Open science is facing headwinds

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Within the scientific community, the words “open science” have been on everyone’s lips in recent years. Open science entails a great promise of a democracy of knowledge, and it is considered to be a universally good thing. In the words of the UN Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”

So, how could anyone disagree with the beautiful principles of open access to knowledge? Who could object to the openness of research articles, research data and research methods?

Five-year campaign breaks science’s citation paywall

Read the full story in Nature.

The more than 60 million scientific-journal papers indexed by Crossref — the database that registers DOIs, or digital object identifiers, for many of the world’s academic publications — now contain reference lists that are free to access and reuse.

The milestone, announced on Twitter on 18 August, is the result of an effort by the Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC), launched in 2017. Open-science advocates have for years campaigned to make papers’ citation data accessible under liberal copyright licences so that they can be studied, and those analyses shared. Free access to citations enables researchers to identify research trends, lets them conduct studies on which areas of research need funding, and helps them to spot when scientists are manipulating citation counts.

A best-selling textbook is now free

Read the full story at Inside Higher Education.

A popular chemistry book’s jump from a publishing titan to an OER pioneer could be pivotal for the open access movement. For the author, it’s also a fitting tribute to his late son.

US government reveals big changes to open-access policy

Read the full story in Nature.

The new policy recommends that federal agencies ensure that research from their grant recipients is made available in a public repository without delay after publication…

In theory, focusing on public repositories that can house the accepted, peer-reviewed versions of papers allows journals to continue charging institutions subscription fees and keeping final papers behind a paywall. In practice, eliminating the 12-month delay before US research is made open might change that, if publishers fear losing subscription income. “This will help accelerate the momentum toward flipping the system to where journals are fully open access,” says Lisa Hinchliffe, a librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign.

It’s unclear whether US funding agencies or libraries would offer to increase their help for researchers who need to cover the up-front per-paper fees for OA publishing in most journals. A separate OSTP analysis on the economics of the US public-access policy, also released on 25 August, notes that the NIH and National Science Foundation (NSF) currently cover these costs. The OSTP estimates that such publication charges amount to about 0.5% of the NIH research budget at present. But research libraries pay much more: their expenditure on public access ranges from 0.2% to 11% of their budgets.

Kiley expects an ecosystem of mixed business models to emerge: some journals will adopt models that avoid charging authors per-paper fees, such as bulk contracts with libraries.

The US has ruled all taxpayer-funded research must be free to read. What’s the benefit of open access?

Eugenio Mazzone/Unsplash

by Virginia Barbour, Queensland University of Technology

Last week, the United States announced an updated policy guidance on open access that will substantially expand public access to science not just in America, but worldwide.

As per the guidance, all US federal agencies must put in place policies and plans so anyone anywhere can immediately and freely access the peer-reviewed publications and data arising from research they fund.

The policies need to be in place by the end of 2025, according to President Biden’s White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

A substantial step

The new guidance builds on a previous memo issued by then president Barack Obama’s office in 2013. That one only applied to the largest funding agencies and, in a crucial difference, allowed for a 12-month delay or embargo for the publications to be available.

Now we’re seeing a substantial step forward in a lengthy effort – extending back to the beginning of this century – to open up access to the world’s research.

We can expect it to act as a catalyst for more policy changes globally. It’s also especially timely given UNESCO’s Open Science Recommendation adopted in 2021. The new OSTP guidance emphasises the primary intention is for the US public to have immediate access to research funded by their tax dollars.

But thanks to the conditions for opening up said research, people worldwide will benefit.

A discriminatory system

It might seem obvious that with our ubiquitous internet access, there should already be immediate open access to publicly funded research. But that isn’t the case for most published studies.

Changing the system has been challenging, not least because academic publishing is dominated by a small number of highly profitable and powerful publishers.

Open access matters for both the public and academics, as the fast-moving emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic amply demonstrated.

Even academics at well-funded universities can mostly only access journals their universities subscribe to – and no institution can afford to subscribe to everything published. Last year, estimates suggest some 2 million research articles were published. People outside a university – in a small company, a college, a GP practice, a newsroom, or citizen scientists – have to pay for access.

As the new guidance notes, this lack of public access leads to “discrimination and structural inequalities… [that] prevent some communities from reaping the rewards of the scientific and technological advancements”. Furthermore, lack of access leads to mistrust in research.

The accompanying OSTP memo highlights that future policies should support scientific and research integrity, with the aim of increasing public trust in science.

COVID-19 is not the first rapid global emergency, and it won’t be the last. For example, doctors not being able to access research on Ebola may have directly led to a 2015 outbreak in West Africa.

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House led calls for publishers to make COVID-19 publications open to all. Most (but not all) did and that call led to one of the biggest databases of openly available papers ever assembled – the CORD-19 database.

But not all of those COVID-19 papers will be permanently openly available, since some publishers put conditions on their accessibility. With the current spread of monkeypox, we are potentially facing another global emergency. In August this year, the White House once again called for publishers to make relevant research open.

The OSTP guidance will finally mean that, at least for US federally funded research, the time of governments having to repeatedly call for publishers to make research open is over.

The situation in Australia

In Australia, we don’t yet have a national approach to open access. The two national research funders, the NHMRC and ARC, have policies in place similar to the 2013 US guidance of a 12-month embargo period. The NHMRC consulted last year on an immediate open access policy.

All Australian universities provide access to their research through their repositories, although that access varies depending on individual universities’ and publishers’ policies. Most recently, the Council of Australian University Librarians negotiated a number of consortial open access deals with publishers. Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist, is also considering a national model for open access.

So what’s next? As expected, perhaps, some of the larger publishers are already making the case for more funding for them to support this policy. It will be important that this policy doesn’t lead to a financial bonanza for these already very profitable companies – nor a consolidation of their power.

Rather, it would be good to see financial support for innovation in publishing, and a recognition that we need a diversity of approaches to support an academic publishing system that works for the benefit of all.

Virginia Barbour, Director, Open Access Australasia, Queensland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Majority of early career researchers in physical science want to publish open access, but face financial barriers

Read the full story from the Institute of Physics.

A new global study from AIP Publishing, the American Physical Society (APS), IOP Publishing (IOPP) and Optica Publishing Group (formerly OSA) indicates that the majority of early career researchers (ECRs) want to publish open access (OA) but they need grants from funding agencies to do so.

Over 3,000 physical science researchers from across the globe participated in the OA in physics: researcher perspectives study, which was carried out by the physics society publishers to better understand and meet the needs of the physical sciences community as it relates to OA.

The Open Access Opportunity: Building the Third Space

Read the full post from the Higher Education Policy Institute.

In her recent blog, Victoria Gardner explored whether open access was ‘the end or the means’? In this blog Matt Flinders argues that open access represents little more that the latest stage of a complex and ongoing shift in the architecture of knowledge. Open access is definitely not ‘the end’ of anything – it signals the need to think more systemically and ambitiously about knowledge translation and therefore the ‘third space’. 

When should U.S. research be stamped ‘top secret’? NSF asks for a new look at the issue

Read the full story in Science.

The U.S. academic community is gearing up for a new effort to convince national policymakers that the benefits of keeping government-funded basic research out in the open—and not stamping it classified—far outweigh any threat to national security from sharing scientific findings.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to hold a workshop on factors affecting the classification of federally funded research. Tentatively scheduled for the fall, the meeting is expected to revisit a Cold War-era policy that sets openness as the gold standard and says any classification of fundamental research should be kept to a minimum.

Delaying the inevitable? The uncertain future of the EPA’s online archive

Front door of United States Environmental Protection Agency building

Read the full story at New Security Beat.

In February 2022, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its plans to shutter its online archive—a key resource on the work of the agency that is relied upon by researchers, legislators, policymakers, and citizens for work on everything “from historical research to democratic oversight.” Pulling the plug would instantly have made public access to a vast array of fact sheets, environmental reports, policy changes, and regulatory actions significantly more difficult.

Months of public backlash ensued—including damning public letters from prominent organizations. And just last week, the EPA announced that it would push back the demise of the archive until July 2023.

News of this welcome reprieve for the EPA digital archive raises a significant question: Why continue with plans to shut it down at all? Postponement does not resolve the eventual damage to government transparency and historical record keeping that the archive’s demise will create. And the concerns of organizations opposed to closure will not be satisfied by an additional year of operation.

Is there a case to be made that this vital resource’s reprieve should be a permanent one?

A copyright lawsuit threatens to kill free access to Internet Archive’s library of books

Read the full story in Popular Science.

Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library and a massive repository of online artifacts, has been collecting mementos of the ever-expanding World Wide Web for over two decades, allowing users to revisit sites that have since been changed or deleted. But like the web, it too has evolved since its genesis, and in the aughts, it also began to offer a selection of ebooks that any internet user can check out with the creation of a free account. 

That latter feature has gotten the organization in some trouble. Internet Archive was sued by a suite of four corporate publishers in 2020 over copyright controversies—with one side saying that what Internet Archive does is preservation, and the other saying that it’s piracy, since it freely distributes books as image files without compensating the author. 

Last week, the ongoing case entered a new chapter as the nonprofit organization filed a motion for summary judgment, asking a federal judge to put a stop to the lawsuit, arguing that their Controlled Digital Lending program “is a lawful fair use that preserves traditional library lending in the digital world” since “each book loaned via CDL has already been bought and paid for.” On Friday, Creative Commons issued a statement supporting Internet Archive’s motion.