5. Findings: Producing Research

Share this on social media:

5.1 Research Funding

Research funding was not suggested as one of the issues to be rated, but it was the topic of 17 comments. The majority of these (12) were by publishers in response to the question: What do you consider the biggest single scholarly publishing challenge facing the Research sector? In fact it was the most often rated challenge to the research sector by publishers.

‘Money to fund research’ (Publisher)

‘Funding vis Brexit’ (Publisher)

‘Lack of critical research opportunities’ (Publisher)

‘The battle for funding, especially for fields other than life sciences’ (Publisher)

As the publishing model changes from a subscription-based system to an increasingly mixed system incorporating article processing charges (APCs), there are understandable concerns from the publishing sector about where the funding will come from. This is especially true in the UK following the decision to leave the European Union.



There is a limited amount that libraries and publishers can do to change the research funding landscape. Respondent suggestions included:

  • Publishers and libraries both advocate more on the importance of science funding;
  • Publishers provide better tools for demonstrating the impact of research to support funding applications.


5.2 Publish or Perish

Alongside issues regarding the funding to carry out research, there is also increased pressure to publish research and a lack of time to do so. Although the ‘publish or perish’ culture was not presented as one of the issues to be rated, it was raised in 13 comments in response to ‘What do you consider the biggest single scholarly publishing challenge facing the Research sector?’ – six times by researchers and seven times by publishers:


‘Pressure to publish ahead of REF 2021’ (Researcher)

‘I wish I had more time. More time in each day to fit in more research, more time for reading, thinking, writing, gestating ideas, reflecting, refining.’ (Researcher)

‘Time to publish’ (Publisher)


It is not enough that research is published, it must be published in the right places:


‘Getting published in prestigious journals’ (Publisher)

‘Publish or perish mentality, where academics are pressured into publishing their positive, novel results in the journal with the highest impact factor that they can find.’ (Publisher)


Which leads to one of the other major challenges facing the research sector, the conflation of publishing and assessment:


‘Disambiguating scholarly communications from assessment of individuals for tenure, promotion and grants.’ (Publisher)


The increasing importance of measuring impact is discussed below (see section Measuring Impact), and the impact of the ‘publish or perish’ attitude to the quality of research outcomes is returned to in the section Trust and Validation.



The culture of ‘publish or perish’ within academia is connected to other challenges facing scholarly publishing, most notably the importance of measuring impact, the changing publishing model, and the system of trust and validation. Changing the culture will require a range of changes throughout the system, and respondent suggestions about how to help with the ‘publish or perish’ culture reflect the need for wider changes in the system. For example:

  • Publishers encouraging a wider range of findings: negative results and replication studies;
  • Publishers having a quicker turnaround for reviews;
  • Publishers having greater transparency.


5.3 Measuring Impact

Unlike research funding or the culture of ‘publish or perish’, the shift towards quantification directly impacts every stage of the scholarly publishing cycle. It was a subject of 20 comments, and was seventh highest of the 20 issues raised by respondents. It was the 12th most important of the 14 topics respondents were asked to rate, rated 6.42 out of 10.

It was suggested as the biggest challenge for the research sector 13 times:


Demonstrating real world impact.’ (Publisher)

 ‘Mis-perception among scholars as to the value or quality of publications they publish in and the resulting distortion of the scholarly publishing marketplace. Often based on publisher brand or impact factor (or other outdated metrics) many researchers today are beholden to what may be inconsequential factors in their decision on where to publish and what to recommend their library purchases.’ (Librarian)

‘Change of evaluation system/prestigious research system that encourages dogmas’ (Librarian)

‘Better aligning funding and researchers with research outputs and accessibility.’ (Publisher)

‘Reputation management – at the moment measured by the impact factor and therefore dependent on journal branding and large corporations.’ (Publisher)

‘Outdated tenure and promotion evaluation metrics.’ (Publisher)


Five respondents suggested it was the biggest challenge for the publishing sector:


‘To measure the impact of science.’ (Librarian)

‘Dependence of academia on the impact factor (and more broadly prestige) of journals.’ (Publisher)


Two respondents suggested it was the biggest for the library sector:


‘Demonstrating value for content and decreasing budgets.’ (Publisher)


As one librarian noted, the challenge is for ‘better metrics’, and publishers are increasingly moving away from the Journal Impact Factor that has dominated the marketplace for so long. As Danny Kingsley mentions in her interview on Page 24, open citations offer the opportunity for the citation data to be mined in ways that it is not currently. 



  • Many of the suggestions that could help with the challenge of measuring impact revolve around changes that could be made in the promotion of better metrics and evaluation of research:
  • Publishers should make the peer-review process and findings more open;
  • Publishers should promote altmetrics and develop new metrics rather than the Journal Impact Factor;
  • Publishers should find ways of demonstrating the impact of works that are not reflected in traditional metrics;
  • Publishers should publish citation data as open data;
  • Libraries should better monitor university outputs;
  • Researchers should advocate for the appropriate use of metrics within their institution.


Professor Martin Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing, Birkbeck, University of London


What do you see as the biggest challenges in scholarly publishing research cycle today?

The biggest challenges all pertain to the perceived abundance of the digital space. We are led to believe that, in a digital world, we can publish infinitely; there will no longer be restrictions on dissemination or volume of material. However, this sits in stark contrast with the systems of accreditation in the academy, which are premised on scarcity and exclusivity. Reconciling these poles is a huge challenge. This challenge is separate even from open access, although I think open access is a logical consequence of the digital world and amplifies these problems.

Of course, I also think this has implications for the finances of scholarly publishing. The way things are configured at the moment is wrong. When organisations, such as Elsevier, are making such colossal profits off publishing research – and remember, education and research are designated as different types of activities that can be classified as ‘charitable’ around the world because they are for the greater good of society (the public interest) – it is clear that something is up. On the other hand, even if you abolished those profit margins, there is still labour in publishing that is valued by various disciplines. This has to be remunerated and we are far from being able to pay for ‘unlimited’ labour. See this for more: https://www.martineve.com/2017/02/13/how-much-does-it-cost-to-run-a-smal...


Are there any specific challenges for the humanities?

The book form poses additional challenges since the costs of its production – at long form – are substantially more than for articles. Also, the humanities disciplines are often less well funded than their scientific counterparts. This makes for a challenging environment for scholarship in the digital age. We have this report forthcoming, for instance, on the costs of the proposed OA mandate for books: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/19672/

There are also a set of anxieties in the humanities regarding the erasure of various traditions. For instance, people fear that open access books means the end of print books. As Geoff Crossick’s report for HEFCE indicated, though, we need to avoid this situation. Some humanists (David Golumbia, in particular) have even argued that open access is part of a neoliberalisation of the academy. I find this difficult to stomach, since it is about letting people read scholarship who could not otherwise afford to so do.


What can researchers do to overcome these challenges?

I do wish that researchers would take more interest in the conditions of knowledge production and dissemination in the academy. Most researchers I know never really even read or query the contracts they are given by publishers, and they are not usually aware that they have signed over their copyright in perpetuity to a third party. And these are people who usually read everything in more detail than anyone else on the planet. So, I think researcher interest and engagement should be much higher.


What can libraries do to help overcome these challenges?

Libraries have been among the most ardent supporters of open access in various ways. They also have limited agency to transfer budgets to open access expenditure, which I would encourage. On the other hand, librarians are trapped by faculty attitudes. They are not the total masters of their own budgets and they cannot condition faculty behaviour. Continued advocacy to researchers is probably, therefore, one of the best things libraries can do.


What do publishers need to do to help overcome the challenges?

I think we need publishers who understand library budget constraints and who want to work for the dissemination of knowledge as a public good, rather than as part of a for-profit mission to line the pockets of shareholders. Those publishers need to experiment with new business models, in partnership with libraries and researchers; the APC model for open access, for example, is a terrible example of a poorly thought-through economic setup where costs are concentrated, rather than distributed. With more dialogue between libraries and publishers, new models can be found – such as those operated by Knowledge Unlatched or my own Open Library of Humanities – that more equitably share such costs.



Dr Corina Logan

Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, University of Cambridge, and co-lead on the Bullied into Bad Science campaign


What do you see as the biggest challenge in the scholarly publishing cycle today?

Right now the incentive structure is such that people are rewarded for publishing articles in journals that select for sexy results, and those kinds of selection factors can lead to science that isn’t as rigorous as it would be otherwise.

Many of the ones that select based on subjective impact don’t have open practices: they’re not publishing the peer-review history alongside the articles, they’re not pushing very hard for publishing the data, they’re not pushing for publishing the code, and they’re not pushing for pre-registering the experiments. These are all things that increase scientific rigour, and these high-impact journals aren’t doing these practices. There seems to be a conflict between what is being selected – which is sexy results – and rigorous research. And that isn’t good for science, and it’s also not good for early career researchers.


What could researchers do to overcome the problem of the incentive structure?

It really needs to change at the senior researcher level, because these are the people who are on the hiring committees, and on the grant rewarding committees. There are many senior researchers who are really on board with using open practice to increase research rigour and there are many that are not, or they’re just not aware of the issues.

So one thing we can do is educate all researchers about how academic publishing works, and how we can change the incentive structures to promote better science.

Another thing we can do is change the incentive structures from above the senior researchers, so it trickles down to them. That is one of the things the Bullied into Bad Science campaign (http://bulliedintobadscience.org/) is trying to do. It’s not changing at a structural level, and when I think about what’s changed in academic publishing, I’d say the biggest influence has been funders. If funders could use their influence to continue to push, to change incentive structures, then that could be an effective way as well.


What about libraries? What place do they have in overcoming the challenges?

From what I have seen, librarians feel pretty powerless, because they feel if they cancel journal subscriptions, they will get a lot of kickback from researchers saying ‘oh, I need this journal subscription’ and they will blame the librarians, when really it’s the researchers’ choices that are causing the problem in the first place. We’re choosing where we put our research products, and we’re making the wrong choices.

We need to start choosing journals that don’t require subscriptions, and then our libraries become unbound from these contracts. As it is, librarians end up having to enforce the publisher contracts, which is ridiculous because librarians should be working for academics.


Do you think researchers are making an informed choice?

No. Publishers have made the publishing process really opaque on purpose, because if we knew what they were doing to us we wouldn’t want to do it. Researchers don’t have a lot of time – we’re busy trying to catch up on our literature and do millions of things to try to get a job in academia, and so we’re easy targets for the publishers. People are willing to start to change when they know what’s actually happening.


What can publishers do to help overcome some of the challenges facing scholarly publishing cycle?

There’s a lot publishers can do. They can require that the peer review histories are published alongside the articles, so we can do editorial and peer review quality control. They can require pre-registration, or register reports, so that people can acknowledge what their hypotheses and predictions and planned analyses were before they did the studies. More publishers can make their journals 100 per cent open access, so no hybrid journals, no subscriptions, and they can make the articles free to publish so there’s no discriminating against who can publish and who can read the research.

This means that they need different business models. They need to make money from other resources and use the profit from that to fund scientific publishing and change from being for-profit corporations to non-profits. There’s only so far certain publishers will go, and that’s going to mean researchers need to make different choices about which publishers to publish with, and only publish with the ones that are non-profits, and that are eliminating discrimination about who can publish and who can read research.


Do you imagine that researchers are going to push hard enough for these changes?

I do see people making different choices, so I do have some hope. Germany’s certainly inspirational in how they’re really going to bat with Elsevier right now, and they’re not giving any ground. But I think there’s also a lot of uncertainty right now, and certainly I see early career researchers jumping at the chance to change things, but they’re also hesitant because of the incentive structures, because they want to get a job. 



Dr Danny Kingsley

Deputy Director, Scholarly Communication and Research Services, Cambridge University Library


What do you see as the biggest challenges in scholarly publishing today?

The academic reward system. The system of research and the assessment of research is based on what was the case before digital came in. What we have are legacy methods of assessment and legacy methods of publication that have just had an ‘e’ put in front of them. We’re replicating what we had to do when we only had one means of printing and distribution in an environment where we have multiple means to do those things.

We haven’t had an enormous paradigm shift in the entire way we share and distribute and assess research; we are stuck in an old paradigm of judging research on the basis of the vessel in which it is produced, rather than on the content that is in the actual paper. The fact that we are even talking about papers in the 21st century is stupid. They’re not papers. Most of them never appear on paper.

While the only thing that counts is publication of novel results in high-impact journals, we’re stuck in our current environment.


What can libraries do to help overcome these problems of the academic reward system?

The benefit that libraries have, and the one thing that they have got in this environment is an overview. A lot of people come at this from a particular perspective, and with the research community that perspective is often disciplinary based. They don’t know that publisher X has got these certain policies about certain aspects of scholarly communication, so they may not really have any understanding of the bigger ecosystem. Libraries are a source of knowledge and have that ability to create the information needed for institutions to make decisions, if the institution’s willing to do so, and not all of them are. But libraries can’t necessarily do a great deal on their own, because everything is dependent; it is an ecosystem.

The likelihood of all of us shifting together at the same time is probably fairly remote, so if it’s going to change at all, it’s going to need an enormous disruptor. SciHub is a disruptor in the system right now, but whether or not that’s a big enough disruptor to completely overhaul the whole thing I don’t know. I suspect not. This gives an indication about how big this disruptor would have to be.


How do you think publishers and researchers can overcome the problem of the current academic reward system?

There are a few things that are happening at the publisher end, that are helpful. The Open Citation Group is working to try and provide access to citation information at the publisher level. Once that sort of information is publicly available, it can be mined in ways it’s not being mined now. They can also engage in things like the credit taxonomy, and sign-up to things like DORA (http://www.ascb.org/dora/) to say they’re supporting other ways of assessing our research community. They can experiment with different types of publication and subscription model.

A lot of the research community are doing things, but definitely, at the very least acknowledging that the current system is less than ideal is a really good start. Understanding that it doesn’t have to be this way, that there are other ways of doing things, and actually it’s the research community that has the power, is important. It’s hard for them, they’ve got a really hard job – they’re being asked to perform at an extraordinary high level, they are being asked to do administration and report back in ways they’ve never had to do before, which is enormously time consuming.

In some ways let’s let them just do what they need to do, and let’s create around them an environment which allows them to thrive and not have to do all this rubbish. I feel the responsibility in some way is not on the researcher.


Sara Uhac

Managing Director, InTech


What do you see as the biggest challenges in scholarly publishing today?

One of the biggest challenges in scholarly publishing today seems to be a lack of commitment to putting authors first in the value chain.


Are publishers doing enough to overcome this challenge?

There are initiatives that are committed to having an author-focused approach, such as Kudos, which aims to offer tools for authors to help increase the reach and impact of their work; or Altmetric, which helps publishers track and report on the attention gained by published works. However, for publishers, to put authors in the centre of all publishing operations means considering the way research is published, accessed and distributed, as well as the way engagement is provided and communicated to authors during and after the publishing process.


How is InTechOpen helping to overcome these challenges?

InTechOpen employs a very strong author centric-approach. Our end-to-end publishing experience is designed to meet the needs of the author. That means that through our operations, role descriptions and a self-developed manuscript tracking system, we designed and adapted our approach to suit authors’ schedules, giving them the opportunity to focus on what matters – doing research and writing.

At InTechOpen we have developed technology that allows us to streamline the publishing process, accelerating speed of discovery. We are able to optimise the time from initial submission of a manuscript to the final publication of the book without compromising the rigour of the editorial and peer review process. We use creative commons licenses that allow researchers to retain copyright of their work, provide a greater opportunity for collaboration and foster scientific progress. Authors never have to pay permission fees to reuse their own works, and readers can adapt, use and further build upon the published content. Our dedicated team of managing editors is there to assist authors in every step of the publishing process, offering unique support in dealing with anything from administrative tasks to Article Processing Charge funding support, etc.

The InTechOpen book platform, the innovative Open Access product, and the business operations supporting them were built by scientists that understood the needs of their peers. Their goal was to provide an environment where growing recognition is possible, as well as earn citations and expand the network of their scientific collaborations. 


What could researchers do to help overcome some of the challenges facing the scholarly publishing cycle?

Researchers and their institutions can help overcome these challenges by gaining a stronger understanding of the crucial role they play. They are the creators of the content that is being published.


What could libraries do to help overcome some of the challenges facing the scholarly publishing cycle?

In order to help overcome this gap, libraries can help by offering more comprehensive resources to researchers to help them make informed decisions and understand their responsibilities, but also their opportunities. For instance, understanding copyright agreements, and the opportunities to retain their rights, or alternative systems of dissemination of research. Also, non-traditional metrics and sources of impact for their published works that coexist with Impact Factor journals. Libraries can help in raising awareness about the way research is published, accessed, distributed and which approaches publishers use to increase the outreach of their researchers’ work.

> Next: Publishing Research