What would it really take to achieve a full OA transition? An “open” take from a publisher, librarians, and a funder

by | Nov 4, 2020 | 0 comments


Session summary: The urgency for broader access to research has accelerated recently as scholars across the globe work swiftly, building upon previous work, to address issues of enormous public significance ranging from COVID-19 to structural racism and police violence. However, the full migration to open access publishing would ultimately see a fundamental reconfiguration of scholarly communications affecting all involved – researchers, funders, universities, libraries, publishers, etc. This session provides an honest take on the OA transition

.Ashley Farley from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation noted that the ecosystem pain points are:

  • Information overload, especially with the proliferation of preprints.
  • Proliferation of policies relating to growth, shifting, compromise, and choice,
  • Hybrid journals (which are not a bad habit to kick),
  • Removal of paywalls, leading to an increased use of research, a need for increased speed of peer review, and increased need for transparency,
  • Faulty metrics,
  • Perverse incentives, and
  • Copyright (who has the right?).

The remedy–we must take risks and push forward.

Stephen Barr

Stephen Barr from SAGE Publications described the systemic transition of practices and how funding flows and how to ensure quality control of research outputs. 28% of all content can be found in one OA model or another. That has been increasing, and the underpinnings of scholarly communication are transforming.

The publication of gold OA journals does not work in all disciplines; it does work in areas where there is a lot of research funding. There is a lot of demand for OA in STM disciplines, less in others. Will the model apply universally? Many of the considerations revolve around pricing. The models will exert downward pressure on pricing. Different stakeholders have different views.

What is a sustainable future for how the scholarly communication system will work? It is based on a legacy subscription model, but it is now moving to publish-and-read. Will it work for all disciplines? It is based on reading; costs are spread across many universities. Pay to publish will fall more heavily on those who are publishing.

The future of OA will be a fundamental division between research funding; there is a potential for a major rebalancing of funding sources but there is still a lot of change to work through.

Elaine Westbrooks

Elaine Westbrooks from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill described the Pre-COVID landscape, which was marked by Big Deals becoming unstable, Plan S, institutions and consortia rethinking negotiations, the rise of transformative agreements, and the UC Berkeley divorce from Elsevier. A survey conducted in 2019 received 136 responses; respondents mentioned 4 themes:

  • Bog Deal cancellations: The UC/Elsevier divorce, status of Big Deals, and reasons for cancellation.
  • Communication: Where is it centered, who is doing it, is it a library-wide priority, who is the audience, and is it successful?
  • Organizational structures and titles: What are the top choices for titles?, and
  • Partnerships:

UNC has a partnership with SAGE (which has a history of working with OA). A pilot that launched in October 19. UNC dedicated $160,000 of subscription funds to OA journals, subsidized a $500 APC, and defined the journals in the pilot. Journals were deposited in an institutional repository.. About 100 titles funded 40 OA titles. UNC is now working on developing workflows for repository depositing. They are not publishing at previous levels because of COVID. Authors never responded to emails about 36 titles which became rejections. 65% of the authors were rejected because authors didn’t participate or said they did not want to publish OA because they do not understand that the library will pay for it.

SAGE is developing workflows. The biggest surprise was lack of trust by the university authors, which was probably an effect predatory publishing . Grant funding is not a factor because many titles are in social sciences or humanities. The library is now inserted into the publication process, which gives them good will. The desire is to get authors to see the library as not only a funder but also a place where there are people who can help.

Challenges include communication, competition for the attention of scholars, and the predatory publishing effect, It is necessary to interview authors more to find out what is motivating them, gather more data on non-responders and tell themd that the library can help them. Will this transform the library’s system and will they have the time and money to keep the pilot going?


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