A Publisher for the European Public
Scientific research is publicly founded. Except for the publication itself. This has to change.
In the beginning 21st century the process of gaining knowledge is a publicly founded procedure in most of its parts. The research itself is conducted at public universities or research institutions. Many of the famous repositories for pre- and post-prints are hosted by such institutions or its affiliates. More recently, several data repositories for the deposition of research data have been established. For quality assurance, the peer review process depends on the voluntary work of editors and reviewers of the respective journals. Only the publication process itself is usually performed by private actors.
This is an obstacle for the propagation of open access. The pressure from stakeholders of public interest, e.g. the national and international research funding organizations, only partially solved the problem of open access publications. Furthermore, the established publishers are not eager in adapting new measures in the wider field of open science.
But why should the complete process of research be financed and organized by the public, except for the the part of publishing? A solution for this would be the foundation of an European Research Publishing Platform.
Its legal form would be the Societas Cooperativa Europaea, an European co-operative. This would facilitate the participation of many different stakeholders, among them natural persons as well as corporate bodies like universities and research institutions. As a complement, not a substitute, to the private sector of publishing, it would be a publisher in the European public interest. The form of a co-operative guarantees the development of the publisher with a scientific and not a commercial interest in a democratic procedure. Principles of Open Science could easily be implemented in its constitution and the promotion of open access publications fostered. Furthermore, transparency of its aims, finances and development could be made available to the public. Of course, the scientific papers are not published for free. Article Processing Charges are applied. But these APCs only have to cover the real expenses of the publisher, neither a profit margin nor a premium for reputation.
The new publisher could serve as a pioneer in the application of new technologies for distribution, concepts for open peer review and integration of existing other platforms. In the near future, the new European research platform would provide home for a variety of journals. It would integrate seamlessly with existing identity databases like ORCID, provides open research data via repositories such as Zenodo and source code on git servers. Furthermore, the history of research could be traced with pre- and post-prints. All of this new technology would be open-sourced in order to be used and improved by others. Further concepts for Open Science, among them open peer-review, would be implemented on the platform.
The current state of publishing was established by social networks in the first half of the 20th century, despite the fact that these social networks were analogue. This shows, that the social aspect is as important as legal and technical ones. No successful journal can be initiated without the support and commitment of established and experienced researchers. The new European publisher would need Open Science ambassadors, who are willing to participate in the development of new journals and the acquisition of editors and reviewers. Scientist from the wider network of the European Research Council should be invited to participate in this process.
The European research platform should be able to compete in attractiveness with other publishers. Scholars should be motivated to send their papers to its journals because of the expertise of the editorial boards, the quality of the publication network and the convenience for open access publication. Therefor the type of journals should be of wide range. From small, specialized journals for specific scientific communities to high impact journals for the broader public. Prestige is an important factor in the scientific communities, thus it is important to establish a variety of journals, including journals with high selectivity.
In the recent past, more and more scientists resigned from their duties in journals because the commercial objectives of the publisher do not longer coincide with the scholar's motivation and values. The new publisher should involve such groups by providing easy launch of new journals. Especially in the case of the resignation of a complete editorial board, this would foster Open Science in an increasing number of scientific areas.
The European research platform will be a pioneer in open access publishing, with the latest development of Open Science tools included. This will foster the promotion of Open Science. Its technical foundation and social impact in research will make it the most obvious and convenient way to publish research results.
The publishing business was a private one within the era of modern science. It’s time to change it. Let's improve publishing by applying Open Science to it.