May as well begin 2014 where we left off: complaining about the attitude of scientific publishers regarding reproducible computational research.
The Nature stable of journals. A byword for quality, integrity, impact. Witness this recent offering from Nature Biotechnology:
Bale, S. et al. (2011)
MutaDATABASE: a centralized and standardized DNA variation database.
Nature Biotechnology 29, 117–118
Unfortunately, although it describes an open, public database, the article itself costs $32 to read without subscription (update: it’s freely available as of one day after this post). Not to be deterred, I went to investigate MutaDATABASE itself.
The alarm bells began to ring right there on the index page (see screenshot, right).
Could that be right? I tried several browsers, in case of a rendering problem. Same result – no contents.
Clicking on some of the links in the sidebar, I became more concerned. Here’s an example URL:
I recognise that form of URL – it comes from Joomla, a content management system. I’ve had servers compromised only twice in my career – both times, due to Joomla-based websites. Their security may have improved since, I guess – but this smacks of people looking to build a website quickly without investigating the alternatives.
Then, there are the spelling/grammatical errors, the “coming soons”, the “under constructions”, the news page not updated in almost 5 months. And as Tim Yates pointed out to me:
Who knows, MutaDatabase may turn out to be terrific. Right now though, it’s rather hard to tell. The database and web server issues of Nucleic Acids Research require that the tools described be functional for review and publication. Apparently, Nature Biotechnology does not.