Response to: ‘Bibliometric Analysis and Impact of Open-Access Editorials in Spain’ report from ANECA

“On 1 October 2021, ANECA released a public report entitled “Bibliometric analysis and impact of open-access publishers in Spain”, raising controversy in the Spanish academic community. Stakeholders have quickly responded with surprise, criticism and rebuttal. In our own report analysis, we were perplexed by the evident lack of academic rigor and inappropriate methodology.

We were surprised and concerned that ANECA established the principles for the evaluating of researchers in Spain based on a report with a clear bias against open access journals. Similarly, we do not understand why such a report has been prepared by researchers specializing in marketing and tourism, without experience in the field of bibliometrics….

The report follows a perverse logic: whatever is not standard is considered negative, based on a standard defined by the average value of publication volume and rate of self-citations, without considering additional factors that may affect the parameters analyzed. Thus, the analysis is based on a series of non-contrasted or referenced statements that the authors use to manufacture their own paradigms.

The authors assume that a more significant number of articles inevitably implies lower “quality, rigor and degree of contribution and originality” (page 7 of the report). However, they do not provide any evidence or references to support this claim. Such a statement lacks logic and could also be used to discredit the best-known traditional publishers, many of which have published more than open-access publishers. Furthermore, many JCR Q1 subscription journals have also been designated as non-standard behavior due to the number of articles they publish….”

An open chat with…Stuart Ferguson – Wright – – FEBS Open Bio – Wiley Online Library

“[Q] What is your opinion on Open Access versus the traditional subscription publishing model?

[A] I start with the observation that there was not one traditional publishing model. On the one hand, there are commercial publishers such as Elsevier but also Nature, Cell Press, etc., who published a whole range of journals from the very prestigious to the not so prominent and made their money by charging often high fees to libraries and in some cases individual subscribers. These attracted increasing disapproval because they were publishing work that had been funded by public bodies and/or charities who were interested in discoveries and not publications/publishers’ profits. On the other hand, there are journals published by learned societies such as the Biochemical Journal (UK) and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Here, the income, again mainly from libraries, was used to support the scholarly activities of the sponsoring societies, but even here there was variation; some journals such as the Journal of Biological Chemistry charged their authors’ page charges, whereas others, such as the Biochemical Journal, did not. In general, those that did not impose page charges charged higher prices to libraries. A third model was that of FEBS who have always worked with commercial publishers to generate revenue for FEBS from their journals. All these journals made additional money from the sale of reprints. Most of the content of these journals was available only to subscribers, of which the majority were affiliated to institutional or company subscribers. The idea that all publicly funded knowledge should be available to all was given impetus by the move to online publication when it became feasible for an individual, almost anywhere in the world and without institutional or company connection, to gain access to all publications provided there was no paywall. I have always questioned how many such individuals exist, but to make publications truly open access, the costs of publication have had to shift to investigators and their institutions. At my own institution, the large sums allocated for this purpose were exhausted before the financial year was complete, thus leading to delays in publication. It is now understood that spending large sums of money this way instead of on research is unsustainable. The dream, of course, is deposition of papers on the internet at close to zero cost, but then who would organize review and proper presentation? Some will argue that we don’t need review—rubbish will sink ignored—but then how would we know about papers hosted only on an institutional website? Overall, I am inclined to think the traditional model had much to recommend it and it is not clear to me how the scientific community can stop profit-driven commercial publishing, an original aim of open access, other than boycotting of certain journals….”

Risky business: COVAX and the financialization of global vaccine equity | Globalization and Health | Full Text

Abstract:  Background

During the first year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic, COVAX has been the world’s most prominent effort to ensure equitable access to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. Launched as part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (Act-A) in June 2020, COVAX suggested to serve as a vaccine buyers’ and distribution club for countries around the world. It also aimed to support the pharmaceutical industry in speeding up and broadening vaccine development. While COVAX has recently come under critique for failing to bring about global vaccine equity, influential politicians and public health advocates insist that future iterations of it will improve pandemic preparedness. So far COVAX’s role in the ongoing financialization of global health, i.e. in the rise of financial concepts, motives, practices and institutions has not been analyzed.

Methods

This article describes and critically assesses COVAX’s financial logics, i.e. the concepts, arguments and financing flows on which COVAX relies. It is based on a review of over 109 COVAX related reports, ten in-depth interviews with global health experts working either in or with COVAX, as well as participant observation in 18 webinars and online meetings concerned with global pandemic financing, between September 2020 and August 2021.

Results

The article finds that COVAX expands the scale and scope of financial instruments in global health governance, and that this is done by conflating different understandings of risk. Specifically, COVAX conflates public health risk and corporate financial risk, leading it to privilege concerns of pharmaceutical companies over those of most participating countries – especially low and lower-middle income countries (LICs and LMICs). COVAX thus drives the financialization of global health and ends up constituting a risk itself – that of perpetuating the downsides of financialization (e.g. heightened inequality, secrecy, complexity in governance, an ineffective and slow use of aid), whilst insufficiently realising its potential benefits (pandemic risk reduction, increased public access to emergency funding, indirect price control over essential goods and services).

Conclusion

Future iterations of vaccine buyers’ and distribution clubs as well as public vaccine development efforts should work towards reducing all aspects of public health risk rather than privileging its corporate financial aspects. This will include reassessing the interplay of aid and corporate subsidies in global health.

Richard Charkin: An Heretical View of Academic Publishing

“Clearly the biggest shift is the move in scientific publishing from the traditional subscription journal to one form or other of open-access publication. There will be debate as to which of the various open-science initiatives is the best, the worst, the most feasible, and the most affordable. What won’t be debated is whether the world needs open access at all….

Personally, I was less convinced—as my 2004 appearance at the United Kingdom Select Committee on Science and Technology suggested—but we all had to pay lip service to this “free” ideology. It was said that such an open-access revolution would aid the dissemination of scientific research for the benefit of humanity. Who could argue with that? Indeed, the response of the open access community to the desperate need for reliable information about COVID-19 has been stupendous.

And yet, and yet….”

The AAS goes for Gold | Published by The Open Journal of Astrophysics

“Yesterday there was a big announcement from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) , namely that all its journals will switch to Open Access from 1st January 2022. This transition will affect the Astronomical Journal (AJ), the Astrophysical Journal (ApJ), Astrophysical Journal Letters (ApJL), and the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series (ApJS). Previously authors were able to opt for Open Access but from next year it will apply to all papers.

The positive aspect to this change is that it makes articles published by the AAS freely available to the public and other scientists without requiring the payment of a subscription.

On the other hand, these journals will require authors to pay a hefty sum, equivalent to an Article Processing Charge (APC), that increases with the length and complexity of a paper. AAS journals have in the past levied “page charges” from authors for standard (non-OA) publications. In the new regime these are merged into a unified scheme….

What’s on offer is therefore a form of Gold Open Access that switches the cost of publication from subscribers to authors. In my view this level of APC is excessive, which is why I call this Fool’s Gold Open Access. Although the AAS is a not-for-profit organization, its journals are published by the Institute of Physics Publishing which is a definitely-for-profit organization….”

Researchers and publishers respond to new UK open-access policy – Physics World

“The largest funding body in the UK has announced a new open-access policy that will come into effect on 1 April 2022. UK Research and Inno­vation (UKRI) – the umbrella group for the UK’s seven research coun­cils – will from that date mandate that all published papers written by researchers containing work carried out using UKRI cash must be free to read immediately upon publication. Yet the announcement has been met with concern by some publishers and researchers….”

 

UKRI’s new open access policy will hinder open science | Times Higher Education (THE)

“The final published version – known as version of record, or VOR – is not some artificial construct of publishers. We know from our recent research with 1,400 researchers, as well as an analysis of article usage, that it is overwhelmingly the VOR that researchers want to read and cite – and it is also the VOR of their own research that, as authors, they want others to read and cite. They find the VOR easier to read, more reliable, and more authoritative and credible because of the reassurance provided by peer review and the stamp of credibility provided by proof of publication in a recognised journal.

Researchers also highlighted the value added to the VOR through the publication process, compared with earlier article versions (the submitted manuscript or the accepted manuscript), including copy-editing and typesetting. Critically, VORs include figures and links to relevant open data, open code and open protocols. This facilitates open science for the whole research system – which is the main goal of making research articles OA in the first place.

Green OA typically revolves around posting the accepted manuscript, but the cost of creating these is, in essence, borne by library subscriptions given that they are created as part of the process of being published in paywalled journals. This is a problem in itself: OA should be about removing paywalls, not becoming dependent on them. Attempts to make accepted manuscripts more widely available do not reflect researchers’ needs and could set back the transition to full (gold) OA and the realisation of the benefits of open science.

Second, as good as transformative agreements are, they have their limits. The industry-standard contract stipulates that a paper’s eligibility for gold OA depends on whether the corresponding author’s institution is part of the agreement. But the UKRI OA policy applies to all co-authors it funds in whole or in part. This is significant. We estimate that between 30 and 40 per cent of papers that have at least one UK author do not have a UK corresponding author and therefore wouldn’t be covered by existing transformative agreements. Those co-authors risk of being left without a viable funded OA publishing route….”

 

Preprint ban in grant applications deemed ‘plain ludicrous’

“Australia’s major research funder has ruled more than 20 fellowship applications ineligible because they mentioned preprints and other non-peer reviewed materials, sparking an outcry from scientists who say the move is a blow to open science and will stymie careers.

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the use of preprints to the fore, researchers say the stance by the Australian Research Council (ARC) — which limits applicants’ ability to refer to the latest research — is out of step with modern publishing practices and at odds with overseas funding agencies that allow or encourage the use of preprints.

In the past week, researchers have taken to Twitter in outrage, calling the blanket ruling “short sighted”, “plain ludicrous”, “cruel”, “astonishing”, “outdated” and “gut-wrenching”….”

Adjusting the use of preprints to accommodate the ‘quality’ factor in response to COVID-19 – ScienceDirect

Abstract:  Preprints are typically crude precursors of peer-reviewed papers that are placed almost immediately, save for some superficial screening, on an open-access repository to allow the information to reach readers quickly, circumventing the long-drawn process typically associated with processing in peer-reviewed journals. For early-career researchers who might be enthusiastic about obtaining some recognition for their efforts, or wanting open and public input about their work, preprints are certainly a useful publication choice. However, if health-related data and information have not been carefully scrutinised, they may pose a risk and may even serve as a source of public health misinformation. Surging growth and competition among preprint servers, coupled with a massive volume of COVID-19-related preprints, mainly on bioRxiv and medRxiv, as well as select indexing now being tested on PubMed, suggests that preprints are being increasingly used in the biomedical sciences. Stronger and more robust ethical policies are needed to screen preprints before they are released to the public, and even if this implies a slight delay in publication, it may increase academics’ trust in this form of scientific information and communication. Clear and stringent ethical policies need to be urgently introduced by ethics groups such as COPE and the ICMJE, whose many member journals allow preprints to be posted before traditional peer review. Stringent ethical guidelines that treat misconduct equally in preprints and peer-reviewed papers will boost the integrity of academic publishing.

 

Collective Funding to Reclaim Scholarly Publishing · Business of Knowing, summer 2021

“The open access movement has dropped barriers to readers only to erect them for authors. The reason is the article processing charge (APC), which typically runs $3,000 to $5,000. The APC model, with its tolled access to authorship, is the subscription model seen through a camera obscura: author paywalls in place of reading paywalls.

Most scholars cannot afford the steep fees, a fact masked by the privileged segment who can: scientists in the rich industrialized world, and scholars in a handful of wealthy European countries and North American universities. The fees are often paid via so-called “read-and-publish” deals, which fold APCs into the subscription contracts that libraries negotiate with publishers.

The emerging APC regime is also re-anointing the commercial oligopolists—the same five firms that fleece universities through usurious subscription charges. Springer Nature, Elsevier, and their peers are, with every read-and-publish deal, transitioning their enormous profit margins from tolled to open—and capturing the lion’s share of library spending in the process. Librarians continue to fund the tolled system, while also—at the richer institutions—picking up the tab for their faculty’s author fees. The result is an incumbent-publisher spending lockdown, one that ratifies the APC regime….

Collective funding is an appealing idea, versions of which have been circulating since at least 2006, with important variations on the theme published since. The challenge is getting the model to work beyond a handful of successful, single-resource experiments (including the ArXiv preprint server, the Open Library of Humanities, and the SCOAP3 particle physics journals, among others). The two main hurdles are coordination and funder participation. The academic communication system involves thousands of funders and hundreds of publishers, which makes for a nightmarish coordination challenge. A related obstacle, one made much worse with lots of actors, is the free rider problem. Fee-free open access is a public good that benefits everyone, even non-payers; if enough libraries opt out, the collective funding scheme is likely to collapse….”

ALPSP Copyright Committee responds to UKRI Open Access Policy | STM Publishing News

“The ALPSP Copyright Committee is concerned that the announcement of the UKRI’s new open access policy will have a negative impact on progress made to date.  Limiting the opportunity for funded articles to publish in hybrid journals does not benefit learned society authors as it restricts their choice on where to publish.  Whilst many ALPSP members are investigating whether a transformative/transitional agreement may be a viable option, many learned societies have found that the complexities involved in setting up and maintaining these agreements can be extremely  difficult, particularly for smaller societies who may only publish a few journals.  This may inadvertently put these smaller publishers at a distinct disadvantage and result in their journals no longer being selected by UKRI funded authors.

Additionally, making hybrid journals fully gold open access may not be possible in the near future if there is insufficient gold open access content to include in these journals.  This could well lead to major economic difficulties for many learned and professional societies.  Finally, requiring the publication of Accepted Manuscripts with no embargo and under a CC BY licence fails to recognise the significant investment learned societies will have made in getting to that version, including in terms of peer review and related value added publishing services.  As an unintended consequence, this would dilute the Version of Record and slow the speed of transition towards open access, as publishers and societies would continue to recover their investment through subscriptions.  Ultimately, without significant additional funding being added to the ecosystem in the short term to cover this, we are very concerned about the impact of this new policy on the UK publishing industry generally and on learned societies in particular….”

Academic publishers warn over UKRI Open Access impact | The Bookseller

“Academic publishers say they have concerns around funding, embargoes and timing following the announcement of the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Open Access policy last week….”

Only the lede is OA. 

ALPSP Copyright Committee Responds to UKRI Open Access Policy

“The ALPSP Copyright Committee is concerned that the announcement of the UKRI’s new open access policy will have a negative impact on progress made to date.  Limiting the opportunity for funded articles to publish in hybrid journals does not benefit learned society authors as it restricts their choice on where to publish.  Whilst many ALPSP members are investigating whether a transformative/transitional agreement may be a viable option, many learned societies have found that the complexities involved in setting up and maintaining these agreements can be extremely  difficult, particularly for smaller societies who may only publish a few journals.  This may inadvertently put these smaller publishers at a distinct disadvantage and result in their journals no longer being selected by UKRI funded authors.

Additionally, making hybrid journals fully gold open access may not be possible in the near future if there is insufficient gold open access content to include in these journals.  This could well lead to major economic difficulties for many learned and professional societies.  Finally, requiring the publication of Accepted Manuscripts with no embargo and under a CC BY licence fails to recognise the significant investment learned societies will have made in getting to that version, including in terms of peer review and related value added publishing services.  As an unintended consequence, this would dilute the Version of Record and slow the speed of transition towards open access, as publishers and societies would continue to recover their investment through subscriptions.  Ultimately, without significant additional funding being added to the ecosystem in the short term to cover this, we are very concerned about the impact of this new policy on the UK publishing industry generally and on learned societies in particular….”