Presidential executive order to allow free access of publicly-funded scientific research is under consideration.

White House officials are working on an executive order that would boost public access to federally funded research, prompting publishers to panic about the future of their business models, according to people familiar with the plan.

Ostensibly, the order would follow longtime bipartisan interest in improving public access to research that is paid for by taxpayers.

It is expected to require that publicly funded science be obtainable for free immediately, building on an Obama initiative, multiple sources said.

A memo adopted in 2013 mandated that the results of such research be made available within one year of publication.

Though there is generally broad support for public access, publishing groups like the Association of American Publishers worry that a tougher order would upend their subscription-based business model.

Once it caught wind of the effort, AAP began drafting a sharply worded letter of concern to the White House, multiple sources said. The letter could be sent as early as tomorrow.

About a dozen sources told E&E News that they were aware the White House has been considering an executive order but the details remain murky. A senior administration official declined to comment on “internal deliberative processes that may or may not be happening.”

“President Trump’s Administration continues to be focused on scientific discovery and economic expansion,” the official added via email.

Michael Stebbins, who helped draft the Obama-era memo, generally expressed support for public access and noted that it could spur innovation. “But the devil is definitely in the details,” he said.

Many academic journals are funded by subscription fees collected in the first year of publication. The Trump mandate could force publishers to shift their model so authors pay hefty article processing charges, or APCs.

“Here’s the challenge: A world in which there is immediate open access will result in serious pain to a scientific society or small publisher who relies on subscription revenue,” Stebbins added. “That revenue will have to be made up somehow for them to survive.”

Some scientific experts, who are generally skeptical of the Trump team, are worried that the initiative parallels what they call the administration’s incessant attack on science and, by extension, provides favors to industry.

“What problem are we trying to solve?” asked Andrew Rosenberg, an advocate with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Others noted that the order would give international competitors like China access to American research, which has been a concern of the Trump administration.

It’s also unusual, sources noted, that a Republican administration would adopt policies that could seriously affect business models.

Impacts to publishers could vary. A spokeswoman for the American Association for the Advancement of Science had no direct comment on the administration’s reported plans but obliquely expressed concerns about the potential financial impact.

The nonprofit association publishes a half-dozen journals. One offers immediate free access to its articles, and the other five allow open access to peer-reviewed articles after a year for registered users, the spokeswoman, Tiffany Lohwater, said in an email this week. Articles in those five journals are also available for free as soon as they are posted in university archives technically known as “institutional repositories.”

“High-quality scientific publishing, as AAAS does, requires considerable resource investment, including to identify the papers that have the potential to significantly impact the pace of science,” she said.

George Allen, chief scientist with Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, a Boston-based consortium of air pollution agencies, did not doubt the Trump order would get huge pushback from publishers.

“If you completely take away their business model, then they have no incentive to exist,” he said. He thought allowing free access after a year would be “a reasonable compromise

https://www.eenews.net/stories/1061836761

Male researchers’ ‘vague’ language more likely to win grants

by Holly Else

Grant reviewers award lower scores to proposals from women than to those from men, even when they don’t know the gender of the applicant, an analysis of thousands of submissions to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has found (1).

That’s because male and female scientists use different types of word on grant applications, according to the study, published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study finds that women are more likely to choose words specific to their field to describe their science, whereas men tend to use less precise terms. These broader terms seem to be preferred by the reviewers who decide how to distribute the cash, says the analysis — even though proposals containing those words don’t lead to better research outcomes.

The findings aren’t surprising, says Kuheli Dutt, who works in academic affairs and diversity at Columbia University in New York City. Dutt sees parallels with research showing that men are more likely to boast and overstate their performance in tests, whereas women are more likely to be cautious in their statements (2). Using broad words might lead to sweeping claims, but narrow words might imply more cautious claims, she says.

Loaded language

Previous research had highlighted how differences in the way men and women use language can drive bias. For example, some studies show that the words in some job adverts can put women off applying, and women in the geosciences are less likely than their male counterparts to receive a recommendation letter whose tone suggests that they are outstanding candidates (3).

A meeting between four executives in a large, open space.
Reviewers give higher scores to grant applications from men than those from women.Credit: TommL/Getty

Grant reviewers award lower scores to proposals from women than to those from men, even when they don’t know the gender of the applicant, an analysis of thousands of submissions to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has found1.

That’s because male and female scientists use different types of word on grant applications, according to the study, published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research.

The study finds that women are more likely to choose words specific to their field to describe their science, whereas men tend to use less precise terms. These broader terms seem to be preferred by the reviewers who decide how to distribute the cash, says the analysis — even though proposals containing those words don’t lead to better research outcomes.

The findings aren’t surprising, says Kuheli Dutt, who works in academic affairs and diversity at Columbia University in New York City. Dutt sees parallels with research showing that men are more likely to boast and overstate their performance in tests, whereas women are more likely to be cautious in their statements2. Using broad words might lead to sweeping claims, but narrow words might imply more cautious claims, she says.

Loaded language
Previous research had highlighted how differences in the way men and women use language can drive bias. For example, some studies show that the words in some job adverts can put women off applying, and women in the geosciences are less likely than their male counterparts to receive a recommendation letter whose tone suggests that they are outstanding candidates3.

But this is the first time that ‘gendered’ language has been explored in grant applications, says Julian Kolev, who studies entrepreneurship at the Southern Methodist University in Texas and led the work.

Kolev’s analysis looked at almost 7,000 proposals submitted to the Grand Challenges Explorations programme of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation between 2008 and 2017. The fund awards grants of between $100,000 and $1 million to address challenges in global health and is open to anyone through a two-page online application. Reviewers are blind to the gender of the applicants.

The researchers singled out the applications from US researchers and sought information from the Gates Foundation on applicants’ gender, discipline and where they work. The group also looked at each scientist’s publication record and grant history before and after the application.

The team found that women received significantly lower scores from reviewers than men did. This couldn’t be explained by the applicants’ experience, publications record or the gender of the reviewers. Instead, it seemed to be down to their communication style in the proposal.

The researchers found that men tended to use ‘broad’ words, such as “control”, “detection” and “bacteria”, more often. These were defined as words that appeared at the same rate in proposals regardless of the topic. By contrast, women favoured ‘narrower’ or more topic-specific terms, such as “community”, “oral” and “brain” (see ‘Broad language’). The authors linked broad words to higher review scores, and narrow ones with lower scores.

But funded applications that contained many broad words didn’t result in work that led to more publications and future grants, the researchers found. And when women secured funding, they generally outperformed men on these measures.

Closing the gap

The Gates Foundation says that it is committed to ensuring gender equality and that its grand-challenges programme uses blind reviews in an attempt to eliminate reviewer bias. It is also reviewing the results of this study.

Kolev suggests that grant reviewers could be trained to limit their sensitivity to communication styles. The make-up of the review panel also seems important. “We consistently show that female reviewers’ scores do not favour proposals from male applicants in the way that male reviewers’ scores do,” he notes. “So increasing the number of female reviewers is one potential way to mitigate the effects we find.”

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01402-4

References
1.Kolev, J., Fuentes-Medel, Y. and Murray, F. Natl Bureau Econ. Res. Working Paper No. 25759 https://www.nber.org/papers/w25759 (2019)

2.Reuben, E., Sapienza, P. and Zingales, L. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 4403–4408 (2014).

3.Dutt, K. et al. Nature Geosci. 9, 805–808 (2016).

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01402-4?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=96860aed6e-briefing-dy-20190502&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-96860aed6e-44039353