While European Union Open Access Goals May be Unrealistic, Survey Findings Indicate Progress for Open Science

Even through in his recent news item, David Matthews concludes that the European Union’s 2020 target of universal Open Access adoption is not likely to be achieved on time based on recent surveys among European universities, these findings also show that Open Access policies have resulted in significant increases in pre- and post-print deposits of scholarly articles and dissertations into institutional repositories.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

Though the rates of transition to Open Access in terms of articles published in Open Access journals appears to have plateaued in recent years, as David Matthews argues in his piece that appeared on March 7, 2018, in Times Higher Education, it may be important to bear in mind that multiple, equally valid Open Access models, such as Gold, Green and hybrid Open Access, exist. Moreover, the free availability of research findings, that according to Matthews accounts to only about a fifth of recently published peer-reviewed articles among 60% to 70% of European universities surveyed, does not necessarily coincide with Open Access, as it refers to Gold Open Access only. In the framework of Green or hybrid Open Access, newly published scientific papers remain behind paywalls for a limited period of time, such as up to two years, after which they become freely accessible.

In other words, the lacking progress of Gold Open Access does not preclude significant strides for Open Access in general. Even through Gold Open Access can be eponymously held as a golden standard of Open Access by policymakers and commentators alike, this approach narrows the definition of Open Access, while disregarding the issues of journal sustainability, as Open Access journals combining subscription fees and article processing charges (APCs) can be more economically viable than those based on APCs alone or waiving author-facing charges altogether. The overemphasis on Gold Open Access as a policy-making target also diminishes the progress that other forms of Open Access, such as pre- or post-prints deposited in university depositories, have made in recent years.

While institutional repositories do not necessarily change the journal publishing game in favor of Open Access journals, as they allow toll-based, peer-reviewed prestigious journals to retain their predominant market positioning at least in terms of journal-level impact factor metrics, such as for 81.7% of institutions surveyed in the 20187 report by Rita Morais and Lidia Borrell-Damian, they, nevertheless, promote Open Science as Open Access to recent scientific findings. Indeed, the 2016-2017 European University Association’s report on Open Access indicates that, while the increase in the number of Open Access journals as a subscription cost cutting measure remains a long-term goal, after adopting Open Access policies at the number of universities surveyed depositing more than 50% their peer-reviewed journal articles in institutional or shared repositories has risen spectacularly from around 7 to more than 30. Likewise, after European universities put into force Open Access guidelines between early 2000s and 2015, the number of institutions at which the share of monographs, peer-reviewed conference papers and doctoral thesis deposited into Open Access repositories exceeds 50% has increased from about 4, 3 and 23 to approximately 14, 20 and 57 respectively.

In other words, recent survey data indicate robust advances in the domain of Open Access in recent years by dint of the significant positive impact that the adoption of Open Access policies has had on the rate at which peer-reviewed publications are deposited in freely accessible institutional repositories. This also suggests that a wider adoption of publication-level, rather than journal-level, impact metrics, is likely to further promote Open Science.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Bloomsbury: British Museum – Great Court and Reading Room, London, UK, November 12, 2006 © Courtesy of Wally Gobetz/Flickr.

This article has originally appeared in OpenScience, 15/03/2018, http://openscience.com/while-european-union-open-access-goals-may-be-unrealistic-survey-findings-indicate-progress-for-open-science/.

Despite Divided Opinions on their Practices and Prospects, Open Access Mega-Journals Command Significant Presence

A recent meta-analysis of mega-journal-related qualitative and quantitative findings by Valerie Spezi et al. (2017) indicates that Open Access mega-journals have become an established part of the scholarly publishing market, in spite of diverging views on their long-term effect on the marketplace.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

In their study, Spezi et al. (2017) have examined the evolution of Open Access scientific mega-journals as a publishing format that enjoys increasing following among scholarly publishers, scientific societies and market entrants. The Public Library of Science, which launched PLOS One in 2006, is one of the more visible players in this field, even though the number of articles published across its mega-journals appears to have peaked at over 35,000 papers in 2013. Despite this, and especially in the science, technology, and medicine (STM) areas, multiple mega-journals, such as Scientific Reports, BMJ Open, PeerJ and F1000, have been launched in recent years. While these journals are hailed as future-oriented and disruptive, they continue to look for sustainable economic models, as some of mega-journals are externally subsidized.

Moreover, in previous years the editorial standards of mega-journals have been the subject of much discussion, as these journals have sought to establish their positioning in the publishing marketplace. Despite these concerns, the number of articles published in academic journals has increased exponentially in the last decade. For instance, whereas PLOS One has published only 1,239 articles in 2007, the yearly volume of papers of this mega-journal has ballooned by more than 25 times to 34,404 papers in 2013. Even though its output has declined to 27,488 in 2015, PLOS One, which peer-reviews its submissions for scientific soundness, has been found to be the world’s largest scientific journal in 2016, which attests to the global success of this mega-journal and the growth potential of this publishing market segment.

Additionally, mega-journals are receptive to the deployment of alternative article-level performance and impact metrics, which sets them apart from traditional scientific periodicals the reputation of which tends to be assessed through journal-level impact factor metrics. Mega-journals are also Open Access, which requires that article processing charges (APCs) are levied, as part of their business models. Mega-journals also tend to have rapid publication cycles, which is likely to provide them with a competitive advantage vis-à-vis market incumbents. Due to the high volumes of articles published, the estimated number of mega-journals varies from 14 to 35, which could be due to market share cannibalization, as the subject areas of these journals overlap in many cases. Indeed, in February 2018, PeerJ has announced a promotional, temporary waiver of APCs, which has spurred both an explosive surge in its paper submissions and doubts about the viability of its business model in view of its declining output in recent years and slim prospects of financial returns for its venture capital investors.

This could be due to a high degree of market concentration in this publishing sector, as only 11 mega-journals are considered to be prominent, they tend to cluster in STM subject areas and PLOS One enjoys a predominant position in this journal group, as its articles accounted for over 61% of 44,820 articles published by these more established mega-journals in 2015. In other words, even though the mega-journal model has matured in recent years, due to their exposure to market forces, as part of their Open Access business models, mega-journals may be tempted to self-cannibalize by lowering or waiving their APCs, in a bid to improve their market positioning.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: With Interest Table: March 2012, March 12, 2012 | © Courtesy of With Associates/Flickr.

This article has originally appeared in OpenScience, 11/03/2018, http://openscience.com/despite-divided-opinions-on-their-practices-and-prospects-open-access-mega-journals-command-significant-presence/.

Flipping Scientific Journals to Open Access Can be the Shortest Route to Changing the Dynamics of Academic Publishing

Recent descriptions of the stalemate in the scholarly publishing market, where large publishers continue to maintain they sway over prestigious, in-demand journals and Open Access transition proves to be evolutionary and costly in the short term, overlook the shortcut path to reducing the nearly natural monopoly positions of incumbent publishers by switching existing, reputed journals to Open Access.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

Though David Matthews’ blog piece published on March 2, 2018, bemoans the seemingly unchanged status-quo in the scientific publishing market, where Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Routledge and Wiley continue to claim the lion’s share of its revenues with double-digit profit margins and sizable executive remuneration packages, the alternative between business as usual and possible regulatory intervention it presents does not necessarily take into account alternative transition paths toward a market situation in which the benefits of Open Access prevail over its costs. This goes beyond the long game that the transition to Open Access involves, since it can reduce the access-related fees that university libraries pay in the long term, as the share of recognized Open Access journals continues to grow.

Namely, David Matthews zeroes in on the short-term dynamics of the publishing market in which the behavior of scholars that are rewarded for publishing at highest ranking academic journals with research funds and career promotions cements the market positioning of large publishers that sell subscriptions to high-impact journals to institutions. However, this situation may primarily apply to the United Kingdom, since in the European Union around 67% of researchers receiving its funds, such as in the framework of the Horizon 2020 program, already publish in Open Access. In other words, the power of country-level or regional Open Access mandates that de facto encourage the transition away from the subscription-based publishing models cannot already be overestimated.

While Europe-wide frameworks stimulating the adoption of Open Access are complemented by global initiatives, such as those of the Wellcome Trust and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in the short term the behavioral dynamics on the micro level of individual researchers are likely to be most effectively affected by flipping reputed scientific journals into Open Access, as has been the case with Glossa the editorial team of which has split from Lingua with the financial help from the Open Library of Humanities and LingOA, a fund supported by the Association of Dutch Universities and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research that encourages the transition to Open Access among journals in the field of linguistics. For this reason, Glossa cannot forgo inviting its authors to pay optional article processing charges, if they can.

That similar dynamics may be taking place in continental Europe is suggested by the ongoing resignations of German scientists from Elsevier-published journals, in a collective, Germany-wide push in favor of Open Access. However the situation with Open Access adoption plays out in Germany, its ramification for impact factor rankings and the market power of large publishing houses are most likely to be felt in the long term only.

Therefore, similar to Glossa’s case, in the short term switching established journals to Open Access promises to be among the more effective contributions to shifting the balance of power between academic publishers and university libraries in the favor of the latter.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Utrecht University Library, designed by Wiel Arets in De Uithof, Utrecht, the Netherlands, March 5, 2013 | © Courtesy of Wojtek Gurak/Flickr.

This article has originally appeared in OpenScience, 04/03/2018, http://openscience.com/flipping-scientific-journals-to-open-access-can-be-the-shortest-route-to-changing-the-dynamics-of-academic-publishing/.

Open Access Journals, Rather Than Reviewer Fees, are Likely Instrumental for Changing Power Relations in the Publishing Industry

Recent criticisms of the market power that major journal publishers have underestimate the disruptive potential of Open Access to change the power relations between university libraries and publishing houses, as putting a price tag on purportedly unpaid labor of authors and reviewers will likely reinforce the market positioning of the global players in the publishing market, while pushing journal subscription fees ever higher.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

In their opinion piece for Canada’s University Affairs/Affaires Universitaires magazine published on February 26, 2018, Adriane MacDonald and Nicole Eva present a vision of the academic world where scholars, professors and researchers sell their services as scientific article reviewers as desirable. However, this market-driven vision overlooks that it is either the highest bidder or the lowest cost producers or service provider that is the most likely to be the winner across these transactions. Cash-strapped universities are likely to lose out to large publishing houses as purveyors of scientific knowledge, if article reviews become commercialized across the journal publishing industry, while making the positioning of the incumbent publishers ever stronger, since these may utilize the economies of scale across their supply chains to compete on reviewer fees with academic institutions that may be expected to be unable to match that.

Paid-for, double- or single-blind article reviews may also reduce the purview of the arm’s length principle in the journal publishing process, which can reduce manuscript processing times, but also raise the output volumes of scholarly journals, while raising their costs that their subscribers, e.g., universities and governments, are most likely to bear. In other words, the further commodification of the academic labor reinforces the cost- and profit-driven dynamics of the international publishing market that has contributed to the emergence of few winner-take-all global players with an oligopoly-like grip on the access to scientific knowledge that academic and research institutions used to exclusively have via journal subscriptions. By contrast, Open Access offers scientific organizations an alternative model that provides a viable long-term path to transforming the power relationships between the publishers as retailers and scholars as consumers of research findings.

Moreover, rather than being a marginal phenomenon, Open Access incrementally, but directly disrupts the status-quo in the publishing market. The recently launched Journal of Behavioral Public Administration is a case in point, since, based on the partnership between the Center for Experimental and Behavioral Public Administration at Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration and the Project for Equity, Representation, and Governance at Texas A&M University that cover its operational costs, this Open Access journal can be in a position not to demand article processing charges (APCs) from its authors, while making subscriptions for accessing its contents unnecessary worldwide. However, this may not necessarily the case if external reviewers were to be remunerated for their services, as this may outstrip the budgets allocated for this journal by Rutgers and Texas A&M Universities, while making it necessary to introduce author-facing APCs to offset these costs.

Especially since the APCs that publishing in subscription-based journals can require can in some, or even many, cases be higher than those of Open Access journals, launching Open Access journals in partnership with publishing houses and scholarly societies appears to be one of the more optimal transition avenues to changing the structure of the publishing market and controlling publication-related costs.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: A Graduation Ceremony at Rutgers University, 2010, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA, May 17, 2010 | © Courtesy of llee_wu/Flickr.

This article has originally appeared in OpenScience, 28/02/2018, http://openscience.com/open-access-journals-rather-than-reviewer-fees-are-likely-instrumental-for-changing-power-relations-in-the-publishing-industry/.

Scholarly Initiatives Use Open Access to Primary Data to Stimulate Scientific Collaboration with and between Developing Countries

Global scholarly portals in areas as different as African poetry and disease epidemiology plan to utilize Open Access to original texts and health-related data sets respectively, in order to support data sharing and research collaboration across international borders. These initiatives will also allow researchers from the Global South to participate in scholarly projects around the world in their respective academic fields.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

While non-profit funders, such as Ford Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have been actively promoting Open Access in recent years, e.g., by requiring their grant recipients to publish their research results or reports under the Creative Commons BY 4.0 license, Open Data projects are not less vital for the achievement of the goals of international cooperation across various fields of sciences and humanities. For instance, from 2019, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, with the support of Ford Foundation, will launch the African Digital Portal, an Open Access digital database of African cultural artifacts, such as poetry manuscripts and relevant newspaper articles, spanning the period from the nineteenth century to the present day.

Via its grant of 150,000 USD, Ford Foundation intends to promote collaboration between writers and scholars internationally, such as for the purposes of poetry publication in Open Access. This global initiative also promises to overcome language and access barriers, as access to proprietary scholarly content is likely to be limited to individuals or institutions that have paid database subscription charges. Database and journal paywalls are likely to exclude scholars and researchers from the Global South, which comprises developing countries and emerging economies, from global scholarly conversations in their academic fields because of funding shortages.

Likewise, not infrequently epidemiological studies demand extensive international collaboration between scientists located in multiple countries performing repeated clinical observations before methodologically valid scientific conclusions can be arrived at. Whereas in the domain of health sciences Open Access enjoys extensive adoption, as exemplified by PubMed Central, a repository of scholarly articles in biomedical and life sciences published in free or Open Access and which is supported by the National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health of the United States, Open Data is as critical for addressing urgent health-related concerns around the world, such as the observation or treatment of malaria outbreaks globally.

As a recently launched Open Access portal, Clinical Epidemiology Database seeks to overcome global accessibility barriers that developing-country research team may face, due to the technical and economic challenges of handling, sharing and analyzing large data sets that contemporary epidemiological studies involve. This project supported by the University of Pennsylvania, University of Georgia, University of Liverpool, United States National Institutes of Health and Wellcome Trust, while using the Eukariotic Pathogen Database, shows that Open Access should extend not only to journal publication, but also to data sets, in order to promote their optimal utilization by the global scientific community.

Given that Open Access primary data portals have been found to be intensively used by researchers around the world, transitioning to Open Access across the supply chain of knowledge production is critical for scientific progress and inclusion.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Plenary “Manage the Nexus”, Global Soil Week 2013, IASS Potsdam, Berlin, Germany, October 29, 2013 | © Courtesy of IASS Potsdam/Flickr.

This article has originally appeared in OpenScience, 25/02/2018, http://openscience.com/scholarly-initiatives-use-open-access-to-primary-data-to-stimulate-scientific-collaboration-with-and-between-developing-countries/.

Preprints and Retrieval Tools Help Implode the Distinction between Open Access and Subscription-Based Journals

As the growing availability of the self-archived and preprint versions of articles published in paywall-protected journals widens the gray zone between subscription-based and Open Access publishing models, the scientific journal publishing market undergoes a sea change with possibly momentous consequences.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

While the differences between Open Access and paywall-based article publishing models continue to be publicly discussed, scientific journal representatives begin to take stock of the growing acceptance in the publishing industry for an increased transparency of its procedures, such as in relation to peer reviews. For academic institutions, such as universities, these are not abstract discussions, since dynamically increasing costs of journal transcriptions are likely to translate into higher tuition fees for their students or lower research budgets for their faculty. By contrast, over time, as Open Access increases its mainstream acceptance, the necessity to purchase journal subscription portfolios is likely to diminish, even though researchers will need to be provided with funding sources that cover article processes charges the payment of which the transition to the Open Access model involves.

Other than increasing research visibility, such as by as much as 60% as opposed to toll-based journals, publishing in Open Access can also increase the transparency of the procedures behind the acceptance or rejection of submitted manuscripts. Not infrequently these decisions form the basis for promotion and hiring decisions that tend to be opaque in traditional, subscription-based journals. Open peer reviews promise to change that, are pioneered by Open Access journals and meet with growing acceptance, even if in principle, across the journal publishing industry. At journals that have already implemented open peer review, such as Berlin-based Open Access Nature Communications journal, more than 60% of scientific authors have assented to the publication of reviews, which can be either signed or remain anonymous, together with their articles. While the adoption of open peer reviews remains in early stages, it indicates decreasing differences between Open Access and paywall journals.

Likewise, the rise of preprint repositories and archives, such as ArXiv and PubMed, further contributes to the blurring of the boundaries between the Open Access and subscription sectors of the journal publishing markets, as recent studies indicate that up to 47% of all scientific articles are de facto openly accessible, when not only articles published in Gold, Green or hybrid Open Access taken into account, but also preprint versions of publications later accepted at subscription-based journals. In other words, according to the data of platforms that aggregate information on openly accessible scientific articles, such as Unpaywall, only 53% of articles are behind paywalls, which significantly differs from the market share of 72 for toll-based scientific papers that Crossref provides.

Moreover, as self-archiving, university repositories and preprint servers for pre-typeset or non-copyedited versions of final publications become widely implemented and popular around the world, in some scientific areas the share of de facto Open Access publications can reach up to 60%, according to 2014 data. In other words, these developments show that Open Access and paywall-based article publishing models become increasingly overlapping, rather than starkly differentiated.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: 20140417, April 17, 2014 | © Courtesy of foam/Flickr.

This article has originally appeared in OpenScience, 22/02/2018, http://openscience.com/preprints-and-retrieval-tools-help-implode-the-distinction-between-open-access-and-subscription-based-journals/.

As it Becomes a Science Superpower, China Bets on Open Access for its Global Data Sharing and Research Initiatives

While China pulled ahead of the United States in the number of scholarly papers published since 2016, its global development agenda includes not only infrastructure investment along the revived Silk Road route, but also the integration of Open Access into its international scientific collaboration platforms.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

According to the National Science Foundation of the United States, China-based scholars have published over 426,000 scientific articles in 2016, as indicated by Elsevier’s Scopus database data, which makes for 18.6% of the world’s total and exceeds by 4.16% the American output of more than 409,000 scholarly papers for the same period. While the United States maintains leading positions in multiple science and technology fields, such as by spending 496 billion USD on research and development in 2016, which amounts to 26% of funds directed to these areas worldwide, China’s spending for these purposes totaled 408 billion USD and amounted to 21% of global science-related spending in 2015.

In other words, by increasing its average annual spending on research and development by 18% each year between 2000 and 2015, China is rapidly becoming a scientific and technological powerhouse, especially in various areas of engineering research. At the same time, Chinese scientific articles remain less cited and statistics of patents registered are lower than those of their American counterparts. This is not likely to preclude China’s further scientific and technological advances. Moreover, as China seeks to complement its Belt and Road initiative inaugurated in 2013 and primarily aimed at strengthening its economic cooperation with Asian, European and African countries, it incorporates Open Access into its science- and technology-related strategy for international collaboration in various fields, such as terrestrial and marine terrain imaging.

These China-led initiatives correspond to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) calls to preserve fragile ecological ecosystems, world heritage sites and areas endangered by climate change. In this respect, by promoting international scientific collaboration, Open Access can contribute to the mitigation of global risks by the application of advanced technology, such as satellite-based imaging and big data analytics. Thus, the expected 32 million USD investment by the Chinese Academy of Sciences into environmental monitoring, data sharing and international policy-making comprises Open Access as its core pillar, as it can enable scientific researcher and decision makers to monitor natural environments, follow global developments and share data arrays across borders.

China’s adoption of Open Access demonstrates that Open Access can further international multilateral collaboration between non-governmental and scientific organizations to address urgent challenges, such as crop and disaster site monitoring, while overcoming the digital divide between developed and developing countries through openly accessible cooperation frameworks that allow for pooling resources, data, expertise and funding.

This is illustrated by recent research results arrived at by a Sino-American team of scientists from Tianjin University and Northwestern University published in a recently launched Open Access journal Joule and funded by science funding bodies based in both China and the United States, such as National Natural Science Foundation of China, which can lead to lighter and more durable batteries.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: 天津外国语学院 (Tianjin Foreign Studies University), Tianjin Shi, Tianjin, China, May 13, 2006 | © Courtesy of Jinjian Liang/Flickr.

This article has originally appeared in OpenScience, 18/02/2018, http://openscience.com/as-it-becomes-a-science-superpower-china-bets-on-open-access-for-its-global-data-sharing-and-research-initiatives/.

Open Access Can Help Redress Geography-Related Access Disparities in the Global Scientific Publishing Market

Behind the lawsuit-backed fines and media bruhaha around Sci-Hub, a controversial scientific article-sharing website operated by Kazakhstan-based Alexandra Elbakyan, stands the oligopolistic dynamics of the privatization of the scientific commons that have created few large-scale global publishers effectively controlling the access to scientific knowledge. Open Access to journals and data is, thus, at the forefront of the globalization of science driven by emerging economies.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

Ian Graber-Stiehl dedicated an in-depth piece to digital piracy in the field of academic publishing by Elbakyan’s Sci-Hub in the Verge on February 8, 2018. The article traces the development of this website hosting over 64.5 million scientific articles into a formidable threat to the traditional, subscription-based business models of large journal publishers, such as Elsevier. Incidentally, Open Access is based on the premise that research articles need to be universally accessible free of charge in electronic form, which corresponds to the aim of promoting the global participation in scientific advancement enshrined in the Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations that, however, also seeks to support the universal protection of intellectual property. While Graber-Stiehl presents a fine-grained, journalistic portrait of Elbakyan, a figure both celebrated and reviled, the industry-level background to her notoriety is the compound growth in journal subscription fees that can range from 9% to 30% depending on country, methodology and period.

Furthermore, the global scientific article publishing market is dominated by a handful of big internationally operating publishing houses, e.g., Reed-Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis and the American Chemical Society, as a consequence of the increasing concentration of access to over 50% of all academic papers and to over 70% in some scholarly fields, such as psychology. While the paywall-based business models of traditional publishers also follow from the internal costs that article publishing labor and expertise inputs entail, such as peer-review handling and professional proofreading, the resultant subscription or access fees, however, pose a significant barrier to scientific knowledge to scholars and institutions hailing from non-Western states, developing countries and emerging economies. This has created the incentives for both the emergence of Sci-Hub and its significant use rates in lower-income countries from global peripheries.

Yet as emerging economies, such as Kazakhstan, harden their stance toward illicit file-sharing by making it punishable by law, e.g., imprisonment penalties, Sci-Hub is not likely to be an alternative to Open Access. Since the distribution of pirated content can and is prosecuted in the court of law, the implementation of Open Access and Open Data policies by governments, publishers and non-profit organizations remains the most viable and sustainable in the long-term avenue for promoting access to scientific knowledge in middle- and lower-income countries. For instance, Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resource Coalition advocates in favor of the open sharing of scientific data globally.

In other words, especially with respect to economic barriers to scientific knowledge that exist in Global South countries, Open Access and Open Data, such as in the form of flipping journals into Open Access or governmentally mandating Open Access to scientific data and results obtained from publicly funded research, can assist with the mitigation of the effect that market concentration and paywall-based models have on access to scientific knowledge around the world.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Inauguration of Global South-South Development Expo at the OAS, Washington, DC, USA, November 17, 2014 | © Courtesy of Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS/Flickr.

This article has originally appeared in OpenScience, 11/02/2018, http://openscience.com/open-access-and-open-data-can-help-redress-geography-related-disparities-in-the-global-scientific-publishing-market/.

Germany Turns the Table on Elsevier, as a De Facto Country-Level Transition to Open Access Puts Pressure on Publishers

The case of Elsevier’s inconclusive subscription contract negotiations in Germany shows that it is the involvement of scientific communities and organisations, such as research universities and institutes, at all stages of article publishing and access that creates journal impact and value. Digitization and file sharing, thus, can create conditions for a coordinated transition to Open Access, as has de facto occurred in Germany, while significantly reducing the bargaining power of large publishers.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

Germany may be blazing the trail for other countries toward large-scale transitions to Open Access, as its association of around 180 universities and institutes has been refusing to sign journal subscription contracts with Elsevier, a global, Netherlands-based publisher of circa 2,500 journals with 2016 revenues of 2.3 billion and profits of 830 million Euros, for over a year. Though South Korea and Finland have concluded deals with this publisher earlier this year, German academic institutions have maintained their uncompromising negotiations stance vis-à-vis Elsevier as concerns a comprehensive transition to Open Access, whereas the publishing house has extended their free of charge access to its scholarly articles databases until further notice apparently.

This not only has lead to multi-million savings in subscription fees to the members of the Project Deal, a consortium of German research universities and institutes, but also has demonstrated that journal publishers depend as much on academic institutions and scientific communities for maintaining the relevance and reputation of scholarly journals as do the academic libraries on publishing houses for their access to the recent results of scientific research. As an increasing number of German scientific organizations join the Project Deal, as a country-level negotiations counterpart of Elsevier and other big publishers, or refrain from formally renewing their contracts and as a growing number of German scholars resign from their editorial positions at Elsevier-published journals, Germany can be said to be in the throes of a de facto transition to Open Access.

The flip to Open Access promises significant long-term cost savings, as funds will only need to be allocated toward covering one-time article processing fees rather than to yearly renewed and increasingly expensive subscription contracts, such as with Elsevier. While France, Austria and Switzerland may also attempt to renegotiate their contracts with large publishers, in a push for a wider adoption of Open Access, a consensus seems to be emerging that largely publicly supported academic institutions do not necessarily have to funnel via non-transparent deals taxation-derived funds into privately-owned publishing houses with profit performance that can reach as much as 30% of yearly growth.

In this respect, Open Access demands of German institutions appear to be gradually breaking the monopoly of large publishers, such as Elsevier, Springer Nature and Taylor & Francis, on access to scientific articles. As the impact of illicit file sharing on the journal publishing industry continues to unfold, the economic logic behind the traditional subscription-based publishing models begins to crumble, the balance of power relations between academic libraries and publishers appears to be tipping in favor of the former, while accelerating the rate of either gradual or Big-Bang-style transitions to Open Access internationally.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: FU-Uni Bibliothek, Berlin, Germany, December 3, 2009 | © Courtesy of makotokam/Flickr.

This article has originally appeared in OpenScience, 08/02/2018, http://openscience.com/germany-turns-the-table-on-elsevier-as-a-de-facto-country-level-transition-to-open-access-puts-pressure-on-publishers/.

Open Access in Medical Sciences Goes Increasingly Mainstream with Growing Public Awareness and Industry Acceptance

As access to latest medical research results, such as in the fields of oncology, vaccine development and disease prevention, can have critical importance for individual patients, healthcare professionals and public bodies, Open Access is increasingly advocated for by research institutes and switched to by academic journals.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

On January 31, 2018, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has aired, as part of its Big Ideas program, the lecture by Alice Williamson, one of Australia’s advocates in favor of Open Access in science. In her earlier media piece published in the science section of ABC’s article offerings in June 29, 2015, Williamson has forcefully argued that implementing Open Access solutions and policies can assist with eradicating infectious diseases, spur pharmaceutical innovation and drug development and accelerate the rate at which new medical treatments reach the market in both the developed and developing countries. As one of the leading figures in the Open Source Malaria consortium, Williamson has used malaria as a case in point for the benefits of Open Access that she argued can introduce transparency into the development of malaria-treatment drugs, reduce its costs, distribute the underlying research efforts and make it less time-consuming.

In response to this potential of Open Access, in 2010 GlaxoSmothKline, a private, for-profit, London-headquartered pharmaceutical company has made freely accessible the chemical structures of thousands of medicinal compounds that can be used for fighting malaria parasites, partly because no sufficient market incentives for the development of new anti-malarial drugs existed. In their turn, scientists, such as Alice Williamson, find Open Access appealing, since it facilitates data sharing, collaborative projects, findings’ utilization and public discussions, such as via social media. However, in previous years concerns about the impact performance and sub-field availability of Open Access peer-reviewed journals also existed. At present, high-quality scientific journals increasingly transition to Open Access and endorse the pre-print publication of research data, also because this publication option does not require the transfer of intellectual property from scientists to publishers.

Likewise, on January 26, 2018, Future Medicine, a private publisher of highly regarded oncology-related scientific journal series, which comprises eight scientific periodicals such as Breast Cancer Management and Hepatic Oncology, has announced its adoption of the hybrid Open Access model, in a bid to increase the sharing of its content to wider specialist and non-specialist audiences than purely subscription-based models would. Similarly, on January 24, 2018, Shire Plc, an Ireland-headquartered pharmaceutical company in the domain of biotechnology has announced the transition to mandatory Open Access for manuscripts accepted for publication at both the scientific journals it supports financially and other Open Access journals, in order to increase transparency, stimulate innovation and improve the accessibility of clinical study reports.

These initiatives follow in the foots of medical industry-wide, non-profit and governmental agency calls, e.g., the AllTrials initiative, to create strong incentives for the adoption of Open Access in relation to medial trials data and medical research results, to enable the general public to access this critical information.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Fighting malaria, April 15, 2011 | © Courtesy of Jeremy Miller, AusAID, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia.

This article has originally appeared in OpenScience, 04/02/2018, http://openscience.com/open-access-in-medical-sciences-goes-increasingly-mainstream-with-growing-public-awareness-and-publishing-industry-acceptance/.