The conception of an open future with scholarly publications being freely accessible, sharable, and reusable cannot be easily subsumed under a single term. That is, it can. But the term has conflicting objectives. The reasoning behind Open Access interests is diverse with two essential concepts being ‘research advancement’ and ‘economic benefit’. This article clusters stakeholders regarding their Open Access interest and reasoning, leading to the clusters a Open Access as a threat, b a pain, c the ideal Open Access, and d the exploitative Open Access.
Considering that most of the talks on Open Access either showcase individual success story of Open Access, or bemoan how scholarly publishing is broken and only Open Science can fix it—without acknowledging the complexity of research communication, I wanted to provide a critique on why the current development of Open Access is not providing the hoped-for benefits. Surely the talk touched only some points of the already large movement, but it’s something that is not being talked about much at conferences. The talk sparked some interesting conversations, which is why I wanted to publish the content of the talk to keep the conversation going. Please do reach out to me in public @lepublikateur or in private marcel.knochelmann.15(at)ucl.ac.uk.
The current phase of transition shows that gold Open Access (OA) is likely to be a disruptive force for the establishment. Libraries and institutions aim to cut costs by pushing for more Open Access; publishers seek to raise profits, or at least stay in business. New ventures are growing in between those needs: they’re cheaper than established offerings, but can survive on lower profit margins. Those ventures gradually build the infrastructure for future scholarly communication. But at what cost?
Gold Open Access is an accepted, yet isolated model in academic book publishing. Publishing houses only dare to scale open access in small steps. While books, especially monographs, are still the preferred medium to communicate scholarship in many disciplines, foremost in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, the overall market of academic books is in recession. Less sold books means less access. Large scale Open Access publishing may be a solution. But publishing houses seem to be in a prisoner’s dilemma: to adapt Open Access on a large enough scale required a systematic approach in which all publishing houses would have to act. My recently published study (June 2017, UCL Press) provides a theoretical explanation for this.
Science is collaboration. Saying that scientists would stand on the shoulders of giants to see further is not a cliché. Science advanced because generations of scientists build on other generation’s knowledge and experience, thus leaping forward into the unknown. Acknowledging other peoples’ findings – maybe questioning the results – is one of the key ingredients of scientific enquiry. This may seem hard to believe at times when doubt and negation of scientific findings are flourishing – rather than acknowledgement. Yet, new research conducted by Microsoft Research reminds us of the fact that science prospers when scientists partner and work without borders.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation just announced the launch of a new open access platform, Gates Open Research. The Wellcome Trust’s own platform is already running with F1000. All the while, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative opens research with cutting edge services. Funders become a major force changing the scientific ecosystem from the outside, accelerating openness and time-to-publish.
Concepts are big issues in publishing. Normally, whenever there is change, people start talking in concepts and soon arrive at specific issues. In publishing, discussions seem to get stuck in the concepts. Take for instance digital disruption, open access, or the buzz around start-ups. You may say, these are just generalisations to get conversations going. After years of conversations, though, this has become a false argument. Time is ripe to move from generalising concepts to specific issues. Especially at occasions of public speaking.
Emerging digital environments and online-solutions have created lots of challenging opportunities for academic publishers. They have changed the game for researchers, libraries, and publishers alike, and led to several new business models. In the long run, the most radical of those models will rise from a niche to sustainable market shares creating the future of academic publishing. Three major changes will boost this development: service based business models, findability oriented platforms, and format free content storing.