Open Access: It is up to librarians to make it happen

From No Shelf Required:

In the past few years, the book and library industry has witnessed many lively discussions about the present and the future of the Open Access (OA) movement and its sustainability for both academic publishers on the one end (i.e., those who need sustainable business models to produce quality content that can be shared openly for years to come) and libraries and academic institutions on the other (i.e., those who need to support it financially in order for it to keep going, because, without their investment, OA fails publishers, authors and the scholarly community at large. Most such discussions focus on what OA can and cannot do for librarians and publishers. Less often, however, they involve those two sides discussing how their actions (and inactions) affect those who are supposed to benefit from the idea of open access and open science: scholars and researchers. More specifically: scholars and researchers in countries where access to science and scientific knowledge remains sparse and uneven and where libraries do not have the means of supporting their academics and scientists the way libraries in the more developed parts of the world do.

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The goal, therefore, was to discuss the impact of OA on research globally and consider if the promise of OA to equalize access for users and researchers beyond the most affluent academic markets is being achieved. This helped center the discussion around the following: Do researchers have access to freely available academic content as much as we assume they do? Do they know where to find it? How easy is it for them to find it? Are the sources and platforms available to them delivering a quality user experience? And are scholars around the world able to take advantage of the new publishing opportunities afforded to them through various initiatives?

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North America and Europe are seeing the highest usage of OA books, while Latin America and Africa are seeing the lowest, with Latin America, in particular, lagging behind the rest of the world.

The panelists also discussed OA publishing models and their success in countries where Open Access is vibrant as well as in those where it is still emerging; the costs involved for researchers to publish Open Access; ways in which users in emerging markets benefit from OA content; and the role of academic libraries—large and small—in providing the necessary support.

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If we consider, for a moment, the sheer number of OA initiatives unveiled in recent years, and the volume of quality content made available OA, it becomes obvious that the scholarly community has made great strides in figuring out what works and what doesn’t, both with journals and with monographs. Publishers and scholars are certainly not objecting to the concept of publishing Open Access. On the contrary, they seem more eager than before to embrace OA publishing possibilities and opportunities (KU alone works with over 100 publishers, ‘unlatching’ books by hundreds of HSS and STEM scholars each year; likewise, IntechOpen works with tens of thousands of scholars worldwide to help them publish their scientific findings and make them widely available).

Indeed, if at this point in the OA narrative, the issue isn’t whether the publishing community is willing to embrace an entirely new way of operating, the ball is back in the court of academic libraries and academic institutions. And questions again arise: Will libraries continue to set aside significant funding to support OA, or will they, in the face of limited budgets, marginalize OA content in favor of subscription products and services?

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The average STEM book which would have comfortably sold a couple of thousand units a few years ago is now achieving only a few hundred. For the print market, OA has shown to be excellent publicity and (what remains of) print sales hasn’t been detrimentally impacted . . . .

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Similarly, few academics are aware of the more liberal terms available through OA licenses, including author retention of copyright and flexible content reuse compared to the more traditional copyright-transfer type of agreement . . . .

Scholars are increasingly aware that OA edited book publications (or ISBNs) have comparable submission, review, decision and publication times. Typically, OA book chapters demonstrably achieve higher impact – through greater discoverability, downloads, citations and online mentions – and so for scholars seeking deep dissemination of their work, OA books are an attractive option . . . .

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The industry should embrace all colors, flavors, and degrees of Open Access and remain more tolerant when applying the standards. New techniques and services must be created to reduce the ‘handicap’ of indie publishers . . . .

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The majority of researchers don’t really care about the publication method, as long as they have access.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

For visitors to TPV who have not seen previous posts about the world of academic/scientific publishing, here are the basics:

  1. Traditional academic/scientific journals are generally owned by one of a handful of academic publishers who have consolidated their ownership of various publications that were formerly owned on an individual basis over a period of years.
  2. Traditional academic/scientific journals are available via very expensive subscriptions, the cost of which has escalated substantially during the past several years. Some college/university/research institution libraries are unable to afford these costs and, consequently, are not able to provide access to some publications to professors, students and researchers.
  3. The authors of the articles appearing in academic/scientific journals, particularly those in junior/intermediate positions need to publish articles in respected journals in order to retain their jobs and obtain promotions to more secure positions.
  4. Typical publishing contracts offered to authors by traditional academic/scientific publishers require the author to transfer copyright ownership to the publisher and pay the author no royalties other than a few copies of the publication. Any financial benefits from their writings come to the authors via improved job prospects or enhanced employment security from their current employers.
  5. To add insult to injury, many academic/scientific publishers require the author to pay a fee to the publisher when the paper is submitted, ostensibly to cover the publisher’s costs of managing the process of peer review. Thereafter, for accepted papers, some publishers charge the author a per-page “printing” fee and/or a separate publication acceptance fee.
  6. Peer review of papers submitted to academic publishers by teachers/professors/researchers to determine the validity/credibility of the content, methods, conclusions, etc., of the submissions is generally performed by other teachers/professors/academic authors in the field who receive no monetary compensation for their work from the publishers. Non-monetary compensation may come to reviewers via more favorable reception of future papers written by those reviewers when the papers are submitted to the publisher.
  7. After a slow start, academic/scientific publishers are reaping the substantial financial benefits of electronic subscriptions to their publications.
  8. Despite the lowered costs of distributing many of their publications electronically (instead of printing, warehousing, shipping, etc. physical copies of the publication), academic/scientific publishers typically sell subscriptions to their publications in expensive bundles that include popular as well as less-popular publications. The largest publishers will not sell a subscription to a particularly useful single publication in an unbundled form. Institutions in poorer parts of the world are often unable to afford the costs of these bundled subscriptions, depriving their professors/researchers/students of access to the latest developments in a scientific/technical field.

The Open Access movement described in the OP is an effort by a variety of researchers/educators/scientists/academic librarians to recreate the infrastructure provided by traditional academic publishers for authors and institutions on a less-expensive basis.