The following open letter has been delivered to the Society for Neuroscience and published online in The Winnower. Thanks to everyone who contributed to writing the letter, shared with colleagues, and signed.
Dear Society for Neuroscience,
This is an open letter concerning the recent launch of the new open access journal, eNeuro.
We welcome the diversification of journal choices for authors looking for open access venues, as well as the willingness of eNeuro to accept negative results and study replications, its membership in the Neuroscience Peer Review Consortium, the publication of peer review syntheses alongside articles, and the requirement that molecular data be publicly available.
As strong supporters of open access, we welcome the commitment of the Society to making the works it publishes freely and openly available. However, we are concerned with several aspects of the specific approach, and outline herein a number of suggestions that would allow eNeuro to provide the full benefits of open access to the communities the journal aims to serve.
Our first concern relates to the specific choice of license. The purpose of open access is to promote not just access to published content, but, equally important, its reuse. The default use of a CC BY-NC license places unreasonable restrictions on the reuse of articles published in eNeuro, and is incompatible with the standards of open access as set out by the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI). NC restrictions have significant negative impact, limiting the ability to reuse material for educational purposes and advocacy to the detriment of scholarly communication. NC-encumbered materials, for example, cannot be used on Wikipedia or easily incorporated into Open Educational Resources. The NC clause also creates ambiguities and uncertainties (see for example, NC Licenses Considered Harmful) and there is little evidence on benefits of the clause to justify its use. In contrast, the value of the CC BY license is outlined in detail by the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association. How will authors or the broader community benefit from restrictions on the commercial reuse of eNeuro content? The eNeuro fees policy acknowledges CC BY-NC is incompatible with the requirement of funders such as Research Councils UK and Wellcome Trust, and offers their authors the solution to upgrade to CC BY for a $500 surcharge. This penalizes authors funded by such agencies, as well others who choose to adhere to BOAI principles. We believe that the only way for eNeuro to deliver on its open access commitment is to make all articles CC-BY, and to set the fees to an appropriate level to support this choice.
Our second concern relates to data access. We commend the journal’s requirement that all molecular data be publicly available, but we believe the policy on sharing other types of data should be improved. The current language does not guarantee data will be made available, does not speak to the terms of data licensing, nor describes a course of action if a request for data is not fulfilled. The criterion of “appropriate scientific use” is also vague: Would reuse of data for educational purposes, for example, meet that criterion, and who would make that decision? Open data aids in verification and replication of results, creation of new analysis tools, and can “fuel new discoveries”. The value of open data has been recognized by the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the BRAIN Initiative, and the Human Brain Project. Immediate sharing of all data types in an open repository (preferably under CC0) should be a requirement, unless prohibited by law (e.g., privacy laws). Several flexible outlets, such as Figshare and DataDryad, are available that make this easy and cost-effective.
Finally, while we commend eNeuro’s commitment to transparent peer review, we worry that only publishing a synthesis may sacrifice the richness inherent to the review process. We believe the neuroscience community would be better-served by having access to the complete reports from reviewers, as offered by PeerJ, several Biomed Central journals, and others. Reviews should also be licensed CC BY to allow for reuse in teaching materials, for example. Reviewers can be provided a mechanism to communicate confidentially with editors, removing the risk associated with making the full reviews publicly available. Reviewers should also be given the opportunity to sign their reviews for added transparency and to receive due credit for their work (e.g., through Publons).
Based on the above points, we recommend that eNeuro:
- Makes CC BY the default license and provides equal pricing for all CC licenses;
- Provides a transparent calculation of its article processing charges based on the publishing practices of the Society for Neuroscience and explains how additional value created by the journal will measure against the prices paid by the authors;
- Considers offering full waivers to authors, especially those from low-income countries, who are unable to afford any publication fees;
- Requires authors to deposit their data in a public repository (preferably under CC0), unless there are legal or ethical reasons not to do so;
- Publishes full individual reviewer reports (CC BY licensed) alongside each article.
We hope the Society for Neuroscience will collaborate with the academic community to facilitate the dissemination of scientific knowledge through a journal committed to fully embracing the principles of open access.
We kindly request that you allow your response(s) to be made public along with this letter, and look forward to hearing your response soon.
Please note that the views expressed here represent those of the individuals and not the institutions or organizations with which they are affiliated.
- Erin C. McKiernan, independent scientist, SfN member
- Marco Arieli Herrera-Valdez, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
- Christopher R. Madan, University of Alberta
- Philippe Desjardins-Proulx, Ph.D. student
- Anders Eklund, Linköping University, Sweden
- M Fabiana Kubke, University of Auckland
- Alex O. Holcombe, University of Sydney
- Graham Steel, Open Science, Scotland
- Diano F. Marrone, Wilfrid Laurier University
- Charles Oppenheim, Professor, independent
- Zen Faulkes, The University of Texas-Pan American
- Jonathan P. Tennant, Imperial College London
- Nicholas M. Gardner, Marshall University
- Avinash Thirumalai, East Tennessee State University
- Travis Park, Monash University & Museum Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
- Ben Meghreblian, criticalscience.com, London, UK
- Sean Kaplan, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
- Chris Chambers, Professor of cognitive neuroscience, Cardiff University, SfN member
- Joshua M. Nicholson, Founder of thewinnower.com, PhD Student Virginia Tech
- Jan Velterop, BOAI signatory and past Director of BioMed Central
- Timothée Poisot, University of Canterbury
- Jérémy Anquetin, Section d’archéologie et paléontologie, Switzerland
- Liz Allen, ScienceOpen
- Johannes Björk, Institute of Marine Sciences, Barcelona, Spain
- Ross Mounce, University of Bath
- Scott Edmunds, GigaScience, BGI Hong Kong
- Mayteé Cruz-Aponte, Universidad de Puerto Rico – Cayey
- Joseph R. Hancock, Montana State University-Bozeman
- Nazeefa Fatima, University of Huddersfield, UK
- Nitika Pant Pai, McGill University, Montreal
- Elizabeth Silva, San Francisco, CA
- Björn Brembs, University of Regensburg, Germany
- Gerard Ridgway, University of Oxford, UK
- Pietro Gatti-Lafranconi, University of Cambridge, UK
- Xianwen Chen, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway
- Jacinto Dávila, Universidad de Los Andes
- Benjamin de Bivort, Harvard University
- Stephen Beckett, Ph.D. student, University of Exeter
- Mythili Menon, University of Southern California
- Adam Choraziak, behavioural strategist at RedJelly marketing
- Graham Triggs, Symplectic
- Guillaume Dumas, Institut Pasteur, FR
- Jeffrey W. Hollister, University of Rhode Island (adjunct)
- Célya Gruson-Daniel, Centre Virchow-Villermé, Université Paris Descartes, FR
- Gary S. McDowell, Tufts University, USA
- Pierre-Alexandre Klein, Institute of Neuroscience, Université de Louvain
- Julien Laroche, Akoustic Arts R&D Lab, Paris
- Alex Thome, University of Rochester
- Nicolas Guyon, Karolinska Institutet
- Sibele Fausto, University of São Paulo, Brazil
- Nonie Finlayson, The Ohio State University, SfN member
- Dalmeet Singh Chawla, Imperial College
- John Wilbanks, Chief Commons Officer, Sage Bionetworks
- David Carroll, Medical Student, Queen’s University Belfast
- Noelia Martínez-Molina, Brain Cognition and Plasticity Lab, Barcelona University
- Maximilian Sloan, Laboratory of Molecular Neurodegeneration and Gene Therapy, University of Oxford
- Stephen Eglen, Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, SfN member
The authors would like to acknowledge Jon Tennant and his open letter to The American Association for The Advancement of Science (AAAS) as inspiration for this letter (Tennant et al. , 2014).