COMETS publishes a new Opinion “Publications in the open science data era” (n°2019-40), initially approved at the COMETS plenary session of 8 November 2019, then definitively approved on 14 January 2020.
SUMMARY – The opening up of scientific publications heralds new, very stimulating opportunities as they offer universal access to all human knowledge to anyone, anywhere, at any time. This Opinion describes the different methods and procedures involved and examines the consequences, that may be unintended. While more and more open access journals use peer reviews in the selection process, they may be differentiated by the way in which the costs of publication are financed. Most of the time, these costs give rise to the payment of article processing charges (APCs) either by the researcher-authors themselves, or by their host organisation. If we are not careful, the result is an unjust system that not only creates inequalities between researchers but also generates unfair profits for publishers through public investment and the work of scientists who both provide research and assess other researchers’ work free of charge. There is furthermore a multiplication of editorial offers with reduced APCs but without any guarantee of scientific rigour, a situation that artificially increases the number of publications and arouses suspicion. It is difficult to identify the journals involved, some of which may be considered unreliable if not to say fraudulent. In addition, open archives such as the HAL online platform, allow research documents to be deposited free of charge on a web platform, making them immediately accessible to all. This ‘green route’ has the approval of COMETS, which invites researchers to use it to submit their papers once they have been accepted. Authors can also deposit their articles online as preprints even before they are reviewed, thus instantaneously communicating them to the whole community. Other members can then discuss the articles, leading to improvements. Veritable scientific forums can then spontaneously emerge. Although online preprints are not peer reviewed prior to dissemination, a review can nonetheless be organised through the ‘Peer Community in’ (PCI) system. Numerous models are emerging that do not demand APCs. Epijournals—considered as open access journals—for example, offer open access publication that relies on researchers themselves and expert reviews, avoiding the intervention of private publishers. The OpenEdition web platform offers a complete electronic publication infrastructure for the humanities and social sciences (HSS) without any APCs and with free access to publications in html format. This COMETS Opinion identifies several novel ways of benefiting from open access publication. It first describes the difficulties related to peer reviews and seeks alternatives. It then analyses the consequences of open publications on the assessment of researchers and finally makes recommendations to improve reviews while preserving ‘bibliodiversity’. COMETS recommends in particular supporting initiatives taken by researchers to promote open publications, consolidating the interoperability of open archives—in particular HAL—with other international open archives, applying the DORA principles and adopting Creative Commons licences.