Problematic Publishing Practices that Harm Open Science

Problematic Publishing Practices that Harm Open Science 1024 1024 Open and Universal Science (OPUS) Project

Open science is a movement aimed at making scientific research, data, and dissemination accessible to all levels of an inquiring society, amateur or professional. While the ideals of open science promote transparency, collaboration, and accessibility, several publishing practices continue to hinder these goals. This article explores some of the most problematic publishing practices that pose significant challenges to the advancement of open science.

1. Paywalls and Subscription Fees

One of the most significant barriers to open science is the prevalence of paywalls and expensive subscription fees imposed by major academic publishers. These paywalls restrict access to scholarly articles, making it difficult for researchers, particularly those from low-income institutions and developing countries, to stay updated with the latest findings. This pay-for-access model perpetuates inequality in the availability of knowledge and stifles scientific progress by limiting who can participate in the scientific conversation.

2. Article Processing Charges (APCs)

In response to the demand for open access, many publishers have introduced Article Processing Charges (APCs), which require authors to pay a fee to make their work openly accessible. While this model shifts the cost burden from the reader to the author, it still poses a significant barrier. Many researchers, especially those without substantial funding, find it challenging to afford these fees. As a result, the publication of research can become skewed towards well-funded researchers and institutions, undermining the inclusivity that open science strives for.

3. Embargo Periods

Some journals impose embargo periods, during which access to newly published articles is restricted to subscribers. After a certain period, the articles may become freely accessible, but this delay can be detrimental to the timely dissemination of scientific knowledge. In fast-moving fields, such as medical research, any delay in sharing findings can hinder progress and impact critical decision-making.

4. Impact Factor and Citation Metrics

The reliance on journal impact factors and citation metrics as measures of research quality has problematic implications for open science. High-impact journals often have restrictive access policies, and the pressure to publish in these journals can discourage researchers from choosing open access venues with lower impact factors. Moreover, the focus on citation metrics can lead to practices like self-citation and citation rings, which distort the true impact and quality of research.

5. Lack of Transparency in Peer Review

The peer review process is fundamental to maintaining scientific standards, yet it often lacks transparency. Traditional peer review is usually closed and anonymous, which can lead to biases, conflicts of interest, and a lack of accountability. Open peer review, where reviewer comments and author responses are publicly available, can enhance transparency and trust in the review process. However, the adoption of open peer review is still limited.

6. Limited Data Sharing

Many journals and researchers still do not adhere to open data practices, where the data underlying research findings are made openly available for verification and reuse. Data hoarding restricts the ability of other researchers to validate findings, reproduce studies, and build upon previous work. Encouraging comprehensive data sharing is essential for the reproducibility and reliability of scientific research.

7. Predatory Journals

The rise of predatory journals, which exploit the open access model by charging publication fees without providing legitimate peer review or editorial services, presents another significant challenge. These journals often prioritize profit over quality, leading to the dissemination of poorly vetted and unreliable research. This practice undermines trust in open access publications and harms the credibility of genuine open science efforts.

Towards a More Equitable Scientific Ecosystem

While the open science movement has made significant strides towards democratizing access to scientific knowledge, several problematic publishing practices continue to impede its progress. Addressing these issues requires concerted efforts from researchers, institutions, funders, and publishers to adopt more equitable and transparent practices. By doing so, the scientific community can move closer to realizing the full potential of open science, fostering a more inclusive, collaborative, and innovative research environment.

Photo via The Chinese University of Hong Kong Library

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