Weekly digest: what’s happening in Open Science?

Amy Williams

Featuring the cost of journal subscriptions for the UK’s top universities, the open access mandate on its way through the California legislature, and a look at clinical trial disclosure rates.

Journal subscription fees paid by UK universities revealed via Times Higher Education

Disagreements between universities and publishers over the cost of  journal subscriptions have frequently made the news in recent years. However, the exact costs that universities are so angered by have often been hidden by non-disclosure agreements. New data, collected under freedom of information requests from 18 of the UK’s leading universities, found that the average cost spent on journal subscriptions was £3.9 million per university in the academic year 2016–2017. This is 20% higher than it was just 4 years ago. Universities have responded strongly to these data and argue that they highlight the need for a transition towards more cost-efficient open access models.

University–publisher standoffs cross the Atlantic via The Scientist

Following the lead of their European counterparts, universities in the USA are increasingly cancelling their so-called ‘big deals’ with publishers in favour of purchasing individual subscriptions to only the most frequently read journals. Citing the already high and ever increasing cost of these deals, more than 20 institutions in the USA and Canada have cancelled at least one of these multi-subscription packages in the past few years. Publishers argue that alternative (although not always legal) access routes being used by university students and faculties have prompted these cancellations, whereas universities insist that the current closed publishing model does not work for their users, and thereby strive for a transition towards open access.

Perspectives on open access via Open Pharma

The latest in our series of posts from the 14th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals looks at the perspectives of publishers, pharmaceutical companies and academics on the topic of open access. The post is a write-up of a session of this year’s meeting, at which representatives from the American Society for Clinical Oncology, Shire and Columbia University Medical Center gave their opinion and answered questions from the audience. The blog is rounded off with the results from a live audience poll conducted at the end of the session.

California legislature set to pass open access mandate via Electronic Frontier Foundation

California’s state government may become the first legislature in North America to mandate open access for all publicly funded research. The A.B. 2192 bill would require all peer-reviewed scientific research funded by the State of California to be made open access via a repository within 1 year of initial publication. The bill unanimously passed the Assembly and is now headed to the State Senate, where it is expected to pass. Open access proponents welcome the bill but worry that the 1-year embargo period permitted in the bill is still too long.

Industry vs academia: which funders are best at disclosing their clinical trials via The BMJ

This paper, published in The BMJ, represents a comprehensive analysis of 45 620 clinical trials completed after January 2006 and before July 2015, exploring both randomized and non-randomized studies. The analysis looked for reporting and methodological differences across funder types and disease areas over the aforementioned period. It found that reporting rates were 14% higher in industry-sponsored studies than in academic studies, and that, within industry, larger companies had higher reporting rates than smaller ones. There were also significant differences observed in reporting rates between disease areas.