India may have its own open access digital publishing platform

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Knowledge sharing is the key to successful research, and scientific journals play a crucial role here. The concept of scientific publishing took root around four centuries ago, through noble intentions and the sponsorship of various learned societies.

But from the 1950s, Robert maxwell and others have made academic publishing more broadly a primarily lucrative business. Today, the academic publishing industry operates in a concentrated market teeming with large players, and is primarily income-oriented.

Former Harvard University Librarian Robert Darnton described their main transgression in a recent article for The Guardian: “We, the professors, do the research, write the articles, evaluate the articles of other researchers, sit on the editorial boards, all for free… and then we buy the results of our work at exorbitant prices” from the journals.

The exorbitant prices of journals for readers to access the articles they publish have led to the Budapest Open Access Initiative, among other similar resolutions, which popularized open access documents.

In the “classic” publication model, an article is published according to the following process:

  • A group of scientists conduct a study or experiment
  • The group writes a scientific article describing their efforts and discoveries
  • The group submits the article to a journal for review
  • Journal editors deliberate on merits of the article
  • Editors communicate to the group if the journal will send the article for peer review
  • The document is sent for peer review – by a group of independent scientists
  • The article is sent back to the journal with peer comments on how it can be improved
  • The journal communicates the necessary changes to the group
  • The group makes the required changes and resubmits the document
  • The journal queues the article for publication in a future issue
  • Once the article is published, the journal earns money by placing the article behind a paid wall or by including it in a “subscription package” for university libraries.

In the open access paradigm, these steps are the same, except for the last one. Journals recoup their publication costs from the scientists who wrote the articles instead of the readers (including other scientists) who wish to read them.

But even open access, journals began charging exorbitant prices – known as article processing fees (APCs) – to manage articles, which seemed disproportionate to the costs of processing. Today, APCs typically cost from a few tens of thousands of rupees to a few lakhs, which is contrary to fairness and inclusiveness. (Some journals make an exception for researchers in low- and middle-income countries, but the principle is the problem.)

As the Budapest Declaration States:

While peer-reviewed journal literature should be available online at no cost to readers, its production is not free. However, experiences show that the overall costs of providing open access to this literature are much lower than the costs of traditional forms of dissemination.

With such an opportunity to save money and expand the reach of dissemination at the same time, today there is a strong incentive for professional associations, universities, libraries, foundations and others to embrace the open access as a means of advancing their missions.

Achieving open access will require new cost recovery models and new funding mechanisms, but the significantly lower overall cost of dissemination is a reason to be sure that the goal is achievable and not simply preferable or utopian. .

Academic communities in transition economies like India also face the challenge of dispersed community involvement in the peer review process.

Overall, Indian academics face three major challenges: expensive pay walls, high APCs, and guarding of the editorial ecosystem.

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The evolution of open access practices has fueled innovative approaches to overcome, circumvent or even transcend these barriers.

Non-commercial models for scholarly communication, use decentralized electronic publishing platforms, have no PCA, host articles on open access repositories, and be featured in non-profit indexing services.

Second, African Journals OnLine and Nepal Journals Online publish open access articles. Most importantly, they focus on region-specific research and discussions. So, as such, they are freed from the need to make money by focusing on the most profitable viewpoints, centered on the United States and Europe.

Third, other publishers, including F1000Search and eLife, have adopted a review system in which they publish the comments of peer reviewers with the article.

Fourth, open access preprint repositories like arXiv, bioRxiv, medRxiv, SocArXiv, agriRxiv, etc. pave the way for online archiving (although there are some “non-fatal” inconveniences with their lack of peer review). India’s Departments of Science and Technology and Biotechnology have launched an open access repository of articles that they fund, called “Science center‘, A few years earlier. But because of the architecture and the operation disadvantages, it has fallen into disuse.

While archival platforms have also sparked a conversation about the need to move beyond peer review, functional and transparent peer review ensures – especially in certain sensitive areas like medical research – that articles are valid, qualitatively good and new at the time of publication. And we can’t achieve these results just through preprints or archiving.

Advances in technology and the advocacy of open access have forced the publishing industry to change its business models and practices. In the future, it will be better to combine the best of both worlds.

Something for India

Today, due to access and equity issues, academic publishing in India lacks good quality platforms, and many researchers resort to publishing in bad or illegitimate journals. But more generally, controlling financial and infrastructural constraints also prevents most researchers from publishing in high-quality journals (while the study itself is ‘good’) – while formal requirements such as publication ‘At least one article to be eligible for a PhD requires people to post anything, anywhere.

It is therefore not surprising that India is currently third in the world relative to the number of articles published, with an annual growth rate of 12.9%.

In this context, academic publishing in India can greatly benefit researchers, at least to the extent that it can help to be part of the solution. In particular, and with the European Commission ‘Open research Europe‘as before, it has the possibility of developing an open access digital platform with minimal or no APC.

The Indian government has come up with a potential solution called “One Nation, One Subscription” (ONOS). But this requires large and recurring investments and would not solve fundamental problems such as improving the quality of research results, developing more practical research measures and preventing corporate publishers from monetizing research. publicly funded.

Instead, and taking advantage of the fact that India has no shortage of software engineering expertise, a digital publishing platform with open peer review could help address access and quality issues, all avoiding the costs associated with ONOS. Policymakers can use such a platform to develop and use better measures of research impact. It can also help promote the principles and goals of open science and open access publishing.

As our vision for the post-pandemic future becomes clear, more and more scientists also agree that open access is the way to go. So given the vision, the resources available to the Indian Research Administration, both the availability of papers and the need for a publishing platform, and the public demand to make the research accessible, India must immediately build the research-publication platform it deserves.

Moumita Koley and B. Suchiradipta are DST-STI research officers and Nabil Ahmad Afifi is project intern – all at DST-Center for Policy Research, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru.


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