Access to an open pool of existing third-party datasets offers many benefits alongside the obvious opportunities to reduce the cost of research projects: access to additional shared data can increase the depth and scope of what is possible within any individual study; financial barriers are reduced and accessibility is opened up to less advantaged scholars and institutions; and, at a global/societal level, new opportunities are created to increase scrutiny, collaboration, and the pace of learning.
However, while the will to share academic data is clearly growing, in many areas of study, there are still many practical barriers to greater implementation.
For an increasing number of publishers and societies, how to thrive in an open access world has become a critical strategy discussion in recent years. Change is now inevitable, and the benefits are more widely understood, with the pandemic making clear the real-world impact that rapid and open dissemination of research can make.
Part of the solution to this changing world for Wiley was to introduce Wiley Partner Solutions at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year. A manifestation of what we see in industry trends, it enables the publishers and scholarly societies we work with to grow connections between researchers and the organisations that serve them, and ensures that all research findings are widely available and reusable.
Yet thriving in an open access world goes beyond making research available to as many people as possible or making sure to address FAIR data principles. It is imperative that we now also consider how to ensure that research is as accessible as possible.
Isaac Newton wrote to fellow scientist Robert Hooke in a 1675, saying, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Centuries later, it remains generally understood that innovation builds on past science. So in this era of unprecedented research volume, breakthroughs should be increasingly common, right? Wrong, according to a new study finding that “disruptive” science is on the decline.
This trend downward “represents a substantive shift in science and technology, one that reinforces concerns about slowing innovative activity,” says the analysis, published this month in Nature.
Finding that the decline likely isn’t driven by changes in the quality of published science, citation practices or field-specific factors, the authors attribute this shift “in part to scientists’ and inventors’ reliance on a narrower set of existing knowledge.”
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate plans to give the broader research community access to its data, software, computing resources and collaboration tools. But that effort will take time and its own resources, prompting the agency to ask the open-source science community for its opinions on where to start.
Technological progress in cloud computing and network infrastructure has gotten to the point where remote users can access huge troves of data and tap into faraway computing resources, like those owned and operated by NASA. The potential for limitless input and innovation from unexpected—or underrepresented—corners of the research community can supercharge scientific discovery, SMD officials said in a request for information posted Thursday.
There’s a new tool available to help researchers choose the most appropriate scientific journal for the potential publication of their manuscript.
Say hello to Jot: a free, open-source web application that matches manuscripts in the fields of biomedicine and life sciences with suitable journals, based on a manuscript’s title, abstract, and (optionally) citations.
Developed by the Townsend Lab at the Yale School of Public Health, Jot gathers a wealth of data on journal quality, impact, fit, and open access options that can be explored through a dashboard of linked, interactive visualizations.
The reviewer was not impressed with the paper written by Israeli brain researcher Idan Segev and a colleague from Switzerland.
“Professor Idan,” she wrote to Segev. “I didn’t understand anything that you said.”
Segev and co-author Felix Schürmann revised their paper on the Human Brain project, a massive effort seeking to channel all that we know about the mind into a vast computer model. But once again the reviewer sent it back. Still not clear enough. It took a third version to satisfy the reviewer.
“Okay,” said the reviewer, an 11-year-old girl from New York named Abby. “Now I understand.”
In these research positions, professors agree to ensure all of their writing is distributed via open access — and they release all of their intellectual property in the public domain or under appropriate open-source licences.
But many academics want to see their research fully accessible — free for everyone. My research with colleagues has found the majority of American and Canadian academics want to see universities establish open-source endowed chairs.
How academics use intellectual property
Intellectual property (IP) refers to mind creations like patents and copyrights. Academics use all kind of IP. For example, professors publish their work as articles in peer-reviewed journals, the majority of which are under copyright.
If you have ever tried to read an academic paper, you probably couldn’t. Most academic papers are behind paywalls.
To gain access through the paywalls costs an enormous amount of money for a library (even Harvard’s library balked at having to pay more than US$1 million per year to access articles from a single publisher).
Accessible research in science matters because the more scientists that can read the relevant literature, the more scientists can help push innovations forward and the faster we are able to find solutions.
Many universities brag about the number of patents their professors write. Patents are supposed to encourage innovation because they give the inventor a 20-year monopoly to profit from an invention and this provides a financial incentive.
The basic idea is a professor would patent an invention that could be mass manufactured and then reap licence revenue for 20 years.
This is because most innovation builds on other ideas and there is no “fair use” for patents.
It is illegal to even experiment on a patented idea without a licence. If you need to wait 20 years to build on a good idea, it obviously takes a lot of time to innovate. Historically innovation moved rather slowly, now the rate of innovation is fast. Consider now how ancient a 20-year-old phone would be in your pocket.
Some academics like science and engineering professors do make money on patents for their universities. But the patent revenue they keep tends to be meager, because the costs to get the patent must first be recovered before the inventors get anything.
Open source is a better way
Open source is the answer to speeding up innovation. Open source originally was developed in the software industry as inventors would share the source code of computer programs to innovate faster.
Open source works amazingly well because having a lot of people work on a problem together tends to get a much better solution than a few.
In both these studies, we presented participants with information about open-source endowed professorships to provide context and clarity for the subsequent multiple-choice and open-ended questions.
We looked at professors in every stage of their career (assistant to emeritus), tenured and non-tenured, at all types of universities (colleges to institutions with very high research activity), and in all disciplines including professional programs.
We analyzed results for three core disciplines of engineering/technology, natural sciences and social sciences to assess if there are differences in preferred compensation types among scholars of various disciplines.
The will to share was robust across all variables. Professors as a whole would be willing to make all of their IP freely available in exchange for the open-source endowed chair.
I currently hold the John M. Thompson Chair in Information Technology and Innovation, and am one of the first endowed chairs to make an open-source commitment.
It is clear, even from my own work that has been sped along by many others freely contributing to my open-source projects, that science will move faster with open-source methods.
There is a clear willingness of academics to leave behind antiquated IP models for the good of science and society. It is time to provide incentives to accelerate innovation using open science to hasten scientific progress while also making science more just and inclusive.
All research funders — governments, foundations, private companies, donors and universities — should start funding open-source endowed chairs to maximize the impact of their resources.
Over the past four years, the Earth and Space Science (ESS) Open Archive has preserved over 10,000 early research outputs – preprints, posters, and presentations – contributed by nearly 37,000 authors across 25 subject areas. Now, ESS Open Archive is moving to a different platform supported by Authorea. Nick Violette, AGU Senior Program Manager for Publications and ESS Open Archive, spoke with the Editor in Chief, Jonathan Jiang, about how these new features will serve the community.