The published, peer-reviewed journal article is recognized as the authorized outcome of scientific research and will continue to be the formal culmination of scientific investigation. But what of the steps it took to get there? Like the preliminary sketches of a great masterpiece or the short story that might become a classic novel, there is tremendous value in seeing the process at work. In science, the journey from the seed of an idea to the final published paper holds valuable information that can assist other researchers seeking to learn from and build on the work of their peers. Associating early-stage research output with final journal articles brings this process to light.
It starts with digitization
Digitization is the starting point necessary to make early-stage research more accessible. Conference content like abstracts, posters, and presentations make up an important part of early-stage research. But even before the postponement and cancellation of scientific conferences happening due to the COVID-19 health crisis, much of this information was presented and shared in the moment, and then gone. Luckily, there are other options for dissemination, options that provide added benefits to track and connect research progress in new ways. But it all starts with digitization. Without the application of metadata, these important artefacts from the research journey cannot be fully integrated into the scholarly ecosystem and shared more broadly.
Followed by proper identification
Digitization isn’t enough. Research documents, datasets, and multimedia must also be formally identified to allow for information to be traced, tracked, and discovered. The same digital object identifier (DOI) associated with journal articles should also be associated with early-stage research to provide a lasting online link throughout the research journey, allowing each piece of the puzzle to be connected to the next piece. DOIs also make it easier for others to cite pre-published findings in their own research, enabling a more formal discussion around all the content that is generated prior to the final published paper.
In order to then connect the research to the researcher, these DOIs should be combined with use of an ORCID iD. This allows us to properly attribute the full scope of an author’s work and document their entire scientific contribution, rewarding a fuller research process and not just final publications. This step is particularly important for early-career researchers who are in the process of building up their profile, without a set of published articles under their belt.
Presented within an integrated infrastructure
Presenting research within an integrated, indexed scholarly infrastructure is the final step. DOIs and ORCID iDs are already being used by a number of platforms to structure and attribute pre-published research output (Figshare, F1000, and ResearchGate, for example). Morressier too offers researchers the ability to showcase their early-stage research in the form of conference abstracts, posters, presentations, and proceedings within a connected and discoverable infrastructure. Writ large, this provides researchers with the opportunity to gain recognition for their early-stage work, and for a more transparent and holistic scientific process.