Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring a fresh review of Cabell’s blacklist, increased article processing charges from two major publishers, the future of funding body journals and further support for open access from the European Commission

Blacklists – to serve and protect from predatory publishers via The Scholarly Kitchen

Blacklists, such as Cabell’s, are essential tools to help prospective authors to navigate the publishing waters and steer away from predatory journals. Having first reviewed Cabell’s blacklist in 2017, The Scholarly Kitchen revisits the list 2 years later to assess the progress that has been made in addressing any initial concerns. The primary strengths of the list have not changed since the initial review. Cabell’s blacklist presents transparent inclusion criteria and a clear appeals policy, and provides detail at the journal level rather than at the publisher level. Some problems identified in the original review, including technical issues and a lack of categorization within the inclusion criteria, have been resolved. The blacklist now also includes a new feature providing readers with the option to download a list of journals that have been removed from the corresponding whitelist (although it is important to note that these journals have not necessarily been blacklisted). Although the article identifies some persistent issues with the blacklist, it concludes by endorsing the use of Cabell’s blacklist by libraries, academics and institutions.

The shocking rise in article processing charges via Sustaining the Knowledge Commons

The need to introduce fair article processing charges (APCs) is one of the main issues raised in feedback on Plan S. A recent analysis by individuals at Sustaining the Knowledge Commons may provide some insight into why so many concerns regarding APCs have been raised. In an analysis of BioMed Central (BMC) journals, with APC data available for both 2018 and 2019, almost two-thirds showed an increase in APCs. Most of these journals’ APCs increased beyond inflation levels, with Tropical Medicine and Health showing the greatest price increase of 55%. Even factoring in the journals with consistent or decreased APCs, the average cost of APCs in BMC journals increased by 15% over the last year alone. Perhaps of particular concern is the fact that this sharp rise in APCs is not isolated to BMC journals, as revealed by a similar analysis carried out by Frontiers’ journals. Both analyses highlight the need for appropriate caps on APCs.

Could ‘funding body journals’ restore balance in the publishing ecosystem? via The Publication Plan

The implementation of Plan S in January 2020 will require all research funded by members of cOAlition S to be made immediately available and free to use without restriction, preferably under a Creative Commons attribution (CC BY) licence. Despite being set to accelerate the open access movement, Plan S has been met with resistance even from those who support increased public access to research outputs. One of the main issues raised by some researchers is that Plan S restricts their academic freedom to publish in their journal of choice. Some have also argued that this will hinder their career progression, with research quality often judged by the impact factor of the journal in which it is published. One way to overcome this problem could be for funding bodies to establish their own journals. By only publishing research from their grant beneficiaries, they would achieve a degree of prestige in addition to increasing the accessibility and re-use of research outputs. However, there are concerns that introducing funding body journals into the already complex publishing landscape could lead to discrimination against some academics based on their funding source. It may also result in a pronounced under-representation of individuals who already struggle to secure funding, such as early career researchers.

Greater support for open access is on the horizon via The European Commission

In line with its commitment to supporting the open access movement by Horizon 2020, the European Commission recently announced its plans to launch a tender for an open access publishing platform. With financial support from Horizon 2020, the platform will host peer-reviewed articles and associated preprints, ensuring efficient and high-quality publishing standards.