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Scholarly publishing for the network generation

Image credit: Forever and Always Two Bright Flowers on Blue Sky by Pink Sherbet Photography, CC BY

Image credit: Forever and Always Two Bright Flowers on Blue Sky by Pink Sherbet Photography, CC BY

Before I get on with the substance of this post about an article that CEO Stephanie and I wrote together that was recently published, I want to draw your attention to this picture which I chose for us. From the moment we met at a PLOS altmetrics event at Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA, we got along famously. Working with her for the past year, through the highs and lows of trying to bring change to the stubbornly resistant field of scholarly communication, has been an absolute pleasure. I look forward to sharing many more experiences together.

As many of you know, Stephanie is a road warrior for OA and travels extensively in Europe presenting on the future of scholarly communication and the ScienceOpen vision. After a trip to Portugal last year, where she was invited to speak at the ICOLC (International Coalition of Library Consortia) meeting, she met Lorraine Estelle, Executive Director of Digital Content and Resource Discovery and CEO Jisc Collections and co-editor of Insights: The UKSG Journal. Afterwards, Stephanie received an invitation to submit an article to Insights (free to publish and OA) about the approach and business model of ScienceOpen as presented at the ICOLC.

With only so many hours in the day, Stephanie invited me to join her in writing this article. After many hours of writing effort, a pleasant submission process via Ubiquity Press, a few rounds of fair minded peer-review revisions (anonymous!) and some hand holding from Ally Souster, Publications Assistant at the UKSG, our Case Study entitled: Scholarly publishing for the network generation is now published.

One of the most gratifying parts of writing this article, as a relatively new start-up, was the opportunity to lay out the ScienceOpen belief system and the importance of combining publishing and software expertise for success in digital scholarly communication. Here’s a little excerpt for those of you who don’t have time to read the whole article:

“ScienceOpen believes:

  • in immediate publication in order to speed up research. We publish the author’s PDF in ‘Preview’ with digital object identifier (DOI) within about a week of submission
  • that siloing OA content on publishers’ websites does not lend itself to creative reuse; a good reason to aggregate 1.4 million articles (currently from PubMed Central and arXiv) on our platform
  • that journals, whether ‘mega-’, highly specialized or super selective, are becoming outmoded. We need channels to serve OA content that meet community needs
  • in giving the power for content creation, curation and review fully back to the research community who have the required discipline-specific expertise
  • that whether content is ‘worthy’ is a matter for the community to decide, which is why we only offer post-publication peer review (PPPR) (non-anonymous) for our ScienceOpen journals
  • in expert review, and therefore insist that those participating must have five publications linked to their ORCiD to maintain the level of scientific discourse on the site
  • that the conversation about research is never over, which is why we don’t put a hard line under content and call it ‘approved’ and why we offer versioning”.

The ScienceOpen team combines publishing expertise (backgrounds and experience with PLOS, De Gruyter, Wiley, Springer, Nature Publishing Group, American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS] and The Scientist) with a software company. Often publishers cannot easily adapt to the changing needs of the communities they serve because they are not software developers and, increasingly, this is the key ingredient needed for success in the digital world. This means that although they may want to change their offering, they simply can’t do so as quickly as they might like because their legacy systems hold them back.

The reason that we combine publishing and software expertise is that we think it is this combination that will make it possible for us to rapidly adapt to the changing needs of researchers. For example, the conversation about the future of research communication now includes the openness of data, the evaluation of impact (both article and author) plus the reproducibility of research. All these topics are hotly debated on blogs, Twitter and in the mainstream press which places them before the public for their consideration. This only seems right and proper since taxpayer funding is a core component of research.

Heading down this open path is easier for nimble and technology-empowered organizations such as ScienceOpen because there is truth in the old adage that ‘one thing leads to another’. Establishing non-anonymous PPPR in and of itself increases the transparency of the research process and makes it ideally suited to tackle issues of reproducibility such as reminding reviewers to ask for more clarity in methods, or suggesting more experiments or even ways to collaborate”.

Thanks to everyone who gave us the opportunity to write this piece and supported us throughout the process.