Faculty of 1000: Interview with Richard Grant

Faculty of 1000: Interview with Richard Grant

Richard Grant, who needs no introduction here on Nature Network, has just moved to London to start a new job as information architect for Faculty of 1000. I took this opportunity to ask Richard a few questions not only about Faculty of 1000, but also about his role in the company and future plans for the service that they have in mind.

1. Can you describe what Faculty of 1000 is and does?

The scientific literature is immense, and growing. It has become very difficult to keep up, especially if you’re going to keep an eye on developments not immediately in your own area. For someone new to a field it’s almost impossible to know — without insider knowledge — what papers are important, which are the key publications; where a field is going and what are the key developments.

So what we do is provide a kind of ‘filter’ on top of the literature: we have about five thousand principle investigators, who we call ‘Faculty’, across biology and medicine, who in the course of their own reading will write short evaluations on the important and influential papers in their field. We’re also recruiting Associate Faculty members: trusted junior members of a Faculty member’s lab or practice who will write their own evaluations and increase our coverage. And we’re not just talking about stuff that’s published in Nature or Cell — or NEJM or The Lancet — but in the specialized, work-a-day journals. What’s more, this expert opinion, or what we’re calling ‘post-publication peer review’, gives our users a measure of the ‘quality’ of individual papers that is independent of, and much quicker than, the impact factor of the journal.

2. What part of Faculty of 1000 is free and what part needs a paid subscription

You can search or browse the entire database, and sign up for email alerts, so you can see which papers have been evaluated. You can’t actually read the evaluations themselves unless you have an institutional or personal subscription.

3. How does Faculty of 1000 integrate with reference managers such as Endnote, Refworks, Zotero or Connotea?

You can download evaluations into a reference manager just like you can papers from PubMed. We’re working on proper integration with online tools (such as CiteULike and Connotea) and other ‘social media’ tools. I’m also keen to work with Mendeley to improve the user experience.

4. What are the incentives for faculty members to evaluate papers?

Exposure and kudos, mainly! The Faculty member’s name is displayed prominently on the evaluations (you can see who’s written an evaluation even without a subscription). Reputation is important to scientists and being invited to become a Faculty member says to the rest of the community that your opinion is respected and your peers think highly of you. We also profile Faculty members who write timely or important evaluations, or who have news of their own (grants, papers, awards) and give them publicity through press releases, etc.

What’s more, our Faculty members like the combination of expert opinion and original articles. They see a value in it, and realize that there’s a kind of synergy going on here; if they contribute then others will be encouraged to too, and everybody wins.

I’d like to explore how evaluations might become citable — so that Faculty can put their work for us on their CV, how it might benefit their career, grant applications etc. We’re also considering more tangible benefits.

5. How are faculty members selected?

The Heads of Faculty, for each subject or speciality, are elected or selected on the recommendation of large numbers of medics and scientists we talk to. They divide their Faculty into Sections and then select two or three Section Heads. These scientists in turn identify the sub-fields within their Section and select Faculty Members, checking with Heads of Faculty. The Section Heads select Faculty Members on the basis of various criteria:

  • the number of Faculty Members should be proportionally representative of the number of papers published within that field;
  • the selected Faculty Members should be well respected by their peers and perceived as being fair-minded;
  • there must be a good representation of genders, nationalities and age/seniority.

Faculty Members themselves are being asked to co-opt younger workers within their groups — post-docs, say — to help increase coverage and to write their own evaluations. We call these ‘Associate Faculty’.

6. Can Faculty of 1000 users comment on papers or paper evaluations?

Not at the moment, no. Faculty members can comment, or contribute a ‘dissent’ if they disagree with an evaluation, and authors of the evaluated papers are encouraged to respond, but we feel it’s important for users to know that they can trust what we publish. However, we’re currently planning to launch a forum whereby users can comment freely on evaluated papers. This would be open to anyone who registers, without a subscription, but kept distinct from the main evaluation.

7. Can paper authors comment on evaluations of their papers?

Yes! At the moment we get emails from authors saying that they’re pleased to have their papers selected, but we’re going to make it possible for them to comment on the evaluations directly so that a conversation with the Faculty can be initiated.

8. What is Faculty of 1000 Reports?

F1000 Reports carries short reviews, or commentaries, on emerging trends identified from within the F1000 database. F1000 Medicine Reports features studies that are likely to change clinical practice and summarizes implications for clinicians. F1000 Biology Reports contextualizes important and exciting papers or clusters of publications. The Advisory Board (for F1000 Biology Reports and F1000 Medicine Reports) identifies potential topics and invites appropriate Faculty members to write about them.

9. What are your responsibilities at Faculty of 1000?

Well, my job title is ‘Information Architect’, which means quite a bit more than ‘web manager’. I have overall responsibility for the presentation of the F1000 service, and I have to ensure that the web site is fast and intuitive, and that the content is suitable for both medics and biologists. I’m also keen to keep F1000 relevant in the Web 2.0 world.

10. What did you do before starting to work for Faculty of 1000?

I was at the University of Sydney for three years, the token cell biologist in an NMR lab, looking at RNA-binding zinc fingers. Before that I was at the MRC-LMB in Cambridge for six years, learning how to do X-ray crystallography and NMR and applying those techniques to cell biological questions.

11. Do you want to talk about future plans for Faculty of 1000?

As I’ve sorted of already hinted, we’re in the middle of a major redesign. We have some new features that I hope you’ll find very exciting — one of which I really can’t talk about yet! — including forums, a re-vamped ‘MyF1000′ site, integration of F1000 Reports, more systematic literature scanning, talking to social media sites, RSS (at last!), a blog, and a lot of behind the scenes tweaks.

12. Where can we provide feedback about Faculty of 1000?

Write to me! Or email info@f1000.com. The new site will also have a feedback form.

Copyright © 2009 Martin Fenner. Distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.