I am the Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, ScienceOpen (@tigracc). This OA Week, it gives me great pleasure to publish the first in a series of posts about the strategy behind the evolution of the platform and our drive to reveal the context of OA articles which we believe is a powerful and disruptive mechanism in the next wave of the OA movement.
When ScienceOpen started our Open Access initiative in 2013, we focused on publishing and networking. We understood that research communication is all about Open Access content and networking was the mechanism that supported authors in preparing their article and helping the publication of their research. And such articles had to be openly available, so they could be discovered and serve as proof of their engagement.
We of course also knew that other organizations offered a great deal but all these features were available as bits and pieces on other publisher’s sites (Post-Publication-peer-review, “speedy publication after a thorough but fast editorial acceptance, among others), but not in one place and not combined. We felt there was far too much focus on vanity and luxury at the core of the publishing process, instead of support for researchers who need to understand what others before them have done and deliver their contribution, that could and would be incorporated into the ever growing corpus of knowledge. Researchers are builders and breakthroughs are the result of collaboration over time. Ingenious ideas need a base to evolve from and – less eloquently said then Newton and some others before – there’s no genius who doesn’t stand on the shoulders of others before them.
Along the way, we recognized some thresholds and obstacles slowing down the migration to Open Access and they were greater then we initially anticipated. We were always aware of the Impact Factor trap, fostering the illusion that it provides a glorious, if sometimes miraculous, entry into the higher echelons of science, but we also knew that it was based on a hollow foundation.
Over time, we learned to see this entire conundrum from the viewpoint of the individual researcher. She does not have the luxury of statistics, it’s all about her research, her fight for her career and as long as institutions use these as a major tool for gratification, it is the researchers de facto trap of our time. There’s not much difficulty asking established scientists to publish Open Access and similarly offering services to young scientists, especially by providing a home for posters and the like, is easy. But the mass of scientists, too young to be settled and too old to take a risk, is a different animal.
We do see them (slowly) turning to Open Access but, somewhat alarmingly, we see them doing that with traditional publishers like Springer Nature, PLOS, Wiley and others, than with new and “revolutionary” ones . Why? Because those settled publishers provide Brands and for the time being IFs, that the researchers can present. They are taking a step in the right direction, just a more expensive and challenging one than it needs to be. There’s no blame here and there are a few ways we can press forward: we can ask tenure commissions, research funders and institutions to stop considering brand-related impact factors and start seriously focusing on the articles themselves, and we will continue to do so together with the core of the Open Access movement. While this trend is further eroding the base of the Impact Factor illusion it’s not really razing it to the ground.
So, is that it? We just wait another 10 to 15 years till the Impact Factor starts to wither and hope that we win out on the long run?
Instead of doing just that, we need to go forward by continuous development of (a) new publishing paradigm(s) and we need to start to show the (currently hidden) additional benefits of Open Access. Benefits which are transcending the “article” and start to expose a glimpse of the new eco-system, which can flourish with this opening.
We see three pillars for ScienceOpen to focus on, all of them geared to help create an eco-system,which inherently weakens the Impact Factor and therefore helps to direct energy and momentum to Open Access:
Here’s what we set out to acheive:
Put the article at the center (independent of publisher, journal and other silos)
Expose all available article based information (activities, reviews, comments, …)
Provide as much context as we can (references and citations)
This strand is the newest addition to the ScienceOpen platform. Just recently we started to expose contextual information on the more than 10 million articles and records aggregated on ScienceOpen. We did this by consecutively creating stubs for all referenced articles from the base Open Access corpus. Adding more and more publicly available but distributed information about these articles and extracting additional facts, we can already expose the connections of almost 6 million authors mainly in Life Sciences. We do provide information about similar articles, most cited references, most referenced authors and all detected citations. This, like other available metadata, can be used to navigate, research and learn about the context of a given article. Given that our article base is publisher and journal independent, all this context becomes meaningful and turns the whole article base itself into a research object, at the fingertips of the researcher. All this information is revolving around the core content instead of arbitrary segments like the publisher. We allow you to focus on the research itself, to explore related information, people and institutions. Go on and find out who else is researching about the field in question, which connections are more meaningful than others, what collaborations exist etc.
Months ago we started to support and propagate the usage of Collections. We see Collections as a way to create theme-based and up to date clusters of information that matter most for any specific field of research. These being journal and publisher independent and as such another nail in the coffin for the Impact Factor. I don’t believe that any Journal can be a better collection on any theme, than one that is based from a researchers selection from the universe of content. Our Collections can and will expose different aspects of a topic– foundation articles, most discussed ones, etc. – and can therefore become a natural magnet for publishing negative results where they make most sense.
Since the launch of ScienceOpen, we have worked on providing a platform that lends itself to the concept of Public Post Publication Peer Review (P4R), an approach that helps to attack one of THE corner stones of the Closed Access Publishing Paradigm: the use of enormous energy from the research community for an almost always secretive peer review process with the main purpose of utilizing selection to improve the Impact Factor of a journal. Besides the price of suppression of less glamorous results (including negative results) and/or slowing down the publishing process to an unacceptable degree and all the costs for society this generates, traditional peer review hampers public discourse and is bad for science. Instead P4R speeds up publication, fosters public discourse and allows the reviewer to benefit from their (now public) work.
We strongly believe, that the set of these activities is invigorating the the strength of the Open Access paradigm. ScienceOpen is committed to work on all three of these strands to expose more of the inherent strength of Open Access. Over the course of the next weeks and months we will discuss these activities in more detail and add more functionality along these lines.
Become a ScienceOpen Activist and change the world of scientific publishing! Apply to become part of our think-tank and our voice in the community.
Scholarly Publishing and science are frustratingly slow when it comes to change. Newton’s lab-books from 300 years ago probably look similar to what PhD-students still scribble in today!
Old habits die hard in research. Other than social media, scholarly communication is still largely focused on publication in journals where anonymous peer review delays the liberation of newly gained knowledge by months, if not even years.
We are still using systems that have operated for decades and centuries. But do they really still work? Research studies can be irreproducible; billions of public funding lock up knowledge behind pay walls and embargos became a bargaining chip between authors and their publishers.
Many people know this. The Open Access movement has provided a practical way forwards and has moved way beyond simply portraying an idealist view of the world to demonstrating it. But why isn’t Open Science our reality right now?
The ScienceOpen answer: we need more activists!
We need your help: Apply now to become a ScienceOpen Activist:
You know best what needs to be done: tell us about Open Science discussions at your institution.
Give us your ideas on how to improve ScienceOpen: be the first to test implemented features on ScienceOpen
Join a community of doers: through frequent Webinars and an Activist camp in Berlin in December you will get to know like-minded people
We will give you the right tools: activists receive items such as stickers and some ScienceOPENers (inspired by this viral video!)
Create a bigger network: ScienceOpen has been around for over a year, so join the platform and get to know the network
Regardless of whether you are an early career researcher or a senior scientist, have a background in natural sciences or study languages, work as a librarian or for a funding agency, you can apply here. Please also share why you are enthusiastic about Open Science.
Let’s take it to the next level. And make change happen.
Publishers can join in by indexing their journal content across all research disciplines (now including the humanities and social sciences) and license types on ScienceOpen for enhanced visibility within a wider academic context. This unique service is open for all researchers worldwide and will be launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair this week.
Since its launch in 2014, ScienceOpen has exponentially grown its database to allow researchers to more easily navigate, search and comment on scientific articles. A search on ScienceOpen does not just pull up a list of article records, but rather a network of information.
Topics and articles can be explored via authors, references, keywords, altmetrics, comments and more. Results can be narrowed and sorted and the search parameters saved. Content – popping up in the context of such search & navigation – is pulled center stage independent of publisher and journal.
Stephanie Dawson, CEO of ScienceOpen says:
All these features provide a superior search experience for researchers and advantages for publishers in having their content and brand promoted. With this new offering, we are expanding Open Access to indexing information at the point of (re)search.
The ScienceOpen network is freely accessible for researchers to join, search, discover and share. This new feature will be introduced at the Frankfurt Book Fair (FFBF) this week, the world largest event for academic publishers worldwide. Talk to our team in and around Hall 4 at the FFBF to learn how to include your concent and benefit from this fast growing index.
I want to share with you something cool that we have developed at ScienceOpen.
In my former life, as an editor working for a traditional scientific publisher, I had a broad overview of my subject area, but my level of expertise was not close to that of a practicing researcher working in the field. Every day I needed to answer questions like “Who is the most influential researcher in niche area X?”; “How does our recently published work stack up against similar articles Y?”; “Are people talking more about topic A or B?”.
Editors are not alone with these pressing questions. Everyone who searches for information in a field beyond their immediate expertise faces similar problems. In an Elsevier study 87% of researchers reported cross-disciplinary searching in new fields at least once a month.
So what was my solution at the time? Back then, in our small publishing house, a subscription to privately held scholarly databases that could run to ten or twenty thousand dollars, was just out of the question. We could make an educated guess; but knowledge is always preferable to guessing. So, we ended up taking the subway across town to use the major databases that were only available at the library. In those days, I would have done anything for a freely available open citation network that could tell me the top cited papers and authors across all publishers, recommend related articles, and show what topics are getting the most traction in the popular media.
What did I have to do to get my freely available open citation network? Together with the ScienceOpen Team WE BUILT ONE!! This tool is so awesome that I constantly have to stop myself from accosting strangers on the subway to tell them how much easier we just made their search experience. “Forget about the library,” in case they are on their way to access Web of Science or Scopus, “you can search from your home, office, or right now on your smart phone!”
So how does it work? ScienceOpen already covers over 10 million articles and is growing fast. Type in your search term and filter your results in a myriad of ways. Only articles published in the last two years? Easy. Only Open Access? Check. Even while using these criteria, a search for “Diabetes” brings back 13,053 results. Dilemma. What to read? Sort your results by “Cited by count”. The citation numbers don’t claim to be comprehensive, but they do provide an accurate picture of the relationships between citations on the site. And already, it’s made it easier for me to get a quick overview of what the community finds most important. I can also start asking questions like: why are some papers with an Altmetric score of over 500 cited 20 times, and other papers with an Altmetric score of 3 cited hundreds of times?
When I pick a paper to explore more deeply, ScienceOpen offers me the list of the paper references – sorted by citation number, a list of cited authors linked to their other publications in the network, and similar articles based on keywords and title. I can play with this tool all day. But if I need to find a reviewer, a collaborator, an author, an expert, then I am already well on my way. No more long subway rides to access privately held scholarly databases.
Try out this new ScienceOpen feature and tell a friend (but maybe not a stranger on the subway!).
There are many things in life that are (arguably) better in the digital age. Many of these improvements we take for granted: no longer getting lost traveling from A to B thanks to Google Maps; locating errant teenagers using their phone GPS ; reading the NYT on the go; reaching out to powerful (and less so) people on Twitter or interacting with family and friends using Facebook. Overall, there appears to be a greater sense of transparency in our own lives and those of others.
Just as with any British Firework display on the 5th of November (Guy Fawkes Night), we’ve saved the best until last!
Here at ScienceOpen we wear three hats: Publisher, Aggregator and Reformer and it’s in this final regard that we take the most pride.
Earlier this year, Jan Velterop, a thought leader in scholarly publishing, wrote to me and shared his proposal for Peer Review by Endorsement and wondered if ScienceOpen might be interested in making his long standing wish a reality.
No sooner had he written, but he found himself added to the Advisory Board and we announced our plans to add this process to our existing methodology (those with 5 or more Peer Reviewed publications per ORCID can become members of the network and review content).
Now, a few months later, for the first Peer Review Week, Jan has published a juicy Opinion (we publish all types of articles, not just original) with us entitled:
For our part, we have added instructions on how to publish this way to the site. Why do we like this idea? Because rather than publisher-mediated peer review before publication, the scientific community takes this role and the publisher verifies the results. As Jan puts it:
It is more efficient and cost effective to hand peer review entirely back to the scientific community, where it rightly belongs, than for publishers to find the right, appropriate, available, reliable, expert reviewers.
Whether you prefer to get your work professionally evaluated before you publish it and afterwards, or simply leave it all until after publication, the choice is yours and the choice is now (still time to try this process and get your paper published before the end of 2015!).