Weekly digest: what’s happening in Open Science?

Amy Williams

Featuring The Lancet’s preprint experiment, ASCO granting open access options to industry, and the 20 journals that were denied an impact factor.

The Lancet embarks on preprints trial via The Lancet

The Social Science Research Network, or SSRN, is a hugely popular platform used by people working in the social sciences and hosts thousands of research papers. The platform is a preprint server that enables researchers to access and read papers ahead of publication by a journal. The papers are ranked by popularity, which is measured by the number of downloads. For the duration of the 6-month trial, authors submitting to The Lancet family journals can opt to preprint their manuscript during submission or post it to the SSRN directly. All preprinted papers will undergo basic quality checks before they are released to the public. The Lancet’s decision to explore the opportunities presented by preprinting has been met with interest by the Open Science community and represents a major step towards the increasing acceptance of preprinting as a practice in medical publishing. Concerns have been raised, however, that the SSRN, which is owned by Elsevier, may not be the most open of platform choices. Authors posting to the SSRN often remove their papers upon publication at the request of publishers – an option not available on other servers such as bioRxiv, where papers receive a trackable DOI.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology to extend open access offering for industry-sponsored research via The MAP

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has released an updated open access policy that now permits industry-sponsored research to be published open access under a CC BY-NC-ND licence. Previously, research funded by life sciences companies could only be read by those with subscription-based access to the journals published by ASCO, or those who bought access to a specific paper. This is promising news for open access advocates within industry, because more and more publishers lift the barriers to open access for industry-sponsored research.

eLife to conduct peer review trial via eLife

This paper outlines the plans for eLife’s new trial exploring a new radical approach to peer review. The trial will be run on the first 300 eligible authors who opt in. At present, papers submitted to eLife are initially reviewed by a senior editor and only around a third are actually sent for peer review, half of which are accepted for publication. In the new trial, eLife will commit to publishing all papers accepted for peer review, alongside a consolidated review report, decision letter and author response. The model being trialed was designed with the aim of balancing the power more in favour of authors than journals, and to improve efficiency by ensuring peer reviewers’ work is not wasted.

Association of Medical Research Charities announce new Open Research platform via Medium

Following the lead of pioneering funders such as the Wellcome Trust, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Open Research platform approach developed by F1000 is being increasingly adopted by research funders. The latest of these is the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) whose new platform will be used to publish research funded by 23 UK charities, among them Macmillan Cancer Support, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Parkinson’s UK. The AMRC have also announced that they will be members of Open Research Central, a platform that will integrate all of the Open Research platforms.

Problematic journals denied impact factor by Clarivate Analytics via RetractionWatch

Clarivate Analytics is the company responsible for determining each journal’s impact factor, a controversial but ultimately influential measure frequently used to rank journals. In a report on the 11,000 journals indexed this year, however, 20 journals were removed from the list owing to problematic citation patterns, and a further five were given warnings. The removal of the impact factor is a major blow to any journal – publishing in high impact factor journals remains a central pillar of academic careers, and, if nothing else, the lack of an official impact factor can be inferred to mean that the journal is predatory. Although attempts to crack down on such bad practice can be seen as a positive, the potential for distortion of the impact factor by journals is another emerging issue associated with the outdated system by which journals are currently ranked.