Reflections on the ALLEA-GYA-STM webinar on “Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility in Scholarly Peer Review”

Download the event report here

On 17 November, ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, the Global Young Academy, and STM (International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers) convened a moderated panel discussion about “Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) in Scholarly Peer Review” with four distinguished panelists from the global research and publishers’ communities. The full recording, as well as a short event report that summarizes the main themes that emerged during the discussion, are now available online. 

The scholarly peer review system currently does not accurately represent the research community as a whole: women, researchers from the Global South, early career researchers, and non-native English speakers are all among those under-represented. In addition, researchers not affiliated with the traditional well-established institutions often experience a disadvantage when their work is submitted for peer review. Together, these biases directly affect individuals’ career progression and are likely to impact the quality of research outputs and diversification of the research system in general. 

The aim of this webinar was to create more awareness of this topic, discuss existing barriers and gather input for possible solutions to overcome the challenge. To set the scene for an informed discussion, the moderator introduced the topic, followed by short opening statements in which each panellist outlined the barriers and possible solutions from their viewpoint. The audience had the opportunity to actively contribute to the discussion by sharing their views via different polls and asking questions to the panellists. 

The three organisations have now published a short event report, which summarizes the main themes that emerged during the discussions and identifies areas that can represent a path forward.

The programme for the webinar, detailed information on the speakers, and the complete recording, can be found here. 

 

Watch the full webinar

ALLEA Advocates for EU-Wide Secondary Publication Rights and Better Negotiation of Future “Big Deals”

In its latest statement, the European federation of academies of sciences and humanities (ALLEA) evaluates the undesirable effects of current “big deals” and provides recommendations for research institutions, libraries, and policymakers on how to arrive at a more equitable system for sharing and accessing research publications under the new EU copyright rules. Read the full statement here.

With the number of scholarly publications shared via the Gold Open Access model on the rise, access to the results of (often publicly funded) research is at an all-time high. However, breaking down these barriers for readers has come at the expense of increased barriers for authors, who often face substantial article processing charges (APCs) to publish their work immediately as Open Access.

This has led to a further increase in the exorbitant costs spent on scholarly publishing and creates significant disadvantages for researchers from the Global South, underfunded researchers in the social sciences and humanities, and early career researchers, among others. So-called “Big Deals” – “read and publish agreements” between (consortia of) research libraries, institutions, and universities on the one hand, and scientific publishers on the other – have further exacerbated these inequities and contributed to the consolidation of the already dominant market position of the major commercial publishers.

In addition, ALLEA is concerned that the conditions of the “Big Deals” fail to adequately reflect the new rules on copyright law in the European Union (EU), and do not fairly value the creative and research endeavours of academics and their institutions, as well as their investment and efforts to generate research results to the benefit of the public. While EU and national copyright laws provide for a variety of rules intended to facilitate the free use and sharing of research publications, the current “Big Deals” do not generally factor in these statutory free uses.

To arrive at a more equitable and affordable system that takes into account the new EU copyright rules, ALLEA recommends:

  1. Researchers and libraries to better consider their rights under the new EU copyright rules when negotiating the next generation of deals.
  2. Researchers and libraries to depart from the rights assignment model that still prevails today.
  3. Harmonisation of EU national copyright legislation and introduction of EU-wide Secondary Publication Rights without embargo.
  4. Further development of a community-driven non-profit publishing ecosystem.

Read the full statement here

The Path to Inclusive Science Paved with Preprints?

The Open Science movement, characterised by the open sharing of ideas, theories, methods, data, and evidence to form the basis for a collaborative and innovative global research system, is gaining ground across the world – no doubt, accelerated by the unprecedented sharing of scientific insights during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The crisis clearly showed that by opening up research outputs early to wider review and feedback, we stand to create more agile research ecosystems that are capable of delivering effective solutions to global challenges.

Dr Jessica Polka heads ASAPbio, a scientist-driven non-profit promoting transparency and innovation in life science communication.

One important lever for change in the way science is share and communicated is the use of preprints – the advance versions of scientific papers that are published before the formal peer review process. Preprints are thought to allow for the faster exchange of research, and enable a more open, collaborative, and inclusive research culture.

In this conversation with Dr Jessica Polka, Executive Director and Co-Founder of ASAPbio (Accelerating Science and Publication in biology), we talk about the productive use of preprints, as well as the critical role for transparent and open peer review in making research more accessible, diverse, inclusive and equitable.

Question: What drove you towards working to make scientific publishing more open and transparent?

Jessica Polka: As a postdoc, I felt that the incentives for early career researchers often run counter to the goals of efficient and collaborative knowledge generation – for instance, the push to place greater importance on publishing in a high-impact journal rather than on ensuring reproducibility, to avoid sharing data for years until it forms a “complete story,” or to value shallow metrics above social impact. I saw preprints as a practical way for many researchers to engage with open science, which would not only benefit individual researchers but also the research enterprise as a whole.

However, open communication about research doesn’t end when someone posts a preprint. Thus, we expanded our work at ASAPbio to include open peer review, both within and outside of journals.

Q: Could you tell me a bit more about preprints and how they could improve research culture and output?

JP: Preprints remove barriers to sharing, reading, and collaborating. In contrast to a traditional journal article that might be hidden from all but a handful of peer reviewers for months or even years before publication, preprints enable everyone around the world to have rapid access to new research. This puts authors in control of dissemination. This system is also compatible with traditional journals, thus enabling people to participate in both open science and more conventional workflows simultaneously.

Furthermore, when people share a journal article, they’re putting out a product that is more or less “set in stone”, and any comments or suggestions for improvement are not likely to be incorporated. By contrast, when someone shares a preprint, they can choose to share a draft in provisional form at a time when they can incorporate feedback and improve their work, maybe even add new collaborators to the project. This creates a genuinely productive dialogue.

“The traditional peer review system in journals is built on trust: authors and readers trust that when a paper is published in a given journal, it has been through a rigorous process. In turn, the editors of journals select reviewers they know they can rely on, creating a “club” of sorts.”

What are the benefits for individual researchers, especially early career researchers?

JP: Preprints allow everyone to participate in providing feedback on a paper. Besides social media and the commenting functionalities of preprint servers, there is a thriving ecosystem of projects that provide peer review on preprints, ranging from projects that highlight interesting preprints (e.g., preLights), to those that automate screening (e.g., ASWG), and provide editor-organised review (e.g., Review Commons, Peer Community In). Many of these projects, such as PREreview and ASAPbio’s own Crowd preprint review activities, are directly beneficial to early career researchers who might be more comfortable commenting anonymously, collaborating with others, or covering specific areas of a paper. And because these projects invite researchers to comment on a paper outside the context of a journal, reviewers can focus on the quality and merit of the science as opposed to whether it meets certain criteria for publication, which can only improve research outputs as whole.

Q: What do you think are the challenges in making the broader peer review system more inclusive?

JP: The traditional peer review system in journals is built on trust: authors and readers trust that when a paper is published in a given journal, it has been through a rigorous process. In turn, the editors of journals select reviewers they know they can rely on, creating a “club” of sorts. Furthermore, as the identities of reviewers and editors are often not known (which is sometimes necessary to protect the vulnerable from retaliation), there’s the potential for favouritism and bias.

Q: Do preprints make research more inclusive?

JP: Preprints are free to read and to post, and the screening process of preprint servers is more “light-weight” than peer review at a journal. This lowers barriers to sharing research, and it means that anyone, not just people invited by a journal, can act as a peer reviewer. However, there are disparities in who is posting preprints, with more representation from select countries and institutions (see Abdill et al.). We recognise that preprints alone aren’t a complete solution, and we are working towards broader cultural change in how research is created, communicated, and assessed.

“…since peer review decisions have significant impact on the authors under review, often making or breaking opportunities for funding, hiring, and promotion, it’s important that peer review proceeds fairly.”

Q: What are some first steps we can take within the peer review system to increase equity and opportunities for underrepresented groups (women, researchers from the global south, unaffiliated researchers) in research?

JP: First, we need a stronger evidence base from which we can recommend interventions. Journals and peer review projects could collect more demographic information from peer reviewers, authors, and editors to ensure that interventions can be studied more systematically. Tools such as PREreview’s bias reflection guide, for example, could be integrated into review workflows, which could help to counteract homophily.

Finally, we need better systems for recommending (and building trust in) reviewers that come from outside a given editor’s network. For example, public reviews, whether on published articles or on preprints (see our Preprint Reviewer Recruitment Network), could serve as work samples to demonstrate that a researcher would make a strong reviewer.

Q: What are some of the “success stories” from ASAPbio that have led to an increase in transparency in the peer review system?

JP: After our 2018 meeting on peer review, over 300 journals signed an open letter committing to enabling the publication of peer review reports alongside published articles. This surfaces the important scholarship involved in peer review, helps readers better understand the paper, and the transparency improves the integrity of the peer review process. On the preprint side, dozens of researchers have signed a pledge to publish reviews they have written alongside preprints. In addition to the many benefits to preprints listed above, this action opens the door to the reuse of peer reviews, which can serve as a catalyst for more public conversations about research.

“As a postdoc, I felt that the incentives for early career researchers often run counter to the goals of efficient and collaborative knowledge generation…”

Q: In your opinion, how would improving diversity, inclusion, and equity in the peer review system contribute to scientific progress?

JP: Peer review can improve the robustness and clarity of the vast body of scientific literature so it’s important that it works as well as possible. Evidence has shown that diverse groups are better at solving problems. From this standpoint, it’s vital that we bring a variety of perspectives into editorial processes.

Furthermore, since peer review decisions have significant impact on the authors under review, often making or breaking opportunities for funding, hiring, and promotion, it’s important that peer review proceeds fairly. Ultimately, fair processes can help to preserve the diversity we need to solve important research questions.


This interview is part of the ALLEA Digital Salon Women in Science Series. Dr Jessica Polka will moderate a panel discussion at the upcoming webinar on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) in the scholarly peer review system, co-organised by ALLEA, GYA (The Global Young Academy) and STM (International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers). You can find out more about this webinar, which will tackle the challenges and opportunities for improving IDEA in peer review here.


About Jessica Polka

Dr Jessica Polka serves as Executive Director of ASAPbio, a researcher-driven non-profit organisation working to promote innovation and transparency in life sciences publishing in areas such as preprinting and open peer review. Prior to this, she performed postdoctoral research in the department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School following a PhD in Biochemistry & Cell Biology from UCSF. Dr Polka is also a Plan S Ambassador, an affiliate of the Knowledge Futures Group, an independent non-profit organisation that works to make knowledge more open and accesible, and a steering committee member of Rescuing Biomedical Research.

Read More by Jessica Polka

The evolving role of preprints in the dissemination of COVID-19 research and their impact on the science communication landscape

Preprinting the COVID-19 pandemic

Ten simple rules to consider regarding preprint submission

Publish peer reviews

Fewer papers would scotch early careers

European Science Organisations Reach Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment

Following a six-month collaborative process involving more than 350 European organisations from over 40 countries, an Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment has been reached and made public today. ALLEA has contributed to the Agreement as part of a core group of 20 research organisations that supported the drafting team throughout the process.

The Agreement summarises a shared vision on how to reform assessment practices for researchers, research projects and research performing organisations, with overarching principles founded on quality, impact, diversity, inclusiveness, and collaboration.

The envisioned reforms are centred around the following four core commitments:

  1. Recognise the diversity of contributions to, and careers in, research in accordance with the needs and nature of the research
  2. Base research assessment primarily on qualitative evaluation for which peer review is central, supported by responsible use of quantitative indicators
  3. Abandon inappropriate uses in research assessment of journal- and publication-based metrics, in particular inappropriate uses of Journal Impact Factor (JIF) and h-index
  4. Avoid the use of rankings of research organisations in research assessment

Several additional supporting commitments aim to enable the move towards new research assessment criteria, tools and processes, and to facilitate mutual learning, communicate progress and ensure that new approaches are evidence informed. The Agreement further includes anticipated timeframes for implementing the reforms and evaluating progress and describes the operational structures for a coalition of organisations devoted to working together to implement the changes.

Next Steps

The collection of signatures to join the Coalition supporting the Agreement will be launched on 28 September 2022 at the EU Research and Innovation Days. A General Assembly of Coalition members will further decide on the governance of the Coalition, the strategy guiding the operations and activities of the Coalition as a whole, its annual work-plan and budget. The first General Assembly is expected to take place towards the end of this year.

As a European umbrella organisation of academies of sciences and humanities, ALLEA was able to provide an interdisciplinary perspective based on shared European academic values. ALLEA contributed to the Agreement through its Permanent Working Group on Science & Ethics and the Working Group European Research Area. Previously, ALLEA had also worked with the Global Young Academy on recommendations on the topic.

In a parallel endeavour, the Council of the European Union has recently adopted its Conclusions on Research Assessment and Implementation of Open Science. ALLEA welcomes the principles set out in the Conclusions for designing novel approaches to research assessment and emphasises that there is no “one-size-fits-all” format: any reforms should be driven by researchers taking responsibility for improving research assessment in their communities, following the core concept of self-regulation set out in the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity. (Read ALLEA’s full response here)

More information

  • The complete Agreement for Reforming Research Assessment can be found here, as well as an overview of frequently asked questions regarding the Agreement and the Coalition.
  • Further information on the drafting process and the actors involved can be found here.

ALLEA Welcomes Council Conclusions on Research Assessment and Open Science

ALLEA welcomes the adoption of the Conclusions on Research Assessment and Implementation of Open Science by the Council of the European Union on 10 June. See ALLEA’s full response here.

The Conclusions are in agreement with points that ALLEA has made over the years, in particular on the necessity of appropriately implementing and rewarding open science practices and the development of research assessment criteria that follow principles of excellence, research integrity and trustworthy science.

At the same time, ALLEA continues to stress that it matters how we open knowledge, as the push for Open Access publishing has also paved the way for various unethical publishing practices. The inappropriate use of journal- and publication-based metrics in funding, hiring and promotion decisions has been one of the obstacles in the transition to a more open science, and furthermore fails to recognize and reward the diverse set of competencies, activities, and outputs needed for our research ecosystem to flourish.

ALLEA therefore welcomes the principles set out in the Conclusion for designing novel approaches to research assessment, with particular weight on recognizing (1) the critical role for peer review in research assessment and (2) the importance of integrity and ethics in developing criteria focused on quality and impact. 

ALLEA underscores that the described reforms are urgently needed and require concerted efforts from the international academic community, supported by infrastructures for exchanging best practices as well as the necessary financial resources to implement these. 

Read ALLEA’s full response

ALLEA Open Science Task Force to Be Represented in Upcoming Events

ALLEA’s Open Science Task Force has been invited to participate in several upcoming events to present their latest work and vision on Open Science practises. The task force will be represented in these events by its chair and ALLEA Vice President, Professor Luke Drury, from the Royal Irish Academy. 

The upcoming events include:

 

Meeting of the US National Institute of Health Biomedical Informatics Coordinating Committee (BMIC)

20 April 2022

Following his participation at the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Roundtable on Aligning Incentives for Open Science, Prof Luke Drury has been invited to join the NIH Biomedical Informatics Coordinating Committee (BMIC) internal meeting on ‘Open Science, Integrity and Innovation’ as a guest speaker on 20 April to introduce ALLEA’s latest work on Open Science.  

The BMIC was established in 2007 to improve communication and coordination of issues related to clinical- and bioinformatics at US National Institute of Health (NIH). It is a forum where cross-cutting issues related to biomedical informatics, data science, and open science are communicated, discussed, and coordinated. 

 

AESIS seminar on Open Science & Societal Impact

20 April 2022

The international network for Advancing and Evaluating the Societal Impact of Science (AESIS) will be hosting an online seminar on ‘Open Science & Societal Impact’ on 20 April in partnership with the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies. Prof Luke Drury has been invited to chair the plenary opening panel titled ‘Open Science for Societal Good’ (9:40 – 11:50 EEST / 8:40- 10:50 CEST). 

Main topics to be discussed in the event include incentivisation strategies and policies to stimulate Open Science; safe spaces to facilitate open scientific discourse in academia; examining geopolitical implications of global policies for access to research data; Open Science policies and practices to foster public trust and understanding in science, among others. More information and registration are available here. 

 

Virtual Panel Discussion: Building Structural Equity and Inclusion in Open Scholarship

6 May 2022

The United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld Library (main organizer of the annual UN Open Science Conference) will host the virtual panel discussion ‘Building Structural Equity and Inclusion in Open Scholarship’ on 6 May (7:30 EST / 13:30 CEST) as part of the 2-day global forum 7th Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Prof Luke Drury will join as a guest panellist to discuss, among others, recommendations from ALLEA’s recent statement on ‘Equity in Open Access’ as well as ALLEA’s contributions to the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science. More information and registration are available here. 

  

Learn more about ALLEA’s Open Science Task Force

 

Patent System Needs Adjustment to Harmonize with Open Science Objectives, European Academies say

A new ALLEA statement examines the current patent system in the context of the ideals and objectives of open science and recommends, among others, the introduction of grace periods in patent applications to make knowledge open as early as possible.

In a new statement published today, ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, advocates for the harmonisation of the patent system with open science. The academies urge policymakers to introduce a grace period of at least one year to ensure rapid open publication of research findings.

In addition, the authors conclude that patent income must not be seen as a substitute for public funding and patent activity should be used with great caution as an evaluation metric in assessing the performance of research institutions, projects, and individuals.

The statement, prepared jointly by ALLEA’s Open Science Task Force (OSTF) and the Permanent Working Group Intellectual Property Rights (PWGIPR), analyses the current debate on the possible synergies and perceived tensions between open science and patent protections.

The publication explores these two apparently contradictory views on research policy. On the one hand, a utilitarian view underlines the value of research as a key pillar of innovation in modern societies, wherein patents are considered important tools to valorise research findings. At the same time, an increasingly vocal open science movement advocates for knowledge generated through research to be considered as a global common good to be shared as openly and as rapidly as possible.

The authors consider that “there is no fundamental opposition between open science and protection of IPR; ideas can be freely shared even if their commercial use is subject to restrictions, and indeed this is only possible because of patent law. However, there are clearly operational problems with the way the patent system is currently structured.”

With the right adaptations to existing patent law, knowledge valorisation does not need to prevent early sharing of research findings. On the contrary, “a reformed patent system is essential to the widespread adoption of open science, and could even incentivise it”, states Luke Drury, Chair of the ALLEA Open Science Task Force.

In its conclusions, the statement recommends:

  1. The introduction of a carefully formulated grace period of at least one year in patent applications to allow open publication prior to obtaining protection.
  2. The existing research and experimentation exceptions should be strengthened and broadly interpreted to underpin the free non-commercial use by researchers of knowledge disclosed in patents.

In addition, it notes that:

  1. While patent income and license fees may play a useful role in supplementing the budgets of public research bodies and the salaries of some individuals, this must not be seen as a substitute for public funding.
  2. Patent activity should be used with great caution as an evaluation metric in assessing the performance of research systems, bodies, and individuals. Incentivising the accumulation of non-performing patents is counterproductive and a waste of resources.
  3. The value of curiosity-driven open research in publicly funded research and education bodies needs to be better acknowledged as the bedrock on which innovation and entrepreneurial activity is built, even if it is hard to quantify and valorise.
  4. Related to the last point, the role of distributed communities and teams of researchers needs to be better recognised. The emphasis in patent law on individual inventors is unhelpful in this regard and does not properly reflect how science operates.

Read the full statement

ALLEA Joins the European Commission Coalition on Research Assessment Reform

ALLEA has joined the European Commission’s core group working on reforming research assessment. The group will support the drafting of an agreement led by the European University Association, Science Europe and the European Commission on key issues and timelines for implementing changes.

The coalition is composed by funding organisations, research performing organisations, national/regional assessment authorities or agencies, associations of research funders, of research performers, of researchers, as well as learned societies and other relevant organisations.

ALLEA is represented by Deborah Oughton, member of the ALLEA Permanent Group Science and Ethics and representative of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. She is a Professor at the Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource Management Faculty of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

Towards a Research Assessment Reform

In 2021, the European Commission published the scoping report ‘Towards a reform of the research assessment system’. The publication presents the findings from a consultation with European research stakeholders and identifies the goals that should be pursued with a reform of research assessment. The report proposes a coordinated approach based on principles and actions that could be agreed upon by a coalition of research funding and research performing organisations committed to implement changes.

Research assessment reform is one of the topics ALLEA has worked jointly with its Member Academies and partners in recent years. In July 2021, ALLEA and the Global Young Academy (GYA) published a report covering the key takeaways of their webinar ‘Research Assessments that Promote Scholarly Progress and Reinforce the Contract with Society’. The event brought together science and policy stakeholders to rethink current research assessment models.

The key areas for research assessment identified by the stakeholders were how to strike a balance between funding of research to advance scientific progress and public accountability, how to assess the societal relevance of research and who defines the criteria, and how research assessment should be done.

In 2020, ALLEA, the Global Young Academy and STM (International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers) organised a series of workshops about the future of peer review in scholarly communications. A short summary report is available here.

UNESCO General Conference Adopts Recommendation on Open Science

The UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science has been adopted at the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference on 23 November 2021, making it the first international framework on open science. This follows a resolution from the 40th session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 2019, where 193 Member States tasked UNESCO with the development of an international standard-setting instrument on Open Science.

In developing the Recommendation on Open Science, UNESCO gathered contributions through Multistakeholder Consultations. A global online consultation on Open Science was conducted between February and July 2020 in the form of an online survey, which was open to all stakeholders and was available in English, French, and Spanish.

ALLEA participated in the design of this survey, which was coordinated by the International Science Council. As part of the UNESCO Open Science Partnership, the ALLEA Open Science Task Force also responded to the UNESCO Multistakeholder Consultations on Open Science with a statement submitted on 15 December 2020, which you can find here.

The UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science complements the 2017 Recommendation on Science and Scientific Research. It also builds upon the UNESCO Strategy on Open Access to Scientific Information and Research and the new UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources.

 

Aim of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science

The aim of the UNESCO Recommendation is to provide an international framework for open science policy and practice that recognises disciplinary and regional differences in open science perspectives, takes into account academic freedom, gender-transformative approaches and the specific challenges of scientists and other open science actors in different countries and in particular in developing countries, and contributes to reducing the digital, technological and knowledge divides existing between and within countries.

The Recommendation outlines a common definition, shared values, principles and standards for open science at the international level and proposes a set of actions conducive to a fair and equitable operationalisation of open science for all at the individual, institutional, national, regional and international levels.

To achieve its aim, the key objectives and areas of action of the UNESCO Recommendation are as follows:

i. promoting a common understanding of open science, associated benefits and challenges, as well as diverse paths to open science;
ii. developing an enabling policy environment for open science;
iii. investing in open science infrastructures and services;
iv. investing in human resources, training, education, digital literacy and capacity building for open science;
v. fostering a culture of open science and aligning incentives for open science;
vi. promoting innovative approaches for open science at different stages of the scientific process;
vii. promoting international and multi-stakeholder cooperation in the context of open science and with view to reducing digital, technological and knowledge gaps.

 

Read UNESCO Press Release

Read the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science

Read the Report on UNESCO’s Global Online Consultation on Open Science

Read ALLEA’s Recent Statement on Equity in Open Access

Learn more about ALLEA’s Open Science Task Force

 

It Matters How We Open Knowledge – ALLEA Statement on Equity in Open Access

Today, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (ALLEA) published the statement “Equity in Open Access” that addresses how “gold” open access publishing routes and large read-and-write deals contribute to establishing inequitable structures within academic research.

“If we make scholarship free to read, but very expensive to write, we end up reinforcing inequitable structures of privilege and power within the academic system; this is not a price we should be prepared to pay,” says Prof Luke Drury, Chair of the ALLEA Open Science Task Force.

The statement builds on this year’s theme of the International Open Access Week (25-30 October), ‘It matters how we open knowledge: building structural equity’, which was in turn inspired by one of the four core values of Open Science, as defined in the recently released UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science:

“Open Science should play a significant role in ensuring equity among researchers from developed and developing countries, enabling fair and reciprocal sharing of scientific inputs and outputs and equal access to scientific knowledge to both producers and consumers of knowledge regardless of location, nationality, race, age, gender, income, socio-economic circumstances, career stage, discipline, language, religion, disability, ethnicity or migratory status or any other grounds.” (UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, Page 7)

It also reflects the first of the eight key principles for scientific publishing recently adopted by the General Assembly of the International Science Council:

“There should be universal open access to the record of science, both for authors and readers, with no barriers to participation, in particular those based on ability to pay, institutional privilege, language or geography.”

 

Plan S and “Gold” Open Access 

In 2018, a consortium of major research funding and performing organisations started demanding long-due reforms in the academic publishing industry, an initiative widely known as Plan S (see also ALLEA’s previous Response to Plan S).

Widespread support for Plan S has triggered first steps in gradually disassembling the paywalls that continue to shield scientific literature from its readers. The so-called “gold” open access route (which makes articles freely available online for anyone to read) is considered an important tool towards Open Science but scientists that wish to publish via this route are often charged with substantial “article processing charges”.

“While for obvious reasons this route is promoted by commercial publishers, it effectively replaces a barrier to access with a barrier to participation.”, the authors state. As part of these reforms, large “read and write deals” are being negotiated between library consortia and commercial publishers, a notable example of this being the German “Projekt DEAL”.

 

Reinforcement of Inequitable Structures

Although collective deals can be beneficial to individual researchers that are affiliated with organisations covered by such agreements, ALLEA highlights several important inequities resulting from these developments:

  1. “[These deals] effectively incentivise such researchers to publish in the journals covered by the deal, which are often expensive journals that trade on their high ‘impact factor’ – a metric noted as problematic by Open Science initiatives.”
  2. “This tacit incentivisation risks further increasing the market dominance of the big commercial publishers and clearly disadvantages smaller specialist and learned society publishers.”
  3. “It takes no account of the fact that, at least in the humanities, there are still a significant number of researchers not affiliated with institutions covered by the deals, nor in some cases with any institution.”
  4. “It privileges established over early career researchers. It ignores the needs of researchers based in the Global South, in smaller institutions, or in industry. It favours well-funded areas of research over equally important, but less well-resourced areas.”

The authors argue that “It is a false framing of the discourse to say that either the reader or the writer has to pay; in most cases it is actually a third party (the library consortia in the case of the big deals) and ultimately it is the taxpayer for most publicly funded research.”

The statement describes several alternative open access publishing models, but the authors emphasize that a global solution to open access across all disciplines will only be available once adequate resources and infrastructure are made available.

 

About the statement

The statement was prepared by ALLEA’s Open Science Task Force, which aims to contribute to the development, coordination and implementation of Open Science policies and initiatives with a particular emphasis on issues relevant to the greater European area. The task force draws on the expertise of ALLEA’s academy members in promoting science across all disciplines as a global public good that is as open as possible and as closed as necessary.

Download the Statement