The International Science Council through its Members have identified a total of eight key principles for scientific publishing. This paper is complemented by a second, evaluating the extent to which the principles are attained and identifying opportunities for reform.

In 2019, the International Science Council asked its Members to identify key contemporary issues for science. Scientific publishing emerged as the most important “policy for science”, leading to its adoption as a priority in the ISC Action Plan. An international working group was formed to suggest principles for scientific publishing and assess the need for reform. The group, after substantial work and member consultations, proposed seven key principles, later expanded to eight, aimed at improving scholarly publication in the digital era, which were endorsed by the ISC General Assembly in October 2021.

A second paper “The Case for Reform of Scientific Publishing“, will evaluate the extent to which the principles are attained in practice, thereby identifying issues for reform.

There have been major shifts in the publishing landscape over the last decades, with more changes on the horizon. Yet, the broad membership base of the ISC will agree that scientific publishing is still the primary mode of communicating scientific results and the basis of peer review of these results. As part of the ISC’s endeavour to map the current and potential future landscape of the science system, we are pleased to present these reports on scientific publishing.

Paper One outlines eight key principles which we hope would be used to chart the course of publishing in a turbulent scientific landscape. 

Paper Two, The Case for Reform of Scientific Publishing, presents a narrative of a possible reform of the scientific publishing system. We hope that ISC members will use this paper as a catalyst to present their own views, both as individuals and as Member organizations, and to highlight to ISC how best to support members on this journey. 

These principles, first endorsed by ISC Members at their General Assembly in 2021, and the latest discussion paper, are a credit to the work of the ISC’s Future of Publishing project steering committee led by ISC Board Member and Fellow, Geoffrey Boulton. They are an example of how ISC Members can coalesce around issues of critical importance that springboard discussions into action for the wider scientific community.

We invite ISC Member organizations and the broader scientific community to share their views on the future of publishing, and any recommendations for action by the ISC, through the survey below.

Salvatore Aricò, CEO

Key Principles for Scientific Publishing

These principles have been developed by International Science Council members as part of the Council’s Future of Publishing project and are a companion piece to “The Case for Reform of Scientific Publishing” paper.


The Eight Principles

  1. The rapid and global circulation of ideas is central to the scientific process. There should be universal, prompt open access to the
    record of science1, both for authors and readers, with no barriers to participation, in particular those based on ability to pay, institutional privilege, language or geography.
  2. Scientific publications should have a default position of carrying open licences that permit reuse and text and data mining.
  3. Rigorous, timely and ongoing peer review must continue to play a key role in creating and maintaining the public record of science.
  4. The data and observations on which a published truth claim is based should be concurrently accessible to scrutiny and supported by necessary metadata.
  5. The record of science should be maintained in such a way as to ensure open access by future generations.
  6. Modes of publication and bibliodiversities in different disciplines and regions need to be adapted to relevant needs, but in ways that also to facilitate inter-operability between different disciplines and regions, including procedures for multi-lingual communication.
  7. Publication systems should be designed to continually adapt to new opportunities for beneficial change rather than embedding inflexible systems that inhibit change.
  8. Governance of the processes of dissemination of scientific knowledge should be accountable to the scientific community.

Geoffrey Boulton

ISC Governing Board Member, ISC Fellow, and Chair of the Future of Scientific Publishing project

“The advancement of knowledge as a global public good has become essential, not just for its intrinsic cultural value, but increasingly as indispensable in identifying and addressing the manifold problems our societies and the planet face and for the opportunities it offers.  This discussion paper represents the outcome of the work of the ISC’s Future of Scientific Publishing Steering Group in the aftermath of that General Assembly’s endorsement of the Eight Principles. It analyses if, and how, present publishing practices fall short of the ISC’s Eight Principles and its vision of science as a global public good, and suggests possible avenues of approach that a subsequent phase of action might take. It is the view of ISC that this vital public good is not well served by current systems and that reform is a vital priority.  These are ambitious objectives, but ones that respond to the needs of the times.

We invite the ISC community to contribute their ideas and opinions to the objectives by completing the short feedback survey on Papers One and Two”.

➡️Read More “Charting the Future of Science: Reforming scientific publishing for a new era of open knowledge

Dominque Babini

Open Science Advisor at the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), Future of Publishing project Steering Committee member, and ISC Fellow

“The voice for social science is critical for the future of publishing. For CLACSO, the Latin American Council of Social Sciences, it is a rich experience to participate in the ISC project on the future of scientific publications and in the ISC-GYA-IAP partnership on research evaluation

In both projects, it gives CLACSO the opportunity to share the Latin American experience of two decades of scholar-led and non-profit initiatives to provide visibility and open access, with no fees for readers and authors, with the goal of promoting equity, bibliodiversity and multilingualism in scholarly communications. It contrasts this approach with the negative impact in developing regions of increased commercialization of international scientific publishing and its research assessment indicators.

I particularly encourage specialists from developing regions, who are part of the ISC network, to participate in the ISC calls for engagement to ensure global voices are heard on these important topics”.