Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring a discussion of transformative agreements, a pivotal open access deal between Elsevier and UNIT and a fresh call for academics to report clinical trial findings to registries

Transformers of publishing agreements via The Scholarly Kitchen

Like the attempts to explain open access options, current endeavours to offer a description of transformative agreements often result in inconsistent or unclear definitions. In short, transformative agreements aim to shift the payment deal between a library or institution and a publisher away from subscription-based reading towards a contractually based open access model. Such agreements are becoming increasingly popular as the deadline for the implementation of Plan S approaches. Transformative agreements tend to be categorized as either Read-and-Publish or Publish-and-Read agreements. In a Read-and-Publish deal, the publisher receives a single contractual payment allowing a library or institution to both read and publish in the corresponding journals. The contractual rather than ad hoc nature of the arrangement means article processing charges for open access publications are also covered by this type of agreement. In a Publish-and-Read deal, the publisher receives payment only for publishing and reading is included in the contract at no extra cost. The aim of libraries and institutions is to keep these the costs of these agreements neutral, irrespective of whether a Read-and-Publish or Publish-and-Read deal is reached. cOAlition S has also offered guidance on transformative agreements, negotiations for which must be concluded by the end of 2021.

Breakthrough deal between Elsevier and a Norwegian consortium via INSIDE HIGHER ED

Last month, the Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (UNIT) issued a press release stating that it would not renew its deal with Elsevier after the publisher failed to provide an offer in line with the country’s open access goals. Thus, it came as a surprise to many when, this week, Elsevier announced that it had reached a €9-million Read-and-Publish deal with UNIT. The 2-year pilot deal is the first of its kind for Elsevier and may also be the first step towards a more accessible business model. However, this transformative deal comes at a cost. Although all research published by UNIT will now be freely accessible, the consortium will have to pay 3% more per year for access to journals such as The Lancet and Cell. While UNIT stated that it was pleased with the deal, critics have been quick to question whether the arrangement would be feasible for other libraries and institutions, which may not be content with paying more than their current subscriptions.

Why peer-reviewed publications cannot replace clinical trial registries via TranspariMED

Academics are coming under fresh scrutiny this week after it was revealed that many of them still believe that reporting clinical trial results in a peer-reviewed journal is sufficient to replace reporting outcomes to trial registries. Reporting trial findings to the relevant registries is not only key for the timely and accessible dissemination of medical research but is also essential to ensuring the accurate reporting of trial outcomes. As summarized in the COMPare study, the publication of trial results in peer-reviewed journals often leads to a ‘rose-tinted’ review of the trial, with outcomes often altered to reflect a more favourable picture of the findings. A survey of 390 consulting biostatisticians in the USA found that researchers frequently request for their data to be massaged to stress significant findings and under-report non-significant ones, to report data before they go through cleaning and validation processes, and to not display plots that do not show the desired results. By uploading trial results onto registries, researchers are forced to provide a complete picture of the trial, with outcomes set before study initiation. As outlined in the guidelines of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, reporting trial results to registries does not pose any barrier to subsequent publications. The article also directs researchers requiring further assistance to the TranspariMED online collection of transparency tools.