Written by Lindsay Morton In scientific communications, methods are finally getting their due. Tools for better-communicating methods are everywhere these days—from new…
It’s Open Access Week! This year, publishers, librarians, researchers, and institutions are discussing and organizing events around the theme: “Open for whom?”
Why is that question so important? Well, over the past 20 years, OA research has surged from as few as 523 articles in 2001 (OASPA) to as much as 45% of all new research publications (Piwowar et al). Now that Open Access is a staple of scientific communication, we should be using that momentum to promote greater inclusivity for every discipline, every career stage, and every demographic of researcher.
Increasing the accessibility of research
OA Research Articles help authors reach broader audiences and allow anyone to read, share, and reuse published research without restrictions. But is the final article enough to ensure reproducibility? Does it provide enough context for readers of all backgrounds to understand the nuances of its claims?
The more context authors give for their work, the more likely future researchers will be able to replicate and build off of their studies. PLOS introduced our Data Availability policy in 2013, requiring all authors to make their data accessible upon acceptance. This was a huge step in making research more reusable and, importantly for authors, more citable.Since then, we’ve actively implemented tools to allow researchers to share additional elements of their research such as protocols and code.
But why stop there? In addition to full access to the research itself, we want to increase the transparency of the entire research process. Shoehorning years’ worth of investigation and discovery into a single article minimizes the recognition scientists receive for their work. Instead of molding science to fit the forms of research communication, we’re thinking of new outputs like preprints, preregistration, and new article types that will empower researchers to tell the full story of their science in a more authentic sequence. At the end of the publication process, we also hope to see more authors opt-in to publish their peer review history, demonstrating the expert opinions which have helped shape the work.
If we open additional steps of the research process and outcomes to everyone, we can increase public understanding and trust in science, while accelerating scientific advancement.
Ensuring Open Access is Open to All
APC models have dominated the space from the launch of the first Open Access journals in the early 2000s. The model assumes researchers’ funding can help pay for the costs of publishing in order to make the work immediately and freely available to the public. While this model has gained widespread recognition from funders, and even become a mandate of taxpayer-funded research and policies like Plan S, not all authors who want to publish Open Access have the funding to do so.
Many journals, like PLOS, offer fee-assistance programs for authors who lack the funding, particularly for researchers in low and middle-income countries. But these programs don’t cover every researcher or every paper. We need to look beyond APCs to partner with libraries, institutions, and funders to ensure authors can choose where to publish and how to share it with the world.
Where will OA take us next?
We believe in Open Access and Open Science for their potential to create a more equitable system of scientific knowledge and understanding. We want to assist in showing you how. Through our experiments in research outputs, stories from researchers, and the latest developments in Open Science, we’ll be starting a new blog series to demonstrate how we can all advance by making science more Open – to every demographic, every discipline, and every career stage. Stay tuned next month for our first post!