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Open Science Initiative Working Group, Mapping the Future of Scholarly Publishing, 1st edition (Seattle: National Science Communication Institute, January 2015).


CC-BY 2015


The Open Science Initiative (OSI) is a working group convened by the National Science Communication Institute (nSCI) in October 2014 to discuss the issues regarding improving open access for the betterment of science and to recommend possible solutions. The following document summarizes the wide range of issues, perspectives and recommendations from this group’s online conversation during November and December 2014 and January 2015. The 112 participants who signed up to participate in this conversation were drawn mostly from the academic, research, and library communities. Most of these 112 were not active in this conversation, but a healthy diversity of key perspectives was still represented. Individual participants may not agree with all of the viewpoints described herein, but participants agree that this document reflects the spirit and content of the conversation. This main body of this document was written by Glenn Hampson and edited by Joyce Ogburn and Laura Ada Emmett. Additional editorial input was provided by many members of the OSI working group. Kathleen Shearer is the author of Annex 5, with editing by Dominque Bambini and Richard Poynder.

Why journals? Scholarly journals are the backbone of science communication and discovery, and have been for centuries. However, for the past 20 years or so—roughly coinciding with the growth of the Internet— the scholarly publishing system has been under a tremendous and increasing amount of stress due to rapidly increasing subscription prices, rapid proliferation in the number of journals being published, distorted publishing incentives in academia, lax editorial oversight, massive escalation in the global rate of knowledge production, changing communication patterns and expectations in our society, the emergence of open access as a compelling model of free and open information access, and a wide array of other important factors. This stress is particularly affecting access to medical research information today, and particularly in the developing world.

The National Science Communication Institute (nSCI) hosted a conference in late 2013 to explore the broad outlines of this issue. The proceedings of this conference are available online at

In early September of 2014, nSCI recruited and organized over 100 thought-leaders from around the world into a three month long online conversation— named the Open Science Initiative (OSI) working group—to begin looking into viable ways to reform the scholarly publishing system. The transcripts of this conversation have been preserved and are summarized herein.

What are the problems with the current system of scholarly publishing? What are the different perspectives on these problems? What are some possible solutions? What should our goals and our guiding objectives be regarding improving access to research information? Should we even bother worrying about this issue (is the current state of affairs adequate)? What would a future with more open science look like? What might a future without more open science look like? How do we get from where we are now to where we need to be, considering there are so many competing interests and entrenched positions? Why might it be important to act now?

The OSI working group discussed these issues and many others at length. The group also made these three important recommendations (the first two being majority viewpoints):

1. Convene an annual series of high-level conferences between all key stakeholders over the next 10 years to discuss, implement, adjust, and track major reforms to the scholarly publishing system. The first conference is currently being planned for early 2016. The delegate list will be an invited group of 200 decision-makers representing every major stakeholder group in scholarly publishing, participating with the understanding that they will try to reach an agreement on the future of scholarly publishing and will then work to help implement this agreement. The United Nations will be backing these conferences (through UNESCO) and will help mobilize broad and ongoing international support, participation, and funding. Very broad participation from US stakeholders—publishers, authors, federal agencies, companies who use research, institutions that produce research, and more—is critical to getting this effort up and running. While scientific research is certainly a global interest and enterprise, the US is the largest single producer and consumer of this research information, so without strong US participation, global adoption will be difficult to achieve.

2. Find answers to key questions related to reform, as detailed in the summary document. What do we really mean by “publishing” today? Are selfarchiving mandates practical? Are impact factors accurate? Do embargoes serve the public interest? Are there better ways to conduct peer review? Why isn’t open access growing faster? These and many other questions have been identified in this report as starting points for discussion.

3. Investigate the possibility of constructing the world’s first all-scholarship repository (ASR). Our initial discussion regarding this repository is included in Annex 4. Conversations are currently ongoing on this matter. The Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will explore building the prototype ASR (LANL also created arXiv). We are currently preparing a briefing paper for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy so they can align upcoming federal compliance efforts with this repository. A number of OSI working group members feel that creating the world’s first all-scholarship repository will need to be a precursor to truly comprehensive journal reform, and creating it the right way may end up having a greater impact on science discovery than anything ever attempted to date.

As we push forward with this initiative, the OSI group will need the following kinds of help: Broad buy-in and participation from research agencies, companies and institutions; more input and perspective from publishers, research institutions, government agencies, the public, and other stakeholders; subject matter expertise (such as programming, database construction, user interface design, customer experience, and so on), hardware/hosting support, data integration support, conference support (facility support, logistics, etc.); outreach/PR expertise; and finally, backing by policymakers and major funders. Building this support base will be the only way to achieve effective and long-term sustainable reform.

The budget for the first conference will range between $150k and $500k depending on how many of the costs we can cover for participants (more coverage is better—we don’t want people declining our invite on account of budget reasons). The repository effort can begin modestly but will eventually require millions of dollars annually, although much of the eventual operating cost can be recouped through sponsor support, advertising, and value-added services. A start-up budget of $10 million would help get a critical mass of experts working full-time on this project right away.

This initiative already has a broad range of stakeholder support, but as we move forward we want to make sure that everyone has a seat at the table and also make it clear that we’re not just spinning our wheels to produce another white paper for discussion. OSI, nSCI, UNESCO, LANL, and others have committed to undertake an effort to actually shape the future of how we as a society value, share and use science. Care to join us?