Research and publishing are two vital elements of modern society and have underpinned the unprecedented growth in human knowledge and progress since the invention of Gutenberg's printing press nearly 600 years ago. The more recent digital revolution has made it exceptionally easier for individuals and societies from all over the world to share new knowledge and breakthroughs in all manner of human endeavor. The barrier to publish in many ways is almost nonexistent these days. This however brings about huge challenges related chiefly to the assessment of research and publications' quality, from the veracity and provenance of these publications to the assessment of their scientific merit.
In this blog, I present fundamentals of the research and publishing landscape including quality assessment. Then, I introduce open research and open publishing including the rationale behind these and various implementations. I will then talk about the several challenges facing Open Access (OA) and present the important issue of Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the context of OA. Parallels between social media and open publishing will then be drawn. Finally, conclusions including suggestions to strike a balance between openness on the one hand, and academic rigor and IP rights on the other, will be laid out.
Typically, a researcher or group of researchers embark on a quest to answer one or many, hitherto unanswered, research questions. A research methodology is normally sketched ab initio with one or many hypotheses and a plan of research that is laid out. The latter would typically involve the collection and review of primary sources, for example, data sets from existing or new experiments, and secondary sources, for example, journal papers dealing with the same or adjacent research questions.
The output of the research can be new knowledge (including a better understanding of existing knowledge) of new artefacts, methodologies, or data sets that help solve a problem or set of problems. This is disseminated in some sort of written publication (for example, conference or journal paper) but can also take the form of a speech or presentation, typically to peers. In academic research, the output is usually gated by a peer review process whose outcome dictates whether the research is of enough quality to warrant publication. Peer reviewers are chosen from the cream of Academia that is, researchers who have a proven track record in quality research.
Over the years, several outlets have developed a reputation for quality publications, for example, as per the frequency of citations and references to their publications by other researchers. A panoply of research quality metrics ensued, including the famous Journal Impact Factor  which at times became almost the determining factor in recruitment and promotions in Academia. History, however, is littered with instances of initially well-intentioned metrics becoming the source of terrible unintended consequences  and academic research is not an exception. Indeed, the obsession with research output metrics in the past few decades has led to hyper-competition in the research community with perverse incentives to:
Recognizing the previous challenges, there has been a growing movement towards Open Research in Academia in the past decade or two. Some of the most remarkable initiatives include the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) , the Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics  and "PlanS" . The argument for OA for research output that is funded by the public purse is overwhelming. In fact, it is remarkable that this has not been the case from the start. The argument is simple: any publication that presents the findings of research that is funded by a public body must be made freely available to everyone to access since public good is the main driver of public funding. Beyond this argument, the rapid and wider sharing of research results has been shown to accelerate the pace of innovation . That is why the argument for OA goes beyond publicly funded research. Indeed, pre-competitive research funded by private organizations also benefits from the faster pace of discovery and scrutiny offered by OA.
In the UK, the Welcome Trust was the first funding body to introduce a mandatory OA policy in 2005  followed more recently by Research Councils UK (RCUK). But how does that work practically?
Academic publishers have traditionally paid for the cost of peer review and editorial and production costs through paid subscriptions, or other forms of payments. Customers include university libraries and researchers at large. OA however puts this traditional model in jeopardy. An alternative business model is to require payment of Article Processing Charges (APCs) to cover publication costs in exchange for making the final article and publication openly accessible. These charges are sometimes paid by authors directly, their funding bodies, for example, universities or research councils, or subsidized by other means. One thing is with certainty though: nothing in publishing is free, peer review is not free, editorial, and production services are not free either, someone ultimately must pay for these costs.
The previous said, OA has many implementations in practice , including:
There is also the important issue of copyright and licensing terms. Here, a major distinction is made between:
It is worth noting that there is a major drive in the OA community to "flip" existing closed publications to OA  in addition to requiring OA for any future publicly funded research output.
One of the major challenges facing OA is the issue of who pays for the cost attached to peer review, quality editorial and production, in addition to other services such as registering, indexing and archiving. While many of these costs are eliminated with pre-print publishing, e.g., in Green OA, this can lead to low quality (or at least a perception of low quality). The latter in turn excludes these publications from academic measures of esteem and therefore wider recognition and dissemination. APCs look like an elegant way to address both the economic imperative and academic integrity, but these inevitably erect barriers to entry for poorer participants, especially in the Global South. This in turn defeats the purpose of OA and reduces the diversity of participants. What is more, the rise of OA can lead to predatory publishing practices whereby the only (or main) criterion that is used to publish is the ability of the authors to pay.
The drive towards OA will not be prosecuted at the expense of the protection and promotion of IP rights, which are essential for continuous innovation and public confidence. The continuous development of Creative Commons licensing models, for instance, shows that there is a need for diversity of models as the community of knowledge negotiates a balance between the economic imperative, academic and scientific integrity and the wider public good. It is however arguable that the currently available models in Creative Commons (as of late 2019) still do not yet provide the nuances required by certain business models for OA to become a widely viable option. More flexibility in stating exploitation rights and terms of reuse, for instance, would be a welcome development.
The following two legal concepts for the grant of patents are worth noting in this context as they can have an impact on publishing timelines and openness:
A grace period (for example, of one year prior to the filing of the patent application) could be granted, in either of the above two systems in theory, allowing for early disclosure of inventions without compromising the inventor's right to the patent. Depending on how much time it takes for a patent to be published, a grace period system, like the one used in the US, might well be more OA-friendly.
As outlined previously, maintaining scientific and academic integrity comes at a cost, but could this cost be reduced significantly using modern social media tools and platforms? Taking the argument to the extreme, could peer review be replaced by "Likes", or some sort of other rating, by readers of open access publications? Could publishing itself be crowd-sourced a la Wikipedia? More fundamentally though, could consumers of knowledge take part in the process of new, more active, knowledge creation? And if so, how? That is one of the biggest promises of open research and open access publishing: an accelerated rate of knowledge production and ‘consumption production’ in a two-way transparent and symbiotic relationship. Who would possibly disagree with this?
The truth is that the same has been said before about social media as an agent for accelerated knowledge sharing and ultimately positive change. However, recent events (for example, around fake news and online bullying) have shown the limits of this Utopian vision. Indeed, the near-zero-cost barrier of entry to social media (not just in $ term but also in terms of other prerequisites) has sometimes led to noise, confusion, and chaos. Ideas such as “post-truth”, “alternative facts” and “distrust of experts” have gained hold in society, often amplified by social media. In many ways, the challenges that are raised by social media in skewing public discourse are no different from the challenges around the use of social media for open research and open publishing. The scientific and academic community would be ill-advised not to learn from these experiences.
Open research and open publishing have the potential to accelerate the dissemination and creation of new knowledge drastically. The resulting symbiotic relationship between production and consumption of knowledge is a powerful mechanism for new knowledge creation and more active forms of active consumption or “consumption production”. However, one must be wary of conflating "open" with "public good" in the absolute. Left unchecked, open platforms can indeed lead to saturation, noise, and chaos. To address such issues, I posit that transparent roots of trust and quality assurance must be established and maintained for peer-review, with objective and transparent admission criteria to the peer review community. Second, feedback loops between production and consumption of new knowledge must be rigorously and transparently certified, with clear attributions. Third, and in keeping with the scientific tradition, the whole system of knowledge must be constantly re-appraised. Social media tools and platforms can play a major role in facilitating these requirements, but they should be just that.
Furthermore, IP rights need not be the enemy of open research and open access as they provide incentives for invention and enterprise. Public funding is perfectly entitled to seek public access and free exploitation rights to the research output it funds. However, that does not necessarily apply to all public funding in the absolute, and not to private research funding. It is not helpful to see this debate in binary terms, e.g., open vs. closed, public vs. private, good vs. bad. In the real world, knowledge systems belong to a large and varied spectrum, with aspects of both open and closed systems. The debate should therefore transcend absolutism and tribalism to focus on how diverse systems of knowledge production and consumption (for example, open and closed, public, and private) could co-exist, hybridize, thrive, and even support each other. This would ultimately lead to better science, accelerated new knowledge production, wider and faster dissemination, and benign use of knowledge.
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 The Tyranny of Metrics – Jerry Z. Muller, Princeton University Press, ISBN-10: 0691174954, ISBN-13: 978-0691174952, Feb. 2018,
 Open Knowledge Institutions, https://wip.mitpress.mit.edu/oki