Open Access — An Intellectual Asset Or A Discredited Obligation
Open Access

Open Access — An Intellectual Asset Or A Discredited Obligation

Kanu Priya
Kanu Priya

Table of Contents

Open-Access_Typeset-Article

Introduction

"The power of Open Source is the power of the people. The people rule." Since the 90s, Open Access has been providing open and unrestricted access to research on the internet in the form of books, articles, journals, and more. The phrase "Knowledge is power" is very widely believed. It is, therefore, prodigious to even think about how powerful it can get if all the knowledge is openly and freely available. The Open Access movement has acquired momentum in recent years, with several notable figures in the campaign having expressed a diversity of visions for the future.

Most of the world's scientific and scholarly output is owned by private companies or institutions, making it difficult to freely access, study, exchange, and redistribute valuable information. The Open Access movement is a reaction against proprietary uses of research materials and a call to arms for all researchers to share their work with the world as efficiently and consistently as possible while simultaneously receiving valuable support from the institutions they work with.

Within the world of publishing, Open Access journals are becoming so highly accepted; even some highly-established players are moving OA from the sidelines to the mainstream of their plans for the future. In addition, universities in nations around the globe have passed open access policies and are embodying OA into the way they collect, capture and disseminate research output.

The Advancing Role of Preprints In Open Access

A preprint is a written version of an article that has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Preprints do not necessarily reflect the final version that will be published; they are Author’s Original Manuscript (AOM) that he can openly share on social platforms or preprint servers for scholarly collaboration and non-commercial use. In the traditional peer review system, a paper is peer-reviewed by a single person who has a copy of the paper. If the paper is good enough, they'll pass it to the journal's editor for them to decide whether it will be published or not. By using a preprint server, on the other hand, you can send your paper directly to a peer who has already seen it and given their feedback (in fact, it's even easier if they have already read parts of your paper). However, submitting to preprints creates a feedback loop between the author and editors that can be problematic when sensory details and pacing become crucial for the reader's experience.

Preprint Servers and Their Role in Academic Publishing

If you plan to write a conference paper, a preprint server is where you want it to be. A preprint server is an online repository containing works or data associated with various scholarly papers that are not yet peer-reviewed or accepted. The preprint servers were started by physicists, primarily for their own use and to share their work during their summers. It's an open secret that many people think preprints are a better way to disseminate research findings.

Most researchers agree with the principle that the peer-review process for scholarly articles should be expedited, but there are contradicting opinions on the comparative merits of conventional journal article publishing and posting preprints on publicly accessible servers. Many researchers prefer this type of service because their papers do not undergo the same level of scrutiny and review as traditional journals. Many preprint archives do not involve any sort of peer review process at all. Once they are published, articles cannot be removed from a preprint server. This means preprints can be cited and served as a tangible piece of evidence that an article was indeed published prior to formal online publication. Listed below are some authentic Preprint servers.

  • arXiv: arXiv is a repository (Open Access) for high-quality research papers, including peer-reviewed articles in the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, medicine, biology, etc. In just a couple of decades, they quickly became one of the largest open access repositories in the world.
  • SocArXiv (for social sciences)
  • BioRxiv (for biology)
  • medRxiv (for medicine)
  • EarthArXiv (for geosciences)
  • ChemRxiv (for chemistry).

The graph below represents the benchmarks for all papers hosted on bioRxiv.org and medRxiv.org on the RxiVist.com, a platform containing biology preprints.

upsurge-of-preprint
Source: https://rxivist.org/stats

The upsurge of Preprint in the pandemic phase is evident as,

We assessed the role of preprints in the communication of COVID-19 research in the first 10 months of the pandemic, between January 1 and October 31, 2020. We found that preprint servers hosted almost 25% of COVID-19–related science, that these COVID-19 preprints were being accessed and downloaded in far greater volume than other preprints on the same servers, and that these were widely shared across multiple online platforms.

— The evolving role of preprints in the dissemination of COVID-19 research and their impact on the science communication landscape. April 2, 2021.

https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000959

Preprint-surge
Source: Nature.com

Conversations around preprints have been going on for a while, and the momentum only continues to grow. The implications of this new movement are broad, impacting researchers, publishers, libraries, and funding agencies. What started as a way to share papers prior to publication has evolved to be so much more. It seems Preprints are here for the long run.

Preprint Citations

Preprints have a DOI that uniquely identifies them. They come under the permanent public record. Authors typically want to include preprints in their reference lists. This allows researchers to instantly reach additional readers by using preprints published earlier in the same issue of a peer-reviewed journal. Allowing authors to quickly update or enhance their direct communication with readers, including providing them other avenues of feedback helps improve scientific publishing as a whole.

To cite a preprint, you should take care of the following:

1. Author name(s)

2. Title

3. Name of the preprint server

4. Object type, that is, Preprint

5. Date of most recent version posted

6. Date accessed

7. DOI

If you click on Advanced Citations on the first page of your preprint server result (if there is only one), you will see several options about how the citation should be generated, what exactly it means, and whether the citation will appear in the journal article as a separate embedded link (if it contains references).

This information needs to be formatted according to the style of the article that has been used in the article. It is necessary to add your date of access and the version date.

The Role of Peer-review in Research Quality

Peer review is a procedure in which competent people in the same field evaluate a work to determine its credibility. The aim of peer review is to improve the quality of an author's work before it is published in a scientific journal. It is a cornerstone of scientific quality control. Peer review has existed for centuries, but only in the past decade has this process started to be applied to online scientific journals. So why is peer review important? Is it required? Are there any alternatives to the traditional model of peer review? Let us take a deep dive into one of the most critical components of scholarly publishing.

Why is Peer-review Required?

The expertise of any journal is established primarily through the quality of the articles, with a not insubstantial boost coming from authors' existing reputation.”

Looking At Journals From Both Sides by Norman Clark with Allan Scherlen as editor

The process is based on the concept that the quality and reliability of scientific and scholarly publications can be maintained and improved through a critical evaluation by multiple reviewers. The primary purpose of peer review is to provide an author with confidential feedback that will help them to produce an appropriate manuscript for the journal’s readership. Peer review is a way of ensuring that scholarly work meets the quality standards of the field. To achieve this, peer review aims to ensure that all reports of scientific or scholarly work are objective, fair, reliable, and free from bias. Peer review assists editors in making editorial decisions while assisting readers in deciding which reports will be useful for their needs.

The peer-review process is fundamental to the modern publishing process, but it isn’t perfect. One of the problems with peer reviews is that the reviewers are only human. This means that they are prone to error, some intentional and some unintentional, particularly if they are asked to perform reviews under time constraints. Peer reviews are also only as good as the person who is doing the reviewing.

David J. Solomon says, “I am continually amazed at the time, effort, and thought that many reviewers put into the review process. The result more often than not is excellent constructive feedback that most authors welcome and use to improve their manuscripts.” The Role of Peer Review for Scholarly Journals in the Information Age.

On the other hand,

“The large majority, 85%, agreed with the statement that scientific communication is greatly helped by peer review.” Peer review: Benefits, perceptions, and alternatives | PRC Summary Papers, London.

Open Access And The Role Of Libraries

The Open Access movement has gained momentum at an exponential rate over the last decade. It's an incredibly significant paradigm shift, particularly for academic libraries, making librarians a natural advocate for promoting greater access to scholarly works. The rudimentary mission of any library is to promote academic works. About 95% of librarians find themselves confident about understanding the term “open-access.” While the evolution of scholarly publishing continues to unfold, changes in scholarly communication have been clearly demonstrated, and libraries have always had a central role in it.

As we contemplate the next era of open access, it is worth asking whether librarians and information professionals have adapted in ways that will be sufficient to meet the challenges ahead. And in ways, they have. Libraries are adapting to the OA landscape and articulating their specific interests and objectives. For example, some libraries are leading efforts to support publishing models like green open access, which allows electronic versions of journal articles to be deposited in institutional repositories, while others are tackling issues around data management and sharing.

“Not only does Open Access require librarians to redefine their collections and services, but the changes are coming rapidly. Just a few years ago, the OA movement was still fairly small, while today, over half of recently published research articles are freely available.”

Proportion of Open Access Papers: Published in Peer-Reviewed Journals at the European and World Levels — 1996–2013

Role Of Funders: Open Access Mandates

Funding strongly affects the way research is performed, distributed, and used. It has the power to impact science capacity, innovation progress, and technology transfer. Funders can make an essential contribution to the development of science capacity.

1. University Funding

The first approach is authors should enquire about their institution if they offer help or discounts on APCs or have required arrangements with publishers that might aid waivers on APC. For example, The Netherlands is leading a revolution in open access publishing. Researchers can now publish their work in thousands of journals without having to pay the usual publication charges. Often, research libraries offer grants and funding opportunities. Scholars are advised to inquire about possible funding opportunities with their library.

2. Research Funders

Research Grant programs like Plan S have adopted policies like making open access compulsory for grantees. Plan S is an Open Access publishing programme launched in September 2018. Under Plan S, which started on January 1, 2020, scientists have to publish their work in fully OA journals, those who wish to receive financial support from participating funders. It is only obvious for funders to have a strong interest in open access as it enables maximum readership of the research they fund. No longer does research-buffs need to travel into town and cough up $30 for a journal article. The rollout of the initiative is now in full swing.

Conclusion

Extraordinary changes are sweeping through all fields of scientific research and scholarship, including the publishing domain. Technological developments – mainly the Internet and the digital revolution have had a significant impact on science, communication, and knowledge dissemination, affecting how scientists search, filter, store, retrieve, and access information. Therefore, the research community must focus on Open Access publishing and the collaborative sharing of research results.

Many Researchers approve of the concept that the high impact factor is important for Open Access. But they will nevertheless object strenuously to the notion that funder mandates necessarily involve suppressing the influence of scholars working in high-impact areas favoring less prestigious researchers, whose publications will have higher open access citation rates. The critics argue that the impact factor of an Open Access journal represents only a fraction of the potential impact of a research paper and that the resulting over-concentration on high-impact journals would stifle innovation in areas where the potential for benefit is greatest.

Acknowledgement

Allan-Scherlen-Social-Sciences-Librarian-Professor-Belk-Library

We thank Professor Allan Scherlen, Social Sciences Librarian at Appalachian State University for his assistance and insights that greatly improved the article. His expertise greatly assisted us in writing a quality research article.

References:

  1. https://library.csun.edu/eNews/Fall-2016/whats-open-access#_ftn1
  2. https://www.futuremedicine.com/authorguide/openaccess
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_accesshttps://www.openaccess.nl/en/what-is-open-access/funding

Suggested Reading:

  1. The Liberal Dimensions of Peer-review in Scholarly Publishing
  2. Thoughts on the future of academic publishing
  3. Enabling the libraries of the future: Tools and systems for scholarly communications
  4. The Role and Impact of Preprints on Open Access Publishing

Before You Go,