The publication of scientific results is an essential task of scientists. The peer review of a publication by other scientists ensures its quality. Their publication is proof of their achievements. In addition, it provides the basis for discussions within a scientific community and serves as a basis for further findings. It is therefore desirable for the publication to be dissiminated and received as widely as possible.
Open Access: free access and free re-use
The implementation of these wishes supports a publication method called Open Access (“free access”). Free access enables users to access and re-use available scientific results and materials in digital form free of charge and without technical or legal barriers. Open Access is made possible not only by scientific publishers but also by scientific institutions. Free access becomes feasible through new technologies that can implement digital publications. Technical solutions also offer further opportunities to further support the publication process, but also the process of scientific knowledge formation, and to use them in new and expanded ways.
At present, Open Access is seen primarily as an alternative business model for publishers (keyword: transformation contracts). In other respects, however, the idea of free access goes beyond the economic aspect and helps to create conditions for forward-looking scientific communication. Together with academics, academic institutions and libraries in particular are developing non-commercial, subject-oriented publication offerings. Thus, they make an essential contribution to the cultural change towards an open science.
How is publishing changing in digital times?
For some time now, scientific publishing processes have been supported by software solutions of various kinds. No book or magazine appears today without texts being written with writing programs and illustrations being prepared with digital image processing programs. The layout of journals is also developed with digital support and finally transferred to the final publication.
The further development of the Internet has produced numerous new techniques and practices which also influence the publication process of scientific findings. Researchers are developing digital tools and software to collect, evaluate and share data. They are supported by algorithms and artificial intelligence and share their findings online in this process. This is done in written form, but also in the form of images and moving images.
Transparency in the process promotes knowledge
The permanent provision of knowledge, which is generated in research processes, accelerates the learning of all participants. Since everything in this process is digitally available, it makes sense to make data, software, algorithms, texts, images and other objects from the research process accessible. In the context of a single quality-assured publication, these materials can then be connected with reference to a fixed date.
The free provision of the generated knowledge (Open Access) goes hand in hand with the disclosure or opening up of the research processes themselves (Open Science). This form of openness produces new forms of gaining knowledge:
Collaboration as a learning and negotiation process
In open research and writing processes, collaboration is understood as a mode of working together that can positively influence the attitudes and practices of the actors involved so that cultural change becomes possible. Thus, the challenges of collaboration in research projects lie on the one hand in social and collegial negotiation processes that have to do with openness and trust. On the other hand, they require digital tools that support this form of cooperation.
Established and alternative review procedures
The peer review of a scientific work prior to its publication is usually carried out by more than one scientist in the same subject. These so-called peers are usually not known to the author (“single blind review”) and often do not know the author (“double blind”). As an alternative to these methods, there are approaches to greater transparency. This can refer to the persons involved, but also to the expert opinions themselves. In addition, there are also efforts to open the procedure itself to the professional community and to let other persons in addition to the experts comment on it.
What contribution does Hamburg make to this discourse?
The participating institutions Technische Universität Hamburg (TUHH) and Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg (SUB) will combine their many years of experience in this project.
- Within the framework of the project Hamburg Open Online University (HOOU) the TUHH has gained extensive experience in the development of open educational resources (OER). The results of this project (workflows, tools and formats) will now be transferred to writing and publication processes in the research context. The library of the TUHH (TUB) has many years of experience in managing Open Access publications.
- The SUB has been involved in Open Access publishing for years. Hamburg University Press, the Open Access publishing institution of the SUB, is well established; it meets the requirements of the scientific reputation culture and is also testing future-oriented publishing methods. The SUB also publishes Open Access journals. In doing so, it cooperates with various scientific disciplines.
- Digital publications can be enriched with further quality-assured media in order to make scientific findings more comprehensible and results reproducible.
- The link to scientific results from HOS research data and AV repositories is possible.
- Representatives of research communities get to know how they can realise quality-assured publications in an action-oriented way without being dependent on major global players.
What is being done concretely?
- TUHH and SUB jointly develop a process chain. This is based on two central open source software solutions, GitLab at TUHH and Open Journal Systems (OJS) at SUB.
- The role of GitLab is to strengthen aspects of collaboration and participation in writing processes and to integrate elements from software development. Especially in the field of quality control GitLab shows its advantages. But also automated processes are important to generate different formats of publications (PDF, HTML, EPUB, XML).
- OJS offers an environment for processing and quality-controlled publication of digital journals. The SUB knows the requirements for sustainable visualization and dissemination of Open Access journals.
What are the benefits for science?
The free availability of scientific publications has several advantages for science:
- Increased transparency: Scientists have fast and direct access to scientific findings.
- Free access: Open Access publications are freely accessible and free of charge for users. This means that participation in scientific knowledge no longer depends on financial factors.
- Unlimited spatial and temporal access: Scientific results can be accessed and re-used anywhere and at any time.
- Referenceable full text: Scientists can reference and actively share their works by linking to the full text, e.g. in CVs.
- Machine-readable full text: Open Access contributions allow automated methods of text analysis without payment restrictions or access restrictions.
- Collaboration: Participants in research processes move closer together in work processes, which can have a positive influence on the results.
- Alternative review procedures: Publications can experience an improvement in quality through alternative review procedures.
What are the benefits for the public?
The publication processes described above also have advantages for the interested public:
- Visibility: Hamburg as a science location is becoming more visible. Actors outside the scientific community also have access to quality-assured scientific findings that can be of economic interest, for example.
- Transparency: Freely accessible publications make it possible to understand what public research funds have been used for.
- Participation: Access to freely available publications and related data enables actors outside the scientific community to participate in research processes.
- Reusability: Freely available publications can be further shared and re-used according to clear legal licensing (e.g. in educational institutions).
Project duration and actors
The project “Modern Publishing” has a duration of two years and ends in December 2020 with the presentation of the results and proposals for a sustainable and scalable use of the knowledge and solutions gained.
The main actors are the University Library of the TU Hamburg, which is in charge of the project, and the Department of Electronic Publication/Hamburg University Press of the State and University Library Hamburg (SUB). The two cooperation partners are actively working on networking with other projects in the HOS programme, making use of interfaces and synergies.