Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Conference proceedings are citable, stop double-dipping

Over the last several years there has been a trend among conferences such as the Bio-Ontologies Special Interest Group meeting at ISMB and the Semantic Web applications and tools for life sciences (SWAT4LS) to invite article submissions for people that want to present at the conference and then to subsequently invite presenters to expand their article in an "official" publication in an associated journal.  Since the PDFs of the articles submitted to the conference usually end up online, as they should, this results in a situation where first reviewers and later readers are often confronted with two versions of essentially the same article - typically with the same title, author list, and often the same abstract.  This causes problems for reviewers as this kind of overlap with prior work (even from the same authors) would typically be grounds for rejection - yet because of this bizarre arrangement with the conference, reviewers are supposed to treat the original article as if it were a pre-print of the first, despite the fact that it is a citable entity on the Web and never referred to as a preprint anywhere.

Conference organizers, please stop this madness.  Here are three models that would be better.

  1. Following the International Biocuration Conference model, invite submissions directly to the partner journal first and then choose presenters from the successful submissions and independently submitted abstracts.  No confusion.  One good, citable paper.  Probably higher quality conference submissions.
  2. Put the articles submitted to the conference in a pre-print server such as arXiv or BioRxiv and continue with the concept of an expanded article in a journal.
  3. Do what the computer science community does and recognize contributions to conference proceedings as citable articles and do away with the attempt to get an 'official' journal publication in addition to the conference citation.