What about the Insight Journal, folks?

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing an excellent paper that used actual data (DATA!) to argue that source code needs to be part of the review process. (When it is published I will post again about it; for now, the process of secret handshakes in smoke-filled back rooms must run its course. I don't mind blogging about it now because, as is my custom, I signed my review.) More about the paper later.

In the paper, the authors argue that Image Processing On Line (IPOL) represents one possible future, because:

Each article contains a text describing an algorithm and source code, with an online demonstration facility and an archive of online experiments. The text and source code are peer-reviewed and the demonstration is controlled. IPOL follows the Open Access and Reproducible Research models.

OK, awesome!

But what about the Insight Journal? They've been doing this successfully since 2006, and as far as I can tell, no one has paid any attention to them!? And I don't entirely understand why.

Some background

I was introduced to the Insight Journal by Alex Gouaillard, a French software developer that I met at Caltech. He was one of the few straight up industry-quality software developers that I knew as a grad student and postdoc, and a great inspiration and colleague.

As part of the project, Alex was writing an image analysis toolkit, and had settled on VTK and ITK for the underlying libraries. These libraries are part of a larger software effort by Kitware, perhaps best known among software geeks for the CMake system that I think KDE still uses CMake. CMake doesn't quite fit my brain, although I've used it for a few cross-platform projects (before basically giving up on Windows ;), but it is an impressive piece of work; VTK and ITK are, in my opinion, two of the most awesome pieces of software ever built by and for academics with NIH sponsorship. (I'd love to hear contrasting opinions, though.)

I met the Kitware folk out at a VTK/ITK conference in Utah, and was struck by their professionalism. This was just when I was getting into testing, and I was, ahem, overwhelmed by their dedication to automated tests; at our first meeting, they seemed to feel that it was necessary to sit me down and explain just how important this was to software development, despite my demurrals that I got it, I really did. An interesting experience.

Part of what came up at that meeting was the Insight Journal, which is a venue for publishing VTK and ITK code, among other things. The key point is this, from their FAQ:

Q: Does my IJ submission have to include open-source code and data?

A: Yes, your submissions must include all the material required to verify the reproducibility of the content of your article. This includes source code, input data, output data, tests and parameters used to run the tests. The goal of the Insight Journal is to restore the honest practice of the scientific method, which is based on the verification of reproducibility by independent individuals. Your article must include all the resources that you used to arrive to the conclusions of your article, and they should be provided in a form that is suitable to be used by others.

F*** yeah, that's right!

Back to the Journal

It's clear that the Insight Journal has been practicing (and preaching) the same stuff that I and others have been preaching also. But I never see them come up in these discussions online, nor are they cited appropriately. Why is that??

I have a few guesses --

  1. No one knows about them, because they've kept to themselves within the image processing community. Respect <fist bump>.

  2. They're viewed as too niche (same as #1, but imposed by others).

  3. The journal isn't indexed (?) and/or doesn't have an Impact Factor, so lots of people don't see a point in contribution to it. (The somewhat arbitrary rules around getting an IF doomed Open Research Computation.)

  4. The journal is just too "weird" -- see the FAQ for some examples, like:

    Q: What if people don't like my submission, can I withdraw it?

    A: Even better than withdrawing your submission - you can improve it! We welcome revisions at any time. Your submission is a dynamic thing - if it goes well, you can add more details. If people don't "get it", you can clarify the important points. Just follow the handle address to your paper, press edit, and upload the improved version of your paper. Please, however, do not delete the old version. People can learn from the steps you took to reach that now highly regarded new version...

    This ain't your granny's journal...

Basically, this seems like a journal that is doing a lot of things "right", and I'd love to know why it hasn't received more visibility. It's up to 500 publications as of last year, note, so it's clearly not unsuccessful.

If it's not working out, or not doing something right, I'd love to hear about it.

If it is working out and we're just not noticing it, well, you've been served.

If it is working out and "we" are ignoring it for some reason, I'd love to hear about it (and also please define "we" :).

--titus

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