4.4 The future of scientific publishing

This project aims to agree a set of principles for scientific publishing which can maximize the benefit of publishing for global science and for the wider audience for scientific research. Through this project, the Council will advocate for the uptake of those principles among the broader community of scientists, and among the users, funders and publishers of science.

Accessible publication of the results and ideas arising from research is a fundamental part of the scientific enterprise. Yet technological change, an explosion in demand for journal outlets, monopolistic behaviour on the part of some publishers, and the use of journal impact factors and cited publications as primary indicators of scientific merit have created systemic instability in scientific publishing.

Today many institutions and researchers are excluded from accessing articles that are hidden behind paywalls, and there are increasing calls for the reform of scientific publishing in order to further the global progress of science. It is clear that the system is no longer fulfilling the needs of its main audience: scholarly researchers and the institutions in which they work.

At the same time, Open Access is widely seen as a means to overcome inequities in access to knowledge, particularly in poorer countries and institutions, and ultimately to increase the use of scientific evidence in decision-making. However, routes to Open Access are far from resolved, as recent debates around the ‘Plan S’ initiative have demonstrated.

The scientific publishing model is ripe for renewal. This project will involve key stakeholders to undertake a major review of the role of publishing in the scientific enterprise. This will be used as a basis for identifying pathways for change that maximize the potential for rigour, creativity and impact.

Principles for scientific publishing

Rather than starting from the present business model, the project will begin by defining what the contemporary scientific enterprise needs from scientific publishing. 

The Council is currently working with a scoping group from the scientific community in order to develop a working paper that presents an initial analysis of the scholarly publishing system and its consequences, and a set of draft principles. The scoping group is diverse in terms of geography, discipline and expertise. 

Once work on the draft working paper has been completed in June 2020, it will be reviewed and shared with ISC members for further discussion and publication in Q3/Q4 2020.

Following the initial publication, later phases of the project will focus on outreach to involve a broader group of stakeholders, with the aim of creating an international coalition for change. 


Background to the project:

In 2019 the ISC launched a series of interviews on Plan S and Open Access, and will continue to explore current issues in scientific publishing through blogs and other types of content available on these pages.


Scoping group

  • Bianca Amaro (Brazil)
  • Dominique Babini (Argentina)
  • Michael Barber (Australia)
  • Robin Crewe (South Africa)
  • Luke Drury (Ireland)
  • Martin  Eve (UK)
  • Sari Hanafi (Lebanon)
  • Nathalie Lemarchand (France)
  • Anna Mauranen (Finland)
  • Fabienne Meyers (USA)
  • Ravi Murugesan (India)
  • Peter Murray-Rust (UK)
  • Joseph Mwelwa (Botswana)
  • François Robida (France)
  • Ebrima Sall (Senegal)
  • Xiaolin Zhang (China)

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