Open Access – part of a broader movement towards Open Science

Last week was “Open Access Week”, a time when members of the academic and research community focus on celebrating and recognizing  the potential benefits of Open Access, share information on the topic with colleagues, and consider increasing participation in the initiative. However, Open Access is just one part of a broader movement towards Open Science which also includes Open Data, Practices, Collaboration, and Recognition and Reward. In comparison to Open Access many of these other pillars of Open Science remain less well recognised and examined. Given this, I thought it would be a good opportunity to highlight some of the key aspects of Open Science, to increase awareness and understanding of the context within which Open Access is operating.

 

A definition of Open Science

“a broad term, covering the many exciting developments in how science is becoming more open, accessible, efficient, democratic, and transparent. This Open Science revolution is being driven by new, digital tools for scientific collaboration, experiments and analysis and which make scientific knowledge more easily accessible by professionals and the general public, anywhere, at any time.”

-- European Commission, 2015

 

Pillars of Open Science

Open Access

Possibly the most recognisable pillar of Open Science, Open Access is where researchers produce articles that are freely available to read, download, and share. Such practices enable increased accessibility to publicly funded research. Within Open Access, there are different tiers (Green and Gold), depending on selection by the authors (more information on these options can be found here).

 

Open Data

There is an increasing expectation, from both the scientific community and funding bodies, that researchers will share and archive their data. Where realised, Open Data enables the reproducibility, verification, and extension of existing data, methodology, and reporting standards. Authors are able to make open, and receive recognition for, a wide variety of components of their work related to data including: metadata, raw data, processed data, software, algorithms, protocols, methods, and materials. The processes of preparing data and metadata are becoming increasingly defined, with journals requiring this information - such as Limnology and Oceanography: Letters - providing templates to guide authors through the preparation of this material. Moreover, the development of registered and certified data repositories makes the process more streamlined (find them at re3data.org or fairsharing.org). Publishers are increasingly requiring that data is cited (via policies such as this), meaning that authors can increase the impact of their work by including data availability statements in their articles and making data open.

 

Open Publishing Practices

Typically, scientific research is published after the science is done and peer review completed. Open Publishing Practices allow authors to share their work earlier in the process, increasing transparency and reproducibility of the research process and published product.

Registered reports are research plans that detail the hypothesis, variables, statistical tests, and so on that will be involved in the study. Following peer-review, these plans can be provisionally accepted for publication, which will be completed if the authors undertake the registered methodology. Such an approach allows science that is done following a strong design to be published, irrespective of the results obtained (more information here).

Preprints are another method to make papers open earlier in the process – often either before, or at the same time as, journal submission. These practices are currently more widely used than registered reports, with a number of non-commercial preprint servers available to researchers (e.g. ArXiv, bioRxiv, psyArXiv, SocAXiv, engrXiv). It is worth noting, however, that some journals will not consider articles that have been previously available as preprints, so this might be an action that needs careful consideration.

In addition to the measures outlined above to make manuscripts more open, there are also a range of approaches to make the process of peer review more open. These measures can include offering clearer guidance as to better practice standardspublic peer review that includes permanently linking peer review reports, author responses, and editor decision letters with published journal articles, and making the identities of the author and reviewer known to one another.

 

Open Collaboration

Developing technologies are allowing researchers to support collaborations with inclusive and networked research practices. The preparation of articles can be enhanced by using programs such as Authorea and Overleaf which allow for online, real-time author collaboration. Encouragingly, when it comes time to submit, programs like these are increasingly enabling direct submission to preprint servers, journals, and publishers. Finally, published research can be more easily accessed and shared with collaborators as Article Sharing Policies are evolving to recognise new outlets (examples from Wiley can be found here), and tools are being developed to create mobile, auto-updating libraries.

 

Open Recognition and Reward

Opportunities are now developing to recognise and reward the activities that researchers take in the publishing process, both in terms of authors who actively adopt Open Science practices as well as reviewers whose contributions to peer review have historically been ‘behind-the-scenes’. Authors can now receive a small, but visible, recognition when they publish in some journals in the form of Open Science Badges. These badges, or visual icons, are added to articles to signify to readers that an open practice was followed either in terms of data, material, or pre-registration (more information on badges can be found here). Reviewers can receive credit through programs designed to increase documentation of their contribution (see, for example, Publons).

 

Summary

Open Access is clearly part of a complex Open Science framework that incorporates a range of activities researchers, reviewers, and publishers can undertake. Given that, I have provided numerous links in the post for you to follow and explore if you want more information on specific areas. I’ll finish by adding one more link here; specific information on Open Science from a publisher’s perspective can be found on the Wiley website.

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