Open science round-up: January 2024

Welcome to the latest edition of our Open Science Round-up, curated by Moumita Koley. Join us as she brings you the key reads and news in the world of open science.

Open science round-up: January 2024

In this issue, we feature an insightful editorial by Ross Mounce on diamond open access and the imperative to reassess academic policies, specifically concerning indexation in proprietary indexes as a criterion for quality.

Unfair Discrimination Against Diamond Open Access Stifles Progress

Recently I have been trying to dispel misunderstandings about diamond open access – the mode of open access whereby there are no author-side or reader-side charges. Some out there would have you believe that diamond open access cannot ‘scale’. Some also say that diamond open access journals don’t innovate. I have an example that runs counter to both of those assertions. In a recent OASPA webinar, I talked about a tale of two open access journals catering for the same authors, one of which has author-side article processing charges (APCs): SoftwareX, and the other: Journal of Open Source Software  (JOSS), which does not charge APCs.  

Both journals, SoftwareX (established in 2015) and JOSS (established in 2016), are open access and have published highly cited papers, with citations reaching 15,000 for SoftwareX and 10,000 for JOSS. In addition, they publish a high volume of papers, with over 300 in SoftwareX and over 400 in JOSS in 2023, challenging the notion that “diamond open access can’t scale”. However, that is where their similarities end.  

SoftwareX is otherwise a fairly typical APC journal with black box peer review and no transparency offered on its process. Readers are left to simply ‘trust’ that each article has been adequately peer-reviewed. Whereas JOSS provides readers access to the entire thread of editorial handling, including peer-review reports and author responses. At JOSS we don’t just have to trust that peer-review has taken place – we can see it! The way in which JOSS leverages the GitHub platform for manuscript tracking, editorial work, and peer-review is highly innovative and adds great value to submitted manuscripts. So much for assertions about diamond not innovating! JOSS is also remarkably financially efficient with very low running costs.  

However, the story of these two software journals is not complete without addressing how they are regarded by journal indexers. The Directory of Open Access Journals, recognising its quality, indexed JOSS about a year after its launch in 2017.  Previously, SoftwareX had received the same treatment with an indexation about a year after its launch in 2016.

Yet two proprietary journal indexers have not given these journals equal treatment. Scopus (Elsevier) and Web of Science (Clarivate) have accepted SoftwareX into their indexes but have refused to index JOSS, despite multiple applications from the JOSS team. At the time of writing, despite being, in my opinion, a superb, first-class journal for publishing research software, Scopus and Web of Science have not yet agreed to index JOSS. 

This decision carries consequences.  Unfortunately, some institutions and departments use inclusion of a journal in Scopus or Web of Science as a filter when appraising candidates in hiring, promotion, salary review, and tenure processes. Thus, knowing that JOSS is not indexed in Scopus or Web of Science might deter some researchers from publishing in it, as they may be disadvantaged by doing so. I suspect Elsevier and Clarivate to take advantage of this fact, as the exclusion of a journal from Scopus/Web of Science can act as a means of suppressing competition, thus hindering innovation. 

The best solution here is not to beg for JOSS to be included in these proprietary indexes, but rather to call institutions and departments relying on Scopus and Web of Science to review and change their policies.

In Norway, the Norwegian Register for scientific journals does not rely on Scopus or Web of Science to inform decisions. The Register has also approved JOSS. Instead of asking ourselves “why does Scopus not index JOSS?” we should rather consider: “why do we give so much weight to Scopus selection?” We should refrain from drawing conclusions based on the somewhat arbitrary inclusion or exclusion of journals in Scopus and Web of Science. Policies that engage in such practices are detrimental to innovation in scholarly communication, and pose a particularly negative impact on multilingualism, bibliodiversity, and diamond open access.

Ross Mounce, Director of Open Access Programmes, Arcadia

Ross is the director of Open Access Programmes, managing open access grants, at Arcadia – a charitable foundation that works to protect nature, preserve cultural heritage and promote open access to knowledge.

He was previously a postdoc in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge, a Software Sustainability Fellow, and a Panton Fellow for open data in science. Ross gained his doctorate at the University of Bath, where his thesis focused on the role of morphology in analyses of evolutionary relationships that include fossil species. 

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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 Rene Böhmer on Unsplash.


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