Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring updates from the Open Pharma round table, the expansion of transparent peer review workflows and potential problems for scientific societies with Plan S compliance.

Open access and metadata (by Sarah Sabir) via BMJ Opinion 

This week, the members of the core Open Pharma group came together for a round-table meeting at the BMA House in London, UK. We, at Open Pharma, were delighted to hear about the increase in open access publishing from Shire after the introduction of its new open access publication policy in January 2018 – see the 2019 European meeting of ISMPP for more details. The group explored the potential for pharma companies to support Plan S, and for the development of a position statement of common ground between publishers and pharma companies towards increasing open access within pharma.

The second half of the meeting addressed the need to make research not just open but also discoverable. Ideally, the numerous research outputs communicating study results should be linked to each other and should be made easy to find on Google. To build trust in research across all audiences, not only among medical professionals, it is critical to link communications with quality-assured evidence; for example, linking a visual abstract and a plain language summary to a primary manuscript and a path to the original data. The consensus was that for pharma to create a platform with the purpose to increase discoverability would be challenging. However, broadening and improving the quality of metadata (i.e. digital tags) would be far more feasible. Once resources are tagged with good metadata (e.g. author, date, subject, type of material) and published open access, they can be discovered and be read by machines. This is vital for future innovators who want to develop platforms that will bring together information and provide quality assurance for readers.

The value of transparent peer review via Clarivate Analytics

In September 2018, Wiley and Clarivate Analytics companies Publons (the world’s largest peer review platform) and ScholarOne (a leading manuscript submission platform), launched the first scalable open peer review workflow. This week, it was announced that the workflow, initially tested in Wiley’s journal Clinical Genetics, will be expanded to an additional 10 journals, including Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, the European Journal of Immunology and the European Journal of Neuroscience. The workflow facilitates a transparent and accessible peer review process from initial review through to publication. The entire review process is then published alongside the scientific paper. The unique digital object identifiers assigned to each stage of the peer review process also enable readers to cite each stage of the process efficiently. Increasing the transparency of this workflow not only disperses concerns surrounding the manipulation of the peer review process but also showcases the efforts of both the authors and the reviewers during the development of the scientific paper.

Implications of Plan S for society publishing via Science

By 2024, funders adopting Plan S will require grantees of European research funding to publish on platforms granting immediate open access. However, many of these funders are scientific societies that are supported by subscriptions to their journals, have lower profit margins and smaller economies than commercial publishers. Much of the revenue generated from these journals is fed back into the non-profit activities of the societies, such as training for junior researchers and public engagement. Therefore, the societies may have to sell their journals to commercial publishers, because they were unable to afford the high cost for open access articles. One solution, encouraged by Plan S, is to publish more papers despite concerns that this may be a threat to academic integrity. To address these concerns, the Wellcome Trust will publish a report detailing strategies and models applicable to other British societies wishing to comply with Plan S.

Academic resistance to open data via Springer Nature

Open access to all research outputs is believed, by some, to be the ‘future of science’. Accessible and transparent research improves the knowledge transfer within and beyond the scientific community. This can lead to new collaborations, thus facilitating scientific advances. In the age of ‘big data’, open access not only leads to more reliable data sets but also encourages the publication of negative data; in the long term this saves time, energy and money. Although many journals and funding bodies are taking big strides towards open access in the wake of cOAlition S, some academics remain reluctant to join the open access movement. Much of this resistance stems from their persistence to the traditional publishing process whereby data are ‘cherry-picked’ for submission to high-impact factor journals. Access to all data sets could also leave researchers more vulnerable to scooping and increased scrutiny from the wider scientific community. For Plan S to gain traction within the academic community, more will need to be done to change researchers’ opinions on data sharing.