In this podcast, Khalid and Steve discuss why is peer review important, why it’s in crisis and the pre MVP solution SCIENEUM.
Prof Khalid Saqr is a Professor at two universities Tohoku University, Japan, and Arab Academy, Egypt. He studied his undergrad, master’s, and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. He’s an entrepreneur, investor, published over 80 papers, and founder of Bio-CFD.
Podcast Full Transcript
Welcome and if you’re listening to this podcast it’s highly likely you are one of the early adoptors.
I’m an entrepreneur investor and today your podcast host. I’ve studied Computer Science for my bachelor’s and hold other qualifications from UCL, Harvard and Stanford. Which includes a masters. I also hold many other financial qualifications from the London School of Business and Finance. I’m autodidactc, polymath and a poor speller.
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Today, I’d like to welcome professor Khalid Saqr, he’s a professor at two universities Tohoku university, Japan and Arab Academy, Egypt. He has studied his Undergrad, Masters and PhD in Mechanical Engineering, he’s an entrepreneur, investor. He has published over 80 papers and a foundered of bio CFD technologies.
In this recording he shares his pre-mvp solution for the peer review crisis, scieneum. Curious to find out more, stay tuned let’s go and say hello.
Yes definitely, thank you Steven for having me in your podcast. Actually, the peer review crisis is is a well-realised crisis in the scientific community. Peer review is the procedure by which a scientific article or a research paper gets published in a journal. Basically, scientists have their own journals academic journals. Where they publish their new research and discoveries. In order to get a paper published, the paper has to be reviewed by two peers of the authors. This is usually, the peer review is an anonymized process. Where the authors and the reviewers they don’t get to know the identity of each other.
In many cases, the reviewers can see the author names but the opposite is not possible. So basically, you have to submit when you have a paper. When you have a research paper, you have to submit it to a journal, that is focused on your research. The editor which is the person or the people in charge the editorial board, would first decide whether the paper is a good fit for the journal.
This editorial decision, can take up to a month, you get an initial response. Sorry to interject, who is usually the person conducting the research? Professors, PhD students, postdocs researchers from all branches of the academic community, the scientific community. The editors are usually high-profile professors who have a deep experience of the subject area and they have a network of scientists all over the world.
They can have an opinion about whether this paper deserves to be published or not. So when the paper passes the editorial decision and the editors think that this research should be published. They send it out to peer review to peer reviewers the paper. They want give any reason why they may decide this, not have something in versus to have something in there.
There are so many sorts of reasons because you see every editor has his own mindset about the subject area and has his own or her own perspective, of the subject area, Its progress is based on this subjectiveness of the viewer or subjective stands. They decide whether this should be published or not. For example, I wrote a manuscript on the reproducibility of computer simulations for covid airborne transmission aerodynamics. I sent it to many journals, that published this kind of research, the editorial decisions were all negative. They justified it by; we need people to trust a computer simulations, not to not to see the negative side of it.
We need people to rally we need people to move forward towards compliance with social distancing that is only proven by this kind of computer simulation and hence. Which is non-scientific scientific, science supposed to be debated and challenged yes but the thing is when you see the amount of papers that were published on the used computational fluid dynamics. Which is my area of expertise, they use CFD to simulate airborne transmission, of the virus.
Through droplets through respiratory discharge and so on and they build like the six the six feet rule for social distancing using this kind of simulations. When you see the amount of papers being published it’s huge, like in one year, there is more than 50 studies were published. When you get a deep look at these studies, you find that only 10 percent with results that can be reproducible.
They don’t even publish as enough data to reproduce the results. If there is any other research group that wants to reproduce the results and do a different scenario, it’s very difficult for them to reproduce the results. Fortunately, last month I got a positive response from proceedings of the simulation society in the uk. It’s a sag journal journal, published by sage and they think the paper is worth to be published.
They required an extensive list of reviews, which I’m currently conducting. Just to to to say, the idea the opinion of the editorial decision, is all subjective you never get to question the editorial decision.
Editorial decisions says that there but effectively you do all the research becomes peer reviewed, so your peers reviewed. It and then the editor has the final say. If this is going to be published or not yes. The editor has the final say, in two stages. In the first stage, before peer review – whether it is to be peer-reviewed, or not. There is a long backlog of papers in all journals waiting for peer review and the editor also has the final opinion after the peer review. The the crisis happening in all three stages because inside the peer review process itself there are so many problems so where did the um publishers what’s their business model.
How do they get their money income?
There are two business models. The first one is a subscription model. Where universities institutions corporates and all stakeholders have to pay subscription to the journal in order to read the papers. In this model, the author doesn’t pay anything he authors just transfer the copyright to the publisher. They actually transfer the copyright in return of getting published this is the first model. The second model, is the open access model, where the authors keep the copyright to themselves but they have to pay what is called eps apc article processing charges. They have to pay article processing charges after the paper gets accepted in order for it to be open access so anyone in the in the entire world can read. It’s an article processing charge, this varies. From even then it can be 5 000 sorry yes.
They still can say they don’t want to publish it but in case they accept it the author has to pay so they usually pay like from 1 000, let’s say one thousand six hundred to five thousand dollars,per paper. In order for it to be public in every university, we keep an allocation for every research grant for article processing charges so we can pay publishers to publish our work. Under an open-access license and in both models, the reviewers don’t get anything. They remain anonymous and nobody knows that they reviews the work and they don’t get paid. That’s actually why, we have researchers declining review. When they are asked to do so and we have like 68.5 million hours spent reviewing research articles every year.
This is my slavery it’s it’s a form of slavery
When you look at the numbers, come on, this is like 8000 years collectively spent every year to review the 2.5 million papers that are being published in the world. The numbers are frightening as you said last week.
We have a situation where the business model is failing because not everyone is being paid. Okay, this is like an inside story that people in academia don’t want to talk about. It so you basically review you when you see a PhD student starting their PhD program. They become very incentivsed and very activated to review in order for them to know what is currently being written and published around, the world. To validate the novelty of their thesis when they go up the ladder the incentive to peer review gets less and less the incentives. Also they want to learn how to review a research paper because this is one of the essential skills that that academics should have a critical thinking critical mentality.
When they go up the ladder, when they finish the PhD and get to become a postdoc. Then, they receive a tenure, somewhere and then they move up the ladder. They lose the incentive bit by bit and they become more inclined to decline a review assignment from a journal. That they even publishing, why? Its because there is basically no incentive and because every active researcher and every active author in the world find their own kind of a lobby to work.
A society where they can become a member and then publish their to work, like a scientific society, a professional society. Where they can become a member and then publish in the journal of this society. Then the other members who he meets or she meets every year in the congress of the society. They get to review for each other so it’s like a lobby.
That’s why you have a backlog and you have millions of hours wasted every year on peer review. You have a seven over 70 percent of declining rate and they adapt three or four journals to publishing. They just keep going with this model along the way. That’s why, we have over 70 percent of the declining rate for peer review assignments and we have over 68 million hours wasted on peer review.
It’s like if you divide the number of hours required for peer review annually by the numbers of papers published 2.5 million you get something like 20 hours per paper which is not really the case so there is like a huge time wasted in peer review. A huge backlog of papers waiting to get published authors to wait roughly three to six months for their paper to get published and sometimes a year.
The journals, which have dedicated reviewers and editors like nature for example. Nature has a group of journals that have dedicated editors and reviewers but they are very selective based on what is currently fashionable in research. Let’s say, you have a huge corporate assigning a multi-billion dollar budget to focus on a specific new technology or climate change. The year after that you will find that all the top journals only accept paper that talks about this subject.
What’s happening with artificial intelligence in medicine and healthcare. What is happening with fintech, with financial technology. What is happening, with what happened a couple years ago with graphene. The new carbon-based material and a few more years before that what happened with the nanocarbon tubes. When you have a global financial potential heading towards a specific research area or subject. The new topic automatically you will find all the big five.
They also have knowledge discovery products platforms that they sell with a SAS model to big corporates in order to see where the science is heading. The the publishing company with the top five companies who control, like 70 or 80 percent of the market. They also develop what we call knowledge discovery platform.
I don’t want to mention any names or brands so the knowledge discovery platform is a platform that does text mining subject discovery, knowledge mining. When you think about genetics and molecular biology. They have this very powerful platforms to detect protein compounds from published research papers and get the context of speech around it so they have these platforms. They license it to big pharma companies or big corporates so the big corporates can have a very focused window and perspective to look at in academia.
Look at where the science is heading but actually, it also works the other way around because when the corporates have a specific direction that they want to the head they want to go to they give grants to through government or through institutions. Even venture capital sometimes, so they give grants to specific research groups to lead this kind of research and automatically because the publisher has the both ends. They have the end of the academia and the end of the corporates automatically. The publisher gets journals tuned in to follow this direction.
I’m not saying this is like 100 percent, what’s happening, but this is where the problem lies. This is where the problem is coming from. There are many disciplines like what you say what you think about in mathematics or philosophy or sociology. When you think about civil engineering for example, there are many disciplines that are not really influenced by this kind of malfunctioning industry.
They are not hot because they don’t have a lot of money but when you look at biology. When you look at molecular biology, you look at drug discovery, drug targeting discovery. When you look at this kind of things. When you look at transportation. When you look at petroleum engineering at environment. come on. these disciplines. They are largely influenced by the peer review crisis.
Then who do they did their publishers receive any sort of funding from grants are they totally independent. They are really independent but they sell the knowledge discovery platform license. At galactic prices astronomical prices that are in their interests.
What’s your solution to solve the science crisis
SCIENEUM, is an idea, it’s not really my idea. So many people have been talking about using blockchain to solve the peer review crisis for the past few years.
What is blockchain and why could it be beneficial?
Blockchain is simply a network of computers that has unique protocols to communicate with each other. They validate and authenticate the information that is stored on the Network. Its the difference between the current system.
The publishers just got the research, so it’s just like a pdf, you know okay my idea was was basically the question that I was trying to answer is how to give incentive to everyone in the industry to engage in an objective perspective and transform the industry. From being so to transform, the industry from being only profitable to only one stakeholder. To become profitable and incentivized for everyone in the community from phd students to professors to universities to research institutions.
Even to publishers and to corporates so the idea is basically to use something called tokenization. It’s a blockchain sub technology where you issue a tokens crypto tokens to represent an interest or a stake in an ongoing process so how would it work.
You have a 100 of something and then you work out the value. Okay, so let’s say, let’s talk about SCIENEU. SCIENEUM is basically a publishing project that aims to democratize the publishing industry. It will allow every person a stake in the industry, so the idea was to issue a token offering, it’s a hybrid security. A utility token offering and this token offering is like coins like crypto coins. Very cheap, like the coin, is like for one dollar or one pound for example. Where everyone, every scientist, can buy some of these tokens. Then on the platform they, sorry why would they buy them if they’re gonna get paid, okay because they buy them to be able to use the platform is a decentralized.
A publishing platform where they can use the tokens that they bought in order to do different roles and different processes on the platform so so there’s like crypto like a like ethereum so that particular coin is programmable and it’s got certain uses within the yes yes yes.
I’m a peer review you’re the researcher. So the idea is to eliminate editor editors editorial board to decentralize the decision so to decentralize that this is the decision there is a very interesting sub technology of blockchain. It’s called curated token registries, or curated token registries. Its like a registry where all the people that have that can vote on this registry or have staked a particular number of coins.
Instead of having one or two or three or even 10 editors. We will end up having tens of thousands of people who stick their tokens to have a vote on the curated token registry. The brilliant thing about security token registries is that they are anonymous. You will never know who is currently with you on this registry so when a paper when a new paper gets to pub to be published on SCIENEU. It gets to be a subject of voting on the curated token registries before peer review instead of the editorial decision.
We now have a voting mechanism an anonymous voting mechanism and staked by tokens. The SCIENEU tokens and when it gets enough stakes and we will talk about how much enough is enough when it gets enough stakes to be approved. Then it can go to peer review when it goes to peer review the authors have to stake their own tokens for the duration at which the review is taking place. When they stick these tokens the reviewers gets to access the the paper and read it and review it when they finish and submit the decision some of the staked tokens by the authors will go to the reviewers as a reward and then the rest will go back to the authors.
Just to understand, that the con the the workflow of the token right so yeah I acquired a token I put I’m paying for the token or do I get gifted. I think a token at the beginning of the process yes at the beginning many of the tokens will be gifted. Yes, 50 will be gifted to scientists, young scientists, so 50 will be gifted.
From what I’m understanding, correct me, if I’m wrong.
Why would the people purchase the coin or the token? Yes yes why they would purchase the tokens is we need a community. This is why SCIENEUN needs a community of scientists of academics. Who realize that the peer review crisis has to come to an end and who have the potential to end it.
We are looking for like a thousand scientists, each one would pay like 200 pounds to get the staked token in order for them to sit in that curated token registries. What about the value of beginning what can they do with the token thereafter. Okay, so basically publishers sorry authors are always authors so along with my career i started my career back in in 2007 my academic career until now.
I published over 100 papers and I submitted over another 300 papers for review. Once you are an author you will always be an author and once you are a reviewer you will always be a reviewer.
I publish papers as an author and I review papers as a reviewer and I also act as an associate editor and editor in a couple of journals. Every academic plays all the roles so when you have the tokens you can use it in the three roles with us with this unique mechanism.
I’m trying to perfected it so we when you buy or you be gifted a number of tokens that is enough to publish a paper at the end of the publishing process. When the paper gets published the coins then you lock during the review process comes back to you minus the reward. That has been given to the reviewer so when you act as a reviewer you top up again your credit.
It’s like using the tokens will keep moving from the authors and the reviewers and the accurate token registries in order to incentivize the peer review process. Eventually, if you want to work out you can sell the tokens in the exchange market the tokens will be available in the exchange market so they will acquire value with time due to the usage and due to their utilit. The price will go up so what or how will. I’m deciding this scenario – how would if i’m cashing in who’s going to buy the coins. Another scientist, who wants to take a stake in the journal to be an editor in the journal or to publish a paper in the journal or in the platform.
That so it could be so it’s almost like an investment academic investment so if I was a younger scientist. When I just get to retirement, I’d got bucket loads of coins and then a younger scientist coming into the platform or the ecosystem then they would be acquiring my coins. The rate of inflating, whatever the inflation is so effectively I’m creating wealth within the process for me.
Why not use bitcoin
A medium exchange like that well actually I think signiam should ha should have its own blockchain and should have its own uh smart contracts I’m now studying a new platform it’s called libonomy is the first ai enabled blockchain so I’m studying economy I’m trying to learn it now. To see if it’s suitable to serve the SCIENEUM project but other that, I think it has it should have its own blockchain. Its own technology entirely separated from ethereum or separated from bitcoin. The use cases are very special and the locking and staking periods depend on the peer review duration.
When you stick when you’re an author you have like 10 tokens you lock them until the peer review ends lock them that means you cannot cash them out you cannot sell them you cannot do anything. Them so let’s say the peer review takes a couple of months at the end of a couple of months you get back eight tokens and two will go to the reviewers one for each one let’s say just the numbers. Then the reviewers, keep accumulating the tokens with a ceiling of course.
Then the authors also act as reviewers in other papers, on the platform. Every author is a reviewer and every reviewer is an author. We get to exchange these tokens and get a clear-cut incentive to finish the review fast and in an objective way and the other one the other benefit the biggest one is that we eliminated the influence of the editorial board. We replaced it, with a curated token registry where anonymous voting is. The only way to to find out if this paper should go to peer review or not authentic.
Being the devil’s advocate, could the community get compromised is there a way to mitigate that any human group more than one person can be compromised. This is in our DNA put that in somehow sorry that into the framework some somehow build something in to not allow. Yes, I’m still developing the idea I’m still developing the concept I haven’t reached to a final architecture yet. I think if I manage to connect to a community of scientists, who share the same perspective about the peer review crisis.
Who think, that we should do something about this. We should, we are scientist, we own this. We shouldn’t wait for a corporate or a publisher to solve this for us. There are over 15 million subscribers it’s the largest social network for researchers so if we look at the world with like 20 million scientists. I’m asking how many realize the gravity of the peer review crisis and its threat to the scientific progress and managed to find a community.
Where we can promote this projector or a similar project or a modified project it’s just we just need to do something about it it’s our problem it’s the problem of scientists is we shouldn’t wait for a government or a corporate to solve it for us because they won’t. They want it like this, they want it as it is. Now, there’s no reason for them to want it any other way because they’re exactly if you want to protect the industry in science in the name of science then it’s a good time to get in contact with you. Another site is connected, I think it’s very serendipitous with everything that’s going on at the moment you can see how much influence big corporates are having, foundations are having over the scientific process.
Whether they influence the scientist’s, the govering bodies.
Its definitely a very exciting projects, so now if there is a biologist somewhere or a medical scientist that that sends a manuscript for peer review with an opinion that goes against the regulatory bodies. It will automatically be rejected, automatically it will, automatically. I’m not only talking I’m not only about I’m not only talking about covet I’m talking about everything if you if you see the research of our group on on vascular disease and how we we found out that four decades of research on endothelium dysfunction. Which is which is the root of all vascular disease four decades of research have been misled by predisposed opinions that came through the 50s and 60s and 60s.
The blood flow dynamics and you see the resistance that we faced and we are still facing from the journals and from the scientific community it’s paramount resistance for what just for saying that we have to revise the current um disease model of endothelium dysfunction.
I think it’s also element of psychology in humans, you know if you look at this situation now, that once someone adopts a belief. They find it very difficult to detach and I always use the metaphor of god. If you believe in god or you’re atheist, they’re both beliefs. I choose to believe in God but if you can prove me otherwise. I’ll become an atheist it’s like for some people once they’re orthodox on that belief they have trouble getting away from that belief.
Yes, yes, definitely. It has become like religion or in many cases, it’s worse than religion because eventually in in in religion eventually end up controlling your own personal life. That’s all but in science you control the lives of millions of people of the entire society. It’s based on what they call every evidence-based governance. So I’m asking it’s okay to follow an evidence-based government it’s a smart thing to do but let’s look a little bit about this evidence let’s look at the ways that we publish this evidence let’s look at how it gets verified authenticated and validated before publishing so people want to reach out and talk to you about this.
This problem come up with a solution work with you on your project or even learn a bit more about you where can they find you, linkedin is the best way, I have linked on my phone. They can just contact me or linkedin.
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