Tag: open access

The aftermath of “the Creator” controversy at PLoS ONE

In the beginning of March, social media erupted with a controversy around an article published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE that cited “the Creator” as a source for design of human hands. Now that three weeks have passed, what are some of the lessons learned?

The article and initial reactions

First of all, the source of the controversy. The article included a number of references to the Creator, including a following statement in the abstract: “The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by the Creator to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way.” References to the Creator were further also made in the article itself, both in the introduction and conclusions.


While the article was published online on January 5th, the public controversy only started early March, when James McInerney, Chair in Evolutionary Biology at University of Manchester, tweeted his outrage at the statements made in the paper, by calling the publication “a joke”. He later noted that his strong language was due to nuisance with creationism for over 20 years.

However, the publication that had been under the radar for about two months now got massive attention in social media. During a single day, 2nd of March, some rather strong responses were posted in the PLoS ONE article comments. A number of commentators who presented themselves as editors and reviwers of PLoS One threatened to withdraw from the journal. The same day, PLoS issued a statement that they would examine the concerns raised.

SciELO – 15 years of open access in emerging countries

1656ba26efUNESCO and SciELO have published an anniversary publication to follow up the 15th anniversary of SciELO.

SciELO (The Scientific Electronic Library Online) had its origins in Brazil at around 1997 and has since been expanded to 16 additional countries, most in Latin America, the Caribbean, but also including Portugal, South Africa and Spain. In their model, authors do not need to pay or pay very little, being subsidized by public funds. Open access expert Jean-Claude Guédon argued in an article in Nature that with respect to open access this was “one of the more exciting projects not only from emergent countries, but also in the whole world”.

The significance of SciELO in raising the profile was noted already in 2002 in a Nature article.  In 2013, SciELO citation index was also integrated to Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge citation index, and SciELO director commented at the launch taht at the launch that this integration was a milestone in making research from these emerging economies more widely accessible and recognized.

The main aim of the anniversary publication is to provide detailed information about the SciELO model as a “best practice” case for possible implementation in other regions. SciELO is built around the so-called SciELO model consisting of the SciELO methodology, the SciELO site and the SciELO Network. The anniversary publication examines various aspects of the SciELO initiative from its establishment to spread in various countries, operating principles and the kinds of results that have been achieved.

Open access journal on education policy

CEPS The research centre CEPS (Centre for Education Policy Studies) at the University of  Ljubljana publishes an open-access peer-review journal on themes related to education.

The latest issue is a special issue focused on higher education studies, and includes six contributions examining themes related to reforms and developments in higher education in the Central and South-Eastern Europe.

You can download the full pdf version of the issue here (.pdf)

Open access week in October 2012

Between October 22nd and 28th the 6th  Open access week will be held in.. , well, everywhere. The initiative is organised by SPARC (The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, an international alliance of libraries) and is supported by PLoS (Public Library of Science).

This overarching umbrella event includes a number of nationally organised events globally. If you would be interested in holding an event, check out the kick off information video with speakers from various countries who introduce the event and share their experiences on the topic.

Check also out the event webpage for more information. 

Open access movement – from advocacy to policy to practice?

Hedda associate and current Hedda blog research editor Mari Elken gives an overview of the recent developments regarding open access in Europe.  

Discussions around open access and various forms of open access have been on the agenda in a number of academic debates lately. Paraphrasing the developments in the Arab world, the movement was termed the “academic spring” in a number of articles in the Guardian.

While the debate on open access is not new, having also been featured here on the Hedda blog a while ago, the topic gained momentum in early 2012, when Tim Gowers, a renowned Cambridge mathematician wrote a blog entry about Elsevier and the practices about pricing and peer reviewing. Quickly picked up by a number of publications, including The Economist, this started up a heated campaign and a boycott by a number of academics world wide. On the website The Cost of Knowledge, more than 12 000 academics signed the petition of boycotting all journals by Elsevier. Newspapers such as the Guardians have given the topic a lot of news coverage as well, in many ways becoming a part of and driving the campaign.

However, there are strong business interest in play. The Guardian reports that subscriptions to journals and publishers cost almost one tenth of the basic operating costs of universities in the UK. Michael Taylor gave some interesting numbers to back this in his commentary in The ScientistFor example, Elsevier reported a profit margin of 37,3 in 2011 (in essence over €950 million in revenue), far exceeding the profit margin percentages of for example Apple – being therefore called the “most ruthless capitalists”. In essence it is almost a risk free enterprise with huge profit margins to all of the three major actors – Elsevier, Springer and Wiley – and as long as the academia is dependent on reputation and publication indexes in the high ranked journals, there seems to be continued demand.