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Multiple Transition Pathways to Open Access Can Equally Anchor the Status of Scientific Knowledge as a Public Good

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Doe Memorial Library, University of California, Alameda, California, USA, July 22, 2013 © Courtesy of Sharat Ganapati/Flickr.

Though press coverage tends to treat Gold Open Access as the goal of Open Science, a recent report by the University of California Libraries systematically reflects on alternative avenues for transitioning to Open Access as a bundle of different approaches and strategies that academic and research institutions can deploy to switch to Open Access.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


As university- and country-level transitions to Open Access become increasingly contemplated, especially in developing countries, such as Peru, that cannot necessarily sustain the growing burden of journal subscription expenses and without international aide can be cut off from vital scientific information, e.g., in the sphere of medical or fundamental research, a concrete understanding of what alternative paths toward implementing Open Access as a comprehensive policy tends to be lacking. Except for disparate initiatives, Open Access can remain marginal to how the results of scientific research are disseminated around the world. A consideration of alternative Open Access formats can, thus, be critical for increasing both its prevalence and impact.

This is partly accomplished by an analytical report on transition pathways to Open Access prepared by a working group of scholars associated with the University of California Council of University Libraries on March 21, 2018. This report cogently suggests that every Open Access transition approach is associated with distinct challenges and opportunities that are systemic in nature, as Open Access needs to be integrated into institution-level strategies that concern multiple stakeholders, such as researchers, editors and librarians. Thus, according to this report, Green Open Access, which usually involves a limited, set period when subscriptions or fees can be necessary to access latest publications, can be deployed simultaneously with post-print repositories, complex content reuse rights management and collaborations between universities and external journal publishers. In other words, the deployment of Green Open Access can be compatible with a simultaneous utilization of institutional repositories in particular subject areas. From a strategic perspective, Green Open Access, thus, allows for sophisticated licensing arrangements and can be pursued as a viable business strategy.

By contrast, Gold Open Access, which provides immediate access to freshly published books and articles, can be based on article processing charges (APCs) as its underlying model and can be used as a point of reference in the process of negotiating agreements with legacy journal publishers. To facilitate the transition to Open Access not only journal subscription contracts can be canceled, but also existing journals can be encouraged to flip to Open Access, university-level funding strategies can be devised and membership fees can be utilized, such as in the case of the Open Library of Humanities. However, transitioning to Gold Open Access without APCs can be associated with challenges, especially in terms of Open Access journal viability. Gold Open Access that are not APC-based may need to introduce membership charges or launch crowd-funding initiatives to cover their costs. Additionally, Gold Open Access journals may need to outsource their publishing functions to streamline their operations.

For these reasons, universal strategies for switching to Open Access are not likely to exist, as each academic institution needs to weigh its funding opportunities, investment sources, support frameworks and community engagement, such as connections with scholarly societies as decision making factors concerning the format in which Open Access journals can be viably launched or switched to.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: Doe Memorial Library, University of California, Alameda, California, USA, July 22, 2013 © Courtesy of Sharat Ganapati/Flickr.

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