Open Access and Academic Freedom: Teasing Out Some Important Nuances

Author : Rick Anderson

Discussion of the ways in which open access (OA) and academic freedom interact is fraught for a number of reasons, not least of which is the unwillingness of some participants in the discussion to acknowledge that OA might have any implications for academic freedom at all. Thus, any treatment of such implications must begin with foundational questions.

Most basic among them are: first, what do we mean by ‘open access’; second, what do we mean by ‘academic freedom’? The answers to these questions are not as obvious as one might expect (or hope), but when they are answered it becomes much easier to address a third, also very important, question: in what ways might OA and academic freedom interact?

With every new OA mandate imposed by a government agency, institution of higher education, or funding organization, careful analysis of this issue becomes more urgent. This article attempts to sort out some of these issues, controversies and confusions.


Openness in Big Data and Data Repositories. The Application of an Ethics Framework for Big Data in Healthand Research

Authors : Vicki Xafis, Markus K. Labude

There is a growing expectation, or even requirement, for researchers to deposit a variety of research data in data repositories as a condition of funding or publication. This expectation recognizes the enormous benefits of data collected and created for research purposes being made available for secondary uses, as open science gains increasing support.

This is particularly so in the context of big data, especially where health data is involved. There are, however, also challenges relating to the collection, storage, and re-use of research data.

This paper gives a brief overview of the landscape of data sharing via data repositories and discusses some of the key ethical issues raised by the sharing of health-related research data, including expectations of privacy and confidentiality, the transparency of repository governance structures, access restrictions, as well as data ownership and the fair attribution of credit.

To consider these issues and the values that are pertinent, the paper applies the deliberative balancing approach articulated in the Ethics Framework for Big Data in Health and Research (Xafis et al. 2019) to the domain of Openness in Big Data and Data Repositories.

Please refer to that article for more information on how this framework is to be used, including a full explanation of the key values involved and the balancing approach used in the case study at the end.

URL : Openness in Big Data and Data Repositories. The Application of an Ethics Framework for Big Data in Healthand Research


A Billion Dollar Donation: The Cost, and Inefficiency of, Researchers’ Time Spent on Peer Review

Authors : Balazs Aczel, Barnabas Szaszi, Alex Holcombe


The amount and value of researchers’ peer review work is critical for academia and publishing. However, it is rarely recognized, its magnitude is unknown, and alternative ways of organizing peer review labor are rarely considered.


In this paper, we provide an estimate of researchers’ time and the salary-based contribution to the peer-review system, using publicly available data.


We found that the total time reviewers globally worked on peer reviews was over 100 million hours in 2019, equivalent to over 12 thousand years. The estimated monetary value of the time US-based reviewers spent on reviews was over 1.1 billion USD in 2019. For China-based reviewers, the estimate is over 600 million USD, and for UK-based, over 200 million USD.


While these results are only rough estimates, they highlight the enormous amount of work and time that researchers provide to the publication system, and the importance of considering alternative ways of structuring, and paying for, peer review. We foster this process by discussing some alternative models that aim to improve the return on investment of scholarly publishing.

URL : A Billion Dollar Donation: The Cost, and Inefficiency of, Researchers’ Time Spent on Peer Review


Self-help for learned journals: Scientific societies and the commerce of publishing in the 1950s

Author : Aileen Fyfe

In the decades after the Second World War, learned society publishers struggled to cope with the expanding output of scientific research and the increased involvement of commercial publishers in the business of publishing research journals.

Could learned society journals survive economically in the postwar world, against this competition? Or was the emergence of a sales-based commercial model of publishing – in contrast to the traditional model of subsidized journal publishing – an opportunity to transform the often-fragile finances of learned societies?

But there was also an existential threat: if commercial firms could successfully publish scientific journals, were learned society publishers no longer needed? This paper investigates how British learned society publishers adjusted to the new economic realities of the postwar world, through an investigation of the activities organized by the Royal Society of London and the Nuffield Foundation, culminating in the 1963 report Self-Help for Learned Journals.

It reveals the postwar decades as the time when scientific research became something to be commodified and sold to libraries, rather than circulated as part of a scholarly mission. It will be essential reading for all those campaigning to transition academic publishing – including learned society publishing – away from the sales-based model once again.

URL : Self-help for learned journals: Scientific societies and the commerce of publishing in the 1950s



Ants-Review: A Privacy-Oriented Protocol for Incentivized Open Peer Reviews on Ethereum

Authors  : Bianca Trovò, Nazzareno Massari

Peer review is a necessary and essential quality control step for scientific publications but lacks proper incentives. Indeed, the process, which is very costly in terms of time and intellectual investment, not only is not remunerated by the journals but it is also not openly recognized by the academic community as a relevant scientific output for a researcher.

Therefore, scientific dissemination is affected in timeliness, quality and fairness. Here, to solve this issue, we propose a blockchain-based incentive system that rewards scientists for peer reviewing other scientists’ work and that builds up trust and reputation.

We designed a privacy-oriented protocol of smart contracts called Ants-Review that allows authors to issue a bounty for open anonymous peer reviews on Ethereum.

If requirements are met, peer reviews will be accepted and paid by the approver proportionally to their assessed quality. To promote ethical behaviour and inclusiveness the system implements a gamified mechanism that allows the whole community to evaluate the peer reviews and vote for the best ones.


Notebook articles: towards a transformative publishing experience in nonlinear science

Authors : Cristel Chandre, Jonathan Dubois

Open Science, Reproducible Research, Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable (FAIR) data principles are long term goals for scientific dissemination. However, the implementation of these principles calls for a reinspection of our means of dissemination. In our viewpoint, we discuss and advocate, in the context of nonlinear science, how a notebook article represents an essential step toward this objective by fully embracing cloud computing solutions.

Notebook articles as scholar articles offer an alternative, efficient and more ethical way to disseminate research through their versatile environment. This format invites the readers to delve deeper into the reported research. Through the interactivity of the notebook articles, research results such as for instance equations and figures are reproducible even for non-expert readers.

The codes and methods are available, in a transparent manner, to interested readers. The methods can be reused and adapted to answer additional questions in related topics. The codes run on cloud computing services, which provide easy access, even to low-income countries and research groups.

The versatility of this environment provides the stakeholders – from the researchers to the publishers – with opportunities to disseminate the research results in innovative ways.


Why Won’t They Just Adopt Good Research Data Management Practices? An Exploration of Research Teams and Librarians’ Role in Facilitating RDM Adoption

Authors: Clara Llebot, Hannah Gascho Rempe

Adoption of good research data management practices is increasingly important for research teams. Despite the work the research community has done to define best data management practices, these practices are still difficult to adopt for many research teams.

Universities all around the world have been offering Research Data Services to help their research groups, and libraries are usually an important part of these services. A better understanding of the pressures and factors that affect research teams may help librarians serve these groups more effectively.

The social interactions between the members of a research team are a key element that influences the likelihood of a research group successfully adopting best practices in data management.

In this article we adapt the Unified Theory of the Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) model (Venkatesh, Morris, Davis, & Davis, 2003) to explain the variables that can influence whether new and better, data management practices will be adopted by a research group.

We describe six moderating variables: size of the team, disciplinary culture, group culture and leadership, team heterogeneity, funder, and dataset decisions.

We also develop three research group personas as a way of navigating the UTAUT model, and as a tool Research Data Services practitioners can use to target interactions between librarians and research groups to make them more effective.

URL : Why Won’t They Just Adopt Good Research Data Management Practices? An Exploration of Research Teams and Librarians’ Role in Facilitating RDM Adoption