Accessing Astronomical Research Work at a Low Cost


Background

In my previous blog posts, I highlighted that today astronomers have been working collectively on a single project. Researchers need to communicate their work with both other astronomers and the non-astronomers. Here, other astronomers refer to a group of professionals who work as peers to review the original work. American Astronomical Society (AAS) publishes two journals where astronomers can share their work. They are: the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal. The Astrophysical Journal focuses on astrophysics and related research work. The Astronomical Journal primarily publishes work done in observational astronomy and related fields. Both of these journals charge their readers to access the articles published there. This blog discusses whether astronomical research work can be accessed at a low cost. Ethical guides for the AAS journals can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/ZHYjDK.

Analysis of the Thesis

Astronomers submit their research papers in either one of the journals mentioned above. The reviewers give feedback. In many cases, the writers and the reviewers exchange several notes to increase the clarity of their scientific language used in the papers. Now, one can wonder why reviewing and publishing require money. The peer review process involves several stages. They are:

  1. Formatting the paper
  2. Posting the paper to an online server
  3. Forming an editorial board and reviewing the work of the peers

These days, stage #3 is considered to be the most time consuming one, which increases the cost of publication. I ignored stage #2 because maintaining an online server requires a fixed amount of money. Forming an editorial board, which will be mostly familiar with the research content described in a paper, is considered to be a moderately difficult task. Anyone from the researchers’ home institution cannot take part in this process.

Currently, American Astronomical Society reviews a submitted paper following the model of a single reviewer. Since astronomical sciences and researches have become a global collaboration among several groups of scientists and professionals, a single reviewer model seems to be outdated. In order to engage a group of peers who will qualify to go through a particular paper, one can think of recruiting a group of referees. Now, does this  increase the publication cost? It does not. Distributing tasks among referees will be helpful for publishing a superior quality paper. The peer review will be less time-consuming. As the tasks are distributed among a group of referees, the incentive should be offered accordingly.

Many young researchers start their career by replicating experiments done by others. If the science described in a paper fails to produce the exact results (within the margin of error predicted in the results section), the young researchers can question about the merit of the work in a published paper. When an expert group gets involved in peer reviewing they can easily pinpoint the strengths and the weaknesses of the paper.

A well-written and well-received paper makes science journalists’ work easier. Scientists get money to do their research work primarily because the government funds them. Scientists’ responsibilities lie on reporting their science work in less ambiguous terms. A group of referees can notify the researchers about ambiguous terms they introduced in their papers.

A single reviewer model is helpful in guiding the researchers to improve their science writing. Depending on the complexity of the work, if a group of peers evaluate the merit of the research work, then publishing research work will be much quicker. The rest of the researcher communities will be aware of the work through this.

Conclusion

A group of referee can lower the publication cost of publishing an astronomical paper. This will be beneficial for researchers to access others’ work at a minimal cost.

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