News: Academic Publishing Weekly

The failure of open access, new book prize, and a year of ChatGPT

By Choice Staff
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Issues with Public Access and “Hijacked Journals”

Roger Schonfeld of The Scholarly Kitchen took a deep dive into issues surrounding public access this week, building on a presentation at a National Academies workshop on access to research funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. Specifically, Schonfeld noted that the Nelson Memo posits that the American public stands to benefit the most from public access, yet scientific research isn’t easily understood by a lay audience. Looking particularly at the medical fields, Schonfeld emphasized, “What is needed is distillation and synthesis into formats that will be useful and situated within workflows that will be convenient, incorporating the medical literature and addressing misinformation, through whatever combination of expert human creation, curation, and artificial intelligence can be most effective.“ Next up, a study published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology found 67 “hijacked” journals in Elsevier’s database, Scopus. As explained by Science’s Jeffrey Brainard, hijacked journals are “legitimate publications taken over by unscrupulous operators to make an illicit profit by charging authors fees of up to $1000 per paper” and present various risks to the scholarly record. In response to the study, Elsevier is looking into the flagged journals, however the author of the study, Anna Abalkina, voiced concerns over the publishers’ lack of response after she pointed out several suspicious journals back in 2021.


The History, Regulation, and Flaws of Generative AI

A little over a year after the launch of ChatGPT, writers from The New York Times reflected on the development of the AI chatbot and the tech race that ensued after its release last November. Interestingly, the writers revealed that OpenAI published the chatbot as a “low-key research preview” and didn’t expect it to take off, ultimately releasing ChatGPT instead of the underdeveloped but more advanced GPT-4. NYT also chronicled responses from Meta, Google, and Microsoft, exploring the development of the companies’ own chatbots and how ChatGPT allowed them to focus more on innovation and less on risk. In addition, NYT’s Adam Satariano and Cecilia Kang looked at how different countries are approaching AI policies in the wake of ChatGPT, underlining the difficulty of balancing risk and reward, keeping up with the pace of AI innovation, and international collaboration during a time of high geopolitical tension. Next up, a study from Iris.ai surveyed 500 researchers on their use of AI, finding widespread dissatisfaction with current AI tools. In particular, respondents cited concerns with misinformation, citations, and inaccurate responses. Last, Choice recently released The Authority File podcast series, “The Intersection of Critical Thinking Skills and AI,” perfect for learning more about ChatGPT and AI in higher education and publishing.



Has Open Access Failed?

While many have touted the benefits of open access (OA), prominent scholarly communication journalist Richard Poynder has a different take. In a recent interview with The Scholarly Kitchen, Poynder argued that the OA movement has fallen short in the areas of accessibility, affordability, and equity. Further, Poynder explained that “OA advocates did not take ownership of their own movement…and they failed to publish a single, canonical definition of open access,” leading publishers to prioritize pay-to-publish OA. Poynder also commented on COAlition S’s recent Towards Responsible Publishing initiative, addressed a lack of buy-in from researchers, and offered predictions on how AI will impact the presence of paywalls. Ultimately, Poydner concluded that “what had been conceived as a bottom-up movement founded on principles of voluntarism morphed into a top-down system of command and control, and open access evolved into an oppressive bureaucratic process that has failed to address either the affordability or  equity problems.” As one might imagine, the conversation continued in the interview’s lively comment section.



Congress Proposes Book Ban Bill and New Book Prize Featuring Incarcerated Jurors

In response to increased book ban efforts across the United States, several Democratic Congress members have proposed a new bill, the “Fight Book Bans Act.” Centered on aiding schools districts with the cost of dealing with book challenges, the bill would allow the Department of Education to fund “‘the cost of retaining legal representation, the cost of traveling to hearings on the bans, and the logistics for those hearings…as well as the cost of obtaining expert research and advice.’” Turning to book awards, Freedom Reads, the National Book Foundation, and the Center for Justice Innovation announced a new prize judged by people who are currently incarcerated. The National Book Foundation explained that “25 judges at each of 12 prisons across six states” will vote on a selection of titles considered for the 2022 National Book Awards. During the judging process next spring, discussions and readings will take place at the prisons and the Inside Literary Prize will be awarded in June.


Peer Review Developments and Taylor & Francis Acquires Future Science Group

Springer Nature announced further developments to its peer review platform Snapp (the Springer Nature Article Processing Platform). Introduced in 2019, the platform has gained thousands of users and unveiled several new functions, now reaching more than one million submissions. Snapp includes a reviewer tool, real-time submission tracking, and “enhanced integrity checks using AI technologies,” marking a “key investment from the company in the future of publishing.” In other news, Taylor & Francis acquired publisher Future Science Group (FSG), making it the “fourth largest publisher of pharma-funded research, with the addition of 32 peer-reviewed FSG journals and five digital hubs.” Researchers will be able to use FSG’s Plain Language Summary Hub and publish open access in FSG journals.


Best Books of 2023, New Spring Titles, and Choice’s Outstanding Academic Titles

Library Journal released its “Best Books 2023” list this week, just in time for shopping for the book lovers on your list. The list features 149 titles, organized by categories including “Arts & Humanities,” “Science & Technology,” and “World Literature.” As for forthcoming titles, Publishers Weekly spotlighted books to read next spring. The list features both fiction and nonfiction reads set to publish February through July 2024, with PW editors including a top 10 and longlist for each category.  Finally, Choice announced the 2023 Outstanding Academic Titles, a list of the top scholarly titles reviewed by Choice during the past year. You can find a selection of the most read reviews and sign up for the OAT newsletter to receive weekly list snippets.