Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Caitlin Edgell

This week, we learn about a request to waive COVID-19 vaccine intellectual property rights, Jisc’s new approach to evaluating publishing agreements and PLOS Computational Biology’s new code-sharing policy. We also look at a new open access helpdesk, what happens when a journal ‘flips’, and how practising open science principles could maximize the impact of COVID-19 research investment.

Calls to waive intellectual property rights for equitable vaccine rollout via Nature | 5-minute read

Around 100 counties have asked fellow World Trade Organization members to temporarily lift COVID‑19 vaccine intellectual property (IP) rights. This would allow low- and middle-income countries to start manufacturing vaccines themselves and may play a role in ending the current pandemic sooner. Low-income countries make up approximately 80% of the world’s population, but they currently have access to just 30% of the available vaccine supply. Critics of the IP waiver say that it would take too long to set up manufacturing in these countries.

Jisc to use Unsub to weigh up journal agreements via Jisc | 2-minute read

This week, digital education and research non-profit Jisc announced that it will now be using the Unsub analytics dashboard to evaluate agreements between publishers and UK universities. The dashboard will allow Jisc to weigh up the costs and benefits of different subscription packages across UK higher education to ensure that institutions are getting the best value for their subscriptions. The dashboard will also support Jisc’s ongoing analysis of the open access landscape.

PLOS Computational Biology introduces new code-sharing policy via PLOS Computational Biology | 4-minute read

Open access journal PLOS Computational Biology has introduced a more rigorous code-sharing policy. Around 70% of papers published in the journal have computer code associated with them, but only around 40% of papers have shared any code. The new policy states that authors must share any code relating directly to their paper, with some exemptions based on legal or ethical grounds. Open sharing of computer code, the journal’s editorial team argues, is important for transparency and reproducibility, and increases the impact of research over time.

Open access helpdesk established in Armenia via EU4Digital | 1-minute read

A National Open Access Desk (NOAD) was established in Armenia last month. The NOAD, which has been set up by the Institute for Informatics and Automation Problems of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia, will join a pan-European network of 34 NOADs coordinated by OpenAIRE, a Horizon 2020-funded network that promotes open access in Europe. The Armenian NOAD will provide national training and advice on open science, open access and research data management as well as acting as a repository for research outputs in the country.

What happens when journals become open? via arXiv | 30-minute read

Journals that ‘flip’ from closed to open access publish more papers than journals that remain closed, find the authors of this preprint deposited in arXiv. Using the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and the Open Access Directory (OAD), the authors looked at journals that had started out as closed and converted (‘flipped’) to an open access model between 2001 and 2013. Overall, they saw an increase in the number of journals flipping each year, with the majority of flipped journals belonging in the medical field. Flipped journals listed in the DOAJ and OAD also published 23% and 14% more papers, respectively, in the 4 years after flipping than in the 4 years before. The authors also observed an increase in journal- and article-level citation metrics for flipped journals.

Maximizing the impact of COVID-19 research investment through open access via The New England Journal of Medicine | 7-minute read

The authors of this opinion piece argue that open science principles should be incorporated into research programmes to ensure the best return on federal investment for clinical research. This should include the sharing of protocols, results, data, code and specimens to allow adequate independent scrutiny and replication. The authors go on to explain how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition to open access, but that more needs to be done to ensure that open research is easy to discover – for example, by mandating study registration and reporting on ClinicalTrials.gov and by investing in open science platforms.

We at Open Pharma would like to continue to encourage all our readers to look after themselves and their community and to continue to follow advice from their country’s government and health organizations.

Coronavirus mental health and well-being resources:

Mind UK

Mental Health Foundation UK

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention