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EU publishing platform ‘offers unique opportunity’ for change


But scaling up Open Research Europe will be challenging, warns consultant

The EU has a “unique opportunity” to develop a non-profit publishing platform with the scale to make an impact on academic publishing, according to a new report.

Published on 24 October, the report for the European Commission looked at how the EU could expand its open-access publishing platform Open Research Europe from being only for researchers funded by the bloc’s R&D programmes into one that is open to potentially all academics across Europe and backed by multiple funders.

While several European countries are already investing in national non-profit publishing initiatives, few if any offer the same potential scale as ORE, according to Rob Johnson, an independent research consultant who authored the report.

“In this respect, ORE presents an almost unique opportunity to develop a collective, international funding model for a scalable non-profit publishing platform,” Johnson explained.

Currently, ORE is delivered by publisher F1000, which the EU is paying up to €5.8 million to provide the platform technology (€1.3m) and to arrange peer review and publication for up to 5,600 articles over four years (€4.5m).

The European Commission, which is in charge of ORE, is considering moving the platform from F1000 to an open-source format to avoid being reliant on a single vendor, according to Johnson.

As previously reported by Research Professional News, it is also exploring bringing in the support of other funders, either for the use of the researchers they support or for European researchers more generally.

Rising output

Johnson said the opportunity to expand the support for ORE to multiple funders “must be seen in the context of rising publication output by European researchers”.

“Without investment in high-quality non-profit publication venues, continued growth in publication volumes will primarily benefit the largest commercial publishers, at a cost to the European research system far in excess of ORE’s operating costs,” he said.

However, he warned that scaling up the platform will be a “significant challenge”.

The trickiest part will be the low uptake that ORE has seen from authors so far, he said; it has published about 270 papers in its first 18 months, which means only about 1,000-2,000 papers are expected from the four-year contract, resulting in half the publication budget going unspent.

Besides the cultural change needed to drive increased uptake, other challenges include setting up the non-profit organisation to run the platform and the technological work needed to make it open-source, Johnson said.

He made recommendations, including that the Commission and other funders should consider appointing high-profile ambassadors for the platform, explore synergies with other initiatives including the European Open Science Cloud, and seek legal advice on the most appropriate setup structure.

Responding to the report, Rebecca Lawrence, managing director at F1000, said the publisher was “excited” to see the “myriad opportunities that the future presents for” ORE.