Open Science: a revolution in sight?

Author : Bernard Rentier


This article aims at describing the evolution of scientific communication, largely represented by the publication process. It notes the disappearance of the traditional publication on paper and its progressive replacement by electronic publishing, a new paradigm implying radical changes in the whole mechanism.

It aims also at warning the scientific community about the dangers of some new avenues and why, rather than subcontracting an essential part of its work, it must take back a full control of its production.


The article reviews the emerging concepts in scholarly publication and aims to answer frequently asked questions concerning free access to scientific literature as well as to data, science and knowledge in general.


The article provides new observations concerning the level of compliance to institutional open access mandates and the poor relevance of journal prestige for quality evaluation of research and researchers. The results of introducing an open access policy at the University of Liège are noted.

Social implications

Open access is, for the first time in human history, an opportunity to provide free access to knowledge universally, regardless of either the wealth or the social status of the potentially interested readers. It is an essential breakthrough for developing countries.


Open access and Open Science in general must be considered as common values that should be shared freely. Free access to publicly generated knowledge should be explicitly included in universal human rights.

There are still a number of obstacles hampering this goal, mostly the greed of intermediaries who persuade researchers to give their work for free, in exchange for prestige. The worldwide cause of Open Knowledge is thus a major universal issue for the 21st Century.


Open Access Policy: Numbers, Analysis, Effectiveness

« The PASTEUR4OA project is focused on Open Access policy developments and is undertaking a number of activities relating to policy, including mapping policies and policy-related activities, and engaging with policymakers and providing them with information about the general policy picture and what makes a policy effective.
Work Package 3 involved a set of tasks as follows:
  • Describe and enumerate the policy picture in Europe and around the world
  • Rebuild ROARMAP, the registry of OA policies, including the development of a new, detailed classification scheme that describes policy elements
  • Collect data on the levels of Open Access material in institutional repositories around the world
  • Measure policy outcomes and analyse what elements of a policy contribute to its effectiveness
The project sought out policies that exist but had not been registered in ROARMAP, and added more than 250 new entries to the database. The total number of policies globally is now 663 (March 2015), 60% of them from Europe. Of these, approximately two-thirds are institutional policies and about 10% are funder policies. Over half are mandatory, requiring some action rather than simply requesting it and over 60% of these mandatory policies are European.
ROARMAP, the policy registry, has been rebuilt with a new classification scheme for policies that records far more detail about them than before and permits much more extensive search functionality than previously. The scheme includes criteria for deposit and licensing conditions, rights holding, embargo lengths and ‘Gold’ Open Access publishing options.Links to policy documents are provided. Repository managers at policy institutions were contacted to check that we had the correct details for their policy and where necessary corrections were made. As it stands, at the end of this period of concentrated and meticulous work, ROARMAP reflects an accurate and detailed picture of the Open Access policy situation around the world.
The project also examined policy effectiveness. Three main exercises were undertaken. First, deposit rates were measured for articles in the repositories of both mandated and non-mandated institutions, and compared to the total number of articles published from these institutions. The material was identified as Metadata-Only, Full-Text, Open Access and Restricted Access. Open Access and Restricted Access are subsets of Full-Text and together comprise the whole of that category. Restricted Access means full-text articles that are showing only their metadata, with the text itselfclosed off, and are usually in this state for a period of embargo.
Across all institutions, more than three-quarters of published articles are not deposited at all, 8% are Metadata-Only, 3% Restricted Access and 12% Open Access. The rates vary by discipline. Deposit of Open Access material was over four times as high (14%) for institutions with a mandatory policy than for those without (3%). The top 20 institutions (all mandated) in terms of amount of repository content are listed. The top five are the University of Liège (Belgium), Instituto Politecnico de Bragança (Portugal), the National Institute of Oceanography (India), University of Pretoria (South Africa) and the University of Minho (Portugal).

Second, the time lag between publication and deposit of articles (deposit latency, which may be negative if the article is deposited before publication) was measured. Open Access items tend to be deposited later than Restricted Access ones, and latency periods tend to be longer in mandated institutions than in non-mandated ones (though deposits themselves are four times higher), probably because authors who deposit voluntarily are self-motivated and will do it early.
Third, we examined the deposit rate in relation to different policy criteria:
  • Positive correlations were found between Open Access and Restricted Access deposit rates and the following policy criteria: Must deposit, Cannot waive deposit, Link to research evaluation, Cannot waive rights retention, Must make item Open Access
  • Negative correlation was found with Cannot waive Open Access
  • Significant correlation was found between Open Access deposit rate and Must deposit and Cannot waive deposit
Fourth, we examined the correlation between deposit latency (specifically, the latency of deposit within the first year after publication) and different policy criteria. There is positive correlation between early deposit and Mandate age, Cannot waive rights retention and deposit immediately. We found significant correlation between early Open Access deposits and the age of the mandate: that is, the longer a mandatory policy has been in place, the more effective it can become.
As the numbers stand at the moment (March 2015), there are not yet enough OA policies to test whether other policy conditions would further contribute to mandate effectiveness. The current findings, however, already suggest that it would be useful for future mandates to adopt these conditions so as to maximise the growth of OA.
This analysis provides a list of criteria around which we recommend policies should align:
  • Must deposit (i.e. deposit is mandatory)
  • Deposit cannot be waived
  • Link deposit with research evaluation »


Related URL :

Performance of Mandated Institutional Repositories

« More and more Institutional Repositories are developed to promote the Green Open Access of research output (especially peer-reviewed journal articles). Since 2001, some institutions became adopting mandate policies aiming to mandate self-archiving by authors affiliated to these institutions This study was conducted in April, 2014 based on institutional mandates indexed by ROARMAP (the Registry of Open Access Repositories’ Mandatory Archiving Policies). A robot was developed to harvest IRs and check the status of articles (Open Access, Restricted Access or Metadata Only) and to extract the deposit date of article full-texts in IR. This study aims to analyse the performance of mandated institutional repositories from all over the world, especially in terms of deposit rates and deposit latency (difference between date of deposit and date of publication). »


Estimating Open Access Mandate Effectiveness : I. The MELIBEA Score

« MELIBEA is a Spanish database that uses a composite formula with eight weighted conditions to estimate the effectiveness of Open Access mandates (registered in ROARMAP). We analyzed 68 mandated institutions for publication years 2011-2013 to determine how well the MELIBEA score and its individual conditions predict what percentage of published articles indexed by Web of Knowledge is deposited in each institution’s OA repository, and when. We found a small but significant positive correlation (0.18) between MELIBEA score and deposit percentage. We also found that for three of the eight MELIBEA conditions (deposit timing, internal use, and opt-outs), one value of each was strongly associated with deposit percentage or deposit latency (immediate deposit required, deposit required for performance evaluation, unconditional opt-out allowed for the OA requirement but no opt-out for deposit requirement). When we updated the initial values and weights of the MELIBEA formula for mandate effectiveness to reflect the empirical association we had found, the score’s predictive power doubled (.36). There are not yet enough OA mandates to test further mandate conditions that might contribute to mandate effectiveness, but these findings already suggest that it would be useful for future mandates to adopt these three conditions so as to maximize their effectiveness, and thereby the growth of OA. »


The Critical Role of Institutional Services in Open…

The Critical Role of Institutional Services in Open Access Advocacy :

« This paper examines the development of the Open Access movement in scholarly communication, with particular attention to some of the rhetorical strategies and policy mechanisms used to promote it to scholars and scientists. Despite the majority of journal publishers’ acceptance of author self-archiving practices, and the minimal time commitment required by authors to successfully self-archive their work in disciplinary or institutional repositories, the majority of authors still by and large avoid participation. The paper reviews the strategies and arguments used for increasing author participation in open access, including the role of open access mandates. We recommend a service-oriented approach towards increasing participation in open access, rather than rhetoric that speculates on the benefits that open access will have on text/data mining innovation. In advocating for open access participation, we recommend focusing on its most universal and tangible purpose: increasing public open (gratis) access to the published results of publicly funded research. Researchers require strong institutional support to understand the copyright climate of open access self-archiving, user-friendly interfaces and useful metrics, such as repository usage statistics. We recommend that mandates and well-crafted and responsive author support services at universities will ultimately be required to ensure the growth of open access. We describe the mediated deposit service that was developed to support author self-archiving in Spectrum: Concordia University Research Repository. By comparing the number of deposits of non-thesis materials (e.g. articles and conference presentations) that were accomplished through the staff-mediated deposit service to the number of deposits that were author-initiated, we demonstrate the relative significance of this service to the growth of the repository. »


Recent developments in Open Access

Open Access to the world’s research literature has been an obvious development since the emergence of the Internet. To everyone, it appears clear that the costs of disseminating research could drop dramatically. Yet, progress in achieving it is strangely slow. This paper explores recent developments in open access, including:
• The recent Australian NH&MRC and ARC mandates for open access deposit in university repositories, and how universities are responding to them
• The UK’s Finch Report, and Lord Krebs’ Committee Report
• Recent USA and German developments
• Gradual growth in open access journals, and the challenge for universities and their libraries of transferring reader-side fees (subscriptions) to author-side fees (publication charges)
• The emergence of submission fees so that highly selective journals need not transfer all the costs of rejections onto successful articles
• Fake conferences and journals which exist only to extract attendance or publication fees
• Newer publishing models
• The recent emergence of a third route to open access based on social networking.

The delays in establishing an obvious developmental consequence of the Internet can largely be attributed to two factors: (a) academic apathy and inertia, and (b) publisher protection of profit margins and old business models. Neither of these can be expected to last. Of particular interest is the ‘Titanium Road’, a route to open access that is reliant on social networking.


Testing the Finch Hypothesis on Green OA Mandate Ineffectiveness

« We have now tested the Finch Committee’s Hypothesis that Green Open Access Mandates are ineffective in generating deposits in institutional repositories. With data from ROARMAP on institutional Green OA mandates and data from ROAR on institutional repositories, we show that deposit number and rate is significantly correlated with mandate strength (classified as 1-12): The stronger the mandate, the more the deposits. The strongest mandates generate deposit rates of 70%+ within 2 years of adoption, compared to the un-mandated deposit rate of 20%. The effect is already detectable at the national level, where the UK, which has the largest proportion of Green OA mandates, has a national OA rate of 35%, compared to the global baseline of 25%. The conclusion is that, contrary to the Finch Hypothesis, Green Open Access Mandates do have a major effect, and the stronger the mandate, the stronger the effect (the Liege ID/OA mandate, linked to research performance evaluation, being the strongest mandate model). RCUK (as well as all universities, research institutions and research funders worldwide) would be well advised to adopt the strongest Green OA mandates and to integrate institutional and funder mandates. »