Friday, 19 September 2014

Open Access rules OK – almost? Kurt Paulus reflects one week on from the ALPSP International Conference

Toby Green (centre) asks 'Why are we still not there?'
“Twenty years since Harnad, ten years since Budapest, but why are we still not there?” asked Toby Green in the second Plenary at ALPSP 2014. Well, the venerable Royal Society has launched its first OA journal, Open Biology, and has survived the experience. They are only one of many scholarly publishers: Phil Hurst of the RS claimed some 50% of learned societies are planning OA journals. Jackie Jones from Wiley gave structured advice on how and when to ‘flip’ the revenue model from subscription to Gold OA. So where are we?

It seems that much of the hesitancy surrounding this topic is fading away and we are now looking at how rather than whether to do it. Practical questions come to the fore: how long do we give authors APC waivers before they become fully liable (1-2 years), and what groups are entitled to more permanent waivers. The key customers continue to be the authors, but so too are funding bodies who underwrite APCs, and institutions who are targets for membership schemes. More internal customer service silos must disappear as the whole workflow is rethought.

If everything is rosy in the garden, why did Open Access pop up in almost every session? Well, we are still in the transitional stage between Hybrid, Green and Gold, and progress towards a more common approach is still patchy. The mandating issues are very much on the table, with only the UK and USA relatively self-assured. In the EU the new Commission will need time to settle in, and mandating policy may not be its first priority. Thinking about OA in Australia and New Zealand is positive, as it is in China – where scientific research output is blossoming – while developments in South America, perceived as a significant future market, are less coherent.

Hybrid, Green or Gold? You decide.
Behind the front line of even small publishers taking the plunge, there are other developments that shine a light on the changing landscape. Ottawa University Press is in partnership with the university library which financially supports some OA book titles. OECD, amongst others, uses the 'freemium' model, where read-only is free but download, print and other services are paid for, and it claims it works. OA repositories are adding to the exposure of published works, and bring PhD theses and research reports to readers’ attention. Scholarly publishing in libraries is growing the younger author pool, a trend rather more prominent in the USA than the UK.

Simon Ross (left) presents Fred with his Award
Many details remain to be chewed over: Should APCs apply only to published papers when rejected papers also incur a high cost? ‘Value for money’ becomes more of an issue now that the cost of publishing is out in the open. It is in the joint interests of libraries and publishers to support each other; what’s the best way to maximize exposure and discovery of the work? Almost the last comment of the last Plenary was that most if not all new journal launches will be Open Access; another example of the glass half full.

There was genuine delight when Fred Dylla, CEO of AIP and a driver of clear thinking about OA policies was announced as the winner of this year’s ALPSP Award for Contribution to Scholarly Publishing.

Kurt Paulus

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