Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Future of Scholarly Publishing

The EU has released "Future of Scholarly Publishing and Scholarly Communication", by a panel of experts, including from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, Elsevier, and Springer Nature. Not surprisingly, Springer Nature and Elsevier did not agree to the rest of the experts' recommendation to move to open access publishing as soon as possible.

I don't agree with one of the panel's unanimous recommendations: not to use journal-based metrics for hiring, promotion and tenure, and funding decisions. In my view, metrics are essential, but the right metrics.

Several recommendations urge balanced and diverse representation (gender, geography and career stage). Using blind reviews, not just for papers, would go some way to achieving this.

The expert group proposes a set of principles for scholarly communication:
"... accessibility, maximum usability, and accommodating an expanding range of scholarly contributions (data, software, new documentary forms, etc.).  ... a distributed infrastructure based on open standards to ensure access and interoperability. ... equity, diversity and inclusivity, and to the need for community building. ... quality and the integrity of scholarly contributions ... flexibility and innovations while also retaining its focus on cost effectiveness."
From "Future of Scholarly Publishing andScholarly Communication" (EU, P. 6, 2019).

Recommendations to researchers and research communities:

  1. "When participating in research assessment, for example in hiring, promotion and tenure, and funding decisions, focus on the merits and impact of a researcher's work and refrain from the use of metrics - particularly journal-based metrics - as a proxy. In particular, they should incorporate the recommendations from DORA and the Leiden Manifesto into the assessment process.
  2. Take responsibility for ensuring that all research contributions are made openly available, discoverable, and reusable according to agreed community standards (including the FAIR principles).
  3. Increase awareness of, and sense of responsibility for, implications of choices and actions in roles as authors, reviewers and members of decision-making groups.
  4. Strive for a balanced and diverse representation (in terms of gender, geography and career stage) when seeking collaborations, organizing conferences, convening committees, and assigning editors and peer-reviewers, and building communities such as learned societies.
  5. Work towards increased recognition and appreciation of peer-review work as core research tasks. To this end, support greater transparency, including the publishing of signed reports. Support better training and inclusion, and focus on quality of the research in peer review.
  6. In the case of communities of researchers, such as learned societies, develop policies and practices that support modes of scholarly communication in line with the vision outlined above. Along with universities, learned societies and other research communities need to alert and train their researchers to the importance and the responsibilities of communicating knowledge, either formally, through publishing, or through other means."

Universities and research institutions should:

  1. "Develop policies and practices to ensure that all research contributions are made openly available, discoverable, and reusable according to agreed community standards (including the FAIR principles).
  2. Promote and implement the recommendations of DORA and the Leiden manifesto to ensure that research assessment takes into account a wide range of scholarly contributions including research articles, preprints, datasets, software, patents and materials (e.g. in hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions).
  3. In deciding which infrastructures to use, support, and contribute to, choose platforms using free or open source software, offering open data via an open license, and leveraging open standards where possible. Acting in this fashion will also reinforce researcher-led initiatives that aim to facilitate scholarly communication and publishing.
  4. Strive for a balanced and diverse representation including, but not limited to, gender, geography and career stage) when hiring, seeking collaborations, when organizing conferences, when convening committees, and when assigning editors and peer-reviewers, and building communities such as learned societies.
  5. In negotiations with service-providers refuse non-disclosure clauses and include clauses which enable cost and price control, and compliance monitoring. Strive to facilitate collective action with other institutions by e.g. sharing cost and price data through joint initiatives (e.g. OpenAPC)."

Research funders and policy-makers should:

  1. "Develop policies - along with appropriate funding mechanisms - to ensure all research contributions arising from their funding are available to everyone, everywhere, without any barriers to access or restrictions on reuse.
  2. When evaluating researchers, ensure that a wide range of contributions (scholarly publications, but also data, software, materials etc) and activities (mentoring, teaching, reviewing etc) are considered, and that processes and criteria of evaluation are both appropriate to the funder’s research programme, and transparent.
  3. Develop funding mechanisms to support the development of open, interconnected and distributed scholarly publication infrastructures, and for their maintenance over the long term.
  4. Consider how funding policies affect diversity and inclusivity of research on a global scale. In particular, funders should work to ensure that review boards, committees, panels, etc., are diverse - in terms of gender, geography, and career stage.
  5. Work with the other actors in the scholarly communications ecosystem to ensure that the total costs of enabling research to be openly available to everyone, everywhere, without barrier or restriction, be also open and transparent."

Publishers and other service providers:

  1. "Develop and publicly announce transition plans to move as soon as possible to comprehensive open access (Springer Nature and Elsevier have differing views with respect to this recommendation, a result of extensive disscusions in the expert group.)
  2. Develop, use, and support interoperable tools (including open source software wherever possible) and services not only to facilitate access and reuse of scholarly outputs, but also to facilitate innovative interventions of new entrants.
  3. Strive for balanced diversity (including, but not limited to, gender, geography and career stage) among authors, reviewers, and editors who work with publications.
  4. Foster transparency and accountability in peer review, for example by publishing peer review reports and author responses alongside the published articles
  5. Make all publishing charges public (including special pricing and waivers), and provide full descriptions of services provided, in order to enable the development of a transparent and cost-effective marketplace designed to support the open communication and reuse of all scholarly contributions.
  6. Experiment with new approaches to the evaluation and communication of research outputs, and share the outcomes so that a body of evidence can help to optimise future systems."
Practitioners, educators, and other societal groups:
  1. "Organize and advocate for free access to, and right to reuse of, publicly funded research results.
  2. Reach out to funders, research institutions, and policy makers in order to develop new communication channels, new forms of co-creation and co-planning of research, and new forms of funding in response to needs, concerns and issues emanating from the population at large.
  3. Look for opportunities to engage with research topics / results that are of interest to societal groups and their communities.
  4. Bring forward research topics/questions that are mis- or underrepresented (e.g. by contacting relevant researchers, attracting the attention of other actors in the science system, or mobilising action in organised interest groups)."

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