As the world inched toward a semblance of normalcy after months blighted by the pandemic, 2022 saw the continuation of work-from-home and hybrid work models but also a return to in-person work and events. Humanity’s whack-a-mole against new COVID-19 variants continued, and we marched on, filled with hope. But then, a full-blown war broke out in Ukraine, sending shockwaves around the globe. Such upheavals added to the aftershocks of the pandemic, causing supply chain disruptions and economic uncertainty, worsened by layoffs in the technology industry. Even as these events unfolded, the warming of the Earth continued, triggering record-shattering heatwaves, droughts, and floods.

But not all was bad. There is increased optimism around global public health, given that we are better equipped to deal with the next pandemic. Organizations globally are banding together in support of citizens, including researchers, affected by war and conflicts. Changes in policy frameworks in various countries are aiming at the betterment of innovation and the openness of science.

Global issues such as pandemics, wars, and climate change all exert a significant influence on academia, underscoring the need for ethical science and science communication. Which major events of 2022 affected scholarly publishing?

1. The Ukraine–Russia war

On February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine, and a full-blown war continues even now. Besides unspeakable losses of lives, the war has had a devastating impact on research in Ukraine. Research infrastructure and laboratories and unknown volumes of research samples, data, archival collections, etc., have been destroyed or severely damaged.

Organizations and individual researchers are stepping up to support Ukrainian researchers, e.g., Council for At-Risk Academics and #ScienceForUkraine. The EU Research Commission is charting initiatives to help repair damaged research infrastructure and support scientists who remained in the country to continue their work.

In the academic publishing space, most publishers have stopped commercial engagement with Russia, condemning military aggression. Journals are faced with the conundrum of publishing content by Russian authors or boycotting them. However, in keeping with Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines, many concur that editorial decisions should not be colored by author nationality. Publishers are supporting Ukrainian researchers by granting free access to their resources, for example, Elsevier Health’s clinical support tools and medical education platforms (ClinicalKey®, Complete Anatomy, and Osmosis) and Clarivate’s Ex Libris RapidILL interlibrary loan system. The European initiative “Supporting Ukrainian Editorial Staff” (SUES) is working to sustain scholarly communication in Ukraine by means of support towards inclusion in the Directory of Open Access Journals and funding to support their operations.

2. Resumption of in-person events

The revival of in-person events was a happy highlight of 2022. With the widespread dissemination of COVID-19 vaccines and easing of travel restrictions (not to mention webinar fatigue!), many organizations and institutions kicked off in-person events this year. Notable among these for academia and publishing were the 9th International Congress on Peer Review and the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP)’s 44th Annual Meeting. The former brought together stakeholders in the scholarly publishing industry to discuss journal publishing workflows, publication ethics, and best practices in research and peer review. The SSP conference was themed around building a more connected scholarly community, and the meetings covered digital publishing, artificial intelligence (AI), open science and sustainable development goals (SDGs), etc. Book and trade fairs also made a comeback, and the Frankfurt Book Fair returned in full swing after three years.

While international in-person conferences have limitations such as high travel costs and a high carbon footprint, the “feel good” effects of face-to-face interactions, non-verbal cues, sensorial experiences all lead to better engagement and are irreplaceable!

3. The push for open science

3.1 Open access and Plan S

The term open access (OA) has been around for long enough for us to be “referring merely to ‘access’ rather than preceding it with ‘open’.” While the number of OA articles is growing steadily, we are nowhere close to having OA as the default. Plan S aims to expedite the transition to a scholarly publishing system that allows immediate and free online access to academic publications. Recipients of grants funded by agencies affiliated to Plan S are to publish research in OA journals or platforms and make publications available via OA repositories. The aim is that by the end of 2024, all journals should be OA.

To quote OA expert Sally Rumsey, “What is exceptional for 2022 is when people cannot access knowledge and research findings because there are barriers such as paywalls and re-use restrictions in their way.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that it is imperative to strengthen OA initiatives and transform journals, platforms, and repositories to make research freely available online.

3.2 OA mandates: USA and UK

In August this year, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy unveiled a new policy guidance to make the results of federally funded scientific research in the US immediately free to access and available to all. The new policy has important ramifications for the scientific publishing landscape, given that the US government is one of the world’s largest funders of research.

Meanwhile, in the UK, research articles arising from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding have been required to adhere to UKRI’s OA policy since 1 April, 2022. From  January 1, 2024, monographs, book chapters, and edited collections acknowledging UKRI funding will also need to be published OA. In line with the policy, UKRI is implementing the requirements for research article publishing systems and repositories in a phased manner.

These progressive policies are significant for the transition to OA, heralding the dissemination of knowledge immediately and freely to all.

3.3 OA Week 2022: “Open for climate justice”

Through its theme “Open for Climate Justice,” OA Week this year provided a unique opportunity to raise awareness around the need for rapid knowledge sharing across boundaries to address the ongoing climate crisis. Actions taken and resources produced during this week-long event (which incidentally took place a week before COP27) included a hackathon, podcast series, articles and article collections, a host of presentations, etc. This year’s theme was deemed a success, setting the stage for spurring local and international action on making openness the default for research, particularly climate research.

4. Wikipedia–scholarly publisher partnerships

Publishers like SAGE and Wiley have announced partnerships with the Wikipedia Library to provide Wikipedia editors with immediate, free, full-text access to their journals. This unique partnership will mean increased accuracy of the information found on Wikipedia. Should other publishers follow suit, the visibility of their journals and articles can get a fillip; in turn, Wikipedia can benefit from a stamp of credibility to overcome its unpopular image of being an unreliable source of information. This is a momentous move for increasing the access of laypersons to scientific research.

5. Changes in Clarivate Impact Factor reporting

In July this year, Clarivate announced the expansion of the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) from Science Citation Index Expanded and Social Science Citation Index to include journals from the Arts and Humanities Citation Index and the multidisciplinary Emerging Sources Citation Index. Accordingly, in the 2023 release of the Journal Citation Reports, all Web of Science Core Collection™ journals will receive a JIF. This will allow fair and equitable opportunities for newly launched journals, journals with a niche or regional scope, as well as journals from the Global South.

Looking ahead

The thrust for open science and OA today is more than ever before. Strengthening of partnerships among stakeholders and governments will be key to keep up the momentum for furthering open science. Further, in keeping with SDGs, publishers will be expected to implement sustainability initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of their operations.

The scientific and publishing community should continue its efforts to support researchers affected by the war and uphold free and unrestricted access to scholarly resources. In such times, dispelling inaccurate information is particularly necessary, and Wikipedia–scholarly publisher partnerships are a great step in that direction.

It is heartening to see how publishers have risen to the occasion and adapted to keep pace with researcher needs in the face of changing times. Here’s to more wins in 2023!

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