Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Caitlin Edgell

This week, we consider the advantages of open access and the virtues of open hardware. We also look at how open hardware may help us deal with future pandemics and hear contrasting opinions on the Plan S Rights Retention Strategy. Finally, we learn that, for some peer reviewers, enough is enough.

The open access advantage via Scientometrics | 18-minute read

Immediate open access increases the number of views an article receives and expands the geographical distribution of its readers, finds a paper published in the journal Scientometrics. The authors compared the metrics (page views, citations, media coverage, location of readers etc.) of papers made open access immediately upon publication with those of papers published under a delayed open access policy in the New England Journal of Medicine. They also found that articles in the latter category did not experience an increase in views after they became freely available 6 months after publication. This suggests that these papers may be unable to catch up with immediate open access papers in terms of reach and impact.

The virtues of open hardware … via the Journal of Open Hardware | 6-minute read

In this summary to their thirteen-part blog series, the co-editors-in-chief of open access journal the Journal of Open Hardware extol the virtues of open hardware research and development, from reducing the cost of scientific instruments to driving innovation, and from creating jobs to improving the reproducibility of research. The open hardware community has also played a role in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by sharing open-source designs for personal protective equipment. With their colleagues from the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the US think tank the Wilson Center, the authors also discuss how open hardware should be prioritized in the science policy of the new Biden-Harris administration.

… and how open hardware may help fight future pandemics via The Conversation | 5-minute read

Many of the bottlenecks in hardware production can be avoided if we take an open-source approach to manufacturing, argue University of Bath academics Richard Bowman and Julian Stirling. However, this is particularly challenging when time is of the essence, as it has been in the fight against COVID-19. This may partly explain why ambitious projects aiming at developing open-source ventilators failed to meet demand. The authors also suggest how the open hardware movement may respond better to future pandemics by making projects open from the very start, developing better collaboration workflows and creating organizations for manufacturing open-source designs.

Row over Rights Retention Strategy via STM | 3-minute read

The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) Association has released a statement about the Plan S Rights Retention Strategy. In the statement, which has already been co-signed by more than 50 publishers (including Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley), the group declares that it is unable to support the Rights Retention Strategy in its current form owing to the negative impacts it will have on the publishers’ incomes and on academic freedom. cOAlition S has responded to the statement and argues that the Rights Retention Strategy will in fact restore academic freedom by giving authors ownership of their work.

The peer reviewers’ revolt via BMJ Opinion | 4-minute read

In this opinion piece, Richard Smith, former editor of the BMJ, provides a lengthy list of drawbacks to the current peer review system, arguing that it is ineffective, anti-innovative, and prone to bias and abuse. With the number of journals swelling, eligible peer reviewers are increasingly in demand. This puts a significant burden on academics, and many refuse to spend their precious time reviewing papers. Richard suggests that researchers would be more motivated to participate in peer review if they receive fair payment for the work. He also calls for a more open peer review process, with reviewers’ comments published alongside the article. Has the time come for peer reviewers to rebel?

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

Coronavirus mental health and well-being resources:

Mind UK

Mental Health Foundation UK

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention