Will open access article processing fee publishers do the right thing and join OA advocates in calling for friendly amendment to the RCUK policy?

This summer the Research Councils U.K. adopted a stronger open access policy, as explained by Peter Suber in the September 2012 SPARC Open Access Newsletter. While the strong support for open access, including funding for open access publishing, is welcome news, this policy includes some ill-thought-out provisions and open access advocates are calling for revisions before the policy is implemented; see Peter’s article for some objections and recommendations.

In brief, the reason this is a bad policy is because it requires researchers to select a gold open access option when one is available, and provides block funding to UK universities to pay article processing fees. This gives publishers a strong incentive to backtrack on green self-archiving policies, adding to the delay or embargo period or removing this option altogether. By making this requirement and providing funding, this is in effect a “blank cheque” policy which is certain to raises the costs of scholarly publishing.

This is why: if you had a business and customers had to buy what you sold regardless of the cost, how might this impact your pricing policy? What if you’re a corporation and legally bound to provide shareholders with the best profit returns that you can? This, from my perspective, is an example of a government just throwing money at a problem without thinking it through – very out of character for the current UK government. If they have cash to spare, for heaven’s sakes why do they not use it to subsidize students rather than publishers?

Others have made similar points. The main reason for this post is to ask open access publishers involved in lobbying for this whether they are shooting themselves in the foot, and whether it might be in their own best interests in the long run to join open access advocates in calling for improvements to the RCUK policy before implementation.

Why? The primary reason is that this would be better for open access.

In case any OA publishers are finding it difficult to put the unprecedented public good that is open access at the top of their priority list, they should not that in the medium to long term, changes to this policy are in their own best interests, too.

The vast majority of funding for scholarly journals at present – percentages range from 68 – 90% (see my draft dissertation for details) comes from academic library budgets. The UK is a major sponsor of research, but even so only 6% of the world’s scholarly research comes from the UK. If the UK goes ahead with this obviously unsustainable approach to supporting OA publishing, OA publishers should be aware that this is highly likely to result in a drop in support from academic libraries around the world. For example, price inflation to fit this exceptional UK market will likely result in a drop in support for article processing fees by libraries around the world – a relatively new trend that has the potential to grow, but is likely to be nipped in the bud if this policy is not fixed. Also, if funding is diverted from research budgets to open access article processing fees, OA publishers should expect well-deserved backlash from scholars and universities. I’ll be on their side; my draft thesis is called Freedom for Scholarship in the Internet Age, not Give Money to OA Publishers. Cash from the RCUK for article processing fees might seem like a really good thing right now, but a portion of 6% of the revenue from the world’s scholarly publishing is not a good reason to jeopardize transitioning the 68-90% from subscriptions to OA publishing.

To conclude: I recommend that open access publishers working with the article processing fee approach join the rest of the open access movement in calling for the RCUK to fix the flaws in their open access policy before implementation, to remove the blank cheque that forces scholars and universities to pay for OA. Perhaps, as a long-time open access advocacy leader, not-for-profit publisher and open access advocacy organization, Public Library of Science should take the lead in calling for this change. An open letter to this effect posted prominently on the PLoS website would be a welcome development.

Women’s Health and Fitness Series Part III: Anorexia

As National Women’s Health and Fitness Day approaches on September 26th, there are only a few more topics left in PLOS ONE’s first blog series. Two recently published papers explore the various dimensions of Anorexia Nervosa (AN), a disease that affects both genders but is much more commonly found in women. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, 40% of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15-19 years old. In addition to severe weight loss, the disease can also lead to heart conditions, kidney failure, and in some cases death, and even after a patient has recovered from the disease, it can leave lingering consequences. 

In their article published on Tuesday, researchers from The Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv wanted to explore anorexia’s long-term effects on growth, after patients had returned to normal eating habits and essentially “recovered”. Between January 1987 and December 1999, the researchers routinely measured the height and weight of 211 female adolescents who had been hospitalized for an eating disorder. They found that while nutritional rehabilitation can counter the growth stunting associated with the disease, “catch-up” growth is often incomplete, especially in patients who suffered from the eating disorder at a younger age. They conclude that early detection is most important for full “catch-up”.

The cause of AN is fairly complicated, but it is commonly associated with social expectations of body image and weight in the media. It is also often linked to psychiatric conditions like depression, and there are a variety of unidentified psychiatric implications and side effects that we still know little about. For example, in another recently published PLOS ONE article, 25 patients with anorexia and 25 controls were shown a door-like aperture and asked to judge whether or not it was wide enough for them (first person) to pass through, or for another person (third person) present in the room to pass through. The results indicated that AN patients had a skewed perception of their own ability to pass through a door, but not when judging a third party. This phenomenon has to do with neurological network impairment, where the nervous system does not appropriately update to reflect the AN patient’s diminished body size.

We may still be at the early stages of fully understanding anorexia, but one of the key solutions may be to emphasize the importance of healthy practices, as opposed to an overemphasis on weight – an idea that is certainly in line with Women’s Health and Fitness Day. This, along with a commitment to early detection and sustained support and treatment may help reduce the prevalence of anorexia, as well as other eating disorders.

Remember to check in next week for the last two posts of the series where we will discuss ovarian cancer and pregnancy.

Citation: Modan-Moses D, Yaroslavsky A, Kochavi B, Toledano A, Segev S, et al. (2012) Linear Growth and Final Height Characteristics in Adolescent Females with Anorexia Nervosa. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45504. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045504

Citation: Guardia D, Conversy L, Jardri R, Lafargue G, Thomas P, et al. (2012) Imagining One’s Own and Someone Else’s Body Actions: Dissociation in Anorexia Nervosa. PLoS ONE 7(8): e43241. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043241

Image Credit: cc-by license by daniellehelm on Flickr

Eight Questions and an Answer for RCUK/Finch at Imperial College 27 September

These questions are for the
Imperial College Science Communication Forum
Open access: Going for Gold?

Thursday, 27 September 2012
18:30 to 21:00 (BST)
London, United Kingdom


QUESTION 1: For hybrid subscription journals that offer both Gold OA (CC-BY) for a fee and Green OA (6-12) for free, why does RCUK require authors to pick and pay for Gold? Why not leave the choice to the author?

RCUK Policy:

“?papers must be published in journals which are [RCUK]-compliant? journal [is RCUK-]compliant? if?(1)? journal offers [Gold OA, CC-BY].. Or (2) where a publisher does not offer option 1? journal must allow? [Green OA, 6-12]”

QUESTION 2: If the RCUK official policy really means “RCUK authors may choose Green or Gold” rather than “RCUK authors may choose Green where Gold is not offered“, then why does it not say “RCUK authors may choose Green or Gold” rather than “RCUK authors may choose Green where Gold is not offered“? All that’s needed to make this perfectly clear is is to drop the words “where a publisher does not offer option 1“.

(It is not clear why the clause  “Where a publisher does not offer option 1” was ever inserted in the first place, as the logic of what is intended is perfectly clear without it, and is only obscured by inserting it. The only two conceivable reasons I can think of for that gratuitous and misleading clause’s having been inserted in the first place are that either (a) the drafters half-forgot about the hybrid GREEN+GOLD possibility, or (b) they were indeed trying to push authors (and publishers!) toward the GOLD option in both choices: the between-journal choice of GOLD versus GREEN journal and the within-journal choice of the GOLD versus GREEN option — possibly because of Gold Fever induced by BIS’s Finch Folly.)

QUESTION 3: Are Finch/RCUK not bothered by the fact that the new policy that “RCUK authors may choose Green [only] where Gold is not offered” (if that’s what it means) would be in direct contradiction with the recommendations of BOAI-10 to institutions (see excerpt at end of this posting)?
 
QUESTION 4: How many UK research fields urgently need CC-BY today? Have Finch/RCUK not confused the re-use needs of research data (Open Data) with the need for free online access to articles? What percentage of all research fields needs and wants CC-BY (machine data-mining and re-publication rights) for its articles today, compared to the percentage that needs and wants free online access to its articles? What is the relative urgency of these two needs today (and the price worth paying to fulfill them)?

QUESTION 5: What good does it do UK industry to have BIS subsidize Gold OA for the UK’s 6% of worldwide research output (out of the UK’s scarce research funds) when the rest of the world is not doing the same (and unlikely to afford or want to) for the remaining 94% of worldwide research output? Does UK industry need Open Access to the UK’s own research output only, in order to “create wealth”?

QUESTION 6: Is RCUK not concerned that a policy requiring UK authors to choose Gold over Green would simply induce subscription publishers to offer a pricey hybrid Gold option and to increase their Green embargoes (for all authors worldwide) so as to ensure that all UK researchers must pay for Gold? Won’t that make it tougher for other others (94%) to provide and mandate Green OA worldwide?

QUESTION 7: Has anyone troubled to do the arithmetic on the UK subsidy for Gold? The UK publishes 6% of worldwide research output. The UK presumably also pays 6% of publishers’ worldwide subscription revenue. Most publishers today are subscription publishers. So, in response to the current policy that “RCUK authors may choose Green where Gold is not offered”, would it not make sense for all subscription publishers worldwide simply to add a hybrid Gold option, so that their total subscription income can be increased by 6% for hybrid Gold, subsidized by the UK tax-payer and UK research funds? Has it not been noticed by Finch/RCUK that even if publishers made good on the promise to lower their subscription fees in proportion to any increase in their Gold OA revenue from the UK, the UK would only get back 6% of the 6% it double-pays for hybrid Gold?

QUESTION 8: The Finch Report (cited also by RCUK) claimed that Green OA had failed, and suggested it should be downgraded to just preservation archiving. But is it not rather the prior RCUK Green OA mandate that failed, because it adopted no compliance verification mechanisms? Green OA mandates with effective compliance mechanisms (integrated with institutional mandates) are succeeding very well elsewhere in the world. Why does the new RCUK policy again focus only on confirming compliance with Gold, rather than with Green?

ANSWER: RCUK already has a Green OA mandate. If the UK wants 100% UK OA within two years, it need only add the following simple, cost-effective compliance verification mechanism: (1) Deposit must be in the fundee’s institutional repository. (This makes each UK institution responsible for monitoring and verifying timely compliance.) (2) All articles must be deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication. (Publisher embargoes apply only to the date on which the deposit is made OA.) (3) Repository deposit must be designated the sole mechanism for submitting publications for UK research assessment (REF).

BOAI-10 RECOMMENDATIONS

— 1.1. Every institution of higher education should have a policy assuring that peer-reviewed versions of all future scholarly articles by faculty members are deposited in the institution?s designated repository…

— Deposits should be made as early as possible, ideally at the time of acceptance, and no later than the date of formal publication.

— University policies should respect faculty freedom to submit new work to the journals of their choice. [emphasis added]

— University policies should encourage but not require publication in OA journals [emphasis added] …

— 1.3. Every research funding agency, public or private, should have a policy assuring that peer-reviewed versions of all future scholarly articles reporting funded research are deposited in a suitable repository and made OA as soon as practicable.

— Deposits should be made as early as possible, ideally at the time of acceptance, and no later than the date of formal publication…

Stevan Harnad

Open Access 2012: Greater Impact for Your Research

Upcoming Events

 

Mendeley: Social Networking for Your Research

Monday, October 22, 12 noon to 1 pm

Ballroom, William Pitt Union

Mendeley is an academic social network and citation manager that helps scholars organize research, collaborate online, and discover the latest research. With Mendeley, faculty and students can create citations and bibliographies, read and annotate papers, and make an online home for their scholarship, accessible anywhere. Through Open Access, scholars can also share and discover relevant research through this social citation tool.  University of Pittsburgh’s Mendeley Institutional Edition Powered by Swets, brings all of this together and strengthens the library’s role as the center of research.

In this program, you’ll learn about the ULS’s new Mendeley service, Mendeley Institutional Edition, and how you can use it to benefit knowledge production and sharing. José Luís Andrade, President of the Americas, Swets Information Services, and Sujay Darji, Regional Sales Manager, Swets Information Services, will be on hand to discuss how you can use Mendeley Institutional Edition to increase your research reach and impact.

Staff from the ULS Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing will also present on the latest developments in Open Access and digital publishing.

 

Plum Analytics and Altmetrics: New Methods of Measuring Scholarly Impact

Wednesday, October 24, 1 to 2 pm

Kurtzman Room, William Pitt Union

Rather than solely tracking the number of times a work is cited in scholarly literature, altmetrics–alternative ways of measuring the use of, and impact of, scholarship–use social media and other web-based forms of scholarly communication to create a more comprehensive picture of research reach.

The ULS has partnered with Plum Analytics in a pilot project to help Pitt scholars track, assess, and compare scholarly impact. Through Plum Analytics, researchers can make their scholarship more accessible, promote their research, and connect with other scholars.

Andrea Michalek, co-founder of Plum Analytics, will talk about her organization’s efforts and how they can benefit Pitt scholars. Staff from the ULS Office of Scholarly Communication and Publishing will also be on hand to share the latest developments in Open Access and digital publishing.

Policy Exceptions in RoMEO

Readers of this blog will have noticed the occasional notification of new exceptions that have been added to RoMEO.

But what are these exceptions and why are they important?

RoMEO has traditionally focussed on the general policies of publishers, those that cover the majority of their journals titles. However, some titles may have a different embargo period or use a Creative Commons License. Although, we have tried to impart this information under the General Conditions field, it has become cumbersome and still requires users to investigate themselves as to which embargo period applies to their journal of interest.

We started adding exceptions in November 2011, and are continuing the process as they are identified and we clarify the policy exceptions with publishers.

Some exceptions will cover only one journal title, others much more.

To date RoMEO lists a total of 59 exceptions, from 25 Publishers. We are still working through publishers we have identified as having possible exceptions and hope to add more in the future.

A list of the Exceptions added so far:

  • Akademie Ved Ceske Republiky, Knihovna
    • Knihy a dejiny [6/3/12]
  • American Medical Association
    • JAMA  [17/11/11]
  • American Society for Microbiology
    • mBio [26/4/12]
  • ASIS&T
    • Bulletin – [17/11/11]
    •  JASIS&T – [17/11/11]
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
    • JCO [29/11/11]
    • JOP [29/11/11]
  • BMJ Publishing Group
    • BMJ [30/1/12]
    • BMj Open [18/4/12]
  • ediPUCRS
    • Analise [18/4/12]
    • BELT [18/4/12]
  • EDP Sciences
    • EDJ [26/4/12]
    • Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial [26/4/12]
  • Institut Français d’Etudes Andines (IFEA)
    • Bulletin de l’IFEA [23/3/12]
  • Laboratório Nacional de Energia e Geologia
    • Corrosão e Protecção de Materiais [13/12/11]
  • MIT Press
    • STM [17/11/11]
    •  Arts and Humanities [17/11/11]
    •  Economics [17/11/11]
  • Oxford University Press
    • Policy A – [16/11/11]
    • Policy A1 – [15/11/11]
    • Policy B – [16/11/11]
    • Policy B1 – [15/11/11]
    • Policy C –  [16/11/11]
    • Policy D – [15/11/11]
    • Policy E – [16/11/11]
    • Policy F – [15/11/11]
    • Policy G – [15/11/11]
    • Policy H – [15/11/11]
    • Policy I – [15/11/11]
    • Policy J – [15/11/11]
    • Policy K – [15/11/11]
    • Policy L – [15/11/11]
    • Policy M – [15/11/11]
    • Policy N – [16/11/11]
    • Policy O – [15/11/11]
    • Policy P [12/9/12]
    • Policy Q [12/9/12]
  •  Pion
    • i-Perception [10/5/12]
    • Perception [10/5/12]
  • Royal Society
    • Open Biology [19/7/12]
  • Taylor & Francis
    • SSH Titles [5/12/11]
    • STM Titles [5/12/11]
  • Taylor & Francis (Psychology Press)
    • STM Titles [5/12/11]
  • Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
    • LIS Titles [1/12/11]
    • SSH Titles [1/12/11]
    • STM Titles [1/12/11]
  • Universidad de Murcia [14/9/12]
    • Glosas Didacticas
  • Universidade de Brasilia
    • Attribution Non-Commercial  [17/9/12]
    • Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivatives  [17/9/12]
    • Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike  [17/9/12]
  • Universite Paris 3, Institut des Hautes Etudes de l’Amérique Latine (IHEAL) [3/1/12]
    • Cahiers des Ameriques Latines
  • Univ Chig Press
    • Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific [17/11/11]
  • Università degli Studi di Milano (University of Milan)
    • Attribution [17/4/12]
    • Share Alike [17/4/12]
    • Enthymema [17/4/12]
  • Uni of Texas Press
    • Cinema Journal [17/11/11]
  • Vittorio Klostermann
    • ZfBB [29/11/11]
  • Wildlife Society
    • Journal of Wildlife Management [18/4/12]

Worth a Thousand Words: Rediscovering an “Extinct” Species

It’s not every day that you come across a living member of an extinct species. Nathan Whelan, a doctoral student at the University of Alabama, had such a day in 2011, when he found specimens of Leptoxis compacta on the banks of the Cahaba River. The last recorded collection of L. compacta more commonly known as the oblong rocksnail, dates back to 1933; the species was formally declared extinct in 2000. The first picture above is Figure 4 from the manuscript, published just last month.

Whelan et al. conducted several tests to confirm that this species above was indeed L. compacta. They compared the shells they found with shells of other known gastropods in the same area. The shells were dissimilar in both pigmentation and pattern. The researchers also compared their findings with archival L. compacta. By using a scanning electron microscope (SEM), they found strong evidence to suggest that they had rediscovered a heretofore “extinct” species.

Citation: Whelan NV, Johnson PD, Harris PM (2012) Rediscovery of Leptoxis compacta (Anthony, 1854) (Gastropoda: Cerithioidea: Pleuroceridae). PLoS ONE 7(8): e42499. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042499

 

Student OA Week Planning Webcast – Thursday, Sept 27

Cross-posted from http://www.righttoresearch.org/blog/r2rc-open-access-week-planning-webcast.shtml.

When: Thursday, September 27th at 1:30pm EDT, 7:30pm CET
Registration is free, but required. After registering, you will receive login instructions the day before the event.


Click here to register.

Want to participate in Open Access Week but aren’t sure how to get started?  Have some Open Access Week events planned but want to get ideas from what others are doing?

Join us Thursday, September 27th at 1:30pm EDT, 7:30pm CET for a one-hour Open Access Week planning webcast.  We’ll have representatives from Right to Research Coalition members in Africa, Europe, and North America discuss their organizations’ plans for the week, and we’ll have a number of ideas for participating in Open Access Week that don’t require months of advanced planning.

Our featured webcast speakers will include:

Brandon Locke is the Vice Chair of Open Access for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Graduate Student Association and will lead their Open Access Week efforts for the second year in a row.
 
 

 

 

Mary Iwaret Otiti is the Medical Students’ Association of Kenya’s National Officer of Research Exchange and, in cooperation with EIFL, is planning Open Access Week events on the campus of the University of Nairobi.
 

 

 

Sofia Ribeiro is the European Medical Student Association’s Vice President for External Affairs and leads EMSA’s Open Access Week efforts, which will include overprice tags and the translation of R2RC resources into new languages.

 

 

 

With one month left, there’s still plenty of time to join students across the world in promoting Open Access on your campus during the week.  Join us next week to ask questions, get ideas, and make plans to participate in the 6th annual Open Access Week.  Students started Open Access Week in 2007, and with your help, we can make this year bigger than ever.

Find more information on Open Access Week at www.openaccessweek.org.

Click here to register.

R2RC Open Access Week 2012 Planning Webcast

When: Thursday, September 27th at 1:30pm EDT, 7:30pm CET
Registration is free, but required. After registering, you will receive login instructions the day before the event.

Click here to register.

Want to participate in Open Access Week but aren’t sure how to get started?  Have some Open Access Week events planned but want to get ideas from what others are doing?

What is Open Access Week?

Join us Thursday, September 27th at 1:30pm EDT, 7:30pm CET for a one-hour Open Access Week planning webcast.  We’ll have representatives from Right to Research Coalition members in Africa, Europe, and North America discuss their organizations’ plans for the week, and we’ll have a number of ideas for participating in Open Access Week that don’t require months of advanced planning.

Our featured webcast speakers will include:

Brandon Locke is the Vice Chair of Open Access for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Graduate Student Association and will lead their Open Access Week efforts for the second year in a row.
 
 

 

 

Mary Iwaret Otiti is the Medical Students’ Association of Kenya’s National Officer of Research Exchange and, in cooperation with EIFL, is planning Open Access Week events on the campus of the University of Nairobi.
 

 

 

Sofia Ribeiro is the European Medical Student Association’s Vice President for External Affairs and leads EMSA’s Open Access Week efforts, which will include overprice tags and the translation of R2RC resources into new languages.

 

 

 

With one month left, there’s still plenty of time to join students across the world in promoting Open Access on your campus during the week.  Join us next week to ask questions, get ideas, and make plans to participate in the 6th annual Open Access Week.  Students started Open Access Week in 2007, and with your help, we can make this year bigger than ever.

Find more information on Open Access Week at www.openaccessweek.org.

Click here to register.

Journal Research Data Policy Bank (JoRD)

Journal Research Data Policy Bank (JoRD) will shed light on the policies devised by academic publishers to promote linkage between journal articles and underlying research data.

This initiative, is funded by JISC as part of its Digital Infrastructure Programme;  it runs from July to December 2012. This work is being carried out by the Centre for Research Communication, University of Nottingham, working with Research Information Network and Professor Paul Sturges.

The aim of the JoRD Policy Bank project is to conduct a feasibility study into the scope and shape of a sustainable service to collate and summarise journal data policies. The project will deliver requirements and specifications for a service that will provide researchers, managers of research data and other stakeholders with an easy source of reference to understand and comply with the research data policies of journals and publishers.

Through maintaining a firm focus upon research literature and stakeholder consultations, the project aims to:

  • identify and consult with a wide range of stakeholders, publishers and others, and develop a detailed set of stakeholder requirements and service specifications;
  • investigate the current state of data sharing policies within journals and shed light on how journals are addressing this crucial question;
  • scope and deliver recommendations on the shape of a central service that will (i) summarise journal research data policies; and (ii) provide a ready reference source of easily accessible, standardised, accurate and clear guidance and information relating to the journal policy landscape for research data;
  • provide models to establish the business framework that will allow the committed relationships necessary to deliver such a service on a long term basis;
  • provide service sustainability models determining how the long term operation of such a service can be sustained.

JoRD Blog and Project Website (http://jordproject.wordpress.com/)

 

Azhar,  Jane and Melanie

The Final Chapter on XMRV and Prostate Cancer

Discovering whether viruses cause cancer is important for public health, since prevention or treatment of these viral infections can avoid a potentially fatal disease. This is underscored by the recent introduction of the Gardasil vaccine to prevent infection by strains of human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer in women.

 

In men, prostate cancer is one of the leading causes of death; risk factors are known, but the exact cause remains elusive. One of the risk factors is a genetic mutation that decreases the activity of a viral defense gene, RNase L, reported to be associated with 13% of prostate cancer cases. This suggests a viral cause for some cases of prostate cancer.  This observation formed the basis of a project to hunt for viruses in prostate cancer tissue, leading to the first report of the presence of a gammaretrovirus called xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) in prostate cancer, which was predominately found in individuals who had both copies of the lower-activity RNase L gene. This finding was published in 2006 by Urisman and colleagues in PLOS Pathogens. The presence of XMRV was remarkable, since it was the first time that a gammaretrovirus normally found in the mouse was detected in humans. Not surprisingly, this publication attracted considerable attention from the scientific community with an explosion of reports attempting to confirm the association of XMRV with prostate cancer, to understand the biology of XMRV, to determine how XMRV causes prostate cancer, and to develop assays for detection of XMRV exposure to safeguard the blood supply. In 2009, XMRV was also reported in patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), although this finding was not reproduced by subsequent studies. In 2011, concerns about the validity of this 2009 study resulted in a full retraction by the editors of Science (Alberts, 2011).

 

Despite the controversies in the CFS field, at that time the XMRV prostate cancer story remained an open question.  Fast forward to early 2012 – and over a 100 publications later – XMRV was accepted by the majority of the scientific community to be a contaminant with no role in causing prostate cancer. This was due to several studies published in late 2010 and early 2011 demonstrating that XMRV was a laboratory-generated virus (Paprotka et al 2011) and that highly sensitive nucleic acid detection assays were not detecting a bone fide infection of XMRV or related viruses in humans, but instead contamination from a variety of sources including mouse DNA, XMRV plasmid DNA, and XMRV from infected cell lines (see reviews by Sfanos et al 2012 and Groom and Bishop 2012).  In the context of these findings, this study in PLOS ONE by Lee and colleagues is significant because it has allowed Charles Chiu from the University of San Francisco along with his collaborators including authors who originally reported the association of XMRV with prostate cancer to set the record straight.  Using careful molecular detective work, they found that the original archived prostate cancer tissue was negative for XMRV although the archival extracted RNA from the original study was positive for XMRV.  They also failed to demonstrate the presence of XMRV in new prostate cancer samples. In addition, they discovered that the source of XMRV contamination in the archival extracted RNA was from an XMRV-infected cell line used in the laboratory.  The inability to confirm their original findings published in PLOS Pathogens represents the final chapter that closes the book on XMRV and its role as a naturally acquired human infection associated with prostate cancer. The PLOS Pathogens paper is retracted today.

The whole saga provides an invaluable lesson to researchers attempting to find associations between viral infections and human diseases such as cancer (see Weiss 2010). It also provides an excellent example of the self-correcting nature and rigour of the scientific process.

 

REFERENCES

Urisman A, Molinaro RJ, Fisher N, Plummer SJ, Casey G, Klein EA, Malathi K, Magi-Galluzzi C, Tubbs RR, Ganem D, Silverman RH, De Risi JL. Identification of a novel gammaretrovirus in prostate tumors of patients homozygous for R462Q RNASEL variant. PLoS Pathogens 2006, 2:e25.

 

Lombardi VC, Ruscetti FW, Das Gupta MA, Pfost MA, Hagen KS, Peterson DL, Ruscetti SK, Bagni RK, Petrow-Sadowski C, Gold B, Dean M, Silverman RH, Mikovits JA. Detection of an infectious retrovirus, XMRV, in blood cells of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Science 2009,  326: 585 – 589.

 

Alberts B. Retraction of Lombardi et al Science 326: 585 – 589. Science 2011, 334: 1636.

 

Paprotka T, Delviks-Frankenberry KA, Cingoz O, Martinez A, Kung HJ, Tepper CG, Hu WS, Fivash MJ, Coffin JM, Pathak VK. Recombinant origin of the retrovirus XMRV. Science 2011, 333: 97 – 101.

 

Sfanos KS, Aloia AL, De Marzo AM, Rein A. XMRV and prostate cancer – a “final” perspective. Nature Reviews Urology 2012, 9: 111-118

 

Groom HCT and Bishop KN. The tale of xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus. Journal of General Virology. 2012, 93: 915 – 924.

 

Lee D, Das Gupta J, Gaughan C, Steffan I, Tang N, Luk K-G, Qiu X, Urisman A, Fischer N, Molinaro R, Broz M, Schochetman G, Klein E, Ganem D, DeRisi JL, Simmons G, Hacket J, Silverman R, Chiu CY.  In-depth investigation of archival and prospectively collected samples reveals no evidence for XMRV infection in prostate cancer.  PLoS ONE  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044954

 

Weiss RA. A cautionary tale of virus and disease. BMC Biology. 2010, 8: 124

 

About the Author: Associate Professor Gilda Tachedjian is a virologist and Head of the Retroviral Biology and Antivirals Laboratory at the Centre for Virology, Burnet Institute in Melbourne Australia and a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Senior Research Fellow. She is also an academic editor at PLOS ONE and she handled the manuscript described in this post.

 

Conflicts of Interest:

 

Gilda Tachedjian is the recipient of grant funding from the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (CG 0710 XMRV in Australian Prostate Cancer)

 

Request your free Open Access Week posters

@mire is back on board as an advocate sponsor for SPARC’s International Open Access Week. During the week of October 22nd, institutions from all across the globe put an emphasis on free access to research outputs. Some institutions put together large conferences, other organizations apply more grassroots advocacy efforts and guerilla marketing. In order to support the community in spreading the word last year, we sent out free “Ask me about Open Access” door hangers that made it all the way to Japan.

This year we created a poster that aims to explain the basic principles of Green Open Access, Gold Open Access and how they relate to the roles of an Institutional Repository.

Claim your free posters now.

To request 5 posters for free, register using this form. Posters will be sent on a first come first serve basis.