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The European Publishing Market Coasts to Reorganization Around Open Access, Despite Concerns of Scholars and Publishers

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Debate and vote on Jean-Claude Juncker for President of the European Commission, European Parliament, European Union, Brussels, Belgium, July 15, 2014 © Courtesy of European Parliament/Flickr.

To the extent that the slow pace of the transition to Open Access in Europe can be considered a case of market failure, despite the European Union 2020 goals of Open Access adoption, the plans of the European Commission to establish a non-profit platform for Open Access publishing are likely to introduce a momentous change to the scientific publishing market in Europe.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

While research organizations in Britain go through a reshuffle toward the launch of the United Kingdom (UK) Research and Innovation agency, which is to start its operations from April 1, 2018, that will administer research funding across the UK, Open Access-supporting policies are also likely to be reviewed for their effectiveness. Indeed, a piecemeal transition to Open Access can create situations in which research universities and institutions pay for both journal subscriptions, to access, and sometimes publish in, traditional publications, and article processing charges, when submissions to Open Access journals are made. Without a wide-ranging adoption of Open Access across the scientific publishing market, the expected contribution of Open Access to the cost-effectiveness of scholarly organizations may not necessarily materialize in the short term.

This is the time frame within which the European Commission (EC) seeks to set up an Open Access platform by 2020, as the scientific publishing market in its present shape slows down this transition to Open Access, despite the European Union-wide governmental consensus that publicly-supported research results should be freely available, e.g., without paywalls or subscriptions, which was reached in 2016. The EC, thus, seeks to rectify the scholarly publishing market failure to offer researchers from all fields of inquiry unrestricted options to deposit preprints of their papers and to publish peer-reviewed articles in Open Access. In other words, despite the statements by the representatives of scientific institutions and university libraries around the world that Open Access represents the future of scientific publishing, such as by over 70% of 200 respondents from these organizations, according to a recent survey conducted by Springer Nature, which also indicates an international growing consensus on the desirability of the transition to Open Access, this remains a long-term goal.

Whereas Open Access to scientific publications and data can bring tangible and almost self-evident benefits to scholarly communities and organizations in Europe and beyond, as the prolonged standoff over Open Access between Elsevier and research universities and institutes in Germany demonstrates, without a European Union-level action to finance the creation of an Open Access publishing platform, the implementation of Open Access policies can remain balkanized and add to the cost structures of scholarly institutions. Incidentally, a concerted Europe-wide push for Open Access can amount not only to a paradigm change in scientific publishing, but also to a major reorganization of the journal publishing market around Open Access as a default option for making the preliminary or final results of scholarly research public.

At the same time, in the European scholarly community disagreements exist on the most optimal avenues for such a transition to Open Access for fear of lock-in effects, should a single platform become a de facto provider of Open Access solutions. Given that the establishment of the planned Open Access platform is also likely to be outsourced to a small set of for-profit or non-profit publishers or a single one, national university alliances and funding bodies may have reservations about this initiative.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Debate and vote on Jean-Claude Juncker for President of the European Commission, European Parliament, European Union, Brussels, Belgium, July 15, 2014 © Courtesy of European Parliament/Flickr.

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