Archive for February, 2014

Access to Understanding science-writing competition People’s Choice award.

February 28, 2014

Access to Understanding seeks to make the science presented in jargon-heavy research articles accessible to a wider audience. Competition entrants were asked to write plain English summaries of scientific research articles for a public audience. Each summary needed to explain why the research was done, what was done and why it was important. Entrants could write about one of 10 articles, each covering fascinating cutting-edge science including combining drug therapies to treat cancer, brain scanning to better understand specific function, a new way to assess effectiveness of arthritis treatments, and an analysis of malaria resistance around the world.



The 10 best summaries have already been selected by our judges, and assessed for their scientific accuracy. Now we want to know what the public make of them. Are they interesting? Are they easy to understand? The People’s Choice award is a really important new development for the Access to Understanding competition. We value this opportunity to find out what people think of the summaries and how successfully the science has been communicated.

Struggling to make sense of current scientific findings? Frustrated with the jargon and information overload that accompanies science research? The Access to Understanding science-writing competition challenges entrants to write plain English summaries of fascinating, current research articles (all available from Europe PubMed Central). This year, in addition to the judges’ choice, you have the opportunity to tell us what you like! The People’s Choice award aims to give a voice to those for whom the summaries have been written and allows us to reward the best.


The competition will remain open until 12.00 on 24 March 2014, and the winner will be announced that evening at the awards ceremony. You can vote for as many articles as you like, once a day. We encourage you to share any and all comments at any time.


Don’t forget to tell your family, friends and colleagues. These fascinating pieces will be of interest to all!



1.       The Access to Understanding science-writing competition and the associated People’s Choice award is run by Europe PubMed Central in partnership with the science team at The British Library

2.       The Access to Understanding competition page is at:

3.       The People’s Choice website is at:

4.       The deadline to vote for the People’s Choice award is 1200 GMT on 24 March 2014; the award winner will be announced at the award ceremony that evening at The British Library (free tickets for this event can be booked on The British Library website (

5.       Europe PubMed Central (Europe PMC) is a free-to-access online resource for biomedical and health research information. It is funded by 24 funders of research from across Europe, led by the Wellcome Trust. Each of the original articles included in the competition is freely available from Europe PMC.

6.       The science team at The British Library supports the information and data needs of research through an innovative programme of services, projects, events and other activities.

7.       The Access to Understanding award ceremony forms part of Beautiful Science season at The British Library, which comprises an exhibition (Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight) and range of fascinating science-based events.

Two highlights from the Reddit #asktimo session

February 18, 2014



Q. by hujimuji

“Open publications are getting more news these days and I personally believe it is very important for publication to be an open process with minimal cost to researchers. My question is, how long do you think it will take for these journals to be publishing some of the top research? How long will it take for researchers to stop wanting a “Nature Paper”?”

A. by Timo Hannay

“Open-access journals already publish some of the very best papers. (It may also surprise you to know that, as a result of journals like Scientific Reports and their investment in Frontiers, Nature is already one of the world’s biggest open-access publishers.) I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to publish in a widely-read journal, or to achieve ‘high impact’ by traditional measure such as citation counts. What’s problematic is (a) judging a paper and its authors purely based on the journal in which they’ve been published, and (b) considering a high-profile publication to be the only route to scientific success. Research progresses through all kinds of contributions, from experimental data and software to the teaching and mentoring of the next generation; all of these deserve recognition”.

Q. by me

“Love Digital Science and “disruptive technologies to enable researchers to disrupt the status quo”. What motivated Macmillan Publishing to start Digital Science and why did you get involved ?”

A. by Timo Hannay

“I used to work at Nature (another part of our parent company, Macmillan) and we always thought of our mission very broadly: we exist to serve the information needs of researchers — not just to publish journals or whatever. With that in mind, if you look at the rise of digital and networking technologies, you suddenly see huge opportunities to serve researchers in ways that go well beyond content. But you need a different kind of organisation to do it, so we set up Digital Science. Technology, not editorial, is at our heart, and we’re growing in large part by investing in young software businesses (many of them created by former scientists). This a is a very unconventional approach for a publisher to take, but like I say, we’re trying to create a new kind of organisation”.

In context – see the whole Reddit discussion.