Foundations have been throwing their weight around for a while in the fight for open access to research, a contentious issue in academia in which proponents seek to break down steep paywalls and stodgy practices of journals. A lot of the philanthropic participation has emerged in the form of traditional grantmaking toward projects like online platforms to exchange information, convenings on open science, and even an entire philanthropy-backed, open access journal. But another way that funders, especially the big ones, wield influence on the issue is by setting ground rules on openness when it comes to the work done on their dime. One of the biggest actors in this space is the Gates Foundation, and its flexing to get journals to open things up just got real.
Peer review, in which papers written by scientists and submitted to scholarly journals are reviewed by two or three other experts in the field before being published (or rejected), is the gold-standard for evaluating science. However, its effectiveness in rapidly disseminating good science and eliminating bad has recently come under the scanner. Gender, institutional affiliation and other human fallibilities introduce unwelcome biases in the peer-review process, further raising uncomfortable questions on the very foundation of scholarly communication. In light of these concerns, where does scholarly communication - especially in the life and biomedical sciences - stand today? In the pre-internet era, journal-mediated limited peer-review was certainly better than nothing. Print space was (and is) a premium and journals had to find ways to be selective about what gets shown to the world. Peer review is a way to ensure that they publish only what they would like to publish and so establish their reputation as a purveyor of gourmet science.
The publishing industry has been watching from the sidelines for the better half of a year, waiting to see what will happen to the IDPF's proposed merger with the W3C. The International Digital Publishing Forum called for a member vote about a proposed merger with the WorldWide Web Consortium back at 2016 BookExpo/IDPF event. That proposal was immediately met with opposition from a number of publishing entities, most notably Steve Potash of OverDrive. The IDPF countered that the vote was not akin to the merger, but more of an interest survey. Later, the IDPF announced that the vote was in favor of a merger, and therefore, they would move forward with the plan. Again, OverDrive strenuously voiced its concerns, namely that the flagship of digital publishing - the ePub standard - would no longer be in the hands of the publishing industry but would instead fall under a company that handles lots of web-related standards.
Platforms are fond of selling publishers on their reach, but they don't always deliver. In April, a batch of small publishers migrated to Medium in the hopes that the platform's network effect would increase their reach. But seven months after the move, comScore and Alexa data show that several of these publishers have seen their traffic decline. Of the 16 largest publishers on Medium that have existed for at least a year, nine of them (56 percent) have seen their Alexa rank plummet, four of them have seen their rank increase (25 percent) and three have seen their rank fluctuate in no clear discernible pattern (19 percent). A source familiar with Medium publishers' traffic said that third-party providers do not typically account for app traffic, so Medium's reach is likely greater than third-party data indicates. However, a comScore's data takes app traffic into account. But either way, even with those caveats in mind, third-party data does not paint a pretty picture for the publishing platform.
The European University Association or EUA has called on the European Commission to ensure that the next European Union Framework Programme, FP9, provides long-term policies and funding instruments for research that 'support both basic and applied research, promote collaboration among different European regions and stimulate interdisciplinary research'. The EUA also called for the programme to reinforce collaboration and minimise discrepancies in commitments to research spending across the EU, research and development or R&D intensity was 3.55 percent in Finland in 2012, but 0.42 percent in Romania, for instance, and to seek a stronger alignment of policies for education, research and innovation.