I could suggest as a replacement reviewer, which I did. Readers won't have a problem guessing who any of the anonymous people are, but I will not divulge that here.

Fast forward again, and I'm visiting some colleagues in Boston (again, post to follow, there was wide #heterogeneity in coffee machines) and a friend mentioned that this great paper that he had reviewed just came out...  and on the same day, my colleague and supervisor, +Alex Fletcher sent me an email notifying me of the paper, which is now out, and you can find it online here, but of course, I can't get it at home without dropping $40. I am eager to read the paper and compare it to the #preprint.

Either way, congrats to +Arne Traulsen et al. on the nice paper and thanks to all who contribute to the discussion on Warburg's Lens - and it's inspiration website, Haldane's Sieve. Keep submitting your #preprints to repositories like the arXiv and +bioRxiv Preprints, keep doing good #openscience. This seems like a win for everyone.

Also, lest I forget, cheers to the Journal of Theoretical Biology for being cool with preprints. Let's keep adding to the list.  This is a tangible example of how preprint servers help EVERYONE, even the journals. We got faster, more on target review, because of the preprint. A list of journals and their preprint policies can be found here: