Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring China’s Plan S endorsement, an assessment of YODA and the value of preprints to junior researchers

Chinese government embraces Plan S via Nature

2018 has seen China become the largest research nation by volume of papers, overtaking the USA, and the nation is fast establishing itself as a research superpower. This week’s surprise announcement at the Open Access 2020 Conference in Berlin, where China pledged their support for Plan S, therefore has major implications. This news comes alongside the Chinese government’s proposals for its libraries and funding bodies to make publicly funded research freely accessible as soon as it is published. This bold move dismisses previous misconceptions, those of open access not being a priority for China, which stem from the strong emphasis on impact factor seen in many of the nation’s research institutions. With much of their own research stuck behind paywalls, China is calling for negotiations with publishers to start. Although the time frame for implanting these new policies remains ambiguous, there is no doubt that this is a huge step towards open access worldwide. China’s pledge comes ahead of two other non-European countries expected to join the Plan S initiative over the coming months.

An assessment of YODA via The Scientist

In 2011, researchers at Yale University developed the Yale University Open Data Access (YODA) Project, whose mission is to promote clinical trial data sharing with external researchers through a platform. Partnerships with both Medtronic and Johnson & Johnson have demonstrated the great potential of this project, and the limitations such data-sharing platforms still face. This analysis of YODA, which was published by collaborators last week, calls for a greater consideration for data sharing when establishing data-collection platforms and not just as an afterthought. Despite the good intentions that underpin these platforms, the time commitments and financial burdens of setting them up can be off-putting to many funders. Questions also remain as to whose responsibility it is to establish data-sharing platforms – external groups such as the Yale group or individual companies.

Does Plan S do enough to promote open science? via EMBOpress

Plan S is under fresh scrutiny this week, with suggestions that the plan’s focus on increasing the number of open access journals may detract from the more important goal of making scientific research accessible through collaborative networks. Researchers seeking to publish open access currently face a choice between green and gold access. With green access papers often associated with findability issues, gold open access publishing remains the current gold standard, albeit at substantial financial costs to authors. With Plan S to increase the number of open access journals, there are some concerns that this will reduce the amount of open science published and will exclude many European researchers. This article suggests that a greater emphasis on open science over open access is needed, making everything from raw data to analytical tools freely available.

The value of preprints to junior researchers via PeerJ Preprints

The current peer review method of journal publication is a lengthy process that affects all researchers. However, the long delays associated with peer review is particularly problematic for junior researchers who rely on the timely communication of their work for career progression and recognition within the scientific community. One potential solution to this problem is preprinting. However, surrounded by rumours of journal rejections and scooped data, many early career researchers (ECRs) remain reluctant to consider preprints. Not only does this recent report share the many benefits of preprints for ECRs across disciplines, but it also highlights their potential for publishing negative and inconclusive data often rejected by traditional journals.

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