Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Amy Williams

Featuring the open access Twitter spat in full media orbit, Science’s new programme to build CC BY journals with partnered institutions, and the rights of the peer reviewer to access underlying data.

Open access Twitter spat gains mainstream attention via Slate

Escaping the open science Twittersphere into full media orbit, a controversial tweet from the director of scholarly communications at Elsevier has landed itself an article on the high-profile media outlet Slate. The article focuses on a now deleted tweet sent by @mrgunn, which likened the desires of patients with rare diseases being granted open access to research articles on their conditions to everyone wanting “rainbows, unicorns,& and puppies delivered to their doorstep by volunteers”. The tweet came in the context of an ongoing argument about Elsevier’s open access offerings and has since been deleted, but, the article argues, highlights a profound issue within the world of academic publishing – and one that the author does not think Elsevier are trying hard enough to counter. This is the latest article focused on open science questions to have found its way into mainstream publications in recent months, The Guardian having also recently run a series of pieces on the problems with academic publishing. However, whether this new-found attention will be a flash in the pan or something that will prompt change is yet to be seen.

Science group partners with universities to build open access platforms via Associations Now

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, publisher of the prestigious Science family of journals, has launched a new programme in which it will partner with academic institutions to build open access platforms. The programme is called ‘Science Partner Journals’ and will enable institutions to make the most of Science’s prestigious review and distribution tools, while providing access to all published papers under the most open licence used in scholarly publishing: CC BY. So far, two universities in China have opted into the programme, and the process of building these open access platforms is underway.

Peer reviewers should exercise their right to view the data underlying papers they review  via Nature

This short piece, published in Nature, calls on peer reviewers to make use of their right to access an article’s underlying data as part of their peer review process. The authors argue that reviewers should never feel pressured into providing a report when they do not feel that the claims made in a paper are adequately supported by data, and they encourage them to contact Nature to request the underlying data if they do not believe the paper provides sufficient evidence on its own. Some Nature journals, such as Scientific Data, require data to be hosted to meet submission requirements, and this article suggests that the more authors are asked to provide data upon submission, the more data and code sharing will be encouraged in research communities.

Is there an ultimate open access business model? via Zenodo

The challenge for publishers to make open access publishing profitable is looming increasingly large as more and more research funders tend to favour open access publishing options. There are several examples of profitable open access models, such as those operated by BioMed Central and PLOS One, but is there room for all publishers to use these models? This white paper explores the various open access business models used by commercial publishers today in the hunt for a perfect model. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the authors conclude that no magic bullet business model exists at present, but points to examples of institutions jointly funding open access projects as a promising development for commercial publishers.