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Why Do We Need Open Access?

Jessika Rücknagel discusses how open access can help to deal with these challenges.
Benefits of Open Access
© This work by Jessika Rücknagel is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Okay, after hearing these problems, how can open access help to deal with these challenges?

I talked a lot about money. The idea behind open access is that access to publicly funded research is immediately free for readers. But the production of these publications still costs money. This means arising costs e.g. for operating the publication platform, have to be shifted. But publishing open access does not necessarily mean that the author or his/her institution pay. In fact there are several business models for open access publishing venues which do not charge costs from authors. Of course, this shows that we have to rethink the existing system and think about new ways to finance publishing costs.

One huge difference between open access and closed access is that you only have to pay once for publishing open access. Whereas subscription-based business models exploit a barrier to maximise profits for publishers. Increasing prices for important scholarly information and shrinking library budgets inevitably results in fewer venues that a library can subscribe to. However, sound research requires access to current scholarly information. In the long run open access benefits society as a whole and realises the potential of modern information technology.

Within the current system publishing groups have a major influence on scholarly practices. A central goal of the open access movement is to create greater transparency and integrity by shifting control over publication venues to the scholarly community. This also means that authors do not grant exclusive rights of use to publishers and keep their copyright.

Open Access sounds like a reasonable solution to ensure that everybody has access to the publication. So, what is hindering the scholarly publishing system’s transformation? The majority of scholarly publications are still initially published behind a paywall, because of the practice of publishing in renowned journals and with established publishers.

For young scholars in particular, the pressure to publish in a well-respected journal is high, but essential in order to establish yourself in your field of research. The idea being that the venue’s reputation reflects the quality of your research. Several initiatives address this problematic research assessment practice, such as the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) or the Leiden Manifesto.

Another difficulty is covering publishing costs authors may have to pay. Depending on the venue and/or the field you publish in, APCs or BPCs can be very expensive. This is also the reason why we need sustainable and affordable publication venues.

Changing well established publication practices in order to remove these barriers will take some time and tremendous effort by research institutions and individuals.

To sum it up: Some benefits of open access

Open access facilitates improved quality of research through open, transparent and reproducible research practices. This leads to broader exposure of the publications, since no barrier hides work behind a paywall. As a consequence taxpayers receive value for the money invested in academic work. Moreover, open access regulations of funding institutions are fulfilled.

Publishing open access benefits anyone who wants to access research, from small businesses to schools. This improves the transfer of academic knowledge into society and the economy, which favours progress.

© This work by Jessika Rücknagel is licensed under CC BY 4.0.
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Openness in Science and Innovation

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