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Transforming the Scholarly Publishing System

In this article of Jessika Rücknagel you read about the ways to change the scholarly publishing system.
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© Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Open access secures accessibility to all kinds of output and information, including text publications, research data, educational resources, software as well as methods and evaluation processes. By opening up all these aspects transparency, replicability and long-term availability is achieved, discussing and reusing findings is facilitated and trust in science increases (UNESCO, 2021, p 2). We learnt a lot about the benefits and different approaches to publish one’s work as open access. At present, the degree of implementation and also the strategy pursued to achieve more open access to scholarly information varies greatly between the disciplines.

For a successful transformation, it is crucial that the scholarly community does not adhere to traditions that hinder transparent scholarship. Due to reputational economics a few publishing houses effectively hold leverage over the scholarly publishing system. This leads to the problematic situation that access to scholarly information is expensive. Scholarly publishing needs to be independent from commercial interests. The central goal is not to exclude for-profit publishing houses completely but to guarantee that publication venues remain under control of their scholarly community. This also means that costs are calculated transparently, appropriately and inclusively. The FAIR Open Access Principles stipulate criteria for an open scholarly publishing system (FAIR Open Access 2022).

To achieve this, existing journals can be transformed to an open access journal, a process which is also known as journal flipping, new journals and university presses can be founded. Additional open infrastructures operated by non-profit actors are needed to support an open sharing culture, without commercial interests or the intention to sell data accumulated via provided services (Stop Tracking Science 2022).

Moreover, controlling not only conditions of access but also assessment indicators are of crucial importance to realise a long-lasting change in the scholarly publishing system. Currently most of the research assessment practices in place create disincentives for publishing open access. Switching to sustainable open access is therefore only possible if the perceived quality of a scholarly work is decoupled from the publication venue. Several (scholar-led) initiatives are committed to this change as well as initiatives like cOAlition S.

Another pillar in transforming the scholarly system is to change financing models of publication venues. Authors pay models are widely considered as unfavourable of open access for a number of reasons (Budapest Open Access Initiative 2022):

  • Intransparency of publishing fees and unreasonable costs with tendency to increase, potentially leading to a new serials crisis
  • Organisations with high publication rates also have a high financial burden
  • Authors from institutions with insufficient publishing budget are disadvantaged
  • Supporting APC and BPC-models create wrong incentives for publication venues that want to switch to an open access publishing model. As a consequence alternative finance models (which are also known as diamond or platinum open access) receive lesser support.

Various stakeholders are needed to further strengthen the measures already taken to establish open access to scholarly content by default. In order to exploit the technical potential of digitisation as it stands today and to establish an open and sustainable scholarly practice, a number of reforms are still necessary. Nonetheless, everyone can participate in the change by sharing scholarly information.

© 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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