Open access, internationalization, funding and social media

Aug 2017

Editors from different journals – open access and non-open access – met in Rio de Janeiro in July 24th, 2017 at the symposium “21st century challenges for history of science and history of medicine journals”. The event, organized by the science editor of the journal História Ciências Saúde – Manguinhos, Marcos Cueto, and the editor of Medical History, Sanjoy Bhattacharya, was part of the 25th International Congress on the History of Science and Technology entitled “Science, technology and medicine between the global and the local”.

Latin America has a specific reality in terms of publication funding. In the region, where there is a tradition of public higher education and state-funded research, scientific journals are born in universities and research institutions, and are also supported by governmental agencies. The result of this investment – the knowledge produced – is published in open access journals to be accessible to the public. In most of Europe and North America, journals are part of a profitable publishing industry, dominated by specialized publishers charging for subscriptions.

The editors talked about their experiences, challenges and the opportunities created by the Internet. They discussed issues such as the goals of publishers and funders, the impact factor and their concern related to the use of social media to science communication.

Marcos Cueto, science editor of the journal História Ciências Saúde Manguinhos, spoke about the internationalization of journals. He explained that most Brazilian history journals are funded by public universities and are part of the open access platform Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO), created in 1998.

According to Cueto, the main challenges of Brazilian journals are professionalization, financial sustainability and internationalization. He explained that since the 1990s there has been a significant increase in the number of journals and articles published in Brazil, but the number of citations of Brazilian articles in international journals has remained low. It is believed that a greater presence of historians of countries other than Brazil in the editorial boards, as authors and as reviewers and the increase in the number of articles published in English and by researchers from different countries will lead to greater international visibility of Brazilian journals. According to Cueto, the goal of SciELO is offer a significant proportion of its articles in English.

The portal was also the topic of the executive editor of HCS-Manguinhos, Roberta Cardoso Cerqueira. The open access journal, published by Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz), was founded in 1994 and joined the SciELO portal in 2000, making its collection available online. Roberta explained that SciELO is a joint initiative of the São Paulo Research Foundation (Fapesp), the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information (Bireme) and, since 2002, it also includes the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPQ).

“The project also provided scientific editors in Brazil (as well as the teams at the journals) with improvement for editing-related work processes, and greater awareness and updated academic publication practices,” she explained.

Luciana Costa Lima Thomaz and Silvia Waisse, editors of Circumscribere: International Journal for the History of Science (Center Simão Mathias for Studies in the History of Science, PUC-SP), talked about the journal’s 10 years experience with open access. The journal accepts papers in English, French, Portuguese or Spanish and releases two issues a year with articles on the history of science, technology and medicine. The editors said that 40% of the authors are from other countries and only 7% of the papers are from Brazil.

Open access is also the model of publication of the Spanish journal Dynamis, represented at the symposium by Annette Mülberger Rogele. Created in 1981, the journal is funded by four universities (Universidad de Granada, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Universidad de Cantabria and Universidad  Miguel Hernández).

“Users have the right to read, copy, upload, print and distribute the full texts without requiring permission from the author or publisher,” said the editor.

The other editors that presented papers in the symposium work in non-open access publications. Ida Stamhuis talked about her work as the editor of Centaurus, the official journal of the European Society for the History of Science. The publication, which is only open to the society’s members, also reaches an audience outside the continent, with institutional subscriptions all over the world.

Soraya de Chadarevian (University of California – UCLA), talked about the publication of thematic issues. According to her, special issues provide a coherent set of essays on a common topic and while each essay should be able to stand on its own, the whole is designed to be more than its parts. However, the way articles are published and accessed online the whole gets dispersed and is made invisible. The editor said that this can lead us to reflect on how the digital medium might be used to enhance rather than fragment the content of an issue.

Michael R. Dietrich (University of Pittsburgh) discussed publication trends in the Journal of the History of Biology over the past fifty years using information from a topic model produced by Erick Peirson.

Graham Mooney (Johns Hopkins University) and co-editor of the journal Social History of Medicine, talked bout the problems and opportunities for history of science and history of medicine journals imposed  by recent developments in the digital medical humanities. Mooney also argued that journals in the discipline have yet to find how to incorporate these developments in dynamic ways that provides stimulating content for the user on the one hand, and appropriate credit for the authors and creators on the other hand.

Staffan Müller-Wille (University of Exeter) talked about his experience as the editor of the journal History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences which was originally printed and distributed by a family-owned publishing house in Naples. In 20013, the journal was acquired by the publisher Springer. The editor said that with Springer, direct and personal contact with the production team was lost, but on the other hand, electronic publishing offers great advantages, such as continuous article publishing.

Regarding funding, João Rangel de Almeida, of the Wellcome Trust, presented the paper “Rethinking academic publishing – a funder’s perspective” on behalf of Simon Chaplin, the entity’s director of Culture and Society. The foundation has developed an open access policy that includes the creation of a new science journal, eLife (in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Max Planck Society) and the Wellcome Open Research, a publishing platform developed in conjunction with F1000.

According to the presentation, in the last two decades, a third actor has complicated the relationship between researcher and publisher. The research funders, whether independent foundations or public funding agencies, began to impose their own requirements on how research results should be published. For this reason, balancing the interests of funders, editors, and researchers has become a complex process.

Related stories in HCS-Manguinhos’s blog:

Some thoughts on yellow fever

Michael Osborne, professor of History of Science at Oregon State University, talks about his current work on yellow fever and his priorities as the new president of DHST.


“El número de citaciones no es representativo de la calidad de los trabajos que estamos produciendo”

Una entrevista con Anette Mülberger Rogele, directora de la revista española Dynamis.


Science journals and digital innovation

A brief video with Graham Mooney, co-editor of Social History of Medicine.


Marcos Cueto is the new President-Elect of the Division of History of Science and Technology of the IUHPST

Cueto was nominated President-Elect by a majority vote of the General Assembly during the 25th ICHST.


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