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Openness of academic publishers evaluated for the first time

Open access to research publications and the transparency of research are cornerstones of the scientific progress. Supporting openness and open science is an essential goal in Finnish and international science policies. However, there is a lot room for improvement in the practices and policies of key international academic publishers, finds the "Opening Academic Publishing" report, published today.

The report, commissioned by the Open science and research initiative (ATT) of the Ministry of Education and Culture, evaluated the implementation of open science principles in the practices and policies of key international publishers and developed a systematic evaluation framework, or scorecard,  for benchmarking. The largest publishers have significant impact on the research and innovation fields, but systematic tools for assessing openness have not been previously available. The published report highlights key areas and improves the possibilities to monitor and develop the practices for open science and academic publishing.

The evaluation project was implemented by Open Knowledge Finland with Oxford Research and it studied nine large academic publishers in detail. The score for openness ranged between 30-70% as compared to the target level. There are clear differences between the publishers and some publishers score far below the target levels. The report highlights key development areas for the publishers to improve on.

Evaluating openness is crucial for understanding the impact and costs of research

The publishers can adopt many ways to support open science, and the evaluation strived for covering central areas of those principles. The evaluation employs seven key factors, which were scored on a scale from 0-3. The publishers were evaluated by investigating the fraction and costs of open access publishing; license policy; the support for self-archiving, open citation and text and data mining, as well as the accessibility of information on open access publishing. There was variation between the publishers, yet each of the publishers scored below the target level in more than one of the seven key factors.  

The lack of transparency and variation in pricing schemes made the evaluation more difficult. The practices of the publishers differ within their journal portfolio, and for example across disciplines on pricing and licenses. This needs more scrutiny in following studies.

Some of the newcomer publishers apply principles of open science across their offering, not only individual publications. This is a practice we would like to see also with the more traditional publishers", states academy researcher Leo Lahti, who has been coordinating this report.

"Some of the more recently-formed publishers apply principles of open science across their portfolio of publications, not only in individual publications. This is a practice we would like to see also with the more traditional publishers", states academy researcher Leo Lahti, who has been coordinating this report.

The contributions to the realisation of open science principles are reflected in the pricing for license agreements, however, they potentially also increase the effectiveness and impact of research at the same time. The scorecard introduced in the evaluation enables a systematic comparison between publishers with regard to their support for openness.

"The openness of license agreements, to which those negotiating them have already been committed to in Finland, will make it easier to compare openness of publishers and the total costs of open access publishing. This will help improve the negotiating position of research institutes and result in notable savings", concludes Lahti.

Further information

Download the report Opening academic publishing. Development and application os systematic evaluation criteria.

Leo Lahti, Docent / Academy Research Fellow University of Turku & Open Knowledge Finland ry. leo.lahti@iki.fi / +358 40 5655 872 http://www.iki.fi/Leo.Lahti

Open Knowledge Finland promotes free access and reuse of knowledge and advocates for a transparent and inclusive society in Finland. It is the local chapter of The Open Knowledge Network, which already operates in over 30 countries. Open Knowledge Finland was registered as a Finnish non-profit association in 2012. The Open Science Working Group received the Finnish Ministry of Culture and Education award for openness on 2017 for its persistent work in advancing open science.

Oxford Research is a specialized knowledge company with offices in Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Latvia. OR combines academic competence with strategic vision and communication, supporting decision making in such areas as knowledge and innovation systems, development of municipalities and regions, and social, educational, and labour market policies.

The Ministry of education and culture promoted research information availability and open science through the Open Science and Research Initiative (ATT), which was set out for the years 2014-2017. The objective was for Finland to become one of the leading countries in openness of science and research by the year 2017 and to ensure that the possibilities of open science will be widely utilized in our society. In addition to this, the ambition was to promote the trustworthiness of science and research, support the culture of open science within the research community, and to increase the societal impact of research and science.