The gaping problem at the heart of scientific research – The Week

“The benefits of open access have been proved beyond doubt….

National science agencies from nations including the UK, Australia, Italy, the United States and Brazil called for publishers to make coronavirus research immediately and freely accessible, which in the most part they did.

But the very need for these groups to call for research to be made available in the middle of a global emergency demonstrates the failure of the current publishing system. Making research immediately free to read, which, when combined with the use of an open publishing licence, is known as open access’ is a hot topic in science.

Global health bodies know how important open research is, especially in times of emergency, which is why they have repeatedly called for research to be made open….

The consequences of lack of access to research can be dire.

In 2015 a group of African researchers claimed that an earlier Ebola outbreak could have been prevented if research on it had been published openly….

As 2023 unfolds, it seems that the benefits of open access have been proved beyond doubt.

The next emergency in front of us, climate change, is much more complex, and there too are calls for open access.

Serious investment in a variety of approaches is essential to ensure a diverse, equitable, open access future.”

Open Science: Emergency Response or the New Normal? | Acta Médica Portuguesa

From Google’s English:  “To align with open science, the assessment of research and researchers has to be broader, valuing all contributions and results (and not just publications), and adopting an essentially qualitative perspective, based on the review by peers, with limited and responsible use of quantitative indicators. There has also been slow progress in this domain, but it is hoped that the recently presented Agreement on Reforming Research Assessment and the Coali-tion for Advancing Research Assessment10 will speed up and give greater breadth to the transformation of the assessment process. If the three conditions mentioned above are met in the coming years, open science will no longer be just the science of emergencies. And open and collaborative research practices, with rapid dissemination of results, could become dominant, being considered the correct way of doing science, without the need to designate them as open science.”

Pandemic and infodemic: the role of academic journals and preprints | SpringerLink

“In contrast, before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, clinical researchers were generally reluctant to adopt widespread sharing of preprints, probably because of concern that the potential harm that could result to patients, if medical treatment is based on findings that have not been vetted by peer reviewers. For example, the BMJ group opened a preprint server ( in 1999, but was closed in 2008, because only around 80 submissions were posted during this period [7]. The BMJ group, together with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Yale University launched a new server, bioR?iv in 2013, and medR?iv in 2019 [7], but they were not actively used.

Outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic triggered clinical researchers to use actively preprint servers, and during the initial few years of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 35,000 preprints, mainly related to COVID-19, have been posted to medR?iv. This marked increase in the posting of preprints indicates that clinical researchers have found benefits of preprints in the era of COVID-19 pandemic: research outcomes can be disseminated quickly, potentially speeding up research that may lead to the development of vaccines and treatments; quality of the draft can be improved by receiving feedback from a wider group of readers; the authors can claim priority of their discovery; and unlike articles published in subscription-based journals, all the preprints are freely available to anyone….”


MIT Press Takes Agile Approach to Launching COVID-19 Overlay Journal: Interview with Nick Lindsay

“When COVID-19 first hit, MIT Press was quick to respond, making relevant book and journal content freely available to help scholars and the general public better understand the pandemic. But, the press’ publishing team wanted to do something more. Like so many in academia, they were becoming concerned with rising instances of false scientific claims entering the mainstream media and eager to stop the spread. Recognizing misinformation in preprints as well as misinterpretation of preprint findings as two primary causes, they began considering ways to flag questionable preprint information while boosting the signal of promising new research.

“Our Press Director Amy Brand and I were talking one day about what we could do, and that’s when the notion of launching an overlay journal of preprint reviews popped up,” said Nick Lindsay, MIT Press’ Director of Journals and Open Access. Lindsay and Brand brought the idea back to their team and began planning what would become Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 (RR:C19), the first multi-disciplinary OA overlay journal for peer reviews of coronavirus-related preprints. MIT Press launched RR:C19 in August 2020….”

Intelligent open science: viral genomic data sharing during the COVID-19 pandemic – GOV.UK

“A case study on how data was shared across borders during the coronavirus pandemic, and best practice for responding to future global emergencies….

While genomic sequencing data was shared more quickly and widely than ever before during the COVID-19 pandemic, in many cases it was shared too late, or in too partial a form, to support the emergency response.

There is broad consensus that existing norms for data sharing are not well-adapted to an emergency context in which near real-time sharing is the desired goal.

Following the open science commitments made during the UK’s G7 Presidency, BEIS commissioned this study to add depth and precision to existing recommendations on:

data sharing across borders
related research practice
related cultural issues

The findings are intended to inform understanding of open science best practice in responding to future global emergencies….”

How intelligent open science can inform our response to global crises | Impact of Social Sciences

“The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the potential strengths and existing weaknesses of open science practices and open data sharing to addressing urgent social and technological challenges. In this post, Lucia Loffreda and Rob Johnson present a new report from the UK Government’s Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, highlighting how support for open data and science practices can contribute to increased preparedness in the face of future crises….

In a new report, commissioned by the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), these lessons are explored through an in-depth case study of viral genomic data sharing during COVID-19. The report follows a commitment made during the UK’S G7 Presidency, as published in the G7 Research Compact, and was designed to add depth and precision to existing recommendations on data sharing across borders, and related research practice and cultural issues. The findings presented in this BEIS-commissioned case study are also closely aligned to those outlined in the World Health Organization’s recently published guiding principles for pathogen genome data sharing. It is hoped that both documents can provide valuable lessons to support equitable and efficient responses future crises. Our full report, including detailed findings, is now publicly available to view here….”

COVID research is free to access — but for how long?

“Scientific papers made free to access during the pandemic are rumoured to be disappearing behind paywalls. They aren’t — yet….

Now the pandemic is in its third year, and reports are circulating that the end of free-to-access COVID-19 research is nigh. If so, that would suggest publishers have decided that the COVID-19 emergency is over before world health authorities have. But is that the case?…

Nature has so far found only one publisher that has paywalled some previously free research papers. BMJ, based in London, decided this year to make COVID-19 research from most of its journals free for only one year from their publication date. But that policy does not include COVID-19 papers in flagship medical journal The BMJ, where no time limit applies, the publisher told Nature….

Spokespeople from other publishers — including the giants Elsevier, Springer Nature and Wiley — told Nature that they are keeping their COVID-19 research papers free. (Nature’s news team is editorially independent of Springer Nature, its publisher.) The US National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, which runs the PubMed Central repository, told Nature that it has not received any requests to withdraw the free versions of COVID-19 papers that many publishers have placed there….

In his August post, Kiley observed that publishers have now agreed four times in seven years to open up paywalled research for public-health emergencies — for Zika, Ebola, COVID-19 and, earlier this year, for monkeypox. He urged that open access shouldn’t be “dictated by the perceived urgency of a disease”, but should apply to all research. The world faces other challenges, such as climate change and food and water security, he noted. Also in August, supporters of open-access research launched a multi-year campaign to make climate and biodiversity research free in perpetuity….”

Avert Bangladesh’s looming water crisis through open science and better data

“Access to data is a huge problem. Bangladesh collects a large amount of hydrological data, such as for stream flow, surface and groundwater levels, precipitation, water quality and water consumption. But these data are not readily available: researchers must seek out officials individually to gain access. India’s hydrological data can be similarly hard to obtain, preventing downstream Bangladesh from accurately predicting flows into its rivers….

Publishing hydrological data in an open-access database would be an exciting step. For now, however, the logistics, funding and politics to make on-the-ground data publicly available are likely to remain out of reach.

Fortunately, satellite data can help to fill the gaps. Current Earth-observing satellite missions, such as the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) Follow-On, the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) network, multiple radar altimeters and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors make data freely available and can provide an overall picture of water availability across the country (this is what we used in many of our analyses). The picture is soon to improve. In December, NASA and CNES, France’s space agency, plan to launch the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) satellite mission. SWOT will provide unprecedented information on global ocean and inland surface waters at fine spatial resolution, allowing for much more detailed monitoring of water levels than is possible today. The international scientific community has been working hard over the past 15 years to get ready to store, process and use SWOT data….

New open-science initiatives, particularly NASA’s Earth Information System, launched in 2021, can help by supporting the development of customized data-analysis and modelling tools (see The data we present here were acquired in this framework. We are currently working on an advanced hydrological model that will be capable of representing climate-change effects and human impacts on Bangladesh’s water availability. We expect that the co-development of such a modelling system with local partners will support decision-making….”

What can COVID-19 teach us about making research on climate change open access?

“This year, during the International Open Access Week, the focus is on Open for Climate Justice. In this panel discussion, open access experts will reflect on key lessons emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic on the publication of critical research open access. They will discuss how these can inform the approach to dealing with the climate change crisis better from different perspectives: stressing on the urgency for open access to climate research, adopting approaches to make OA publication of climate research sustainable, and addressing issues related to research/publication ethics and potential misinterpretation of research findings.

Attend the session till the end to be eligible for a certificate of participation….”

Safeguarding science in the wake of conflict – International Science Council

“Full adoption of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommendation on open science is highlighted as a pathway for enabling displaced scholars to continue their work, and supporting the (re)development of fragile science systems. Crucially, stakeholders must work together to develop sustainable frameworks in higher education and research systems for a more predictable and effective approach to the phases of preparedness, response and rebuilding in the aftermath of conflict or disaster….”

Democratic research: Setting up a research commons for a qualitative, comparative, longitudinal interview study during the COVID-19 pandemic – ScienceDirect

Abstract:  The sudden and dramatic advent of the COVID-19 pandemic led to urgent demands for timely, relevant, yet rigorous research. This paper discusses the origin, design, and execution of the [PROJECT NAME] research commons, a large-scale, international, comparative, qualitative research project that sought to respond to the need for knowledge among researchers and policymakers in times of crisis. The form of organization as a research commons is characterized by an underlying solidaristic attitude of its members and its intrinsic organizational features in which research data and knowledge in the study is shared and jointly owned. As such, the project is peer-governed, rooted in (idealist) social values of academia, and aims at providing tools and benefits for its members. In this paper, we discuss challenges and solutions for qualitative studies that seek to operate as research commons.


Academicians’ awareness, attitude, and use of open access during the COVID-19 pandemic – Abstract – Europe PMC

Abstract:  The aim of this research is to reveal academics’ awareness, attitude, and use of open access. In line with the research purpose, the survey research design is adopted. This research consists 151 academics from 12 basic research areas; eight of them being Professor Dr, 17 being Associate Professor Dr, 49 being Doctor Lecturer, and 77 being Research Assistant or Lecturer. A questionnaire consisting of 19 open access and five demographic information questions was used for the data collection tool. The research results show that 75% of the academics have open access awareness and that their awareness is generally created by information that they obtain through the Internet and their friends. In addition, most of the academics indicate that their awareness of open access has increased during the pandemic period. When considering the level of academics’ use of open access, it is found that 75% of the academics use articles in open access journals for their own research and 51% of the academics do not publish any articles in open access journals.


Tackling the politicisation of COVID-19 data reporting through open access data sharing – The Lancet Infectious Diseases

“Regression analysis of country-specific death rates among 137 countries, showed that approximately 400?000 deaths were estimated to be unaccounted for during the first year of the pandemic, most likely among autocratic governments.

 During the early stages of the pandemic, the Chinese Government limited knowledge of the emerging disease and downplayed its severity. The Chinese Government did not allow the media to use terms like fatal and lockdown. Houthi rebels in Yemen relied on under-reporting cases to avoid accountability and maintain economic activity, leading to the reporting of only four COVID-19 cases and one death in the highly populated Sana’a City over the first year of the pandemic. Most countries report cases and deaths that are both probable and confirmed by testing. However, in Russia, only COVID-19 confirmed deaths are included in official counts, despite low supplies of PCR tests, leading to vast under-reporting of deaths. Similarly, some Brazilian hospitals have been implicated in the under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths in response to government pressure to avoid triggering the apparent need for lockdown measures. When official and aggregate sources were available, the JHU CSSE team overcame such challenges by implementing innovative anomaly detection processes and data fusion approaches in the data coalition process.

Political polarisation has threatened the reliability of data supplied by US Government agencies. The Trump White House Administration advised hospitals to send data on SARS-CoV-2 and intensive care unit capacities to a private company, bypassing the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Concerningly, a relationship was exposed between the private contractor and the Trump family’s corporation. The switch to sending data to a private contractor led to a hiatus in publicly available data from the US CDC. Moreover, the transition was accompanied by sporadic updates, with many irregularities in the data and inconsistencies in the definition of metrics from the contracted private company….”

Best-selling chemistry textbook is now free | News | Chemistry World

“The author of a popular organic chemistry textbook is making it freely available to students after learning about a loophole in his copyright agreement with the publisher.

John McMurry’s Organic Chemistry has been one of the best selling chemistry textbooks since it was first printed in 1984. Under his agreement with Cengage Learning, the book’s publisher, McMurry realised he could ask for the book’s copyright to be returned to him 30 years after it was first printed. Without copyright of the first edition, the publisher is unable to produce any more new editions, McMurry notes.

McMurry, an emeritus professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University, US, says the move was a tribute to his son who passed away from cystic fibrosis three years ago….”

How Covid invited a rethink of the scientific publications business – Page 1 | Mediapart

Only this paragraph is unpaywalled: ”

Science journalists have for many years cited the difficulty of conciliating the (long) time required in scientific activity and the (rapid) time in which the media operate. The Covid-19 pandemic came perilously close to joining the two, when an avalanche of scientific papers about the virus were published with such haste that many had to be swiftly retracted. Science journalist and historian Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis reports on how the pandemic exposed the unvirtuous practices of the lucrative scientific publications business, now brought to a turning point and in need of reinvention….”