Open Access & Open Data: Projects that librarians should know about (and share with others!)

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Heather Joseph –  a representative of SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) – to hear about some of the great open access journal publishing initiatives taking place. There are a variety of publishing platforms that have emerged as of late that offer their own unique way of promoting open access and supporting research sharing. I thought I would share with you some of the initiatives that Heather highlighted in her talk. 

To extend the discussion into the realm of open access data, I also want to discuss a few of the data sharing initiatives I have found while working on my current projects. I believe that these data sharing resources represent an ideal  future for research and data publication; they offer platforms where investigators can share data, collaborate and modify data with other researchers and even use software to transform their datasets into education materials. To access each resource, click on the images to link to their respective webpages.

Open Access Publishers

Public Library of Science (PLOS)


The most obvious on the list but I feel like I would have heard about it from colleagues if I didn’t include it. PLOS is the initiative that provides multiple platforms for scientific journals that are completely open access. They are strong advocates of sharing research and have 9 core principles that promote sharing, community engagement and scientific excellence. PLOS hosts many excellent journals such asPLOS ONE, which publishes across the full range of life and health sciences; community journals (PLOS GeneticsPLOS Computational BiologyPLOS Pathogensand PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases); and  PLOS Medicine and PLOS Biology. PLOS Blogs and Currents also make for some excellent reading, focused mainly on the issues of research sharing and open access. I read PLOS blogs and currents on a regular basis, as they provide excellent information on open access and focus on many publication issues that librarians need to be aware of.


eLife   the funder researcher collaboration and forthcoming journal for the best in life science and biomedicine

eLIFE is one of the new actors in the realm of open access publishing, and prides itself on being:

a researcher-led digital publication for outstanding work, a platform to maximise the reach and influence of new findings and a showcase for new approaches for the presentation and assessment of research.

Working with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust among 200 others, eLIFe is focusing its attention to early-career researchers. Their goal is to make researchers first foray into publishing a constructive and fair exercise by providing a fair, transparent, and supportive author experience. eLIFE is also interested in promoting data sharing, but I don’t think it has been fully realized yet. I look forward to see what will come out of eLIFE as it continues to grow.



PeerJ offers a different model from eLife and PLOS in that it costs money to sign up, but for a small sum a publisher can be set up with a publication platform for life. $99 allows a researcher to publish one article per year for life; $199 allows a researcher to publish twice a year for life; and $299 provides the researcher with the opportunity to publish as many articles as they want per year. There is still a rigorous peer review process and paying this amount does not guarantee that their papers will be accepted. It is also important to note that all authors of an article must be members of PeerJ to submit. PeerJ has a set list of criteria that need to be met and provides an extensive list of editors from various disciplines that review submissions. Furthermore, every PeerJ member is required to review at least one paper each year or participate in post-publication peer review.

A news article in Nature comments on PeerJ as one of the cheapest options for this type of publishing. I highly encourage everyone to read the news article as it provides some insight into the emerging nature of open access publishing platforms. PeerJ seems like a good idea, but we’ll have to see if it will generate enough of a following to remain sustainable over time.

Open Humanities Alliance

Open Humanities Alliance

For my humanities friends out there, I had to include the Open Humanities Alliance in this list. The Alliance is a community-building project of thOpen Humanities Press. It aims to overcome some of the common technical barriers to open access in the humanities by linking students and faculty with resources such as open source software, hosting and archiving. The Open Humanities Alliance is a way for like-minded people from inside or outside the academy to work together in opening humanities scholarship to the world.

The one project that is sponsored by the Alliance that I want to talk about is the Open Access Journal Incubator ibiblio. This project is designed to provide researchers with a place to access a wide variety of research (music, art, literature, politics, etc.) as well as share their own. Contributors to ibiblio have to meet their set of criteria before they can share their research, but the requirements are clear and easy to follow. I had a lot of fun rooting around the site looking at the 900+ collections.

Data Sharing Projects

As a result of the discussions of research data sharing within the scientific community, projects such as HUBzero, Cytobank, and WebPAX have emerged to broach the subject through online communities that encourage the sharing of research data, foster research collaboration, and promote collective data analysis. I discuss a little bit about each one below.



Cytobank is a data sharing repository designed to manage, share, and analyze flow cytometry data from any researcher. Cytobank prides itself on being a platform for researchers, collaborators, lab and core facility managers, developers and statisticians, educators and trainers, and vendors.

What is great about Cytobank is that it allows researchers to manage their own data and host it on a cloud server; share experiment data and details quickly and easily through the web to other Cytobank users; foster interactive discussions around particular experiments; and allow researchers to turn their cytometry data into education materials. I believe that we will be seeing more repositories like Cytobank as data sharing becomes more common among researchers. This type of repository represents the potential benefits of data sharing by providing researchers with a place where they can store and manage their research as well as collaborate with others to achieve new scientific discovery.


HUBzero   Platform for Scientific Collaboration

HubZERO is an open source software platform for building powerful Web sites that support scientific discovery, learning, and collaboration. The scientific community has started to refer to web sites like this as “collaboratories” supporting “team science.” HubZERO differs from Cytobank in that it provides a content management system that is  built to support scientific activities. Using this system researchers can work together in projects, publish datasets and computational tools with Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs), and make these publications available for others to use as live, interactive digital resources. HubZERO’s datasets and tools run on cloud computing resources, campus clusters, and other national high-performance computing (HPC) facilities. You can take a look at some existing hubs here.

These hubs represent new and exciting innovations in data sharing. These sites are dynamic with options to build animations with data; download data; take courses to understand various datasets; view publications associated with the data;  observe online presentations about the data; and even create online simulations based on the data.

WebPax   Share Your Medical Images

WebPax is exciting because it focuses primarily on sharing medical imagery. Researchers can host and manage their medical images on the site and share them with colleagues for further analysis. Researchers create an account and have full control over who can view their images. They can then share their images with a select group of people or post them to where all members can see them. In case you were wondering about privacy, all images are anonymized and encrypted using secure socket layer (SSL) encryption technologies to make sure that third parties are unable to access this sensitive information. Because so many physicians come into the library wanting to see images on a particular topic, I think WebPax would be an excellent resource to point them to. Not only will it give them another option for viewing images, but it might even encourage them to share some of their own.


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