Weekly Digest: what’s happening in Open Science?

Amy Williams

Featuring the surprisingly sharp claws of predatory publishers, the problem with measuring research impact, and Elsevier’s acquisition of Aries Systems.

Are predatory publishers more dangerous than we thought? via the Scholarly Kitchen

Many think of predatory publishing as a problem primarily localized in the fast-growing research institutions of countries such as India and China. While appreciating the nefarious effects predatory publishers may be having elsewhere, researchers in Europe and the USA tend to feel safeguarded from the issue. However, a recent investigation by German public broadcaster NDR suggests these researchers are far from invulnerable. The investigation found that over 5000 German scientists had previously published in predatory journals, and that the number of new predatory publications in Germany was growing faster than the global rate. Predatory publishing has become big business: the largest and probably most notorious of these publishers, OMICS, reported global sales of 11.5 million USD in 2016. These findings present a clear message: predatory publishing is a problem for everyone.


How can we effectively judge research impact? via the BMJ opinion

The elusive metric of ‘impact’ has grown increasingly important for research institutions as time has gone on. When evaluating British universities and contributing to funding decisions, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) scoring affords ‘impact’ 25% of the final total, but what does that word mean and how can we meaningfully measure it? In this piece, Richard Smith explores the concept of research impact following discussions at an Oxford meeting on the subject. The meeting did not result in a clear conclusion, but it was agreed that, while the system can and will be gamed by a few unscrupulous researchers, the genuine goal of doing more useful research and maximizing the impact of research that has been done is the ultimate end of measuring and rewarding impact. It argued that training in the effective communication and leverage of research would be a good way to enable researchers to meet these goals. In a final remark, however, Smith warns of the danger of focusing too much on impact and not enough on the research itself.


We have the tools to make open access publishing cheap and efficient, so why isn’t it? via Scholastica

The journal publishing industry is valued at 10 billion USD annually, a large proportion of which some open science advocates think would be better spent funding research. So why isn’t this happening? Digital tools mean that the research and review process could be conducted for much less than currently offered by traditional publishers, and, the article argues, an entire journal could be run (assuming 50 peer reviews, 16 typeset articles, and associated hosting, copyediting and indexing costs) for less money than the total open access charges for four manuscripts published by Elsevier. The article ultimately argues that, as soon as these new, low-cost ways of publishing become the easiest to use, full open access will become a reality. In the meantime, the author highlights the importance of initiatives such as Open Access Week to raise awareness of all open access publishing options.


Aries Systems becomes Elsevier’s latest acquisition

Publishing giant Elsevier has announced the acquisition of publications workflow management company Aries Systems, the creator of workflow tools used by many publishers to manage submission and peer review. This move has been met with a varied response, with some people concerned that the acquisition of important contractors to all publishers by one multinational publishing company threatens to undermine independent publishing, while others seem more supportive of the acquisition. Regardless, this news fits within Elsevier’s plan to position themselves as purveyors of information and analytics rather than as publishers in the developing and increasingly digitized world of academic publishing.