Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring a new database of journal policies, the launch of an open peer review trial in Nature, a summary of one patient advocate’s involvement in cancer research and the call from 21 Nobel laureates for an immediate open access mandate.

TRANSPOSE – a step towards transparent journal policies via bioRxiv

The open science movement campaigns for transparency across all research outputs. However, the policies of many journals (the primary host for research articles) are either camouflaged amidst other documents or not publicly available. A recent study of 171 major journals revealed that almost 75% of them had no clear policies on preprint citations and the peer review process. Overall, 32% of the journals included in the study did not provide any information on the type of peer review offered, 39% had no clear policies on preprints, and 59% failed to offer any information on whether the identity of peer reviewers would be revealed to authors. The TRANsparency in Scholarly Publishing for Open Scholarship Evolution (TRANSPOSE) is a new initiative set up to combat this lack of transparency. TRANSPOSE has already established a database of journal policies, collating information on open peer review, co-reviewer involvement and preprints across journals to provide authors with a better understanding of the publication process.

Nobel laureates call for executive order on open access via Chemistry World

When first announced in December 2019, the possibility of an immediate open access mandate in the USA was met with an outcry from some publishers and societies. However, this month, 21 Nobel prize laureates wrote to President Trump urging him to deliver the executive order, mandating free and immediate access to government-funded research, building upon the current policy that allows for a 12-month embargo period. The mandate will effectively nationalize the intellectual property produced by publishers, enabling all researchers to learn from and build upon findings uncovered using taxpayers’ money.

Patient involvement in clinical trials – not just about cake and coffee via NHS Health Research Authority

With World Cancer Day (4 February) just behind us, Richard Stephens shares his experiences as a patient and a patient advocate. Since being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 1998, Richard has worked as a patient advocate with the National Cancer Research Institute, Cancer Research UK and CancerBACKUP, now part of Macmillan Cancer Support. Having taken part in two clinical trials, Richard highlights how his initial misunderstanding over the meaning of ‘randomization’ fuelled his frustration over the fact that patients were not involved in writing clinical trial information for other patients. Although patient communications around clinical trials have vastly improved over the past 20 years, there is still a long way to go in ensuring that patients are at the centre of clinical trials. Patients, patient advocates and carers should be involved in each stage of the study, from design to communication, and not just through cake and coffee fundraising events!

Open peer review – a product of nurture and Nature via Nature

From this week, Nature will offer authors the option to publish peer review reports alongside the accepted article. In this trial, Nature joins the ranks of other Nature journals – namely, Nature Biomedical Engineering, Nature Cell Biology, Nature Ecology & Evolution, Nature Human Behaviour, Nature Immunology, Nature Microbiology and Nature Structural & Molecular Biologywith peer review reports and any correspondence from authors now published anonymously alongside the main article. The trial comes from author demands for greater transparency throughout the peer review process, to shed clarity on how decisions are made and the integrity of peer reviewers. In contrast, some authors have shared their concerns that publishing reviewers’ comments, even if these are anonymous, might result in reviewers being less critical of the manuscripts they are invited to assess, with the expectation that they will receive reciprocal treatment when the time comes.