Open access, the “slow science” and the “fast science”

“Can the dissemination of science be a profitable business? Never before has the scientific community felt so much pressure to validate and legitimize what is produced. Can Open Access repositories be the solution?”

These are questions raised by DEI faculty members Carlos Baquero, João Cardoso, Pedro Diniz and Rui Maranhão, which open the recently published guest column in Expresso, transcribed below:

The publication of scientific articles in conferences and reference journals is one of the most important activities for the dissemination and progress of science and knowledge. Recently FCCN, via B-On (online knowledge library), established another protocol in order to create more favorable conditions for the national scientific community to publish scientific articles in Open Access. Publishing in Open Access has the advantage of allowing the reading of articles without subscription costs.

Whereas in the classic publication system the costs were usually covered by institutions subscribing to journals for their researchers’ use and they could usually opt for Open Access at additional cost, in the single Open Access system these costs are transferred to the point of publication and usually covered by a research project assigned to the authors. These protocols aim to reduce these costs, usually with discounts on the article processing fee.

Without going into the polemic on the lucrative business of publishing houses specializing in science, it is easy to observe that there has been a transfer of the moment when publishing houses are financed. In the classical system authors submitted their work, it was evaluated by other scientists, improved and, if accepted, published in the journals, without any transaction involving the author (it was usually the libraries that assumed these costs).

Under Open Access, which generally requires such processing fees, the author has to secure funding after the article is accepted in order for it to be published. Although in theory you are not paying for acceptance of the article, and this depends only on its quality, economic incentives change the landscape somewhat, as there may be more pressure on publishers to maximise the number of articles published.

Despite this risk, publishers have an interest in preserving their prestige and the prestige of the journals they publish. By selecting a small number of articles of the highest quality, they provide an important editorial selection role to their readers, to the fields of science themselves, and improve the potential impact of each article. Several classic journals support both modes of publication, with Open Access being only one option and accepted publications being published at no cost to the author.

Results published in top journals such as Science and Nature have enormous visibility both in the scientific community and sometimes in society at large. However, as these publications are very selective, they require several months of preparation by the authors, prior to the actual submission of the article, and significant improvement and additional work during the demanding peer-review process. In a “fast food” society there does not always seem to be time for these lengthy “slow science” processes.

In the last decade, along with the growth of Open Access, there has also been a growing supply of Open Access journals that promise very short peer-review times, making them very desirable for junior researchers wishing to enhance their academic profiles. To take the proverb “Quick and well, there’s no who” we can observe that there are limits to the efficiency gains that can be made when reviewers are usually other scientists, unpaid by the publisher, with little time available, particularly when they are well-known scientists.

In these publishers, achieving efficiency invariably leads to editorial boards with several hundred members, usually little known, in contrast to the usual ten or so names recognized by the community and with a clear role in the selection of articles in reference journals.

Other mechanisms to ensure a profitable business model seem to rely on the creation of numerous special issues by invitation and on the massive invitation to various scientists to prepare these issues; often in areas that they do not dominate or in which they are not recognized. Scientists have even been enticed by offers and reductions in Open Access costs, a strategy that ensures the involvement of many and the reach required for a profitable business model. All of these factors greatly diminish the perceived quality of the articles selected.

This decline in publication quality has recently been discussed in other European countries, with somewhat disparate approaches. The potential impacts of these practices on the quality of science have been discussed in a paper from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden; in our neighbour Spain the increasing migration to rapid publication media has been discussed. In some countries, such as Switzerland and the United Kingdom, these channels for the dissemination of scientific results are simply ignored or even unknown. There is even a rejection posture in reference institutions, in which researchers with extensive or significant part of their publications in these channels are not taken seriously.

Perhaps this phenomenon of rapid publication of unripe results is not unrelated to the observation that there is less and less impact of research on the transformation of society, as documented in a recent article in Nature.

The rapid and massified publication via these publishers has been too tempting for early career scientists, for a scientific community subject to immense competitive pressure and where regular publication is essential for career development. In Portugal, we can see that the growth in the proportion of Open Access publications over the last decade (black line) would not have occurred if the effect of publications in two large accelerated publishers were discounted (red line shows what the proportion would be like without these publications that we call Accelerated Open Access). The effect would be even larger if other smaller journals associated with what might even be called predatory practices were discounted.

While Open Access can be positive for better dissemination of research results, this should not be at the expense of lowering the quality of publications. Just as a little occasional fast food has little impact on our health, so a certain amount of fast science seems reasonable. Not all research always produces the results the authors would like; there is competition and sometimes other teams publish first.

However, it is no longer healthy, as with a primarily fast food diet, for the bulk of publications from a given researcher, team or institution to begin to be of this type as a rule. Many articles that could reach top journals end up not realizing their full potential by being directed to these rapid publication channels.

Indeed, the existence of pre-publication repositories such as arXiv and medRxiv enables rapid and open dissemination and it is suggested that these channels (rather than Accelerated Open Access) be used for that very purpose, allowing authors to refine their articles and even raise their quality (in terms of data extensibility and/or more robust reasoning for conclusions) by publishing them in other channels with longer peer-review stages.

Worse than the development of a quick, metro curriculum, the current approach is itself counterproductive for authors, as it does not allow them to realise their full potential and may, in the long term, impact negatively on their careers. A cornerstone of the system is individual research freedom; authors are sovereign in their choice of publication targets. However, it is important to be aware of the existence of journals with more massive and potentially predatory strategies. Twenty years ago, it was relatively simple to distinguish good journals from journals with practices that could be classified as predatory, the latter being very artisanal and unprofessional. Today the line is much more blurred, partly as a result of extremely profitable and very successful business models.

It seems therefore very important to us that the national scientific community avoids the dominance of “fast science”, namely by avoiding that the new generations of scientists fall into the temptation of the easy enticement of these business models that gravitate towards science.

This guest column was published in Expresso on 21 February 2023 (09:33).

PLAY-THE-ODDS – Development of a game-based communication tool to help parents and children cope with the risk of hereditary cancer

In the week that marks the Rare Disease Day, which since its creation in 2008 is celebrated on the last day of February, the 28th, or 29th, the rarest day of the year, we learn about PLAY-THE-ODDS, a project led by the University of Porto that encourages families to talk about the risk of hereditary cancer and rare diseases.

This project, which included in the research team António Coelho (DEI), Hernâni Oliveira (alumni PDMD) and Juliana Monteiro (PDMD), is part of a research line of the Psychology Center of the University of Porto, dedicated to the well-being of families with hereditary cancer risk. This line of research began in 2018 with a joint project with IPO Porto, the TOGETHER project, funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-030980). TOGETHER studied the processes of psychological adaptation to the performance of genetic susceptibility tests to cancer. All the scientific output can be found here and has been compiled in this White Paper. We find in this documentation very useful content about genetic syndromes of risk for cancer and prevention of hereditary cancer, family adaptation to genetic cancer risk, and some of the main genetic syndromes of risk for cancer and their characteristics and the importance of health services.

In the course of TOGETHER, both families and health professionals indicated the need for specific preparation to disclose to their children the presence of a syndrome in the family, as well as to deal with the challenges of this condition over time.

PLAY-THE-ODDS is an 18-month exploratory project, funded by FCT (EXPL/PSI-GER/1270/2021), which responds to this need. Based on scientific research, and using participatory methodologies, PLAY-THE-ODDS brings together people with hereditary cancer syndromes and their families, genetic counseling specialists, psychologists, communication designers, and gamification experts to co-create solutions. Specific preparation to disclose to children the presence of a hereditary cancer syndrome in the family, as well as to deal with the challenges of this condition over time, is a need that families have come to feel.

According to Célia Sales, the principal investigator, “this reality can be very distressing. The person with the syndrome is dealing with his or her own diagnosis and, at the same time, with the fear that he or she may have passed this condition on to their children. They don´t know if they should tell their children, or how, or when the time is right. Our goal is to create a prototype of an interactive communication tool to help parents and children communicate about hereditary cancer risk, which can be integrated in routine genetic counseling and psycho-oncology settings as a support resource for families.”
One of the novelties brought by this project is its co-creation approach: the project brings together people with hereditary cancer syndromes and their families, health professionals (Genetic Counseling and Psychology) and technology professionals (Communication Design and Human-Centered Design) in the active search for solutions to the real needs of their daily lives. For Hernâni Oliveira, co-principal investigator, “this project is innovative because it is the family itself and the health professionals who, together with specialists in technology, define the solution that helps them the most, a real solution defined by those who live this reality”.

Communicating health-related problems and the possibility of hereditary cancer is not an easy task, especially in a family context, where the generational difference can be an added difficulty. Serious games can help bridge these differences and serve as facilitators to help both in communicating the implications of the disease for all family members, and in helping the patient better internalize and understand the situation they are in.

With this in mind João Monteiro Leite, recent M.EIC graduate, collaborated in the project through the dissertation “Collaborative platform for soundwalks to improve health literacy and communication”, where he developed a framework for a platform that will host several solutions aiming to help patients better understand their condition and the associated genetic risks, as well as facilitate the communication of this syndrome to other relatives. These solutions should also assist users in understanding the risks they face, as well as the measures that exist to deal with these. One such solution, the main focus of this thesis, is the development of a soundwalk, which presents a narrative story with some challenges designed to help facilitate communication between the parental dyad.

+ information about PLAY-THE-ODDS, can be obtained from the researcher Juliana Monteiro through the email

Invited Talks | “Driving Simulators for the Study of Road Users’ Behaviour” by Prof. Stéphane Espié

“Driving Simulators for the Study of Road Users’ Behaviour” will be presented on tuesday, march 7th, at 17:15, room B012.

“To be efficient and accepted, road safety counter-measures need to be defined thanks to scientific studies. The question is not only to imagine an optimal solution in the absolute, but to understand the real practices and, based on this knowledge, to design the measures (sensitivity campaigns, changes in Highway Code, changes in initial training curriculum or licence tests, infrastructure (re)design, vehicles homologations, etc.). In our talk we will describe the tools and methods we promote and refined for decades to improve road safety, and their use in research projects. Our approach is systemic and is based on three pillars: instrumentation of vehicles for in-depth naturalistic studies, traffic modelling and simulation using a multi-agents system, and design of driving simulators to study driving behaviors. We will illustrate our approach using research projects we have conducted over these last years.”

Stéphane ESPIÉ is a Research Director at the Gustave Eiffel University. He holds an Accreditation to Direct Research in Computer Science (HdR, Pierre et Marie Curie University, 2004). His main research areas are behavioral traffic simulation (MAS based), and the design of tools to study road user behaviors (driving/riding simulators and instrumented vehicles). He currently conducts his research in SATIE laboratory (Paris Saclay university) where he leads the MOSS (Methods and Tools for Signals and Systems) research group.

CreativityTalks | “The Creativity Diamond Framework” by Prof. Peter Childs

There are many facets to creativity, and the topic has a profound impact on society. Substantial and sustained study on creativity has been undertaken, and much is now known about the fundamentals and how creativity can be augmented. To draw these elements together, a framework has been developed called the creativity diamond, formulated on the basis of reviews of prior work, as well as consideration of 20 PhD studies on the topics of creativity, design, innovation, and product development. The creativity diamond framework can be used to prompt and help select which tool or approach to use in a creative environment for innovative tasks. This presentation will explore some of the principal facets of creativity and describe the creativity diamond framework and associated resources as well as considering the practical realization of ideas.

 “The Creativity Diamond Framework” will be presented by Prof. Peter Childs, on March 2, at 6 pm, online via Youtube


Peter Childs is the Professorial Lead in Engineering Design and Co-Director of the Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College London. His general interests include creativity, innovation, design, sustainability and robotics. He was the founding Head of School for the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial. Prior roles include director of the Rolls-Royce supported University Technology Centre for Aero-Thermal Systems, director of InQbate and professor at the University of Sussex. He has contributed to over 200 refereed journal and conference papers, and several books. He has been principal or co-investigator on contracts totalling over £100 million. He is a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Editor of the Journal of Power and Energy, Professor of Excellence at MD-H, Berlin, Advisor Professor at Guangdong University of Technology, Chairperson at BladeBUG Ltd and Founder Director and Chairperson at QBot Ltd.

NeACM takes office

After a short interregnum in its activities, the ACM FEUP’s student chapter is back with the appointment of the new board on February 8, at 17:30, in room I-105.

Tiago Viana (Chair), João Ramos (Vice-Chair), Carolina Gonçalves (Secretary), João Coelho (Treasurer), Filipe Correia (Chairperson), Marco Costa (Chairperson) and Pedro Landolt (Chairperson), constitute the new team that, under the mentorship of Professor André Restivo, Director of L.EIC, intends to establish a community of students interested in the several emerging areas of computer science, and to train students capable in domains such as competitive programming and computer security.

ACM’s Professional and Student chapters worldwide serve as hubs of activity for ACM members and the computing community at large. They provide seminars, lectures, learning forums and networking opportunities with peers and experts across the computing spectrum.

ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) was founded in 1947, and today is the world’s largest educational and scientific society, uniting  computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.

ProDEI Symposium coming soon

Coming soon, February 8, B032 hosts the ProDEI Symposium, formerly known as DSIE, annual meeting of the community of the PhD Program in Computer Engineering at FEUP, organized by its students.

This edition will demonstrate throughout the day the potential and opportunities of a PhD as a career path, through the testimonies of former ProDEI students with successful careers in industry: João Pedro Dias from BUILT CoLAB, João Reis from and Tiago Boldt from Kevel. We will learn the different visions of those working simultaneously in industry and academia and how the challenging path of a PhD culminates in better and more rewarding opportunities.

Mid-morning, the interventions of Eugénio Oliveira, Emeritus Professor of the DEI, and Diana Santos, from the Innovation Office of FEUP, will present funding opportunities for those doing a PhD and the details of the application process, and will be available to clarify any questions.

After lunch, Luís Paulo Reis, LIACC Director, will present the talk “There are more tides than sailors: A reflection on the importance of doing top-quality scientific research!” This talk will focus on the recent developments in the areas of CS, AI, ML, IR and PNL and the importance of developing excellent science and advanced research in these areas, in the context of a successful and impactful PhD to achieve a top position in a top international technology company.

This will be followed by presentations from current ProDEI students that in 10 minutes each will give us a presentation of their latest research work in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, Software Engineering, Information Systems, (…) , being moderated by Professors Carlos Soares and António Augusto Sousa.

The session will end with a social coffee break among the participants.

Registrations are free and can be submitted here until February 7th.

DEI Talks | ”AutoML and Meta-learning for Neural Network Robustness Verification” by Prof. Jan N. van Rijn, Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science

Jan N. van Rijn holds a tenured position as assistant professor at Leiden University (, where he works in the computer science department (LIACS) and Automated Design of Algorithms cluster (ADA).

His research interests include artificial intelligence, automated machine learning (AutoML) and meta-learning.

He obtained his PhD in Computer Science in 2016 at Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science (LIACS), Leiden University (the Netherlands).

During his PhD, he developed, an open science platform for machine learning, enabling sharing of machine learning results.

He made several funded research visits to the University of Waikato (New Zealand) and the University of Porto (Portugal).

After obtaining his PhD, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Machine Learning lab at the University of Freiburg (Germany), headed by Prof. Dr. Frank Hutter, after which he moved to work as a postdoctoral researcher at Columbia University in the City of New York (USA). His research aim is to democratize access to machine learning and artificial intelligence across societal institutions, by developing knowledge and tools that support domain experts.

He is one of the authors of the book `Metalearning: Applications to Automated Machine Learning and Data Mining’ (published by Springer).”

AutoML and Meta-learning for Neural Network Robustness Verification” will be presented january the 25th, at 14:45, room B006 – free entrance, all are welcome.

Abstract: Artificial intelligence is being increasingly integrated in modern society, with applications ranging from self-driving cars to medicine development. However, artificial intelligence models (in particular neural networks) have been notoriously known for being susceptible for various forms of attacks, including adversarial attacks. In a bid to make these models more trustworthy, the field of neural network robustness verification aims to determine to which degree a given network is susceptible to such an attack. This is a very time consuming task, that can greatly benefit from the various advances that the Automated Machine Learning and meta-learning community have made.

In this talk, it will be explained the basis of automated machine learning and meta-learning, and the speaker will talk about their research on applying this to robustness verification. He will also explain how the community can further engage in this endevour towards trustworthy artificial intelligence.

Talk a Bit is back for its 11th edition

Talk a Bit is back on January 28th (Saturday), at the FEUP Auditorium, for its 11th edition.

The conference is organized annually by the final year students of the Master in Informatics and Computing Engineering of FEUP and is well known for the quality of its programme and the high number of participants.

This year’s theme will revolve around data, “Data. How it’s created, how it’s stored, how it’s streamed, how it’s processed” and will feature a number of experts who will bring a lot of material to be explored and discussed.

The event programme aims to promote learning, the discussion of ideas and social moments and among the list of speakers we can see João Silveira from Microsoft, Sónia Liquito from Spotify, João Gonçalves and José Costa from Critical Techworks, João Carvalho from Tandhem Esports, Liliana Ferreira from Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, Pedro Dias and Marco Sousa from Zero Zero, Tiago Matos from Jumpseller, (…), who will for sure contribute to another successful edition.

Pre-event (24 to 26 January), an hackaton will be hosted with great prizes for the winners.

All the information and the registration link can be seen here.

Ana Inês Barros and Diana Freitas distinguished with an E-REDES Merit Scholarship

E-REDES Top Women Scholarship is a scholarship programme aimed at rewarding young women finalists of Masters in the areas of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, with the aim of encouraging an increase in the number of women opting for the technology sector, where gender imbalances still persist.

“We are committed to promoting full participation and equal opportunities in our organization, but also to supporting and extending to other technological areas” can be read on the website of E-Redes, the main electricity distribution grid operator in mainland Portugal for high, medium and low voltage grids.

In a public ceremony on December 6th, the 15 winners of the 1st edition of the program were known at Central Tejo, in Lisbon, where the students of the Master in Informatics and Computing Engineering, Ana Inês Oliveira de Barros and Diana Cristina Amaral de Freitas are included.

Talking to Ana Inês she told us that she wasn’t expecting the news that she had won this award. “I was very happy to see my commitment and work being recognised and it is an honour to be among the best engineering students. Being one of the winners of this edition motivates me to continue to show my worth as a woman in engineering. I am also excited for the future, to get to know E-Redes better, the rest of the winners and to finally start my career as an engineer at FEUP. I am ready and motivated to develop new ideas that contribute to the engineering area and I would like to thank E-Redes and my family, friends and teachers that supported and helped me along this path”, shares the student that soon will start the final phase of the master with a dissertation in the software engineering area.

Diana Freitas, also a 2nd year M.EIC student, shares that being one of the winners of the E-Redes Top Women Scholarship is an incentive to continue to fight for her academic and professional goals. “This small achievement was the result of continuous effort and also the helpfulness of teachers to clarify questions and the spirit of peer-to-peer help. This award in particular reflects the potential of women in the technology sector, where I believe our skills, opinion and working method are still not properly valued. It also gives me the chance to take part in a mentoring programme, which can help me prepare for the next stage”, she says enthusiastically.

All the winners of this prize, which has a pecuniary value of 2 thousand euros and the opportunity to participate in mentoring and internship programmes, can be found here.

Ruas do Género – a visual essay on the representation of gender in the toponymy of Porto

“Toponymy is not a simple detail or arbitrary process: it is made of political and ideological choices that reinforce hegemonic narratives. It is necessary to reflect on them.” – this is the sentence that closes the description of the project Ruas do Género (Streets of Gender), a visual essay on the representation of gender in the toponymy of the city of Porto, developed by two alumni of the Integrated Master in Informatics and Computing Engineering of FEUP, João Bernardo Narciso and Cláudio Lemos, and that can, and deserves, to be explored: Ruas do Género (

This project clearly shows us the overwhelming difference in gender representations in the streets of Porto where 44% are named after men and only 4% are named after women! But not only the number of streets named after women is 11 times smaller than those named after men, but the importance and extension of these streets is also reduced. After organizing them by gender, the researchers come to the conclusion that “not only are women under-represented, but those who name almost all the most prominent streets are saints. Removing the religious and dynastic figures, there remains a minority of streets named after women of letters, artists, teachers, an engineer and a scientist.”

With this work, which shows us the reality not only through numbers but also through visual representation, they hope that future decision making will be facilitated, allowing a greater gender and social representation of the various generations as well as valuing legacies that do not deserve to be forgotten.

“When representation is so unequal and we continue to have streets that pay homage to heroes of the fascist regime or heroes of colonialism instead of representing today’s society, we are choosing badly,” João and Cláudio conclude in a recent interview given to Público.

The project received an honorable mention in The Pudding Cup -The best visual and data-driven stories of 2022 and promises to give more to talk about.

Photo: Adriano Miranda, Jornal Público