Open Access and the Revolution in Academic Publishing

Together with NCCR AntiResist, NCCR Microbiomes hosted the event Open Access and the Revolution in Academic Publishing on October 18 and 25, 2023.

We explored ongoing changes in academic publishing, as well as how those changes affect scientists’ careers, through a combination of presentations and panel discussions.

Day 1: The State of Open Access

Tobias Philipp, PhD, SNSF Open Access Coordinator. Roads to Open Access.

Some key points:

  • All projects funded by the SNSF after 2023 (including Phase II of NCCR Microbiomes) must publish journal articles with immediate open access. No embargo period will be allowed.
  • SNSF-funded researchers who wish to publish in a journal with an embargo period must inform the publisher at the time of submitting their article that they have a commitment to Plan S rules, to deposit the “author’s accepted manuscript” (after peer-review, but before layout and typesetting) in a public repository immediately upon publication.
  • One of the main issues in creating a sustainable future for Open Access is to change the rewards and incentives in academic research.

Bernd Pulverer, Head of Scientific Publications at EMBO Press. Financing Selective Open Access Community Journals.

Some key points:

  • EMBO is transparent about the finances of non-profit scientific publishing. In addition to the explanation in his presentation, a report is available here:
  • In support of Open Science broadly, EMBO requires authors to publish the source data for all figures in their journal article and encourages them to publish their protocols.
  • Funding for Open Access, and research generally, varies widely across and within countries. Despite their Article Publishing Charges, EMBO does not turn away authors who are unable to pay.

Panel Discussion: Open Access Challenges and Opportunities.

  • Tobias Philipp
  • Bernd Pulverer
  • Emma Slack, Professor for Mucosal Immunity at ETH Zurich and University of Oxford, NCCR Microbiomes
  • Shawnna Buttery, Editor-in-Chief at Cell Reports
  • Germán Bonilla-Rosso, Research Associate, Agroscope and the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics

Our diverse group of contributors represented academia, a funding agency, a non-profit and a for-profit publisher. From contrary perspectives arose several points of agreement:

  • Publications are not the only way to transmit scientific knowledge. Open Science is larger than Open Access. We would benefit from recognizing alternative research outputs, such as datasets, code, and protocols.
  • One of the main purposes (if not THE purpose) of scientific journals is to curate articles, through peer review, selectivity, and quality assurance measures. These services do not come for free.
  • Despite the importance of peer review to science, reviewers are not given the time they need or the credit they deserve for performing their work. Moreover, few researchers are trained in how to perform peer review. Scientists who provide high-quality reviews could be recognized when they are, themselves, evaluated.

Day 2: The Revolution

Innovations in Scientific Publishing: Short Talks

  • Open Science toward a sustainable world. Kimberly Kline, Scientific Editor, FEMS Microbes
  • Reclaiming scholarly publishing: Diamond Open Access. Daniela Hahn, Project Manager PLATO (Platinum Open Access, University of Zurich)
  • Cell Press Community Review: a submission model for simultaneous manuscript evaluation and peer review. Sejal Vyas, Lead Editor, Cell Press Multi-Journal Submission
  • Integrating Open Science in publishing: from peer reviewed preprints to open data. Thomas Lemberger, Head of Open Science Implementation at EMBO Press
  • Accelerating scientific discovery. Alessio Bolognesi, Head of Journal Development, eLife

Innovations in Scientific Publishing: Panel Discussion

What is the function of a journal, the role of the editor, the role of peer reviewers? How might we streamline the process of peer review and, ultimately, the transmission of scientific knowledge? What innovations in funding models could support Diamond Open Access (free to publish, free to read)?

Rachel Heyard, Postdoctoral researcher, University of Zurich. There is more to research than just papers – Alternative Research Outputs in Switzerland.

Some key points:

  • Swiss researchers are already generating a variety of research outputs: scientific publications, collaborations, use-inspired outputs, public communications, academic events, datasets, and knowledge transfer.
  • Could we change the focus from markers of prestige to outputs of a high-quality research process?

Panel Discussion: Changing the Incentives

  • Rachel Heyard
  • Urs Jenal, Professor of Molecular Microbiology, University of Basel, NCCR AntiResist
  • Alexander Harms, Professor of Molecular Phage Biology, ETH Zurich, NCCR AntiResist
  • Gernot Pruschak, Lecturer, Bern University of Applied Sciences
  • Rebecca Lawrence, Managing Director, F1000

This panel discussed the basis of evaluating researchers for hiring, promotions and funding. Which elements are appropriate and fair for performing this evaluation? Although the impact factor of a journal does not cover all aspects of research, it is a useful indicator because it is a concise metric of research quality. If we wish to evaluate researchers in additional areas, reviewers need quality metrics for those areas.