It is time for higher level decisions to support a sustainable Open Access model!

By: Sofie Wennström, Analyst & Managing Editor, Stockholm University Library/Stockholm University Press

High attendance at the workshop. Image: OpenAccess EC / Twitter
High attendance at the workshop. Image: OpenAccess EC / Twitter

During the EC Workshop on Alternative Open Access Publishing Models (#AlterOA on Twitter) workshop in Brussels recently, we could see that the Open Access and Open Science movement is ready for the next stage, i.e. to become the new standard for scientific communication. There’s however a few more obstacles to conquer before we reach the dream that Roberto Viola, Directory General of DG Connect, laid out in his opening address: To have all universities and stakeholders connected through an open information cloud.

One of the major challenges is expensive publishing fees. The traditional publishing houses are increasing their options for Open Access to their authors, which is a positive development, but that shift comes with a price tag. The strain on university budgets and researchers added by high publishing charges is not sustainable.

Creating Good Examples
We have however seen a lot of excellent initiatives with a more decent pricing model in the past year. These initiatives agree on the importance of preserving the quality of the peer-review process and the published items. One example is Open Library of Humanities (OLH), using a library partnership model to waive the individual author fees. OLH is connected to SUP through the Ubiquity Partner Network, to facilitate sharing experiences and collaboration.

Another good example is the UCL Press from University College of London, where the university subsidies the publishing fees through the library organisation in order to create a affordable publishing model for their researchers. UCL Press is created out of the notion that the former model for publishing is broken, and that it is not worth the effort to keep supporting tradition over cost-effective publications with high credibility.

There’s also more experimental models popping up such as the initiative from University of Munich where they teamed up with Thieme publishers to create a pay-what-you-want model. Or, as KN Consultants are suggesting for the US market, to create a network of universities and libraries paying a small fee per student or user to finance a fund where authors can get coverage for their publishing fees. Or, the freemium model used by the French network OpenEdition; where the content is free to access in the basic html version, but users help finance the publishing model by purchasing the enhanced reading formats to a low price per copy.

Supporting the Great Conversation
Jean-Claude Guedón, keynote speaker, stated that being a part of the science community is to also be a part of a ”great conversation”. To keep this conversation going, “we need useful and credible peers who create crystals of knowledge corresponding to granularity, and theoretical and conceptual robustness. We can however not trust the current scientific system that creates a structure that the Viagra medicine is developed faster than a cure for Ebola! It is time to reinstate the fundamental importance of a healthy science communication environment by moving towards Open Science”, says Guedón.

Time is Now
It is indeed time to make sure that the shift to full Open Access is happening soon, in close collaboration with the major stakeholders in higher education. Stockholm University Press aim to be ready in good time to follow the suggested national guidelines from the Swedish Research Council. It is time for the higher level decisions now to make sure we are moving in the right direction together.

The presentations from the workshop are available online, and make sure to read the Twitter conversation #AlterOA to see the reactions from the audience. There’s also a report in Swedish posted at the Swedish National Library blog about open access.

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