Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Caitlin Edgell

This week, we learn about the launch of a huge open database keeping track of global COVID-19 infections and find out about researchers’ attitudes towards open data. We also look at how open educational resources can enhance remote learning, how open access has started to outdo subscription publishing, and Springer Nature’s continuing concerns over green open access. Finally, we ask whether open access is enough to democratize science.

Huge open COVID-19 database launched via Nature | 5-minute read

Global.health, an enormous database of individual COVID-19 infections, was launched this week. Funded by Google and The Rockefeller Foundation, the database includes information on up to 40 different variables, including strain and duration of infection, from 24 million COVID-19 cases across 150 countries. Anyone can register to access the anonymized data, which provide valuable and varied insight into the ongoing pandemic as vaccines are rolled out and new strains emerge.

Open data: easy to share but hard to find? via OSF Preprints | 26-minute read

Researchers find it relatively easy to share their own data but less easy to get hold of data shared by others, as presented in this preprint article. The authors from open access publisher PLOS surveyed the attitudes towards data sharing from researchers in a range of fields. They found that most researchers had previously shared data in some way, such as in a repository or through a direct request. Only 12% of respondents had never shared their research data, and this was most common among health and medical science researchers. They also found that over half of respondents had used data shared by other researchers but that they were generally unsatisfied with the discoverability of data sets.

Open educational resources enhance remote learning via The Conversation | 5-minute read

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced universities across the world to switch rapidly to remote and online teaching. This has thrown up many new issues around the use of copyrighted educational resources, particularly when these resources are shared via third-party software like Zoom or Skype. In this article, Maximiliano Marzetti (Assistant Professor of Law at IÉSEG School of Management) discusses how using open educational resources, which can be distributed and modified freely, has the potential to improve the quality of teaching and access to education while avoiding copyright liability issues.

Open access exceeds subscription publishing via Dimensions | 4-minute read

In 2020, the proportion of papers published open access exceeded those published in subscription journals, finds this analysis of the new release of the Dimensions data set. The analysis also found that the biggest growth was in the publication of gold open access papers. The new data set has made this type of analysis possible by incorporating information about the open access classification of a paper from Unpaywall and about dates of publication and preprint server deposition.

Springer Nature continues to voice concerns over green open access via Publishing Perspectives | 6-minute read

Springer Nature and other publishers have frequently argued that, among other things, green open access, in which authors deposit a copy of their paper in a public repository on publication, risks muddying the academic record with several versions of a manuscript. They tend to prefer the gold open access approach, in which there is a single, freely accessible version of record hosted by the publisher. A recent survey performed by Springer Nature found that researchers also prefer reading and citing the final published versions of manuscripts over accepted manuscripts and preprints because they are easier to read and are believed to be more reliable. Read the full survey results here.

Is open access enough for the democratization of science? via The Scholarly Kitchen | 5-minute read

In this opinion piece, Robert Harington (Associate Executive Director of Publishing at the American Mathematical Society) argues that, while open access does democratize science for those who understand the content, more needs to be done to communicate the significance of scientific advances to the general public. He goes on to stress that this is particularly important in these times when discussions of science can quickly become political and information vacuums may lead to the emergence of misinformation and even conspiracy theories.

On a final note …

Open Pharma co-founder Chris Winchester has been elected to the board of directors of the Friends of the National Library of Medicine. As a member of the board, Chris will help oversee planning, fundraising and programming activities at the National Library of Medicine. Congratulations, Chris!

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