The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation just announced the launch of a new open access platform, Gates Open Research. The Wellcome Trust’s own platform is already running with F1000. All the while, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative opens research with cutting edge services. Funders become a major force changing the scientific ecosystem from the outside, accelerating openness and time-to-publish.

Gates Open Research

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation just announced the launch of a new open access platform, Gates Open Research, which will be run by F1000. The new publishing venture stands in line with Wellcome Open Research or the planned publishing platform of the European Commission.

All the articles funded by these foundations are already required to be open access. With the new platforms, the openness is about to be accelerated and its cost to be driven down: it takes around 7 days for an article to be posted and 27 days to be peer reviewed on such a platform. Publishing costs decrease to £791 on average from the usual ~ £2,000, according to stats from the already running Wellcome platform.

Hybrid Open Access Not Part of the Game

Apart from these facts, the mind-bending question is how big the impact will be that this initiative may have on journal publishing in the long run. With the major funders of medical research in the US, Europe, and the UK building their own platforms, the incentive for scientists to publish their research in journals is merely brand and reputation. Hence, spending money and time for getting articles into journals additionally will be a luxury which only top-tier journals are worth.

Yet, scholars who are funded by the Gates Foundation are not able to publish in top-tier journals. As per policy, all research articles must be published in journals with full open access terms. In other words, hybrid journals with high APCs are permitted (for instance Nature, Science, New England Journal of Medicine and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – only an agreement of Gates to pay $100,000 to cover APCs in bulk for AAAS journals changed this a little bit). This makes a huge difference as next to disseminating research findings, published articles are essential for career advancement in the sciences.

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Acquisition of Metα

Moreover, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s research (mostly bio/bio-medical) must be published in pre-print repositories. Thus, the research is available even before peer review. This accelerates openness and may in the long run significantly change how the bio-medical community thinks about open access – considering the size and power of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).

Furthermore, earlier this year, the CZI announced to acquire Metα. Metα is a search engine for scientists, empowering search across various documents. The engine doesn’t rest within silos of scientific areas and is fuelled by machine learning that extracts ontological concepts from the parsed papers. Comparable to YewNo, it enables scientists to find more efficiently while the searcher may not have known specifically what she was searching for. With thousands of published papers per day, such search engine promises to be a major gateway for research in the future.

Alongside CZI’s vision to support and open science to cure diseases more quickly, the initiative stated to transform Metα into an openly accessible platform. This is a path to watch, as in the long run such search engines may have a position like the one Google has for general web content. We can all perceive what kind of gravitational power this strategy can develop.

Science: Needy for Brands

Conclusively, the aim of the large funders is clear. Due to their influence and considering the positive impact that their policies have on the scientific ecosystem in general, scientists will adhere. The question here is, how far and how fast will this change affect the approach to quality (i.e. the IF), or how needy for brands on their CVs scientist will be in five years’ time.

At least, funders become a major force changing the science from the outside. Yet, they themselves must communicate more that the traditional quantitative measure of impact cannot be state of the art anymore. Until then, those new initiatives are accelerating openness in the most practical sense.

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