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An Internal Debate about Two Different Publication Channels: Open Access vs. Peer-Reviewed Journals

4/5/2019


What is the primary motivation behind publishing an academic work? Should we let our career goals decide the way we publish academic research, or should we publish academic research for the public good and consider our career later? Those questions remind me of one the biggest debates in intellectual history, ‘art for art’s sake.’ Because of this, I want to compare and discuss the bigger picture rather than specific journals.


In my humble opinion, science is the art of scientist. We owe today’s world both scientists and artists; to give an example, we simply need to remember the Renaissance period and invention of European movable type printing press in this period. We can observe the general human motivation from this period to the present to spread ideas, knowledge, art, and science without having to look back much in history. Some of the people were also against the invention of the modern printing press, and they were thinking that it might negatively affect social gradients via spreading ‘evil ideas.’ Without any personal judgment, I can clearly say that revolutionary[1] developments never become without any objection or debates. Otherwise, we cannot call those developments as a revolution. After spreading access to world wide web and usage of a computer, a way of doing science and even art changed. Today, we are on knocking the door of spreading this new version of science and art. Spreading art and ideas found their ways with the power of social media, the power of this channel is growing without restraint. What about science and knowledge?


Nowadays in Norway, all academics’ common topic is PlanS, no matter which scientific field or degree that people have. This is a common issue for everyone, and no one has the same opinion as others. That is why I started to my words from the Renaissance and revolution for helping you to remember history. After Horizon 2020,[2] open science started to accelerate its exponential growth (Hall, 2016), and Norway is one of the most important pioneers of this revolution in science. It is far beyond the publishing or reaching subscription articles; this is helping to science for reaching capillary vessels of society. Helping to science for developing itself within the open environment will inevitably affect to society. At first, if we assume that scientists are on the top of the knowledge producer side of the society, the way of doing our work is changing, and this will rapidly affect from top to down. The most important part is that it will probably trigger other parts of a scientific and educational stratum. From professor to high school students, or even elementary school students with the help of their teacher produced knowledge will find a space to itself, and it will growth and change over time. In the forthcoming years, we might see more master or bachelor students or even high school students while working on new developments in natural and social sciences. We should be ready to see new theories like the general theory of relativity someone from someone outside of academia. Open knowledge will cause total changes in our lives; we cannot restrict this process only academicians’ career goals or traditional way of workings. Besides European Research Council, two of the world’s largest medical research funders declared their support on open access (Kelly, 2018), and most probably other research councils and charitable foundations will add their names to support open access.


On the other side, as an individual, we have our responsibilities, goals, dreams, and realities. In a macro perspective, open access looks more responsible and good for social benefit in general. Because of this, some people would like to go for it with heroic belief and ideas. I have no scientific proof for classifying those heroes’ socioeconomic conditions. Therefore, the conclusion, which I reached from my observations, is that those people stand for PlanS have emotional justifications, except managerial level employees who are supporting open access. However, some people would like to be the hero of their lives and do not want to sacrifice their opportunities to use peer-reviewed journals rather than open access. Is it okay for others who strictly support PlanS? Honestly, I do not think so. If we want to be fair for everyone, people who are not supporting to open access should also get support from who support open access. Those people look like more rational and pragmatist, the majority of national research councils and universities are not supporting to PlanS, even though the national research councils that are signed to PlanS do not strongly support it like Norway.


Fifteen national founders from fourteen countries[3] are the backbones of open access revolution. When we dive deeply into the academic power of these countries, we conclude that with the fractional census (FC) method according to the 2018 research outcomes, only 23% of the fourteen countries (Figure 1) represent the research outputs. Even though, we assume that all academic publications are going to be published in open access journals from now on, quantitatively their academic power is roughly one-fourth of the whole world. According to 2017 estimation numbers of the World Factbook (2018), weighted average ratio per population of unemployment rates of PlanS countries is 1.2% higher than other top 10 countries, which have higher GDP (Table 1). Additionally, for instance, when we look at the research collaborations of Norway, United States of America (USA) has a 20.17% collaboration share according to FC (Nature Index, 2017). The USA has more significant collaboration impact on other PlanS countries, as well. According to those basic figures, the USA is the biggest and one of the most critical job markets for researchers. If you want to move outside of those PlanS countries, for instance to the USA, then you should think about your career because still most of the universities and institutions are going to evaluate your academic ability based on traditional methods.


To cut a long story short, open access is inevitable. If peer-reviewed journals cannot differentiate their services with innovative ideas, eventually all publisher going to be a part of the open access environment. My conclusion is that research councils and universities act more responsible for their researchers, too. Otherwise, PlanS looks like only a business deal between two rival parties. Freedom of knowledge is enough and stronger motivation for supporting PlanS; therefore I do not support any speeches about business deals between institutions and subscription-based publishers publicly, such as panels, conferences, and courses. This muddies the waters because it cannot be my concern as a researcher how institutions are managing their budgets. Our only concern should be about the future of science and its way of practicing. Otherwise, it sounds like the institutions' leaders are bargaining about the researchers' careers on behalf of your budget deficit. I believe the power of conventional wisdom of researchers; incentivize the publishing options would be much better than narrow down them. People who are resisting to this revolutionary process will also want to publish their works in open access journals. Just, we need more high-quality journals and better incentives for publishing in there. Then we will all see that the giants of academic habitat will become a part of open science one by one.


Appendix


Table 1


All data retrieved from natureindex.com & the World Factbook (2018) [4][5]


Figure 1


All data retrieved from natureindex.com


References


Hall, N. (2016, June 16). If science is going to save the world, we need to make it open. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/06/why-science-needs-to-open-up?utm_content=bufferef613&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer .

Kelly, É. (2018, November 6). Big funders back plan for instant free access to journals, but researchers say it is risky for science. Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://sciencebusiness.net/framework-programmes/news/big-funders-back-plan-instant-free-access-journals-researchers-say-it .

Nature Index. (2017, June 23). Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://www.natureindex.com/country-outputs/Norway .

The World Factbook: World. (2018, February 01). Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/xx.html

[1] Revolution, “A forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system.” Revolution | Definition of revolution in English by Oxford Dictionaries. (n.d.). Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/revolution


[2] Kugleta. (2017, March 15). What is Horizon 2020? Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/what-horizon-2020


[3] Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Poland, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Finland, Jordan, Slovenia, Zambia, Luxembourg

Funders and supporters. (n.d.). Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://www.coalition-s.org/funders-and-supporters/


[4] “Education expenditures compares the public expenditure on education as a percent of GDP.”

(2018, February 01). Retrieved April 4, 2019, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/369.html


[5]Article count (AC): “A count of one is assigned to an institution or country if one or more authors of the research article are from that institution or country, regardless of how many co-authors there are from outside that institution or country.”

Nature Index. (2017, May 09). Retrieved June 4, 2019, from https://www.natureindex.com/country-outputs/generate/All/global/All/n_article






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