Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring a new database of journal editorial policies, improvements in the perceived transparency and credibility of industry-sponsored research, an analysis of institutional open access, feedback on Plan S and an analysis of open access policies of leading medical journals.

Uncovering journal editorial policies via Nature

Research transparency is a key concern for many authors looking to publish their work. However, journal editorial polices may, at times, be difficult to find. On 13 June 2019, a team of researchers from the USA launched the Transpose database detailing the editorial policies of approximately 2900 journals. Of the 171 most cited journals, nearly one-third did not disclose basic information about their editorial processes; most of these journals claimed to be unaware that their policies were unclear. The creators of the database hope that, by documenting journal editorial policies, they will urge publishers to update their policies to reflect the current publishing trends.

Changing perspectives on industry-sponsored research transparency and credibility via MPIP Transparency Matters

Current International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and Good Publication Practice 3 guidelines highlight the need for research transparency and credibility. Over recent years, industry sponsors have made discernible efforts towards improving these key features of their research outputs. Earlier in 2019, LaVerne Mooney and colleagues published findings from a survey of journal editors to establish whether they had observed any improvement as a result of these efforts. Of the 6013 editors from 885 journals who had been sent the survey, 293 and 261 completed the first primary endpoint questions on transparency and credibility, respectively. Almost two-thirds of these editors reported improvements in research transparency, while over half recognized a positive change in terms of research credibility. Ensuring that all study results are published, regardless of the outcome, was reported as the most important factor for improving research credibility. Despite the relatively low response rate, the survey demonstrates that the vigorous attempts of sponsors to increase the transparency of industry-sponsored research are starting to pay off.

European universities lead the way in open access via arXiv

Universities have been encouraging research accessibility for some time, mainly by building their own repositories and ensuring that investigators deposit their research outputs into these repositories. However, until recently, only scattered and partial information from individual institutions had been available. Using information from Unpaywall and the Leiden Ranking, the authors of this article analysed the proportion of open access publications (green, gold, bronze and hybrid options) at an institutional level. Results showed that, although universities in the Netherlands produced the highest number of publications, universities in the UK, Switzerland and Sweden published a greater proportion of their research open access. Universities in China, India and Iran had the lowest proportions of open access publications. Of the top 50 universities for open access publications, 34 were based in the UK and only three were not in Europe. The authors suggest that this is a direct result of the hardening of European policies on research accessibility.

All Plan S feedback now available via Zenodo

Following the release of the updated guidance on Plan S this week, cOAlition S made the 600 pieces of feedback it had received available to the public. The call for feedback on the controversial plan ran from November 2018 to February 2019, generating input from libraries, learned societies, publishers, universities and individual researchers from over 40 countries. The responses are available to view online or to download as a PDF.

High-impact medical journals restrict access to pharma research via Oxford PharmaGenesis and BMJ Open

Today, a cross-sectional analysis of open access policies of leading medical journals was published in BMJ Open. This study, conducted by researchers at Oxford PharmaGenesis, showed that, although 21 of 35 (60%) high-impact medical journals provided immediate open access under the gold standard Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence, 20 of 21 (95%) of these offered this option only to authors whose research is funded by non-commercial organizations. One journal included in the analysis (The BMJ) offers a CC BY licence to any funder who requires it, including pharma companies. Tim Ellison, lead author of the article, said: “Our research shows that the availability of open access options depends on the funding source. By not offering authors with commercial funding a CC BY licence, most leading medical journals’ policies are not aligned with open access guidelines.” Tim Koder, a co-author of the article, added: “Journals currently restrict access to medical research funded by the pharma industry – that’s half of medical research, including most of the evidence supporting new medicines. If pharma joined non-commercial funders in requiring open access under a gold standard CC BY licence, then leading journals would need to change their policies or stop publishing industry-funded research.”

(Written by Tim Ellison)