"I'm a fan of it because I benefit from building citations"
August 22, 2022 | 6 min read
By Ian Evans
Political and data scientist Michael Bossetta talks about the benefits and challenges of open access and peer review and the role publishers play in supporting confidence
For Dr Michael Bossetta(opens in new tab/window) of Lund University(opens in new tab/window), research is bound up in emotion. His work examines the intersection of social media and politics, and his current focus is on how audiences across platforms respond to the emotions politicians present through images.
Using a computer vision tool that can classify the emotions someone is expressing in a particular image, Michael and his team can investigate not only how politicians present themselves but how different audiences respond. He explained:
Emotion is getting a resurgence of attention in political sciences. It’s a real up-and-coming area. But it’s also quite a contested area — psychologists will question what can be described as an emotion and how it’s expressed — so we’re using the term a bit more loosely. We’re looking at, ‘Is this picture showing a politician happy, sad, angry and so on? And what does that mean for the way people think about that politician?'
Speaking from his home in Sweden, where he is Associate Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications Studies at the university, he mentioned that this research is almost through the peer review process, and the feedback is good.
Peer review is one of the key themes of Elsevier’s forthcoming Confidence in Research(opens in new tab/window) report, conducted in collaboration with Economist Impact(opens in new tab/window). Like many researchers, Michael views peer review as a critical tool for validating research. Still, it can be something of a rollercoaster at times:
While we’re talking emotions, peer review is its own kind of journey. When you’re submitting to a high-level journal, you know that the peer review comments are going to be on point, even if you disagree with them.
However, he noted that the process can be anxiety inducing because it represents the most serious kind of feedback:
When that email comes in, it’s very exciting, but you can go from excitement, to being kind of frustrated, to agreeing with it. It can take a little while to separate your emotions from what’s best for the research.
A world of Open Access
As a researcher at Lund University, Michael benefits from an agreement that helps authors affiliated with Swedish institutions publish their research open access in Elsevier journals without having to pay an article processing charge. Michael is grateful for the opportunities open access offers but noted that systems need to be in place to ensure global equality when it comes to research visibility:
I’m a fan of it because I benefit from building more citations. We have an agreement with Elsevier to publish open access, and we’ve just signed one with another publisher, and that guides my submission decisions to some degree. However, there’s a risk of perpetuating a kind of divide between rich universities and other institutions. If you’re coming from the Global South doing great research but you don’t have one of these agreements, then you could find yourself at a disadvantage.
Elsevier's support for open access in the developing world
As one of the fastest-growing open access publishers in the world, Elsevier enables open access publishing for nearly all its 2,700 journals, including 600+ fully gold open access journals. With the goal to effectively bridge the digital research divide and ensure that publishing in open access journals is accessible for authors in developing countries, all gold open access journals published by Elsevier are included in the Research4Life open access eligibility program, offering authors APC waivers or discounts. As one of the six founding partners of Research4Life(opens in new tab/window) — a UN-publishers partnership providing access to academic content to the developing world — Elsevier contributes over 20% of the 194,000+ free resources available through Research4Life. Additionally, the Elsevier Foundation supports Research4Life with grants for information literacy capacity building, most recently through the Country Connectors program(opens in new tab/window).
He also noted that as the number of open access journals increases, publishers need to ensure that peer review remains rigorous:
I had an experience recently as a guest editor where an article was peer reviewed, and even though a reviewer said they’d like to revise and see a resubmission, the article was instead routed back to the editors for a final decision. So it missed that second round of peer review.
I think the publishing industry needs to be cautious about that and ensure the process doesn’t get watered down.
Publishing open access with Elsevier
While offering competitive article publishing charges (APCs), our expert editors and reviewers ensure that all our open access publications maintain the highest standards of quality through a rigorous peer review process.
With the assurance that you are publishing the best work possible, choosing Elsevier gives you a better share of the impact. In 2021, Elsevier’s articles accounted for 18 percent of global research output and attracted a much higher share of citations: approximately 28 percent.
For Michael, one of the most compelling benefits of open access is the visibility it gives to his work. As he noted, that increased visibility and accessibility can lead to more citations and, moreover, it contributes to a researcher’s sense of purpose:
I think if you asked any researcher if they would like their paper they’ve worked on for years to be read by as many people as possible, they’re going to agree. And that ties into the mission that universities and university departments have. So on the one hand, you have researchers who want their work to be visible, and then you have the industry that facilitates the review process, makes it visible, makes it discoverable — which needs to be paid for. Open access is an interesting way of meeting in the middle ground, and usefully, it puts the wind behind a bigger discussion around open science.
While open access is one of the facilitators of open science, the latter is much broader, encompassing concepts such as open data, improved transparency and greater collaboration. Michael explained the ways in which open science could drive progress in his field:
Taking the social sciences as an example, sharing supplementary materials such as the survey questions you used really helps researchers understand what was being tested and what the limitations might be. With the research I was talking about earlier, we could share where we’ve labelled posts by the type of communication it is: whether it’s an attack ad or something asking for donations.
Ultimately, I think these things make it easier for researchers to connect findings across multiple studies by understanding exactly what was used to generate the results. It creates transparency. That’s what I think of when I talk about open science.