Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Harry Freeman

Featuring the use of FAIR data principles for COVID-19 research, the recently published Hong Kong Principles, an update to the Declaration to Improve Biomedical & Health Research, a call to support universities with their open data, a collation of preprint review services, an assessment of clinical journals’ attitudes towards preprints and a case study outlining the importance of open data.

A FAIR chance against COVID-19 via GoFAIR

In 2016, a consortium of scientists and organizations outlined a number of principles to improve the management and reusability of scientific data. These ensure that data are Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR). Moreover, a key emphasis of these principles is on machine actionability with minimal human intervention. Now, four years after the conception of the FAIR principles, the first interoperable FAIR data point for COVID-19 research has been implemented by the Virus Outbreak Data Network Africa in Uganda. Not only will this potentially provide a new layer of insight in the fight against COVID-19, it will also act as a starting point for the successful implementation of more FAIR data points throughout Africa and then beyond.

The Hong Kong Principles via EurekAlert!

First presented at the 6th World Conference on Research Integrity in 2019, the Hong Kong Principles for assessing researcher integrity have now been formally published. The five principles have been developed by a research team led by Dr David Moher (Director of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute’s Centre for Journalology) and provide guidance on responsible researching, transparent reporting, open science, valuing diversity of methods and recognizing authorship contributions.

The Declaration to Improve Biomedical & Health Research via the Open Science Foundation

This declaration is a result of a collaboration between researchers and patient advocates, and has been recently updated. The declaration has garnered 68 signatories, including organizations such as Healthwatch UK and the German Network for Evidence-based Medicine Network (EbM-Netzwerk). The declaration presents the signatories’ demands for reducing bias and improving transparency in medical research to ensure that HealthScience is appropriately disseminated to patients and the public, and particularly to those who have funded and participated in the research. These issues and solutions have also been explored by several of the signatories in BMJ Opinion.

Public data: a cautionary viewpoint via Science Business

As champions of open science push forward, Frans Oort (Open Science Coordinator at the University of Amsterdam) warns that universities may require protection from enterprises looking to profit from free data. In this viewpoint article, the open science coordinator posited that public release of data by academic institutions would leave them vulnerable to commercial entities who could harness these data to build services that the university would have to pay for. Frans is not alone in having reservations; a recent report by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition outlines the current landscape of academic publishing and recommends mitigating risks. Furthermore, Frans offers insights into the Amsterdam Data Exchange (AMDEX), an initiative facilitating a fair data market and protecting universities. Frans ends by encouraging EU policymakers to take heed of his warnings and develop repositories such as AMDEX for safe data exchange. It will be interesting to see if this idea can be scaled beyond the EU on a global scale!

Comparing and contrasting: preprint peer review services via ASAPbio

In recent years, biomedical preprints have enabled the rapid communication of research to the scientific community, helping to foster discussion and validate the data presented, thus enabling an unofficial peer review. ASAPbio have collated information from four services that offer journal-independent peer reviews of preprints, namely eLife’s Preprint Review, Peerage of Science, Peer Community in, and Review Commons from the European Molecular Biology Organization and ASAPbio. Their research into these services will undoubtedly bring clarity to the preprint peer review process.

Massey et al. 2020: the top 100 clinical journals’ stance on preprints via JAMA Network

As discussed above, preprints are essential to accelerate the dissemination and discussion of research articles within the scientific community. One cause for concern regarding clinical research preprints is the propensity for some peer-reviewed journals to reject manuscripts previously posted on preprint servers. Fortunately, Massey and colleagues found that 86% of the top 100 clinical journals (ranked by impact factor) state that they accept manuscripts previously published on a preprint server, with 13 of these journals judging on a case-by-case basis. Only one journal prohibited publishing research previously shared as a preprint outright. As the use of clinical preprints continues to grow, this defiant journal may need to question its stance.

A case study on openness via Open Research Community

In response to the findings shared by Massey et al. 2020, Pablo Markin (Community Manager at Open Research Community) pens an interesting piece highlighting the necessity for openly accessible data sets. Massey and colleagues show that the average impact factor of journals that accept papers previously published as preprints is lower, on average, than that of journals that judge preprints on a case-by-case basis. However, to assess whether this difference is statistically significant, Markin points out that the full data set would require reanalysis. Although this would be a simple exercise, Massey and colleagues have not included data on the impact factor of individual journals in their manuscript making it challenging for other groups to extend their findings.

We at Open Pharma would like to continue to encourage all our readers to look after themselves and their community and continue to follow advice from their country’s government and health organizations.

Coronavirus mental health and wellbeing resources:

Mind UK

Mental Health Foundation UK

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention

This post was written in collaboration with Adeline Rosenberg.