Monday 29 November 2021

Society Publishers and Open Science: A Marriage Made in Heaven?

By Martin Donnelly, Manager, Funder Relations (Open Science) at the Royal Society of Chemistry – Gold sponsor of the ALPSP Virtual Conference and Awards 2021

This post is written from a standpoint of dual conviction. Firstly, that Open Science is the way forward for humanity, and therefore integral to the organisational purpose of a scientific society, yielding benefits for all stakeholders in the research endeavour, ranging from those who perform research to those who consume it, via those who fund and facilitate it. Secondly, that publishers – and especially society publishers - ought to be rushing towards Open Science with open arms. The more transparent and demonstrable the quality of the research, the more reproducible its conclusions, and the more robust the interlinkages between papers and their supporting datasets and software code, the stronger the quality of the product we offer. 

As a learned society and publisher our mission at the Royal Society of Chemistry is “to help the chemical science community make the world a better place.” We are of our community, as well as working for it, therefore publishing and disseminating chemical sciences information is part of how we help the community achieve this purpose, in close alignment with our other activities including education, policy and professional standards and support, which support and enable our community to do great things. 

As a publisher we have a strong commitment to Open Access, and as a professional body we seek to take a holistic view of open science to better promote, support and enable researchers to make a difference in an increasingly digital environment. We are now continuing to build on these foundations, going beyond Open Access publications towards a more holistic Open Science approach. As a first step, from May 2021, we asked authors publishing in our flagship, diamond OA journal, Chemical Science, to include Data Sharing and Availability statements as standard. The reaction to this has been extremely positive, with over 80% uptake in only a few months. This underscores our belief that the chemistry community is not intrinsically opposed to Openness, and that with encouragement and support we can all make the transition. 

In the Summer of 2021, we held two internal workshops under the aegis of our Open Science Forum, a cross-Directorate grouping which brings together colleagues involved in Publishing, Policy, Sales, Communications, Marketing and External Relations. These workshops sought to help consolidate our thinking around Open Science, and prioritise our next steps along the road. 

Beyond Open Access and data sharing, our ChemSpider database provides fast access to over 100 million chemical structures from hundreds of data sources, and we are planning to integrate this more closely with researchers’ workflows to support data publication and reuse. 

Externally we are seeking to reach out to research funders, aiming to build relationships beyond the traditional (and often unhelpful) model of action and reaction. We have held constructive conversations with individual funders and groupings around issues ranging from tiered and transparent pricing to nurturing a healthier research culture via increased diversity and inclusion approaches. 

There is no shortage of ambition in this space: finding areas for improvement is not the challenge, rather it is in prioritising these and bringing our internal and external communities along with us on the journey. Areas we have identified for future work include fostering a more open research culture, encouraging responsible and sound science, regardless of impact, and being increasingly open about assessment and pricing. We also see a more prominent role for preprints, and seek to integrate these into publication workflows more seamlessly. We also want to take steps to further normalise the citation and sharing of software, protocols and workflows (for those area of chemistry that utilise them.) 

As the African proverb goes: if you want to travel far, travel together. We have long been involved as a partner in ChemRxiv, a pre-print server for the chemical sciences, and we are increasingly looking outwards to grow our involvement in grouping and shared initiatives such as the Society Publishers’ Coalition and OAS Switchboard. There’s an open invitation to get in touch if you think we can do good things together – we’d love to hear from you!

For enquiries, please get in touch.

Find out more about the ALPSP Annual Conference.

About the author

Martin Donnelly is Manager, Funder Relations (Open Science) at the Royal Society of Chemistry. Before joining the RSC he was Research Data Support Manager at the University of Edinburgh, and prior to that Institutional Support and Consultancy Lead at the Digital Curation Centre (DCC). Externally, Martin has served as an expert reviewer for European Commission Data Management Plans, and sat on the Digital Preservation Coalition’s Management & Governance and Communications & Advocacy sub-committees as well as advisory boards/steering groups of a number of UK, European and international projects. 

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