MyScienceWork: Can you briefly tell us who you are?
Sylvain: I was trained as a physicist, and I am passionate about Scientific Research. Before launching Opscidia, I have worked for 10 years, at the boundary between academia and industry. First, during my PhD on third generation solar-cells at the University of Cambridge, then as the director of the Research and Innovation team of a start’up. I have worked with many research labs in several different domain. This showed me the problem of the current publishing system, and gave me the idea of Opscidia.
Charles: For the last 10 years, I have been working at crafting disruptive products offering people simple and user-friendly internet experience. Having worked on e-democracy, e-administration and open data projects, I immediately saw the opportunity when Sylvain told me about his academic publishing project. I am convinced that social web can make scholarly publishing cheaper and more efficient.
And what is Opscidia?
Opscidia is a platform which host peer-reviewed scientific journals under the only condition that they are open access and free for the authors.
Our idea is to build customizable innovative solutions for scholarly publishing. We think that every research community is different, and that for academic publishing, there is no “one size fits all” solution. This is why we want to develop or integrate in our platform innovative ways to share research results, and to leave the power in the hands of academic communities to decide whether to seize them.
What is your business model?
We are selling technology intelligence tools and services for industry, based on the text-mining of our corpus, and of all the Open Access academic publication corpus.
Hence, we will have two layers of contents. The research articles, that are written by academics and mostly targeted to academics, will be Open Access, under a creative common CC BY. A second layer, mostly targeted to R&D intensive industries, will be sold.
And what gave you the idea to start this project?
Sylvain: It is the large number of collaborations between academia and industry that I have seen in my career which gave me the idea of this project. I have been following the Open Access issue for quite a long time already: I have studied in the mathematics department at the University of Cambridge, hence, the “Cost of Knowledge” protest by mathematicians of the University of Cambridge struck me. The idea of Opscidia slowly developed in my head, and I discussed with a few friends. Such as Charles that I have known for more than 15 years...
Charles: Few years ago, Sylvain explained to me how scholarly publishing business works and how Open Access enthusiasts struggle to make publications more open. I immediately saw many common features with what I have seen before in Open Data and Open Government. In 2018, both of us had in mind a professional change. The decision was made in one evening. History will remember it was in a Thaï restaurant! After a few months to organise the change, we started to work full time on the project at the beginning of 2019.
What are the next steps ?
We already launched a beta version of our publishing platform to show that we are ready to welcome academics who are willing to launch a journal or flip an existing one. We have some candidates already and we expect them to publish their first issues at the beginning of the year 2020. We are also expecting many others to join, so if you would like to start a journal, or if you are in charge of a journal, please feel free to contact us.
To illustrate the potentialities of the text-mining of scientific articles we have presented a poster at several conferences last spring about what could have be done better during the 2014 Ebola crisis. We are going to attend several conferences this fall in Europe and in Africa to keep on showcasing these ideas.
We also organize events dedicated to the general public. We explain what scientific articles are, how they are built, how to read them, and how they are sometimes misinterpreted. We organized one such event on the topic of global warming denial last June (french teaser). And we hope to repeat the experiment on health-related questions soon. If you are willing to co-organize such an event, please contact us.
How do you see the Open Access movement moving in the next years?
Things are moving a lot. The plan S at the European level, and many national initiatives such as the Plan Open Science in France, the numerous academics that want change to happen have put Open Access in the news for some time already. Hence, the background is more and more favorable for Open Access, but that does not mean that things are moving fast. Publication habits take a long time to change.
Nevertheless, we believe that a complete switch towards full Open Access will necessarily happen. We hope our project will help this evolution in fields where it is not yet a common practice.
Who is this project for?
Our tools are obviously for academics, but also for everyone interested by research results, and that want to look at the original sources. Public sector, practitioners, popular science writers, as well as interested citizens.