Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring stakeholder opinions on the proposed White House Executive Order on open access in the USA, a new data-sharing declaration and the introduction of a financial incentive for publishing negative results in Germany.

Is the proposed Executive Order the best way to uncage research in the USA? via Beyond the Book

Last year, the announcement of a potential Executive Order (EO) mandating immediate open access for government-funded research in the USA caused a stir within the scholarly publishing community. As the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy enters into discussions with academic groups to explore open access opportunities, publishers caution that the mandate would “throw the research ecosystem into chaos”. Currently, the costs of open access publishing are shouldered by authors, funders and institutes; however, the proposed EO doesn’t make clear who will fund open access publications under the new mandate. Unsurprisingly, this has sparked concerns from publishers who claim that nationalizing government-funded research output would put the USA at a significant competitive disadvantage and weaken its trade position across global markets.

Patients, academics and healthcare professionals, on the other hand, have had a different reaction to the potential EO. Last month, representatives of 66 patient and disease advocacy groups wrote a letter to President Donald Trump in support of an immediate open access mandate. They claim that although the current open access policy requiring all government-funded research to be made available open access within 12 months of publication was a step in the right direction, it is not enough. The authors explain that keeping research behind bars for up to 12 months can directly influence clinical decision-making that could, and should, be informed by the latest research.

Data sharing – the benefits outweigh the risks via The Times Higher Education

Until recently, peer-reviewed publications were the primary means of communicating and sharing research. However, recent events, such as the coronavirus outbreak, have highlighted the value and importance of research data as a means of communication. Last month, members of nine global university networks met in Paris to sign the Sorbonne Declaration, promising to develop systems to recognize and reward scholars following open data practices. Data sharing comes with a number of challenges for university staff, who will need to secure funding for ‘research data managers’ to establish, maintain and curate data-sharing platforms. Although this may seem like a problem in the short term, a recent report by the European Commission found that better sharing and management of research data could save over €10 billion in Europe. However, for the open data movement to be truly successful, universities will also need to invest time in educating academics on the benefits of data sharing.

Cash incentives for publishing negative research via The Times Higher Education

This week, the Berlin Institute of Health, which is led by an executive board consisting of members from the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin university hospital and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, announced a new bonus scheme to boost transparency and trust in research. The institute will now offer a €1000 bonus for publishing negative results of replication studies to any of its 7000 researchers, with additional incentives offered to academics who make their raw data publicly available. Although offering cash incentives may seem controversial to some, any funds awarded will be put towards research costs, such as conference attendance and travel, rather than being paid into academics’ personal accounts. The institute hopes that other centres and organizations around the world will follow their example and adopt similar policies.