Stockholm University: Open access in life sciences on the rise

08 Jul 2024 | Network Updates | Update from Stockholm University
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90 percent of the articles from SciLifeLab in 2023 were published open access. There are obvious advantages in publishing open access, according to Christopher Erdmann, head of open science at SciLifeLab.

Open science is an important and integrated part of SciLifeLab, the national research infrastructure for molecular biosciences in Sweden. The SciLifeLab Data Centre is located at Uppsala University, serving the entirety of SciLifeLab. Some of the staff at the Data Centre are distributed at other of the SciLifeLab sites, like the one in Stockholm hosted by Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm University and KTH Royal Institute of Technology. There are roughly 40-50 people working at the Data Centre with open science/data in some shape. For instance, there is a team of data stewards that collaborate with National Bioinformatics Infrastructure Sweden (NBIS) to provide data management services, IT/software developers maintaining and implementing data driven services to support the research in our community, and staff supporting data science at the various SciLifeLab nodes.

Unit for open science

At the centre there is also a unit for open science bringing on roles in communities, metrics, software, and FAIR metadata/semantic technologies working with the wider Data Centre team to further open science/FAIR data services, platforms and projects. Since September 2023, Chris Erdmann is head of the unit for open science. His previous employment was as Associate Director for open science at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research in New York focusing on open science strategy and policy.

One of the initial goals of the open science team is to explore the formation of an open science focus group, a community of practice from across the spectrum of research, that will be a resource for decision making and the development of SciLifeLab's open research services. Another important area the unit works with is outreach and training.

Trend towards publishing open access

In life science the overall trend is towards publishing open access. According to OpenAlex, 70 percent of life sciences articles in 2023 were open access (out of 829 000). Google Scholar includes metrics on funding organisations and their open access rates shows for example that the rate for research funded by The National Institutes of Health in the US is 75 percent. Use of preprint servers such as bioRxiv and medRxiv are becoming common and preprints are being supported by major funders like the Gates Foundation.

Figures from OpenAlex shows that SciLifeLab published 90 percent open access in 2023 when it comes to articles. The Dimensions database, a for profit service, shows SciLifeLab is publishing 39 percent Gold Open Access, 28 percent Green and 24 percent Hybrid. 265 preprints were published by SciLifeLab in 2023.

What are your main arguments for publishing in an open access journal?

“I typically start out by explaining the open access citation advantage (a type of bias whereby scholars tend to cite academic journals with open access) which is well documented by many studies and even has a Wikipedia page. Then I explain that public access is often a central part of the expanding open science policy landscape from national to regional levels and even at the funder and publisher levels.

The various open science monitoring efforts also show that open access is on the rise, continues Christopher Erdmann.

“Open access also enables further information to be extracted such as data and software sharing which can help towards building a more complete picture of the research graph and ultimately move us beyond just the paper being the central piece of the research process.”

Change needed in the research culture

Preprints and open peer review is one way to go to move further from the transformative agreements to real open access, according to Christopher Erdmann. Following the lead of some funders like the Gates Foundation by supporting preprints.

“Supporting open infrastructure is also needed which is referenced in the National Guidelines for Open Science in Sweden. And of course, it takes a collective effort from various stakeholders. Change is also needed in the research culture, which we are starting to see by the rise of open science initiatives, like CoARA, across the globe.

Christopher Erdmann adds that there likely will be further innovation to help facilitate open science, not least when it comes to generative AI and Large language models (LLMs), very large deep learning models that are pre-trained on vast amounts of data.

This article was first published on 5 July by Stockholm University.

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