Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring proposals from Plan U, a call for stronger open access policies in the UK, the launch of UCL’s ‘megajournal’ and Elsevier’s controversial role in monitoring Europe’s open science movement.

Making a U-turn from Plan S via Techdirt

Much of the criticism surrounding Plan S comes from its attempt to completely reinvent a $10 billion-dollar industry in a seemingly unrealistic time frame, rather than simply optimizing the models already in place. A new approach, referred to as Plan U, has emerged in response to the criticism Plan S – this proposes that all research funders require grantees to publish their work as preprints, that is to say fully accessible and instantly available versions of articles that precede both peer review and publication, with minimal effort and at a very low cost for the authors. Although still in its early stages, Plan U goes the extra mile to ensure that the practical implications of preprints are addressed by acknowledging the need for some form of peer review, requirements for host servers and long-term strategies for the plan’s maintenance. Unlike Plan S, Plan U intends to orchestrate change by building on existing platforms, bypassing the uncertainty of establishing a new publishing system. Although it is an exciting proposal, Plan U, for now, remains in the early stages and thin on detail.

A change of route in UK open access publishing? via WonkHE

If the UK wasn’t experiencing enough political chaos already, a report by an independent adviser this week is calling for stronger policies on open access. In addition to the plethora of online tools and platforms available for analysing and curating research, the gold open access route adopted by many publishers in the UK makes it easier than ever for the public to access research. Despite an almost 40% increase in the number of articles published open access in the UK, article processing charges (APCs) rose by as much as 16% between 2012 and 2016. High APCs have caused many researchers, institutions and funding bodies to question whether the UK should continue primarily with gold open access or should be looking for alternative routes to increase research accessibility. The report also reiterated previous calls for a shift in focus away from the impact factor to increase the incentives for open access publishing.

The ‘megajournal’ revolution via Science Open

Last week, University College London (UCL) took the next step in its goal to revolutionize the way research is communicated by launching UCL Open, a ‘megajournal’ comprising both a preprint server and an e-journal. The megajournal, which is powered by the ScienceOpen discovery and publication platform, boasts transparency at each stage of the publishing process and accessibility for everyone with no financial or geographical restrictions. Piloted with UCL Open: Environment, which started accepting submissions last week, the megajournal features multidisciplinary research aimed at discussing real-world problems. Once accepted, articles are published online as preprints, where they are then subject to open peer review before publication in the e-journal, thus ensuring a rapid, reliable and transparent publishing process.

Elsevier’s ironic involvement in monitoring open science via Green Tea and Velociraptors

Following a mass editorial exit in mid-January, Elsevier is under fresh scrutiny this week. It may come as a surprise that, despite being a major opponent of open access, Elsevier will be helping to monitor the European open science movement. Supporters of open access have fought back against what they call a conflict of interest with a formal complaint to the European Union Ombudsman and the European Commission (EC). A petition to the EC has also been established, and many have even started questioning the necessity of monitoring the open science movement. The article calls for those opposed to Elsevier’s role to sign this petition in the hope that the EC takes a second look at the irony of Elsevier’s involvement in monitoring open science.