10 years. 100,000 articles. 500 million reads. 4th most cited. Moving forward with Open Science.

— By Kamila Markram and Henry Markram, Co-founders, Frontiers

Frontiers publishes its 100,000th article

Why it matters

Science is the engine of modern civilization. Thanks to advances in science our children survive their first 5 years of life and famines are largely a suffering of the past. Overall, we enjoy longer, healthier and more prosperous lives than ever before in human history.

Infographic: How science saves lives

Science saves lives – a small (and by far) non-exhaustive list of examples. For more, read: Steven Pinker (2018), Enlightenment Now, p.64. See also: April Ingram and Amy R. Pearce, https://scienceheroes.com/

However, advancing our quality of life has come with devastating side-effects: pollution, extinction of animal species and global warming. With a growing population — predicted to stabilize at 10-11 billion people by end of this century — these challenges are more critical than ever.

Science is so crucial to our survival and prosperity that governments and companies invest $US 1.7 trillion every year into funding research. With the Internet and modern communication technologies, it is simply no longer acceptable that the vast majority of our science output is locked behind subscription paywalls — inaccessible to most researchers, companies and innovators, and hindering them to provide solutions effectively.

Over the last 10 years, exceptional progress has been made in opening the access to our research. In 2008, 279 Open Access publishers published 209,729 research papers. In 2017, more than 525,055 research papers were published by 481 Open Access publishers (1), moving from a 13.9% to 23.9% market share.

Open Access journals are now not only the world’s largest in terms of the number of articles published, but also among the most influential in terms of citations received — and hence in shaping the science of the future.

More science is now being built on OA journals than on subscription journals

We feel immensely grateful and proud of the role the authors, reviewers and editors of Frontiers have played in making science open and in helping to prove scientific excellence at scale. As we celebrate the 100,000th published article in our 10th year, we would like to take this opportunity to reflect on a decade of progress, consider what the future holds and thank the many people who’ve made Frontiers happen along the way.

Infographic of Frontiers journals, articles, citations, authors, editors for 2018

A decade of Frontiers

As researchers, we experienced first-hand the frustrations with the traditional, closed science system — wasting months, often years, re-submitting our work to journal after journal in a peer review system focused on subjective impact and significance; losing the copyright to our papers; and having to buy back our research once published. Science builds on science and a delay in one paper can delay all, hindering the required innovations and solutions to the critical challenges we face as humanity.

We launched Frontiers with a clear mission: make science open. Operationally, this meant bringing the best technology and scientific processes to scholarly publishing, strengthening peer-review, demonstrating scientific excellence at scale and helping scientists shift to Open Science.

This mission resonated: the best scientists from the top universities joined Frontiers to make up today’s 86,000 editors and reviewers across 542 academic disciplines. Supported by our specialized peer-review and journal professionals, they run the journals, drive progress and shape their fields.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together – African Proverb

As community-driven journals, editors have full editorial independence to accept and reject papers according to rigorous peer-review guidelines. Completely unconventional at the time, we also decided to publish the names of the editor and reviewers on the final paper — introducing  transparency and accountability with the goal of improving the quality of the review and the quality of the paper where necessary, while simultaneously acknowledging the contributions of the editor and reviewers to their field.

Infographic of Frontiers authors and editors for 2018

Premium services and technology

Publishing excellent science at scale requires cutting-edge technologies, automation and process optimization.

Frontiers built its own Open Science technology platform and took the entire publishing process online. To ensure rigorous quality standards and speed to publication, this included a cloud-based publishing engine, a collaborative peer-review platform and a virtual editorial office. To facilitate objective evaluation, we pioneered author- and article-level impact metrics. Over the years, we have introduced more and more smart algorithms to help editors take decisions and more automation to ensure an efficient review process and safeguard and enhance quality. This month we reached a new milestone in peer review: AIRA, our Artificial Intelligence Review Assistant, empowers our internal teams and editors in even better and more efficient quality control during the peer review process.

Nearly half of our 450 employees are IT engineers, developers and testers who constantly innovate new tools and technologies. Along with our in-house team of specialized editorial staff providing expertise, guidance and personal assistance, Frontiers is proud to offer one of the best publishing experiences to our authors and editors.

Open Science works

By working with the world’s leading academics and enabling them with the best tools and technologies, Frontiers has demonstrated that Open Science produces high-quality at scale — across the range of metrics. We are today the 4th most cited publisher, the journals are among the top most cited in the world and your articles have received over 780,000 citations (source: Scopus), 500 million views and downloads (source: Frontiers) and more than 700,000 mentions online (source: Altmetric).

This is a shared success. 100,000 published articles in 10 years has been realized through the passion, dedication and hard work of our community of authors, reviewers, editors and Frontiers staff. A heartfelt thank you.

Analysis of the world’s 20 largest publishers by volume, ranked by number of average citations received to articles published in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (Scimago, 2018). 

What’s next?

We are passionate and dedicated to creating a better world for future generations and believe that science has the solutions. True to our mission of making science open, we will continue to disseminate open access research results to communities across the academic spectrum, with a special focus on sustainability. In 2016, Frontiers re-structured its publishing program around the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We launched numerous sustainability journals, including Sustainable Food Systems, Forests and Global Change and most recently Water. We will continue to do so to ensure we find more solutions, quicker.

Research output — currently at 2.5 million scholarly articles published every year — continues to rise. Frontiers has felt this too, with strong growth numbers year on year and which we can only manage effectively through cutting-edge technology. We plan to continue pioneering open science and artificial intelligence technologies to empower authors, reviewers and editors to make better and faster decisions and disseminate research results in a more efficient way.

The future of science is open

Ever since the scientific revolution, societies have found improved ways to communicate and disseminate science. Open Science is the next step in this evolution. Kick-started in 2002 by the Budapest Open Access Initiative, the Open Access movement gained momentum in 2016 when the EU’s ministers of science, innovation, trade and industry committed to making Open Access the default by 2020. This was taken a step further in 2018 when a group of 16 national funders, supported by the European Commission and the European Research Council, formed cOAlitionS — a bold initiative to make Open Access publishing mandatory for recipients of their agencies’ research funding. More and more funding agencies are coming on board, with the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation being the latest two funders to join. And just last week, China also pledged its support for cOAlitionS and its’ efforts to make research open.

In 2017, 3.6M authors published 525,055 open access papers (2). In the same year, four of the top-20 largest publishers were Gold Open Access publishers, three of which had higher average citation rates than most traditional subscription publishers (Frontiers: 4th, PLOS: 6th and MDPI: 8th most-cited). It is happening: Open Access publishers are delivering high-quality Open Science. Funders are mandating Open Science. Universities and policy makers are committing to Open Science. Researchers are adopting Open Science.

The full transition to 100% Open Science is inevitable.

Health and prosperity on a healthy planet

In a world where all science is open, we will see an unprecedented acceleration of scientific progress. Open science, paired with digital automation technologies and artificial intelligence, will enable scientists to find solutions, faster and more efficiently. In such a world, doctors will be able to provide cures to cancer and Alzheimer’s, plant scientists and biologists will be able to produce food for a growing population, and chemists, physicists and engineers will develop renewable energy sources and solutions to protect our wildlife, land, oceans and air — all achievable within our lifetime.

We are immensely grateful and proud of what has been accomplished by the Open Science community and are confident that by working together we can make the future of science fully open for the benefit of all humanity.

Kamila and Henry

Read our 2018 progress report here

(1) S_ource: Scopus, accessed 12 Dec 2018_(2) Source: Scopus data showing 6.9 unique researchers per OA paper on average in 2017