Introducing Signals

More people than ever question whether they can trust our most important institutions. This isn’t a new concern; trust has been in decline for decades. However, we have always been able to rely on the foundational and self-correcting nature of scholarly literature as a source of truth.

This is no longer the case. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a large increase in publication of fake or fraudulent research articles. Since 2022 tens of thousands of these articles have been identified and retracted, and we have reasons to think this is only scratching the surface of the problem. Research and publishing integrity issues have led to the closure of publishers, large fines for institutions, and an increasingly cynical attitude towards Open Access publishing that threatens the progress of Open Science.

Most importantly, these issues are impacting  research itself: it’s increasingly difficult to differentiate between valuable and fraudulent research articles. The societal impact of fake or fraudulent articles polluting the scholarly record is undeniable – if we can’t trust our foundational knowledge, encoded in the scholarly literature, then what can we trust?

Today we are introducing Signals and our mission to restore trust in research.

Our goal is to build a platform that gives the research community, and society as a whole, the information they need to understand the trustworthiness and significance of research articles. 

Our first product, which is being used by over a dozen leading publishers and decision makers, identifies issues in the published literature and helps to prevent the publication of problematic articles. We do this by identifying signals derived from the complex networks of articles, authors, and institutions, manifested for example in the form of citation patterns. Editors and publishers find it increasingly difficult to detect submissions of fake or fraudulent research. Signals provides editors with all the information they need in one place to quickly make an informed decision, reducing the time they need to spend checking each manuscript, and making whole-portfolio analyses possible so that cases of fraud can be identified more quickly and reliably. Beyond the immediate value publishers get from using the Signals product, our in-house consulting team can also help to optimize publishing integrity workflows, end-to-end from when the manuscript is received to when it is published or even retracted.

As we develop Signals, we’ll continuously enrich this data-driven foundation with insights from our in-house experts, research integrity sleuths, and other experts across the research community, so that the scholarly record can be corrected and protected.

It’s important to say that beyond helping the research community identify problematic articles, ultimately the objective is to help everyone understand what research is worth paying attention to and worth building upon. After all, restoring trust requires knowing not only what is valid but also what is valuable.

You will hear much more from us about our plans to help not just publishers but also researchers, institutions, funders, and clinicians in the near future. Signals will grow to become an asset for each of these players in the wider research community, not only by providing them with a platform they can trust to address their specific needs, but also by allowing them to contribute their own signals for the benefit of their peers and the research ecosystem as a whole.

Signals sits at the crossroads of technology, scholarly publishing, expert insights and community contributions; restoring trust in research requires a unique combination of skills and experience, and a deep understanding of how research is conducted, shared and assessed. 

We’ve built a founding team with expertise in all of these areas:

  • Andrew Preston, Co-founder – Andrew, who remains in his role at Cassyni and is a physicist by training, has experience in scholarly startups, peer review, research communities, and citation networks through his work as the co-founder of Publons and Cassyni and product director at Web of Science.

  • Christos Petrou, Lead Analyst – Christos’ deep understanding of scholarly communication and analytical expertise will help us identify new signals and enable us to provide publishers with deep dives into publishing integrity workflows and data.

  • Elliott Lumb, Co-founder – Elliott brings unique insight into peer review and research integrity from founding the startup PeerRef. He also has expertise in publishing, gained from consulting for large publishers and from his work in the strategy and planning team at Frontiers.

  • Florin Asăvoaie, Lead Engineer – Florin was the Solutions Architect of Hindawi’s Phenom publishing platform that was acquired by Wiley in 2020, and is the technical & product development advisor for Sustainable Software Products. Florin’s Engineering expertise and experience within the industry will accelerate the development of Signals.

  • Tiago Barros, Founding Member – Tiago will bring his expertise in publishing, peer review, and creating products for publishers and researchers to our team. Previously, Tiago had different roles in publishing and tech startups, including VP of H1 Connect at H1, Managing Director of Faculty Opinions and Sciwheel, and Product Lead at Publons, where he worked alongside Signals co-founder Andrew Preston.

Together, this team has years of experience in research, peer review, publishing, expert communities, research infrastructure, and strategic analysis in scholarly publishing. We’ve built multiple products that are trusted by millions of researchers. We will draw from our experience at Publons, Faculty Opinions/H1 Connect, PeerRef and Cassyni to make Signals the platform to identify the most valuable and trustworthy research articles, and restore trust in research.

Additionally, our founding team will be supported by founding investors:

  • Ben Kaube – Co-founder of Cassyni and previously co-founder of Kopernio (now EndNote Click) which was acquired by Clarivate in 2018.
  • Paul Peters – Non-executive chair of Ex-Ordo and previously CEO of Hindawi, sold to Wiley in 2020.

We are grateful for their support and to draw from their experience and expertise as we move forward with our mission.

Going forward, Signals is moving into a phase of rapid product development, working closely with publishers to offer end-to-end publishing integrity support, including submission checks on articles, and developing products designed to meet the specific needs of researchers and institutions.

If you’re interested in what we’re doing then please get in touch. You can: