Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring the rising tide of article processing charges and preprints, the changes to the ways in which journals are judged and the limited value of social media in increasing the reach of research

Are rising article processing charges a concern for authors? via The Publication Plan

A recent article in LIBER Quarterly showed that article processing charges (APCs) increased at three times the rate of average inflation between 2005 and 2018. However, despite the stark rise in cost, the number of articles published remained consistent. In addition, the introduction of APCs to two open access journals, eLife and Royal Society Open Science, was not found to be associated with any significant change in the number of articles published. These results were mirrored in a similar study of journals that flipped to an open access model between 2006 and 2014. Perhaps even more surprising was the observation that the higher APCs imposed by the four largest commercial open access publishers did not serve as a deterrent to prospective authors and were instead associated with a rise in the number of published articles. It is possible that increasing a journal’s APCs may actually have a positive effect on the journal’s perceived prestige, potentially leading to a climate whereby higher impact factor journals demand the highest APCs.

Judgement Day for journal impact factors via Nature

This week, a group of stakeholders in academic publishing presented their ideas on alternative metrics for assessing the quality of journals. Despite initiatives such as the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, impact factor remains the basis on which journals and, in turn, researchers are judged. Fresh assessment criteria suggest that a journal’s performance can be measured by five key components, namely the registration, curation, evaluation, dissemination and availability of research data and knowledge. The authors also emphasized the need for clear, understandable, adaptive and reproducible assessment criteria. A change in journal evaluation would need to be driven by a multi-stakeholder group, mirroring other successful non-profit organizations such as Crossref and ORCID. Together, these groups will be able to not only manage and develop the standard of such evaluations but also produce educational information for researchers.

How well are tweets really heard? via The Scholarly Kitchen

Since the development of social media, its value in increasing the dissemination of published research has been hotly debated. Although previous findings have suggested that social media sharing can help to increase article citation rates, the poor methodology of these studies has been criticized. Recent randomized controlled trials have attempted to isolate the effects of social media on article downloads and citations, and have revealed some very interesting trends. Two trials investigating papers in Circulation and the International Journal of Public Health showed that, after social media intervention, there was little difference in the median 30-day page views. A similar trial on papers published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology found that tweets from journal editors’ personal accounts were more likely to increase article page visits than tweets from the journal’s account were. The article concludes that, although social media engagement has little impact on research dissemination within the academic community, it may still offer other benefits, such as communicating research to the general public.

Quantifying the popularity of preprints via bioRxiv

In recent years, preprints, which are online versions of research papers that precede peer review and publication, have become increasingly popular. To quantify their popularity, a recent study analysed data from the 37 648 articles posted to the preprint server bioRxiv in its first five years. Half of these were posted between January and November 2018, with an average of 2100 new posted per month. Preprint downloads have also been on the rise. Over 1 100 000 preprints were downloaded in October 2018 alone, showing an 82% increase from the previous year. This analysis demonstrates the growing popularity of preprints among both authors and readers.