Why apps that suggest citations are not a good idea.

Software tools that suggest citable sources as your are writing may sound like a really convenient idea, but we see a lot of disadvantages. Sloppy citing is one of them: the temptation grows to refer to sources without properly reading them. This aggravates already sloppy citation practices in research. Details in our new publication:

Horbach, Serge P. J. M., Wytske M. Hepkema, Willem Halffman, and Freek J. W. Oude Maatman. “Automated Citation Recommendation Tools Encourage Questionable Citations.” Research Evaluation, 2022, rvac016. https://doi.org/10.1093/reseval/rvac016.

Misidentified materials: journal guidelines no quick fix

Journal guidelines help precent the publication of misidentified biomedical resources, but they are not the quick fix you might expect. Journals’ regulatory action is important and yet only part of the solution, as there are limits to what journals can do. Our paper analyses the effects of journal guidelines for cell line identification, antibody validation, and lab animal reporting is out in pre-pub version in the International Journal of Cancer.

Hepkema, W.M., Horbach, S.P., Hoek, J.M. and Halffman, W. (2021), Misidentified biomedical resources: Journal guidelines are not a quick fix. Int. J. Cancer. Accepted Author Manuscript. https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.33882

ERC NanoBubbles project picking up steam

I’m really excited about the NanoBubbles project, bringing together STS, data scientists, library scientists. computer scientists, historians, and nonscientists. We investigate controversies, errors and over-stretched promises in nanobiology from this exciting interdisciplinary mix, with a team that is really committed to cooperation. For now, not a lot is visible to the outside world of the cooperative explorations that are going on, apart from our beautiful webpage and of course the adverts out for hiring people throughout the project, such as my two PhD candidates and two Postdocs. One of the big challenges is to cooperate in a multi-method approach, ranging from quantitative bibliometrics, qualitative interviews and ethnographies, all the way into experimentation.

Lab animals in the replication crisis

If the variability of lab animals contributes to the failure to replicate experiments, should this lead to further standardisation? The microbiome can significantly affect experimental results and this presents an interesting challenge. A perspective from philosophy of science offers clarification and investigates the alternative avenue of embracing variation. Our new publication is a close cooperation with biomedical researchers.

Witjes, Vera, Annemarie Boleij, & Halffman, W. (2020). The Microbiome of Laboratory Mice: Reducing versus Embracing Variation, Animals, 10(12), 2415. doi: 10.3390/ani10122415.

Chinese Scholarly Publishing.

Scientific publishing in China is differs from international scientific publishing: journal licenses are restricted, administrative control is complex and cumbersome, but the system is far less oligopolistic. Our overview is out in Learned Publishing.
Wang, J., Halffman, W., & Zwart, H. (2020). The Chinese scientific publication system: Specific features, specific challenges. Learned Publishing, n/a(n/a). doi: 10.1002/leap.1326

Positief zijn


Ik vind het best moeilijk om “positief te zijn” als ik het over het wetenschappelijke publicatiesysteem heb. Want de verhalen over wat er zoal mis gaat zijn wel erg bizar af en toe. Mijn column in Vox.

Can journals improve validity?

Journal guidelines improve, but do not fix the problem of antibody validation. (Easy compliance through identifying information improves, but actual experimental validation is slow.)
See our analysis in a publication in PeerJ:

Hoek, J. M., Hepkema, W. M., & Halffman, W. (2020). The effect of journal guidelines on the reporting of antibody validation. PeerJ, 8, e9300. doi:10.7717/peerj.9300

The Platform for Responsible Journals announced in Learned Publishing.


Editorial procedures, including peer review, could do with some more transparency and better documentation. Our article in Learned Publishing explains how our Platform for Responsible Journals could help.

Horbach, S. P. J. M., Hepkema, W. M., & Halffman, W. (2020). The Platform for Responsible Editorial Policies: An Initiative to foster Transparency in Scholarly Publishing. Learned Publishing. doi: 10.1002/leap.1312