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The Impact of Open Access on Scientific Research

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The Impact of Open Access on Scientific Research

Open access provides free access to all forms of published research reports which include peer-reviewed and non peer-reviewed articles, theses, conference papers and books. Traditionally, the outcomes of most scientific research undergo peer review before publication. It is estimated that around 2.5 million articles are published in over 24000 peer-review journals each year, whose access is free of all restrictions to the scientific community. Yet, only 10% of published research in biology and medicine is open access. In recent times, open access together with social media is changing the peer review process.

The term “open access” was first termed in the 2000s in three public statements: the Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002), the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing (2003) and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (2003). Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) indexes and provides access to open access peer reviewed journals.

Open access journals are paid journals wherein authors typically pay to publish their research. Most popular open access publishers such as BioMed Central, Frontiers and PLoS charge an average of USD 2500 to publish articles. As per the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed in 2008 Congress, PubMed Central was created with a public access policy that archives over 2.4 million biomedicine and lifescience full free text articles. ResearchGate, one of the promising websites that combines social networking and open access, allows scientists to publish their research articles on the website. This site has approximately 1.7 million scientists working in medicine and biology and indexed over 10 million open access articles till date. Another innovative publication practice is through preprint sites wherein the papers submitted do not to undergo traditional peer review. They may be considered as grey literature.

Eugene Garfield, one of the founders of bibliometrics, is responsible for the concept of the citation index which made it possible to calculate the “impact factor”. Impact factor indicates the importance of the journal by counting the number of times its articles are cited. It is obvious that the researchers aim to submit their articles to high impact journals, nevertheless the acceptance rates are very low.

The major challenges facing the peer review process are the pace at which it takes place and anonymity of the reviewers. Some open publishing platforms such as F1000 Research offers immediate publication followed by an open, invited peer review of articles. Social network has become one of the alternatives where anonymous review is replaced by public review which is authenticated by factors such as the author’s scholar factor, h-index, or other non-traditional metrics.

Do social media influence the peer review process? It is an ongoing debate. The criteria and methods that traditional peer review follows are different from those followed by social media and this would significantly affect the evaluation of research quality. It is necessary to adopt a method that incorporates the validation and review of results. Experts say open access methods and social networks will play a significant role in disseminating research results.

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