Scientific societies worry Plan S will make them shutter journals, slash services

An existential threat. That’s what scientific societies supported by journal subscriptions call Plan S. Introduced in September 2018 by European research funders and endorsed by others since then, the plan will require that grantees’ papers be immediately available free of charge. All publishers that charge subscriptions will be affected, but scientific societies fear they could be hit especially hard. One, the Genetics Society of America (GSA) in Rockville, Maryland, predicts worldwide adoption of Plan S could cut its net revenue from publishing by a third. Less drastic impacts on societies’ bottom lines might still force them to sell their journals to commercial publishers and cut back on activities supported by publishing, such as professional training and public outreach.

“We’re not seeing a sustainable, viable, nonprofit open-access model” if all funders back Plan S, says Tracey DePellegrin, executive director of GSA, which publishes two journals.

After accepting comments through 8 February, the plan’s architects expect to firm up details this spring. But the bottom line is clear: By 2024, Plan S funders will allow grantees to publish papers only on platforms that offer immediate open access and cap the fee that open-access publishers can charge a paper’s authors. Many journals now follow a hybrid model, publishing individual papers open access for a fee but deriving most of their income from subscriptions.

SIGN UP FOR OUR DAILY NEWSLETTER

Get more great content like this delivered right to you

Scientific publishing needs “a radical program” to promote full and immediate open access because progress has been too slow, argues Robert-Jan Smits, the European Commission’s open-access envoy in Brussels, who is one of the architects of Plan S. The open-access movement began about 15 years ago, but by 2016, only about 20% of newly published research articles were open access.

Plan S’s requirements will disproportionately hurt the selective journals that many societies publish, says Fred Dylla, former executive director of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in College Park, Maryland, who still advises AIP about its journals. Such journals typically have high costs per article, reflecting expenses for reviewing papers that are rejected; publishers worry Plan S’s fee cap, which has yet to be set, will be too low to cover the average cost per paper. What’s more, the societies typically have lower profit margins and a smaller economy of scale than do the commercial publishers that publish the majority of all journal articles. The largest, Elsevier, based in Amsterdam, publishes more than 2500 journal titles; scientific societies each publish at most a few dozen. (Science is published by a nonprofit scientific society, AAAS in Washington, D.C.; Science‘s news section is editorially independent of the journal and AAAS.)

Comprehensive data aren’t available, but a 2017 study by Universities UK, an advocacy group in London, estimated that for life science societies, publishing income funded about 40% of spending on other activities, whereas for physical science societies, the figure was closer to 20%. GSA’s two journals provide about 65% of the society’s total net revenues, financing other GSA programs that don’t make money. These include efforts to advocate for science funding and help early-career scientists, activities that could help researchers outside of the society’s members.

So far, 16 funders, most of them in Europe, have embraced Plan S, not enough to transform journal finances. U.S. government funders remain cool to the approach. But Plan S’s international momentum grew—along with the threat it poses to traditional publishing—in December 2018, when officials in China backed its open-access goals. If China follows through, Plan S could reduce publishers’ income by perhaps 15% under certain conditions, according to an estimate published last week by Delta Think, a consulting firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That analysis doesn’t include the effect of the cap on author fees (also called article-processing charges), which could cut revenues further. The average fee for papers published in purely open-access journals in 2018 was about $1600, Delta Think has estimated.

GSA produces such a journal, G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics, and is “actively preparing for an eventual open-access publishing landscape” for all articles, DePellegrin says. GSA’s other journal, Genetics, is hybrid. The society has already reduced costs. The revenue loss from global adoption of Plan S would force GSA to cut its services or sell the journals to a commercial publisher, she says. “The trade-offs are hard,” adds Mark Johnston, editor-in-chief of Genetics and a molecular geneticist at the University of Colorado in Denver.

One way society publishers could adapt to Plan S’s requirements: Publish more papers to bring in more author fees. But that strategy may not succeed. The PLOS family of open-access journals, which published nearly 25,000 papers in 2017, reported a $1.7 million operating loss that year. Another prominent open-access journal, eLife, was also in the red in 2017 despite its author fee of $2500 and subsidies from foundations including the Wellcome Trust, a medical charity in London.

Besides, increasing the volume of papers inevitably decreases selectivity and lowers quality, some publishers say. “We and other societies are worried about where [Plan S] puts incentives,” said Brooks Hanson, an executive vice president who oversees publishing at the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C., which produces 20 journals, five of them purely open access. “It actually incentivizes publishers to go after more and more papers.”

Science‘s publisher, Bill Moran, says the journal doesn’t want to pursue what he calls “a volume play.” He wants Plan S to carve out an exemption for Science and similar selective journals that reflects their unusual circumstances and roles in scholarly communications. Science accepts only about 7% of manuscripts submitted and publishes, in addition, a variety of news, perspectives, and other nonresearch articles. The journal wouldn’t be sustainable if author fees had to cover all publication costs, Moran says.

Science is unique,” Moran says. “Not all journals are the same. If your goal is to maintain quality, there has to be an exception” to a one-size-fits-all approach like Plan S.

Still, if more funders demanded solely open-access publication, Science might have to make adjustments, he adds. An option might be to charge subscription fees only for nonresearch content, he says.

Smits places the onus on journals and societies to create new business models to adjust to Plan S’s requirements. But the Plan S funders also want to cooperate with societies to move away from subscriptions while maintaining quality. “We are very much interested in having an [author fee] that is fair enough to allow many organizations to flip their journals” to open access, he says.

The Wellcome Trust, one of the Plan S funders, and other groups have said they will publish a report by July on strategies and business models through which scholarly societies in the United Kingdom could make that transition. In addition, Smits met this month with representatives of the Royal Society, based in London, and 10 other midsize scientific societies to discuss how Plan S funders could help them switch. He says the societies are “keen to make the transition. They identified, however, a number of challenges.”

[“source=sciencemag”]

Eight Great Apps and Software Services That Launched In 2018

Eight Great Apps and Software Services That Launched In 2018

2018 was rather special and interesting, from a software point of view. While tech giants continued to deliver futuristic, mind-bending and impressive software and services, they also realised their own software was chewing away our brains, making us all sloppy. We took a good look around to see which software and services were introduced this year that are likely to shape the way we use most of our tech products.

Here are our top picks for the best software and services we saw in 2018.

1. Google Duplex
Google likes to show off cool stuff at its I/O developer conferences each year. Duplex, however, was way above anything we’d seen. It just blew everyone’s mind away. Built as a feature inside Google Assistant, Duplex can place phone calls for you to make reservations for you and more. All this in a human-like tone that could be hard for someone on the other line to make out if it’s an actual human being or a robot.

google main duplex

The search giant even demonstrated the feature in front of the crowd and it didn’t sound anything like a robot as Duplex added a little “hmmm” and “umm” into the conversation. The uses cases are endless and it looked like this could completely change the way we use our smartphones.

However, once everyone picked up their jaws from the floor, there was a growing concern amongst many that Duplex calls may be amazing, but a little too creepy. Google has assured that Duplex will properly notify that a call is being made from a robot when it’s working.

The feature has started rolling out to Google Pixel owners in the US.

2. WebAuthn
Let’s be honest, passwords aren’t everyone’s favourite method of authentication even though we continue to live our daily lives with one. Back in April this year, two major standards bodies FIDO and W3C revealed that they were going to kill the good old password with WebAuthn.

WebAuthn is simply a new protocol that eliminates the use of a password. The most popular browser makers like Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla have agreed to integrate WebAuthn within their browsers. Users will be able to use a physical security key (USB) or a mobile device instead of a password. This could make things a lot easier for Internet users all across.

3. Screen Time on iOS and Digital Wellbeing on Android
As technology is making our lives simpler and easier, it’s also slowly vacuuming us all into a world we can’t escape from. This year, the makers of the two most popular mobile operating systems decided to change things a little.

we;; wellbeing

Both Apple and Google announced new features built right inside the OS to help users measure how much time they were spending on their mobile devices.

Apple introduced Screen Time on iOS 12 and Google added Digital Wellbeing on Android 9.0 Pie. Both services may have different interfaces but share a common goal. The idea is to get you to use your phone less so you don’t spend hours staring at it when you could be doing something else, something more productive.

Later in the year, both Facebook and Instagram apps introduced their own version of these features.

4. Siri Shortcuts
With iOS 12, Apple also introduced a new way to make the most out of Siri. Siri Shortcuts lets users group together a bunch of iOS-based actions and easily trigger them using voice commands. A large chunk of iOS apps also added support for Siri Shortcuts.

siri short short

Although the idea sounds simple, it has become a popular way to get things done on an iOS device. From something as simple as having a text message sent when something else happens, to asking Siri about the status of your online food order, it can do pretty much anything you want.

The feature makes Siri more useful and powerful.

5. Otter
Otter is a mobile app that can automatically transcribe your voice recordings. The app is quite different from similar apps we’ve seen in the past. It is specifically meant for long-form conversations and can accurately convert voice to text without any issues.

Otter is perfect for meetings, interviews, and other events where more than one person is talking. The app can capture the audio, transcribe the content, and turn it into an archive that can be easily searched. The app is available on both iOS and Android. There’s a Web interface available as well.

[“source-ndtv”]

China’s Didi Launches Credit, Crowdfunding Services in Diversification Push

China's Didi Launches Credit, Crowdfunding Services in Diversification Push

China’s Didi Chuxing has launched a suite of financial products, including crowdfunding and lending, as it continues to diversify outside the ride-hailing business following a year of safety scandals.

The move comes on the heels of a company-wide reorganisation announced in December, which was aimed at improving safety on its platform as well as operating efficiency.

The new products were tested in 10 cities and have now been introduced nationwide, the firm said on Wednesday. They include wealth management, credit and lending and crowd-funding for critical illnesses, all aimed at short-term, temporary workers.

The products bring Didi into competition with investor Alibaba Group Holding and technology peer Tencent Holdings.

They also come as rivals including other Alibaba-backed firms have been making a renewed push in a ride-hailing market dominated by Didi, aiming to tap unmet demand brought about by regulatory change.

Didi itself is facing new rules and increased scrutiny from authorities after a series of high-profile safety incidents, including the murders of two female Didi passengers in separate cases.

As part of a subsequent national audit of ride-hailing firms, the Ministry of Transport said Didi was “out-of-control”, and pledged to tighten driver recruitment standards.

The firm is already short of drivers in major cities, since regulations in 2017 curbed the number of eligible applicants.

Didi, whose backers include US peer Uber Technologies, Apple, and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, is reshuffling its domestic business as it expands globally with new services in South America and Australia.

[“source-ndtv”]