One of the very valid reasons for the open access movement is to address the massive gap between the volume of research that is paid for vs what gets published through the traditional academic publishing processes. Depending on where you look, estimates suggest that for every 10 research papers prepared for publication, only 1-2 articles make it into the traditional publishing process – academic peer-reviewed journals.
There are many reasons for this. Hardcore traditionalists will try to cast a shadow on the unpublished material by suggesting that in some way it is inferior. Perhaps that is true in some cases but we strongly believe all research matters. We can learn a great deal from research that has failed.
“Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.”
― Carl Gustav Jung
In every single research paper, regardless of the methodology, outcomes and conclusions, there is that one line which represents the nugget of the entire research paper or project. That critical piece of information often begins with…
- Future research should…
- Additional research questions to consider are…
- Next steps could be…
The ability to turn this research into action, to take all the hard work produced by these researchers and evolve that work can be found in these few lines. That’s why we think all research should have a voice and a stage.
The discrepancy between what is paid for and what is published might be explained by some of these reasons:
Highly Thematic Content
Most industries, government branches and clinical/academic disciplines have their own journals. The more unique and specialized they are, the more defined the topic with territories or content boundaries, forms the gold standard for publishing. But this specialization eventually creates its own jargon, its own keywords and desired research themes to the exclusion of more generalizable content or inter-disciplinary research.
Same Standards, Different Industries
With academic journals, most research, regardless of what industries they are in, are held to the same publication demands as scientific and medical literature. Should a policy paper be screened the same way as a drug trial? Research or publication type limits publication sources. For example, position papers or program evaluations may not pass the methodological standards in a quantitative journal but this doesn’t lessen the value of those papers and evaluations. It does, however, severely limit where they can be published.
This can sway authors and journals to complete work based on publication timelines or simply to get an article published.
Loss of Creative Control
In the traditional peer review process, production and format are controlled by the publisher, not the author. The peer review process is set by the journal or industry publication, and peers are assigned by the journal editor. Revisions to the content of the article, including images or figures, are guided by the journal editor, as well. Creative control is also lost when the format of the research is controlled by a production editor or publisher, and standardized. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could pick your own font, or make a diagram any size you want?
These can hinder interdisciplinary work from being found because they don’t fit under a specific specialty.
The peer review process can take months or years and often includes a summer hiatus for reviewers. The review-revise-resubmit process takes time and is costly, especially if funding or commercialization depends on peer review. This is particularly true for the most popular journals where the number of accepted articles often outnumbers the space for printing.
Also known as the positive-results bias, this is a type of publication bias. Understandably, authors are more likely to submit – and editors to accept – positive results compared to negative or inconclusive results. Likewise statistically significant results have been shown to be three times more likely to be published compared to papers with null results. In this information era, maintaining such a bias is unacceptable and could prevent important evidence-based decisions from being made.
Researchers have found ways around the peer review process.
Search engines pose a barrier to finding research documents with key-word recommendations, previous search and geographic biases, that hinder users from finding self-archived material.
Industry-specific Research Repositories
Universities, government branches and arms-length government departments are creating their own research repositories, typically as a way to make making research reproducible despite geographic locations. But, again, you need to know that repository exists, and likely what the document is called in order to find it.
Self-archiving After Peer Review
The author posts the same content the journal will be publishing to a web site controlled by the author, the research institution that funded or hosted the work, or which has been set up as a central open access repository. All the major publishers have policies on self-archiving; it can only occur after it has been peer reviewed.
All authors have the option of self-archiving their articles in their institutional repositories in order to make them open access, whether or not they publish them publically. This doesn’t really help with knowledge mobilization, does it?
For many researchers, none of these options are realistic.
Either the outcome is too important on the frontlines or they have other stuff to do, like treat a waiting room full of patients And in this age of Google and instant access to information, it is unacceptable that readers must wait 24-48 months to learn about life-changing information. And consider the desire to self-promote and share on social media, and the expectation to be in control of their own content.
Many of these insights and needs are met by self-archiving and it also saves time and money – valuable commodities on any frontline. Let’s face it, researchers want their stuff to get read and unless they have shares in the publishing company, they don’t care if that publishing paywall is removed or reduced; they just want to know that their research has had an impact.
In 2015, $500 billion was spent on research and development in the science, technical and medical industries. Sadly, according to the International Association of STM Publishers, only about 10% of this research gets published through the typical academic publishing process via the academic journals.
There is a real risk that the inspiration for the next cure, the next medical device, the next breakthrough in public policy will not be published within this 10%.
It is far likelier to be relegated to what the industry calls grey literature, research that is not shared through the academic publishing process for a variety of reasons and, so, is inconsistently available to clinicians and decision makers.