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      Necessary but not sufficient: unique author identifiers

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          Abstract

          For better or worse, English is the predominant language used by the international scientific and medical communities to disseminate knowledge. The 26 characters of the Latin alphabet are also arranged in names: non-unique patterns. At the time of the origins of modern biomedical research, names may have been relatively unique, at least within the biomedical research community. However, this is no longer the case.1 We now possess the capacity to visualise atoms using atomic force microscopy. We also possess the capacity to launch telescopes into space to peer into distant galaxies. However, biomedical researchers do not possess the capacity to automatically distinguish between two researchers who happen to share the same, or similar, names. One decade after the publication of articles on this subject in PLOS Medicine and PLOS Blogs,2–4 the embarrassment of this realisation is eclipsed perhaps only by the continued need to plea for a solution to this ‘intractable’ problem. Before the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of the USA and its National Library of Medicine (NLM) launched the modern PubMed system, the math, physics and computer science community solved this problem with the creation of arXiv in the early 1990s. Like modern digital object identifiers (DOIs) for unique electronic documents, this largely self-curated system linked non-unique, ‘clickable’ author names with unique author identifiers. Although arXiv and self-curation are not without flaw, this problem has plagued the biomedical research community since at least the inception of arXiv over two decades ago. As a dearth of electronic archival technology is not the problem,5 what continues to drive this problem? When the biomedical research community was relatively small (approximately one to three authors per publication), the first–last/corresponding author paradigm sufficed. At least as recently as the 1970s, biomedical researchers could still publish dozens of pages meticulously describing how something seemingly as trivial as ‘dirt’ on electron microscopy slides was actually a seminal scientific discovery.6 With the modern pressure of word limits, it cannot be known how much insight into this process of discovery of new knowledge is now lost to the need for concision. International collaborations with thousands of physicists now relegate authorship to alphabetical appendices.7 In the case of one of the first genomics publications with >1000 authors,8 the archaic first–last/corresponding author paradigm was maintained. By the 1950s, it was ‘too much to expect a research worker to spend an inordinate amount of time searching for the bibliographic descendants of antecedent papers’, which led to the creation of an impact factor.9 Initially used in part by libraries to select the best journals to purchase, the use of the term impact factor in this context is different from its modern use by the Science Citation Index (Thomson Reuters). By the 2000s, the need for an index to quantify individual researcher productivity led one physicist to create the h-index.10 However, when the Royal Society of Chemistry attempted to determine the most impactful chemist by h-index, this task was deemed almost intractable due to the amalgamation of researchers with the name Tanaka K.11 This use of the Western-driven (surname/family name|given/first name|middle initial) system is particularly problematic for Asian biomedical researchers in general: Japan, China and especially Korea, where only a few surnames predominate and middle names often do not exist. The NIH recently announced a novel Relative Citation Ratio to better measure the true impact of scientific articles.12 However, the NIH/NLM National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) SciENcv system, which allows biomedical researchers to link unique ‘My NCBI Bibliographies’ with NIH Biosketches, as well as automatically pull US federal grant information from the NIH Electronic Research Administration system (‘eRA Commons’), is still not fully linked with the PubMed Advanced Search Builder. Related to the launch of the NLM ‘computed author display’ in 2012, these systems include ‘unique’ author search functionality algorithms. This subject is not new.13 14 However, the solution to this problem requires innovation and leadership.15 Many unique author identifier systems already exist: ORCID, Google Scholar, Mendeley, Scopus, ResearcherID, ResearchGate, etc. Some are open access. Others are proprietary. Some are based largely on self-curation, but all contain some automated component. Several are even linked together. However, every biomedical researcher cannot create and maintain dozens of ‘unique’ identifiers. The time has come for ‘DOIs for authors’. Beyond peer-reviewed publications, a universal unique author identifier system would allow researchers to better track and document the totality of their true scientific productivity: textbooks, textbook chapters, teaching, computer coding, Wikipedia editing and more. The implications of such a system are self-evident,16 including everything from academic advancement to research funding and plagiarism. For the rare biomedical researcher with a truly unique last name, or at least last name and first initial, perhaps this is not a major concern. However, for the Tanaka Ks and Harrison AMs of this world, it is. As long as these researchers continue to publish in differing academic fields, manual curation will continue to struggle in the absence of unique author identifiers. However, we already know that this system is fundamentally problematic.11 Maybe some biomedical researchers will eventually add or invent additional middle names.6 (We will not even touch the subject of name changes,17 which is a complex legal matter in the USA and can be a protracted process of obtaining a ‘deed poll’ in the UK.) However, when the Tanaka Ks and Harrison AMs of the biomedical research world begin to publish within similar fields,18 19 and/or together in collaborative scientific endeavours, what will happen then? The solution to this problem is for PubMed to shift to an arXiv-like, self-curation system, which requires not only this continued plea but also vision and leadership from the highest levels of the international biomedical research community. The pathway to achieve this solution is not trivial and not unique. One pathway to reach this solution is for PubMed to adopt an existing unique author identifier system, such as ORCID, which is already used by many publishing groups. Another option is for PubMed to create its own unique author identifier system, which already partially exists in forms such as eRA Commons and SciENcv. No pathway will be free. Although self-curation has worked well for arXiv, a comparatively greater amount of supervised-curation, which is already the case for proprietary systems such as Scopus, may be required for biomedical researchers to mitigate some of the flaws of self-curation. It should also be noted that the worldwide ‘PubMed research community’ is significantly larger than the worldwide ‘arXiv research community’, which increases the challenge of implementation of this solution. Any pathway to this solution should also optimise implementation time, which is already an area of active informatics research. However, the complexity of the relationship between clever biomedical researchers,20 publishing groups and funding organisations continues to increase. Thus, a renewed push for urgency for this change is needed from the increasingly fast-paced communities of science and medicine.

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          Most cited references 15

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          Ethical authorship and publishing.

          Principles of Ethical Publishing in the International Journal of Cardiology: 1. That the corresponding author has the approval of all other listed authors for the submission and publication of all versions of the manuscript. 2. That all people who have a right to be recognised as authors have been included on the list of authors and everyone listed as an author has made an independent material contribution to the manuscript.3. That the work submitted in the manuscript is original and has not been published elsewhere and is not presently under consideration of publication by any other journal. The oral or poster presentation of parts of the work and its publishing as a single page abstract does not count as prior publication for this purpose. 4. That the material in the manuscript has been acquired according to modern ethical standards and does not contain material copied from anyone else without their written permission.5. That all material which derives from prior work, including from the same authors, is properly attributed to the prior publication by proper citation.6. That the manuscript will be maintained on the servers of the Journal and held to be a valid publication by the Journal only as long as all statements in these principles remain true.7. That if any of the statements above ceases to be true the authors have a duty to notify the journal as soon as possible so that the manuscript can be withdrawn.
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            Drosophila Muller F Elements Maintain a Distinct Set of Genomic Properties Over 40 Million Years of Evolution

            The Muller F element (4.2 Mb, ~80 protein-coding genes) is an unusual autosome of Drosophila melanogaster; it is mostly heterochromatic with a low recombination rate. To investigate how these properties impact the evolution of repeats and genes, we manually improved the sequence and annotated the genes on the D. erecta, D. mojavensis, and D. grimshawi F elements and euchromatic domains from the Muller D element. We find that F elements have greater transposon density (25–50%) than euchromatic reference regions (3–11%). Among the F elements, D. grimshawi has the lowest transposon density (particularly DINE-1: 2% vs. 11–27%). F element genes have larger coding spans, more coding exons, larger introns, and lower codon bias. Comparison of the Effective Number of Codons with the Codon Adaptation Index shows that, in contrast to the other species, codon bias in D. grimshawi F element genes can be attributed primarily to selection instead of mutational biases, suggesting that density and types of transposons affect the degree of local heterochromatin formation. F element genes have lower estimated DNA melting temperatures than D element genes, potentially facilitating transcription through heterochromatin. Most F element genes (~90%) have remained on that element, but the F element has smaller syntenic blocks than genome averages (3.4–3.6 vs. 8.4–8.8 genes per block), indicating greater rates of inversion despite lower rates of recombination. Overall, the F element has maintained characteristics that are distinct from other autosomes in the Drosophila lineage, illuminating the constraints imposed by a heterochromatic milieu.
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              Innovating to improve primary care in less developed countries: towards a global model

              One of the biggest problems in global health is the lack of well trained and supported health workers in less developed settings. In many rural areas there are no physicians, and it is important to find ways to support and empower nurses and other health workers. The Knowledge Translation Unit of the University of Cape Town Lung Institute has spent 14 years developing a series of innovative packages to support and empower nurses and other health workers. PACK (Practical Approach to Care Kit) Adult comprises policy-based and evidence-informed guidelines; onsite, team and case-based training; non-physician prescribing; and a cascade system of scaling up. A series of randomised trials has shown the effectiveness of the packages, and methods are now being developed to respond cost-effectively and sustainably to global demand for implementing PACK Adult. Global health would probably benefit from less time and money spent developing new innovations and more spent on finding ways to spread those we already have.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BMJ Innov
                BMJ Innov
                bmjinnov
                bmjinnov
                BMJ Innovations
                BMJ Publishing Group (BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JR )
                2055-642X
                October 2016
                23 September 2016
                : 2
                : 4
                : 141-143
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Medical Scientist Training Program, Mayo Clinic , Rochester, Minnesota, USA
                [2 ]Health Psychology Section, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London , London, UK
                Author notes
                [Correspondence to ] Dr Andrew M Harrison, Medical Scientist Training Program, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA; Harrison.Andrew@ 123456mayo.edu
                Article
                bmjinnov-2016-000135
                10.1136/bmjinnov-2016-000135
                5451540
                Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to http://www.bmj.com/company/products-services/rights-and-licensing/

                This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

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