Publishing at Arcadia: an exercise in maximizing utility

The overarching goal of Arcadia is to develop tools and make discoveries in emerging research organisms. Particularly for scientists who explore new organisms, how they describe what they’ve done and share their results has a tremendous impact on their progress. They need to not only communicate their findings but also establish community and troubleshoot hurdles with a wide range of scientists. We are taking the opportunity of launching a new institute to rethink every part of the communication system Arcadia researchers use. Below are the core principles that are guiding this work.

The singular goal of Arcadia’s communication system must be to maximize the utility of our work. Current traditional “open” publishing, including rapid dissemination and barrier free access to work, is necessary but not sufficient to achieve this. We must also:

  • Diversify the ways that work is shared. We have ways of communicating and absorbing information today that are more diverse and powerful than those available when traditional journals were first established. Arcadia will develop technical and creative infrastructure to support new ways for scientists to communicate their ideas, methods, results and discoveries. We will recruit people whose job it is to help our scientists share their findings in the most effective way possible, and we will mentor our scientists to develop their own communication skills.

  • Diversify the types of information that we share. The fully digested stories found in traditional papers are an important part of scientific communication. But they are only part of it. Arcadia will therefore emphasize the sharing of observations, protocols, datasets, and experiments and analyses that didn’t work.

  • Share work quickly. Currently, the pace at which we communicate findings is at odds with the pace at which that information would be useful. We will make it easier for our scientists to share observations quickly, embracing the uncertainty this entails.

  • Solicit as much feedback as possible. Utility is a high bar for rigor, and the fewer roadblocks there are to open feedback, the better. To catalyze lots of critical discussion from the broader community, we will promote transparent and more conversational feedback on all of our work, and ensure that this feedback is, like all of our communications, also public and barrier-free.

We believe that the best way to achieve these goals is to build new from these principles, rather than reform existing practices. Ensuring that Arcadia scientists have the space and incentives to fully innovate how they communicate requires a complete break from traditional academic publishing. Therefore, no work produced or funded by Arcadia will be published in journals. This is an ironclad, non-negotiable principle. Arcadia scientists will be evaluated on their ability to make their work useful to others. While we are still working out precisely what this will look like, we are committed to developing new communication tools to amplify utility, which will be available to all members of the global research community. We welcome everyone to join us in this endeavor and are excited to partner with others who are willing to experiment boldly with us.

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