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Open science round-up: November 2023

The November 2023 Open Science Roundup is dedicated to the 'Year of Open Science' as we review significant developments in the Open Science movement. This month, we also feature insights from André Brasil, a researcher at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), on trailblazing initiatives for Open Access.

NASA has declared 2023 as the Year of Open Science to celebrate the benefits and successes of open science. As we near the end of the year, Moumita Koley, Consultant for the International Science Council, brings you some significant developments in the Open Science movement.


Pushing for a paradigm shift in Open Access:  cOAlition S, MetaROR and the publish-review-curate approach

Marking the fifth anniversary of Plan S, cOAlition S—a global consortium of research funders from Europe and other parts of the world—has recently held a webinar to reflect on the plan’s objective of providing full and immediate Open Access to publications resulting from funding provided by cOAlition S funders. Despite its ambition, Plan S’s founder, Robert-Jan Smits, acknowledged that a substantial number of scientific studies still remain inaccessible due to paywalls, including those in critical research areas. Marc Schiltz of Science Europe criticized publishers for not fully committing to Open Access, suggesting that publishers may be more inclined to exploit rights retention loopholes and re-impose embargo periods rather than advance Open Access and its associated progressive publication models.  

As a potential solution, Bodo Stern, chief of strategic initiatives at HHMI, one of the members of cOAlition S, presented the cOAlition S initiative ‘Towards Responsible Publishing’, referred to as Plan S 2.0 by Robert-Jan Smits. This initiative advocates for diminishing the influence of large commercial publishers, instead empowering researchers as the primary distributors of their work. One way to implement this model is the so-called publish-review-curate approach, which encourages the sharing of preprints for open peer review, with resulting reviews enabling the curation and assessment of research, thus enhancing the overall scholarly communication process. 

The publish-review-curate model is increasingly gaining traction, as shown by platforms such as eLife, Peer Community In, Biophysics Colab, Open Research Europe, and several others. In the field of metaresearch, a new initiative- called MetaROR (MetaResearch Open Review) is currently being developed. Set to launch soon, MetaROR will provide a platform to harness preprint submissions from various metaresearch disciplines, providing an open peer review mechanism followed by editorial assessments to enrich the research with a layer of evaluated insight. These reviews and curations, which will be openly available, are poised to enhance the recognition and attractiveness of the peer review process, while also making the knowledge-creation process more transparent and efficient. 

While this approach recognises peer-reviewed, curated preprints as a legitimate conclusion to the publication cycle, MetaROR’s framework also facilitates the further dissemination of the peer-reviewed work through established journals. By employing public reviews from the preprint phase, journals partnering with MetaROR can provide a complementary avenue for distributing research findings. 

In sum, while the road to comprehensive Open Access is challenging, efforts led by groups such as cOAlition S are progressively charting a course towards a more accessible and equitable open publishing landscape. Furthermore, by promoting the researchers’ right to share their work and enhancing the value and recognition of the peer review process, initiatives like the ‘Towards Responsible Publishing’ proposal and the MetaROR project are pivotal in driving a paradigm shift in scholarly publishing. These growing movements bolster the objective of unrestricted access to knowledge, fostering a more inclusive and dynamic global research community.

André Brasil
Researcher, Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), Leiden University

André Brasil is a researcher at the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), Leiden University, focusing on national evaluation systems, scientometrics, scholarly publishing, open science, responsible research and innovation (RRI) and diversity in science, especially concerning multilingualism and geographic inclusion. As part of his activities, he is a member of the UNESCO Chair for Diversity and Inclusion in Global Science and a research fellow at the Research on Research Institute (RoRI). André is also affiliated with the Brazilian Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES). 

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Big stories in Open Science

Over $1 Billion Paid by Scientists to Major Publishers for Open Access Publications in Four Years 

  • A recent study by a team of researchers at the University of Ottawa reveals that the scientific community paid over $1 billion to five major publishers for open-access publication fees in four years. This trend, driven by the “publish or perish” culture, is inflating the quantity of studies, often at the expense of quality. Amidst rising concerns, alternatives like institutional repositories are emerging, suggesting a more sustainable and equitable future for scientific communication. 

Radical Publishing Reform: cOAlition S Proposes Scholar-Led, Fee-Free Open Access 

  • In an ambitious move that could transform academic publishing, cOAlition S, the force behind the open-access initiative Plan S, is proposing a bold new publishing model. This new proposal calls for a system where all articles and peer-review reports are openly published from the start, shifting control from publishers to authors. The plan advocates for a “community-based” framework that would see publishers acting as service providers, offering their expertise in manuscript handling, copy-editing, and typesetting without gatekeeping the publication process. As cOAlition S seeks global community feedback on its proposal, the academic world awaits the potential implications of this significant shift towards a more open and equitable dissemination of research. 

The Ivy Plus Libraries Stand Against ACS’s Counterproductive ADC Policy 

  • The recent announcement by the American Chemical Society (ACS) introducing an Article Development Charge (ADC) has sparked a united opposition from the 13 Ivy Plus libraries, who view this move as a detrimental step against authors’ rights and the evolving landscape of scholarly communication. This new fee undermines the principles of open access by imposing financial barriers on authors wishing to deposit their manuscripts in open repositories, contradicting the spirit of inclusivity in academic publishing. As the research community marches toward a more open access model, such charges by ACS are not only regressive but also exploitative, contradicting mandates like the Nelson memo for free and immediate public access to federally funded research. 

Germany Unveils openDesk: A Leap Toward Open Source Softwares 

  • The German government has introduced openDesk, a robust Open-Source software project, to enhance public sector efficiency and reduce reliance on proprietary systems. Designed to offer essential tools like document editing, project management, and communication, openDesk’s source code is accessible on government provided GitLab called openCoDE, inviting global adoption. The initiative, endorsed by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, is part of a broader push for digital sovereignty and has piqued the interest of other European nations. As openDesk gears up for its initial release at the end of 2023, it stands as a testament to Germany’s commitment to transparency, interoperability, and collaborative software solutions. 

Edinburgh University Press Embarks on Progressive Open Access Pilot with Islamic Studies Journals 

  • In a significant stride towards Open Access publishing, Edinburgh University Press announces a Subscribe to Open pilot for 2024, starting with two of its prominent journals in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. This innovative approach removes author charges, ensuring research in the journals Afghanistan and the Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies is freely available, while subscribers gain perpetual and exclusive backfile access. 

Biochemical Society Embraces Inclusive Open Access with Subscribe to Open Initiative for Journals 

  • The Biochemical Society, along with Portland Press Ltd, is enhancing access to scientific research by launching the Subscribe to Open (S2O) model for five leading journals, advancing its dedication to open-access publishing. Set to debut in 2025, S2O aims to democratize open-access publishing, removing financial barriers and fostering global research inclusivity through the support of the library community. This initiative aligns with the Society’s mission to support molecular biosciences and offers a funder-compliant OA route for all articles, reinforcing the Society’s longstanding partnerships with libraries worldwide. 

The State of Open Data 2023 Report Reveals Researchers Need More Support for Open Data Practices 

  • The latest State of Open Data 2023 report from Digital Science, Figshare and Springer Nature uncovers a stark gap in support for researchers, with 77% indicating they lack the necessary assistance to share data openly, spotlighting the need for enhanced community collaboration and tools. While a minority have found help through colleagues and institutional resources, a significant portion feels underrecognized for their contributions to data sharing. This year’s report also dives into the integration of AI in data collection and sharing, offering insights into the current and potential future impacts on research practices.  

SPARC Exposes Data Privacy Conflicts in Elsevier’s Practices, Urges Action on User Privacy 

  • In collaboration with LDH Consulting Services, SPARC‘s latest report scrutinizes Elsevier’s online user tracking, revealing practices that starkly contrast with established library privacy norms and raising alarms over the use of academic data in RELX’s surveillance products. The report emphasizes the urgent need for libraries to protect user privacy on digital research platforms, especially as Elsevier’s parent company, RELX, also operates in data brokering and surveillance. In response, SPARC is developing tools like model contract language and talking points to empower libraries to negotiate stronger privacy protections and to guide institutions in safeguarding user data against vendor privacy risks. 

arXiv Sees Over 20,000 Submissions in October 2023 

  • arXiv has reached a new pinnacle with 20,710 submissions in October 2023, surpassing the previous record set in May. This surge brings the total submission count to a staggering 2,358,545 since its inception in 1991, with computer science, math, and physics leading the contributions. ArXiv thanks its dedicated community of researchers for sharing their work and invites data enthusiasts to explore detailed statistics on its stats page

CERN and NASA’s Open Science SummitClosing Statement and Call for Action is Out 

  • Celebrating 2023 as the Year of Open Science, CERN and NASA’s joint summit “Accelerating the Adoption of Open Science” concluded successfully, drawing global experts to chart a path for widespread implementation of open science practices. The event fostered crucial discussions and workshops, leading to a powerful closing statement with commitments to propel open, equitable research. With actions focused on research infrastructure, education, funding alignment, and societal impact, the summit’s output signals a transformative shift in the scientific community. The closing statement of the summit is now available online. An ongoing call to action is now open to anyone interested in joining four different working groups. 

University of Cape Town Ignites a Knowledge Revolution with Free Scholarly Content Platform 

  • The University of Cape Town (UCT) has launched an open-access Continental Platform to tackle the issue of steep costs of educational resources, revolutionizing the availability of scholarly content across Africa. This initiative provides a cost-free publishing outlet for African researchers, dismantling economic barriers to education and research. With over two dozen textbooks and numerous journals now accessible, the platform has grown exponentially, aiding students and professionals alike, from constitutional law scholars to rural surgeons. UCT’s commitment to open access is not just filling resource gaps but is inspiring institutions worldwide to adopt similar models of knowledge sharing. 

The University of Kansas and Frontiers Sign Flat-Fee Open Access Publishing Deal 

  • Frontiers expands its revolutionary flat-fee publishing model through a new partnership with the University of Kansas, enabling researchers to publish at no cost in any of the publisher’s 223 journals. Surpassing their initial collaboration with the University of California, this agreement offers a broader scope, allowing unrestricted access to a more extensive range of journals for the Kansas research community. Promoted by both parties as a step towards a more open and sustainable scholarly publishing landscape, this partnership paves the way for KU researchers to share their work openly, fostering greater knowledge dissemination and academic collaboration. 

Einstein Foundation Berlin Celebrates Leaders in Ethical Research and Open Science with 2023 Awards 

  • The Einstein Foundation Berlin has announced the recipients of its prestigious 2023 Award for Promoting Quality in Research, recognizing individuals and institutions that significantly advance research integrity. Yves Moreau earns the Individual Award for his advocacy and algorithmic advancements in DNA data privacy. The Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences received the Institutional Award for its contributions to research reproducibility. Anne Gärtner received the Early Career Award for the Responsible Research Assessment Initiative. 

UKRN Launches Pioneering OR4 Project for Open Research Advancement 

  • The UK Research Network (UKRN) has unveiled the OR4 project, a major national initiative to transform the recognition and rewards system for open research in academia. This project, part of UKRN’s Open Research Programme, brings together 43 diverse UK academic research organizations, including prestigious institutions like the University of Cambridge and the Royal College of Music, to redefine evaluation criteria in recruitment, promotion, and assessment. With over 80,000 academic staff involved, OR4 positions the UK at the forefront of global open research reforms, in line with international efforts like CoARA, the OPUS Project, and the US HELIOS network. 

Open Science events and opportunities 

Job opportunity

  • Creative Commons is looking for an experienced and well-organized Open Climate Campaign Communications Manager to create and execute a communications plan in support of the existing Open Climate Campaign strategy, goals, and outcomes. This position is a full-time (40hrs/week) contract. This contract may start as early as February 2024 and end as late as June 2026. Application deadline is 12 January 2024

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The information, opinions and recommendations presented by our guests are those of the individual contributors, and do not necessarily reflect the values and beliefs of the International Science Council.

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash.

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