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Analysis and news


Helping new audiences to follow the science Richard Gallagher explains why reliable scientific insight is needed more now than ever


For all of us in science publishing, it is tempting to view the posting of final articles online for the research community as the successful completion of our task. At Annual Reviews, we are trying


to instead think of it as the end of the beginning of our role, because the insights contained within the articles are of great potential value to audiences outside the research community. A functional democracy requires that


policy makers, practitioners, educators, students, and citizens follow the science that underlies many issues that society is grappling with today. Covid-19 and climate change immediately spring to mind, but you could compile hundreds of topics where reliable expert insight is needed. Publishers of the research literature


could and should be playing a bigger role in meeting this need. Annual Reviews has a long-term goal of making the knowledge and wisdom of the leading researchers that publish with us available to, and usable by, diverse audiences through four interdependent initiatives: 1. The conversion of our journals from gated to open and global access through a program called Subscribe to Open;


2. Publication of Knowable Magazine, an authoritative source of high-quality science journalism for a general audience;


3. Development of actionable summaries of research tailored to the needs of professionals, policy makers, and educators; and


4. The establishment of interdisciplinary events (now more likely to be virtual than in-person) on key current issues, facilitating the flow of information among researchers and other stakeholders.


Meeting the mission Annual Reviews is an independent non- profit publisher dedicated to synthesising and integrating knowledge for the progress of science and the benefit of society. We publish reviews only, and our 51 journals cover physical, biomedical,


28 Research Information June/July 2020


life, and social sciences. Each journal is directed by an editorial committee that commissions review articles and conducts peer review, supported by a core organisation staff. Reviews are written by recognised experts who capture current understanding of a topic – including what is well supported and what is controversial – and highlight major questions that remain to be addressed. The combined efforts of authors, journal


editors, reviewers, production editors, and illustrators creates content of great value to our principle target audience: researchers, faculty, and students. Annual Reviews is run by, and for, scientists.


“You could compile a list of hundreds of topics where reliable expert insight is needed”


Over the past five years, we have


been exploring ways to interpret Annual Reviews content for new audiences and applications outside of research. There is no getting away from the fact that our articles, in common with the entire research literature, can be intimidating and impenetrable torrents of information, and are often conveyed in terse language. We asked ourselves if we could develop complementary products that don’t require the same level of prior knowledge and that emphasise the significance of research to civic society. At the same time, we felt that it was essential to make the full review articles available to anyone who wanted a deep dive into a particular subject that they became interested in.


Subscribe to Open While wholly supportive of the goal of making scholarly literature freely available to all, the exclusion of review content by some proponents of open access was troubling to us as review publishers. Surely, we thought, if the goal is to democratise scientific knowledge, reviews are among the most valuable types of content?


Our approach to open access began with an effort to answer this question. Using a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we removed paywall restrictions to the Annual Review of Public Health in 2017. Usage increased immediately, and continuously, eventually stabilising at around six times the level observed under access control. IP address analysis indicated substantial usage gains in academia (even at subscribing institutions), in City and State Public Health Departments, in hospital and healthcare organisations, and in government departments. There was measurable usage in every country in the world, other than North Korea and the Central African Republic. This confirmed our hypothesis and created the imperative to act. A pilot program to convert five Annual


Review journals to open access using Subscribe to Open is under way. The method behind the program is covered in detail elsewhere. Two journals have converted to open access in 2020, and the status of the others will be announced as they publish. Annual Reviews removed access control


to all journals on March 13, 2020 (to be reinstated June 15) in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In March, the only month for which data is available at the time of writing, all but one journal saw substantial increases in usage versus March 2019 (mostly in the range 15 to 100 per cent, but up to 1,275 per cent for the Annual Review of Virology). The exception was the Annual Review of Public Health, which was flat – a useful internal control as it has been freely available since 2017. Full analysis of this period of removal of access control will be available at a later date, but it is clear this further illustrates the value of open access reviews.


Knowable Magazine Established in October 2017, Knowable Magazine (www.knowablemagazine.org) produces high-quality, readable articles, videos, graphics, and comics that are free to read and free to republish. Review articles published in the 51 Annual Reviews journals serve as springboards for stories in Knowable Magazine, as was


@researchinfo | www.researchinformation.info


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