ASCB receives grant to develop tools for curation of scientific literature

The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) will experiment with innovative approaches to categorize the scientific significance of reported research without dependence on journal “name brands.” The Society was one of three organizations selected by the Wellcome Trust and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to receive the first Learned Society Curation Awards, which are designed for organizations that “want to explore new ways of signaling the significance of published research outputs in an open and transparent manner.”

“The advent of preprints, the rapid expansion of journals and peer-reviewed publications, and the movement away from journal names as a proxy for impact are challenging the ability of authors, readers, and evaluators to assess the impact of scholarly works. The projects outlined in the grant proposal are designed to leverage the expertise of the ASCB community to help address this problem,” wrote Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC) Editor-in-Chief Matthew Welch in the grant application.

Badges and significance statements will be attached to selected MBoC articles, but an important goal of the project will be to also apply these tools to preprints. Welch will assemble an editorial board of early-career scientists who will curate preprints by assessing their contributions to the field and applying the appropriate badges and significance statements.

“We are excited to implement these innovations to help readers appreciate the impact of work published in MBoC and posted on preprint servers,” Welch said. “It’s particularly exciting to involve and engage a new group of early-career editors in these editorial and curatorial experiments.”

The goal of the new editorial board will be to quickly grasp the importance of a published work, to label the article’s contributions in a number of categories, and to provide readers with concise statements of a work’s significance. Digital badges will highlight research contributions such as presenting a new concept, a technical advance, or a translational advance; being broadly relevant, or serving as a teaching resource.

As digital objects, the badges and significance statements will not be embedded in an article but can be attached to the article wherever it is mentioned, such as on its abstract or in a table of contents. ASCB will be collaborating with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, operator of the preprint server bioRxiv, to create a means to place the objects on preprints.

ASCB will hire a half-time Curation Manager to help run this program. The job description can be found at and will be open until a suitable candidate is hired.

About the Author:

Mark Leader is ASCB's Director of Publications.