By Emma Regan, Jordan Maxwell Ridgeway, Hayley Gray and Ella O’Neill
One particular subfield of publishing the Alternative Publishing team has yet to discuss in these articles is Academic Publishing. Academic Publishing distributes academic research and scholarship through journal articles, books and theses, which can be found on online academic publishing platforms such as ResearchGate, ScienceOpen and Project MUSE. Often academic platforms require users to pay to publish or access work, making it harder for aspiring academics to use the sources they need. Yet, recently, government bodies like the EU have been doing something about this.
A report published on 24 October by the European Commission suggests the EU has been given a unique opportunity to develop a non-profit publishing platform that will impact the future of academic publishing. Open Research Europe (ORE) is an academic platform currently being used for researchers only and is funded by the bloc’s Research & Development programmes; however, it could become a platform open to all academics across Europe which would be backed by multiple funders. Scaling up Open Research Europe would prove to be incredibly useful, yet also challenging.
One of the greatest benefits of the launch of this publishing platform is that both researchers and citizens alike will be able to access the latest scientific discoveries free of charge. Access to cutting-edge information, which avoids the usual delays often coming with the publication of scientific results, means accelerated progress at a rate previously unseen. Already forty papers in a wide variety of fields are available for reading and reviewing by the scientific community.
The hope is that easy access to current studies and information will lead to a more efficient and creative use of these findings, resulting in further excellent publications and hopefully increasing people’s trust in science and new discoveries. It would ultimately take a new role in academic publishing, inspiring others to do the same.
The past few years have shown the urgency for the latest theories, technologies and scientific solutions to be put forward for debate and consideration. ORE is seen as the next step in the open science approach, as exhibited by the collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, with the reality of climate change being covered by news resources across the world, the need for fast and effective scientific collaborations could not be clearer.
Despite the numerous benefits that Open Research Europe promises to bring to the table, this new initiative is not without serious challenges. For example, according to independent research consultant Rob Johnson, developing this platform is challenging because “without investment in high-quality non-profit publication venues, continued growth in publication volumes will primarily benefit the largest commercial publishers, at a cost to the European research system.” Likewise, other challenges seem to be that there must be a cultural change that can attract consumers for an increased uptake; there is a lot of complex technological work needed to ensure it is an open-source and setting up the non-profit organisation for the platform is an issue entirely of its own accord.
The platform has other siblings, models being run in several different European countries which prove that the system does indeed work. What is currently lacking in these initiatives is the scale-up potential that ORE supposedly offers. ORE has set itself goals which so far have not been realised in other areas – does this mean that the academic environment it is working in is hostile?
The EU seems to think not, paying up to €5.8 million to support the technology and peer review and publication for up to 5,600 articles over the four-year contract. However, there has not been interest on this scale as of yet, with only 270 papers being published in the course of the first eighteen months. To prove the potential and success of such a system, far more interest will need to be generated within the academic community as well as a synergistic model across the relevant organisations in the academic publishing field.
Nonetheless, this publishing platform for scientific papers is a major step forward for the publishing industry, the EU programme beneficiaries and research communities as it enables academics, researchers, and citizens alike to fully embrace and access latest diverse scientific discoveries and papers. As aforementioned, ORE will not only contribute to cost-efficient, fast and diverse scientific publications, it will also offer researchers a publishing site where they have the freedom and ability to share their insights and results in a rapid manner whilst also facilitating constructive research debates with their colleagues.
Therefore, although there have been some reservations surrounding the platform and the ways in which it has not gained the traction needed to survive and thrive as a non-profit publishing platform, Open Research Europe can ultimately make research and science fully open access for everyone if it is given the resources and awareness required to do so.