Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring the lost science of the 1990s, a country-wide boycott of Elsevier subscriptions, plans to help society publishers embrace Plan S and the validity of preprints

Raiders of the lost science via Public Health Magazine

Like dial-up internet, VHS tapes and the band Semisonic, many clinical trial findings disappeared with the 1990s, often due to poor reporting and trial transparency. Losing access to the wealth of experience and findings of past trials can hinder future scientists, potentially causing them to waste time and energy investigating and designing therapies that have already been explored. The article in Public Health Magazine highlights that, in addition to the global steps towards open science, individual funding bodies, institutions and academics must play a role in preserving clinical trial findings. Academics, for example, must take more responsibility for both organizing and reporting data and in familiarizing themselves with the archiving process. The article also calls for a shift in the academic reward system to judge academics on the quality and openness of their reporting, rather than the number of grants they are awarded or the number of papers that they publish.

Norway joins the University of California in the decision not to renew Elsevier subscriptions via My News Desk

In 2017, before Plan S was proposed, the Norwegian government announced its aim for all publicly funded research articles to be published open access by 2024. Since these guidelines were introduced, the Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (UNIT) has been in negotiations with Elsevier on behalf of over 40 Norwegian educational and healthcare institutions. However, in what seems like a case of déjà vu, Elsevier have again failed to propose an offer that meets, in this case, the government’s open access principles. While the unsuccessful negotiations will not prevent Norwegian researchers from being able to publish with Elsevier, it will prevent them from being able to read articles in Elsevier’s subscription journals from 2019 onward.

Preparing society publishers for Plan S via Information Power

Transitioning to a model compliant with Plan S will pose challenges for all publishers. Society publishers face additional pressures because, traditionally, they used a different business model, tend to be smaller than the big publishers, cover more specific subject areas and have a stricter budget. This week, the Society Publishers Accelerating Open Access and Plan S (SPA-OPS) project launched a discussion document to help to ensure the transition to open access is as smooth as possible. In addition to covering the issues society publishers face in adopting open access, the document also covers the opportunities that may arise from embracing Plan S and the open access movement. These include increased visibility for the society and the chance to form new collaborations and alliances, allowing publishing resources to be shared. Finally, recognizing that the need for change is inevitable, the document also provides suggestions on how to go about making these changes and how to reduce the cost of doing so.

Adding the preprint layer via Samuel Moore

Academics are becoming increasingly familiar with the concept of preprints and are choosing to publish their research online via servers prior to publishing in traditional journals. The value of preprints has been demonstrated on numerous occasions, particularly during public health crises such as the Zika virus outbreak. The increased popularity of preprints among the academic community has forced publishers to begin to address the role of preprints in communicating research. However, despite the growing popularity of preprint servers, some publishers and editors still question their validity over concerns of a lack of peer review and manuscript vetting. Overlay journals aim to tackle these concerns by performing the peer review function of a traditional journal on articles pulled from a preprint server. Supporters of the overlay model hope that this will increase the speed at which research is communicated, in addition to generating a more affordable and high-quality publishing model.