This guest post is one of a series from sponsors of the OASPA Conference in 2019. Please note that the views in this post do not represent an official view or statement from OASPA. This post is by Emily Packer of eLife.
Open Access: eLife and the changing landscape
The scientific publishing landscape is in a significant state of flux, with open-access journals claiming a greater share of the market, and initiatives such as Plan S calling for research to be made freely available in such publications. In the midst of this change, we’ve been reflecting on eLife’s work to advance open-access publishing, through our own operations and to support other publishers.
Serving science and scientists
eLife works to help scientists accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises responsible behaviours in science. We publish work of the highest scientific standards and importance in all areas of the life and biomedical sciences, which is selected and evaluated by working scientists and made freely available to all readers without delay. Through research and experimentation directed at our own processes, we aim to learn how publishing can serve the interests of scientists and their work more effectively. We also share the findings of this work and collaborate with others so that any data we generate can be used more broadly. Given the state of flux within publishing and the potential for improvements, we believe there is much to be gained by open experimentation across the landscape.
But what about costs?
Of course, both open-access publishing and moving from subscription-based to open-access models involve costs that need to be considered – but this topic is difficult to navigate due to the overall lack of information around publishing costs. To help fill this gap, we share details of eLife’s expenses each year. Our hope is to spur conversations around the real and core costs of publishing and opportunities to try and lower them – now, when they are needed more than ever before. Would other publishers be willing to share insight on their own costs and help move these conversations along?
Open-source infrastructure for open-access publishing
One way to help reduce publishing costs is using open-source software, which is less expensive to maintain, community-supported and more flexible than typical proprietary systems. There is much potential for improvements in the digital communication of new research, and we’re working within a community of open-source developers to help realise this. An example of this work is the Reproducible Document Stack, which aims to explore how new tools can enable research articles to incorporate executable code, along with the relevant data, to support greater reproducibility.
Another major open-source infrastructure project is the Libero suite. Libero is an end-to-end publishing system that we’re building for publishers to help make submission, peer-review, production, hosting and content-delivery processes as efficient as possible – as well as for eLife. An important goal of this work is to create tools that are flexible enough to support both the needs of current open-access publishers, and new and emerging models for publishing.
Libero is being developed in partnership with the non-profit Collaborative Knowledge Foundation (Coko), open-access publisher Hindawi and digital consultancy Digirati, under a governance model that puts the community at the heart of the project. Such community efforts to develop and encourage the widespread use of high-quality, open infrastructure for publishing could bring substantial benefits to science communication – by reducing costs, encouraging consistency and supporting the transition we want to see toward open access to research.
A broader context
Open access is part of a larger shift that is occurring within the world of research. Other aspects include reform of the incentive structure, creating new methods of evaluation, increasing collaboration across countries and disciplines, and improving the general culture of research. At OASPA there has been a natural focus on open access, but we are delighted to support a meeting that puts this work in the context of the broader changes that are taking place, which can only help to drive the transition to comprehensive open availability of scholarship.
Emily Packer is the Senior Press Officer at eLife. During her career, she has worked with a couple of publishers including GlobalData, where she promoted the company’s latest research on the global energy and healthcare sectors. In her current role, she is responsible for generating high‐quality, balanced media coverage to help spread the word about new research and initiatives at eLife.
We are grateful to eLife and all of our 2019 conference sponsors for their support.