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Is the tide turning on traditional academic publishing?


  • To address EU Council calls for reforms to a flawed scholarly publishing model, a community-governed scholarly information infrastructure based on open standards should be implemented.

On the 23 May 2023 the Council of the EU released a statement encouraging the European Commission and member states to back policies that will facilitate a scholarly publishing model that was “not-for-profit, open access and multi-format, with no costs for authors or readers”. This call for transparent, equitable and open access to scholarly publications was supported by a joint response from 10 key representative organisations of the public research and innovation sector who highlighted several initiatives currently supporting this aim, including Science Europe’s Action Plan for Diamond Open Access.

This need for reform was discussed in detail in an article by Prof Björn Brembs and colleagues in Royal Society Open Science. The authors argue that it is time to replace traditional, outdated academic journals and end the workflow monopoly of publishing corporations. They describe a vicious cycle of 3 crises – replicability, affordability, and functionality – that contribute to the current dysfunctional system, whereby rising journal costs hinder institutions in being able to address functionality issues, which in turn fuels the replicability crisis as research data become harder to discover, access, re-use and scrutinise.

To break this cycle, the authors propose a transformative shift, replacing traditional journals with a modern, decentralised, open and robust, community-governed scholarly information network grounded in open standards. This network would encompass all facets of scholarly work, including text, data, and code, with interchangeable service providers competing within a well-regulated market. Effective governance, modelled after bodies such as The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment (CoARA) would oversee the establishment of open standards and prevent corporate dominance.

“The time is ripe to replace traditional and outdated academic journals with an open, interoperable and community-governed modern scholarly information infrastructure.”

While the idea of replacing traditional journals is not a new one, the authors of the article provide insights into the practical implementation of an open and fairer replacement – a move that is garnering an increasing amount of support.


Is it time for fundamental reform of academic publishing?

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