The oligopoly of academic publishers persists in exclusive database

Authors : Simon van Bellen, Juan Pablo Alperin, Vincent Larivière

Global scholarly publishing has been dominated by a small number of publishers for several decades. We aimed to revisit the debate on corporate control of scholarly publishing by analyzing the relative shares of major publishers and smaller, independent publishers. Using the Web of Science, Dimensions and OpenAlex, we managed to retrieve twice as many articles indexed in Dimensions and OpenAlex, compared to the rather selective Web of Science.

As a result of excluding smaller publishers, the ‘oligopoly’ of scholarly publishers persists, at least in appearance, according to the Web of Science. However, both Dimensions’ and OpenAlex’ inclusive indexing revealed the share of smaller publishers has been growing rapidly, especially since the onset of large-scale online publishing around 2000, resulting in a current cumulative dominance of smaller publishers.

While the expansion of small publishers was most pronounced in the social sciences and humanities, the natural and medical sciences showed a similar trend. A major geographical divergence is also revealed, with some countries, mostly Anglo-Saxon and/or located in northwestern Europe, relying heavily on major publishers for the dissemination of their research, while others being relatively independent of the oligopoly, such as those in Latin America, northern Africa, eastern Europe and parts of Asia.

The emergence of digital publishing, the reduction of expenses for printing and distribution and open-source journal management tools may have contributed to the emergence of small publishers, while the development of inclusive bibliometric databases has allowed for the effective indexing of journals and articles. We conclude that enhanced visibility to recently created, independent journals may favour their growth and stimulate global scholarly bibliodiversity.

Arxiv :

An open dataset of article processing charges from six large scholarly publishers

Authors : Leigh-Ann Butler, Madelaine Hare, Nina Schönfelder, Eric Schares, Juan Pablo Alperin, Stefanie Haustein

This paper introduces a dataset of article processing charges (APCs) produced from the price lists of six large scholarly publishers – Elsevier, Frontiers, PLOS, MDPI, Springer Nature and Wiley – between 2019 and 2023.

APC price lists were downloaded from publisher websites each year as well as via Wayback Machine snapshots to retrieve fees per journal per year. The dataset includes journal metadata, APC collection method, and annual APC price list information in several currencies (USD, EUR, GBP, CHF, JPY, CAD) for 8,712 unique journals and 36,618 journal-year combinations.

The dataset was generated to allow for more precise analysis of APCs and can support library collection development and scientometric analysis estimating APCs paid in gold and hybrid OA journals.

URL : An open dataset of article processing charges from six large scholarly publishers

Arxiv :

The impact of COVID-19 on the debate on open science: An analysis of expert opinion

Auteurs/Authors : Melanie Benson Marshall,  Stephen Pinfield, Pamela Abbott, Andrew Cox, Juan Pablo Alperin,  Natascha Chtena, Isabelle Dorsch, Alice Fleerackers, Monique Oliveira,
Isabella Peters

This study is an analysis of the international debate on open science that took place during the pandemic. It addresses the question, how did the COVID-19 pandemic impact the debate on open science?

The study takes the form of a qualitative analysis of a large corpus of key articles, editorials, blogs and thought pieces about the impact of COVID on open science, published during the pandemic in English, German, Portuguese, and Spanish.

The findings show that many authors believed that it was clear that the experience of the pandemic had illustrated or strengthened the case for open science, with language such as a “stress test”, “catalyst”, “revolution” or “tipping point” frequently used. It was commonly believed that open science had played a positive role in the response to the pandemic, creating a clear ‘line of sight’ between open science and societal benefits.

Whilst the arguments about open science deployed in the debate were not substantially new, the focuses of debate changed in some key respects. There was much less attention given to business models for open access and critical perspectives on open science, but open data sharing, preprinting, information quality and misinformation became most prominent in debates. There were also moves to reframe open science conceptually, particularly in connecting science with society and addressing broader questions of equity.

The impact of COVID-19 on the debate on open science: An analysis of expert opinion


The neglect of equity and inclusion in open science policies of Europe and the Americas

Authors : Natascha Chtena, Juan Pablo Alperin, Esteban Morales, Alice Fleerackers, Isabelle Dorsch, Stephen Pinfield, Marc-André Simard

National, international, and organizational Open Science (OS) policies are being formulated to improve and accelerate research through increased transparency, collaboration, and better access to scientific knowledge.

Yet, there is mounting concern that OS policies—which are predicated on narrow understandings of openness, accessibility, and objectivity—do not effectively capture the ethos of OS and particularly its goal of making science more collaborative, inclusive, and socially engaged.

This study explores how OS is conceptualized in emerging OS policies and to what extent notions of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) and public participation are reflected in policy guidelines and recommendations. We use a qualitative document research approach to critically analyze 52 OS policy documents published between January 2020 and December 2022 in Europe and the Americas.

Our results show that OS policies overwhelmingly focus on making research outputs publicly accessible, neglecting to advance the two aspects of OS that hold the key to achieving an inclusive and inclusive scientific culture—namely, EDI and public participation. While these concepts are often mentioned and even embraced in OS policy documents, concrete guidance on how they can be promoted in practice is overwhelmingly lacking.

Rather than advancing the openness of scientific findings first and promoting EDI and public participation efforts second, we argue that incentives and guidelines must be provided and implemented concurrently to advance the OS movement’s stated goal of making science open to all.

URL : The neglect of equity and inclusion in open science policies of Europe and the Americas


Making science public: a review of journalists’ use of Open Science research

Authors : Alice Fleerackers, Natascha Chten, Stephen Pinfield, Juan Pablo Alperin, Germana Barata, Monique Oliveira, Isabella Peters

Science journalists are uniquely positioned to increase the societal impact of open science by contextualizing and communicating research findings in ways that highlight their relevance and implications for non-specialist audiences.

Through engagement with and coverage of open research outputs, journalists can help align the ideals of openness, transparency, and accountability with the wider public sphere and its democratic potential.

Yet, it is unclear to what degree journalists use open research outputs in their reporting, what factors motivate or constrain this use, and how the recent surge in openly available research seen during the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the relationship between open science and science journalism.

This literature review thus examines journalists’ use of open research outputs, specifically open access publications and preprints. We focus on literature published from 2018 onwards—particularly literature relating to the COVID-19 pandemic—but also include seminal articles outside the search dates.

We find that, despite journalists’ potential to act as critical brokers of open access knowledge, their use of open research outputs is hampered by an overreliance on traditional criteria for evaluating scientific quality; concerns about the trustworthiness of open research outputs; and challenges using and verifying the findings.

We also find that, while the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged journalists to explore open research outputs such as preprints, the extent to which these explorations will become established journalistic practices remains unclear.

Furthermore, we note that current research is overwhelmingly authored and focused on the Global North, and the United States specifically.

Finally, given the dearth of research in this area, we conclude with recommendations for future research that attend to issues of equity and diversity, and more explicitly examine the intersections of open science and science journalism.

URL : Making science public: a review of journalists’ use of Open Science research


Science in motion: A qualitative analysis of journalists’ use and perception of preprints

Authors : Alice Fleerackers, Laura L. Moorhead, Lauren A. Maggio, Kaylee Fagan, Juan Pablo Alperin

This qualitative study explores how and why journalists use preprints—unreviewed research papers—in their reporting. Through thematic analysis of interviews conducted with 19 health and science journalists in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it applies a theoretical framework that conceptualizes COVID-19 preprint research as a form of post-normal science, characterized by high scientific uncertainty and societal relevance, urgent need for political decision-making, and value-related policy considerations.

Findings suggest that journalists approach the decision to cover preprints as a careful calculation, in which the potential public benefits and the ease of access preprints provided were weighed against risks of spreading misinformation.

Journalists described viewing unreviewed studies with extra skepticism and relied on diverse strategies to find, vet, and report on them. Some of these strategies represent standard science journalism, while others, such as labeling unreviewed studies as preprints, mark a departure from the norm. However, journalists also reported barriers to covering preprints, as many felt they lacked the expertise or the time required to fully understand or vet the research.

The findings suggest that coverage of preprints is likely to continue post-pandemic, with important implications for scientists, journalists, and the publics who read their work.

URL : Science in motion: A qualitative analysis of journalists’ use and perception of preprints


How faculty define quality, prestige, and impact in research

Authors : Esteban Morales, Erin McKiernan, Meredith T. Niles, Lesley Schimanski, Juan Pablo Alperin

Despite the calls for change, there is significant consensus that when it comes to evaluating publications, review, promotion, and tenure processes should aim to reward research that is of high “quality,” has an “impact,” and is published in “prestigious” journals.

Nevertheless, such terms are highly subjective and present challenges to ascertain precisely what such research looks like. Accordingly, this article responds to the question: how do faculty from universities in the United States and Canada define the terms quality, prestige, and impact?

We address this question by surveying 338 faculty members from 55 different institutions. This study’s findings highlight that, despite their highly varied definitions, faculty often describe these terms in overlapping ways. Additionally, results shown that marked variance in definitions across faculty does not correspond to demographic characteristics.

This study’s results highlight the need to more clearly implement evaluation regimes that do not rely on ill-defined concepts.