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Researcher to Reader Conference Report: Research Misconduct and Open Access

Read about Romy Beard's perspective on the Research to Reader conference.

Event duration February 21, 2024
Event location London, United Kingdom

Researcher to Reader Conference Report: Research Misconduct and Open Access

The opening keynote to this week’s Researcher to Reader conference, given by Antonia Seymour, CEO at IOP Publishing, provided a comprehensive overview of the current state of scholarly publishing and set the scene for much of what was to come. The scholarly publishing industry is in flux; with the attack from papermills spurred on by generative AI, high-volume article retractions, and the customer experience revolution – together with whispers of layoffs at different publishing houses during the breaks - the threat is palpable. But there’s hope - from brainstorming actionable solutions together to pushing for cooperation rather than competition to maintain trust in scientific output and a focus on people with the right mindset to innovate – and the ability to unite in laughter (even about silly things like surnames or images of rats). 

The Researcher to Reader conference uniquely brings together a small but varied group of stakeholders - publishers, libraries, intermediaries, and researchers. It aims to be inclusive and allows attendees to participate actively. The event delivers on this promise through its unique workshops: over three hour-long sessions, participants are led through their chosen subject to discuss, learn from each other, and find solutions in small groups. In these groups, everyone is encouraged to speak up - whether to share expertise from their perspective or ask questions to understand the other better. I believe it’s these workshops make Researcher to Reader more action-oriented than other industry events.

I attended the workshop on Peer Review Innovations, and we started with a good laugh at the fact that none of the workshop participants thought that peer review, as is, “works most of the time” – the majority voting for the “need for major improvements,” or in need of radical reform. We discussed the threats and pain points of peer review, which also came out in other conference sessions. Kaveh Bazargan, Director at River Valley Technologies, provided a full review of research misconduct and presented various examples such as figure manipulation, tactical citations, and purchased authorship. Executive Director at Global Publishing Development at PLOS, Roheena Andand’s panel, brought up reviewer bias against authors from India and the struggle to find reviewers from outside China. The workshop settled on several practical recommendations: the need for institutions to disincentivize malpractice, the need for researchers to receive recognition for doing peer review, widely adopted standards (especially regarding author identification), and innovative technology that allows for collaborative peer review.

Solutions to current issues in peer review were also echoed in other parts of the conference. During a Lightning Talk, Laura Feetham-Walker talked about IOP’s co-review initiative, which allows a main reviewer to bring in one or two early career researchers to collaborate with them on a peer review; all participating reviewers would receive credit as well as a score from IOP for the quality of the review. Tyler Ruse presented Digital Science’s new acquisition, Writefull, a tech solution to help identify manuscript issues and triage them based on their linguistic makeup. Paul Killoran from Ex Ordo discussed his vision for publishers to nourish authors of conference material – 37% of which is eventually published in a journal within two years – and connect them to the broader publishing workflow. Fostering the relationship with these upcoming authors and helping them on that journey could go a long way in solving some of the problems with peer review, including author identification! (I’m looking forward to having Paul as a panelist on our March webinar – see details here.)

While less prevalent than in previous years, Open Access was still a theme that is, of course, close to my heart. Anand’s session touched on this well. Notably, Dr. Rashna Bhandari, Head of the Laboratory of Cell Signalling at the CDFD, shared that accessing paywalled content legally is still an issue. The promise of nationwide subscriptions for India seems to have perished along with any hope of transformative agreements, and, with India’s economic progress, fewer or no options of waivers or discounts mean that a full-price APC in a high-impact journal would eat up 1/5th of a researcher’s budget.

On the other extreme, I was keen to hear details of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s new Platinum Consortium Pilot for Germany that benefits research-intensive, high-publishing institutions and those with little publishing output and a primary need to read paywalled content. Germany is significantly more advanced in the transition to open access compared to other countries, such as the United States. Michael Levine-Clark from the University of Denver and Ben Rawlins from the University of Kentucky shared their perspectives on Transformative Agreements, including the challenges in analyzing their institution’s publishing output. After the session, this led to an interesting discussion about why some authors choose not to publish open access through an agreement, including a lack of understanding around open access licenses and unclear signposting of open access options and agreement eligibility during submissions. 

Fortunately, there’s ChronosHub to help with that! 

Head of Publisher Relations at ChronosHub
Romy Beard

Romy is specialized in the academic online publishing industry, with a focus on publisher relations. And she’s one of our key experts in Open Access publishing terms. 

Romy Beard

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