10/16/23 · Communication

Journal editors are in favour of open science but face barriers to its full implementation

A study has analysed whether the sector's opinion is in line with editorial practices in Spain
According to the results of the study, 92% of journals are open access
Open peer review creates more uncertainty and is only applied in 2% of cases
According to the results of the study, 92% of journals are open access. (Foto: Lex Photography/Pexels)

According to the results of the study, 92% of journals are open access. (Foto: Lex Photography/Pexels)

The editors of Spanish scientific journals show a clear predisposition towards open science but still encounter barriers to applying the practices on which it is based. This is one of the main conclusions of the study "Perceptions regarding open science appraised by editors of scholarly publications published in Spain", jointly led by Alexandre López Borrull, associate professor in the Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences and member of the GAME research group at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), and Remedios Melero, a researcher at the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

Open science is a movement that combines a range of practices to make scientific knowledge accessible to everyone and reusable by other researchers in order to increase information exchange and scientific collaborations for the benefit of society as a whole. This entails opening up the processes of creation, assessment and communication of scientific knowledge beyond the traditional scientific community, and "the editors of specialized journals can exert considerable influence by implementing or failing to implement editorial policies and guidelines that favour this process," López said.

The study was based on a survey of the editors of the scientific journals indexed in the Dulcinea directory, a project that aims to ascertain Spanish journals' editorial policies regarding access to their archives, exploitation rights and publication licences. According to the responses submitted by 420 editors of Spanish journals, their support for open science is clear, but this does not always translate into supportive actions due to concerns about the possible repercussions of fully implementing these methods.

The results show that 92% of journals are open access, which is one of the pillars of open science because it allows any user with internet access to access an article, read it, save it, use it and carry out data mining on it. Other open science practices, however, have much less support from editors. Only 16% of journals have a policy on the availability of underlying research data, and only a few provide clear guidelines on how to cite and make research datasets freely available.

In a similar proportion, only 15% of journals accept articles that have previously been submitted to a preprint repository. Preprints are scientific articles that are uploaded to a server without first being reviewed by other scientists or accepted by a journal, a practice that became particularly prevalent during the pandemic in order to accelerate the transfer of medicine and public health research. "Among other factors, this reluctance to allow preprints to be made available may be due to the fact that, due to a matter of metrics, editors want authors and readers to read and cite the content published in their journals," Melero said.

The hurdle of open review

However, the main barrier to the full implementation of open science is making the peer review process transparent and not anonymous, i.e. applying open peer review (OPR). The peer review of scientific articles is an inherent and essential part of scientific communication, but editors are wary of opening up this process as they see more problems than benefits. This is why only 2% of journals conduct open peer reviews.

Barriers to open peer review cited by editors include the difficulty of finding reviewers, rivalry and conflict between peers, the protracted nature of the process, and the creation of a bias towards the most prestigious journals.

"Science editors are very knowledgeable about their field and want to advance open science, but they're still concerned about some aspects and are trying to conduct small-scale tests to find the best path," said López. According to the results, anonymity would still be the best solution to promote the availability of reviewers and good reviews, which is the main pillar of scientific communication through academic journals.

A promising future

"Open science practices do not lead to a loss of originality or threaten the integrity of works, but there's still a long way to go to ensure that the entire editorial process is completely open, especially as regards assessment processes and preprints," said Melero.

Despite the identification of these barriers, there is reason to be optimistic about the future of open science in Spain. Thanks to the Spanish national open science strategy approved this year by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, this practice should continue to evolve at a good pace, with new elements and debates on the table thanks to the support provided by the government.

Open science, a strategic priority at the UOC

The week from 23 to 29 October is International Open Access Week, an initiative that promotes open access to, and dissemination of, academic research, this year under the slogan Community over Commercialization. The UOC takes part in this event each year with a number of proposals to raise awareness and promote open science among the university community.

The University's commitment to open knowledge guarantees the quality, effectiveness and impact of its research. In addition to creating an Open Science unit within its Office of the Deputy General Manager for Research and Knowledge Transfer, the UOC is firmly committed to open knowledge, a comprehensive concept that goes beyond science and includes learning resources and open innovation processes. This strategy is set out in the UOC's Open Knowledge Action Plan, which has been jointly designed and implemented by the University's academic and administrative teams. Since the Plan was approved in 2019, the university's open institutional repository – the O2 repository – has doubled in terms of the number of academic papers. The number of learning resources and student final projects available in open access has risen by almost 40%. All of the UOC's academic journals are in open access.

The UOC is also actively involved in the various international forums that promote open science. For example, Pastora Martínez Samper, the UOC's commissioner for international action, was recently appointed as co-chair of the group of open science experts of the European University Association.

Reference article:

Melero, R.; Boté-Vericad, J.; López-Borrull, A. 2023. Perceptions regarding open science appraised by editors of scholarly publications published in Spain. Learned Publishing 36 (178-193). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/leap.1511.

This research, in which the UOC is involved, supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG 9, industry, innovation and infrastructure.



The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health.

Over 500 researchers and more than 50 research groups work in the UOC's seven faculties, its eLearning Research programme and its two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The university also develops online learning innovations at its eLearning Innovation Center (eLinC), as well as UOC community entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer via the Hubbik platform.

Open knowledge and the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu.

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