Visibility and impact: The twin peaks for open access researchers

In August this year, Georgina Harris, portfolio manager at Frontiers, ran a workshop at the annual FORCE11 Scholarly Communication Institute, alongside Timothy Vollmer of UC Berkeley Library. Here are some of her personal reflections.

Photo credit: Frontiers

Amid the shift in published science – from paywalls to open access – researchers have more chances than ever to share their work, see its impact, and build the professional network that grows from it. But how to secure all that?   

For over a decade the  FORCE11community has shown the way, and Frontiers is proud to be a sponsor. This community group offers researchers the new thinking, pragmatic tools, and personal tips they will need to thrive in a competitive publishing environment.   

I had the pleasure of running the first workshop of its annual Scholarly Communication Institute alongside Timothy Vollmer of UC Berkeley Library.   

With the librarians, researchers, and scholarly communication experts who took part, we saw a picture emerge of a positive, shared experience in open access publishing, with growing curiosity and greater experimentation. Let me share three of the discussion points.  

First, in a complex, interlinked world, communication depends on more than one channel for cut-through. This is no less true of leading-edge science.   

Many researchers are using indexing tools and databases – with the right blend and over time – to drive the communication and visibility of their work and personal profile, from ORCID to Web of Science and InCites benchmarking, from Google Scholar to Scopus and SciVal. And of course social media provides channels of its own.  

Second, with competition for attention at an all-time high, authors who work hard on their research article have a responsibility to nurture the world’s engagement with it.   

Authors can do many things to connect with their audiences, whether it’s choosing an open access journal so that their work is immediately free to read; sharing their data in open access; choosing the right article collection or research topic to enhance their reception in long-lived research communities; writing summaries in layman’s terms or other languages to find new readers; or seeking publishers who are willing to share their platforms at conferences and across their own webinars, podcasts, and media outlets.    

And third, for the researcher who is motivated to improve the knowledge base, policy formation, and people’s lives, high impact is all.   

Evidence of that impact depends on, among other things, credible, real-time metrics for readership (we were one of the first publishers to pioneer alternative metrics, starting with article-level metrics in 2008); and a publisher prominent enough in their communities and whose authors’ work is highly cited (we are the 3rd most cited publisher, and foremost cited interdisciplinary publisher, in the world).   

All of these efforts should come with retained intellectual property rights. A CC-BY license allows others to distribute, remix, adapt, and build on an author’s work, if attribution is given to its creator. All the articles Frontiers publishes come under this license, maintaining rights while unlocking commercial opportunities and the chances to share.  

At Frontiers, we want to see all science opened, so that scientists can collaborate better and innovate faster, for fairer outcomes in all parts of society. That’s our social purpose as a business.  

And I was particularly struck in this workshop by the energy, optimism, and ambition of early career researchers, not least given the stark context. From health emergencies to climate change, we see and feel that context now.   

We can manage and reverse these threats, to live healthy lives on a healthy planet. But that will require political will, global collaboration, and scientific breakthrough at a scale not yet seen. On all those counts, success will depend on the widespread, immediate sharing of the latest scientific knowledge. All of it. 

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