This week in #citylis #inm380 we looked at the Open Access movement. This post will attempt to cover most of what we discussed in broad outline. It is a complex subject so I can’t go into too much detail. Thanks to the session, I can point you to some more in-depth resources on the subject though (see Resources section). I’d particularly recommend Martin Eve’s monograph, Open Access and the Humanities, freely available online. The introductory chapter sets out the main issues clearly and thoroughly. We were lucky enough to have Martin Eve give a presentation on OA and the humanities in the second half of our session. Most of what I write will be a summary of what Ernesto and Martin presented to us.
Definition of OA
Coming away with a clear, succinct definition of OA was one of the most useful aspects of the session. Martin Eve’s definition in his book is as follows:
‘The term ‘open access’ refers to the removal of price and permission barriers to scholarly research.’
Essentially, this means that OA work is:
– free to read
– free to reuse
It is also worth emphasising that OA scholarly research is peer-reviewed just like non-OA research.
History of OA
Martin Eve distinguishes two contexts for the OA movement. Firstly, the fact that the high price of academic publications and increasing number of specialist publications have made it difficult for libraries to afford access to scholarly research. (This is sometimes referred to as the ‘serials crisis’.) Secondly, the open software movement (originating with Richard Stallman’s writings in the late 1980s) and free culture movement (alluded to in my earlier post on copyright) have bolstered the arguments for scholarly research to be freely reusable. Digital technologies and the Internet have also been a key catalyst for the OA movement by providing the means for publishing at virtually no cost.
Need for OA
As well as the economic and socio-cultural factors outlined above, there is the political argument that scholarly research which has been funded by the taxpayer should be freely available. Also, given that researchers are not dependent on revenue from their publications OA should not be detrimental to them financially. Indeed, scholars are not paid for submitting articles to journals. Nor are editors on a peer review board paid for their work. The main incentive for scholars to write or edit for a journal is to disseminate their work and thus increase their prestige.
Gold OA – the journal article or book is made available using the publisher’s PDFs (i.e. the edited, proofread and paginated version of the work) as soon as it is ready to go to print; the publisher’s costs are met by charging the author’s institution an Article Processing Charge (APC) or Book Processing Charge (BPC) which can be up to £2500, although Martin Eve’s book points out that at the time of his writing in 2014, the majority of gold venues listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals did not charge APCs and instead funded their operations through other means, covered in further detail in Chapter 2 of his book
Green OA – this route involves the author publishing a pre-print copy of their work (i.e. not necessarily proofread or paginated by the publisher) to an institutional or subject repository. The author must check that their publisher allows them to do this. And they must check whether the publisher requires them to wait a certain period of time before publishing their work open access. Green OA is the minimum for fulfilling HEFCE’s requirements for journal articles to be published OA from 2014.
Gratis – research that is free to read
Libre – research that is free to read and reuse (often licensed using Creative Commons licences); requisite for full OA status
Martin Eve took us through some of the reasons academics, publishers, librarians and others disagree with OA. To sum up very briefly, academics object to OA because not all the most prestigious journals have OA policies. Publishers are worried about the impact on their revenues and the need to change their business models. And librarians, although mainly in favour of OA, are anxious about how their roles would have to change if the traditional library collection was replaced by OA publications and repositories.
OA and the Humanities
OA hasn’t made as much headway in the humanities as in the sciences, perhaps because budgets for funding Gold OA are lower. However, all the arguments for OA apply to the humanities as much as to the sciences. And, as Eve points out in his book, it would be particularly useful to be able to click through to check citations and follow up references in humanities research. He devotes a chapter of his book to exploring OA monographs – a medium that is particularly favoured in the humanities.
Libraries in all of this?
As noted above, librarians are questioning how they would fit into a new scholarly research landscape where dissemination via OA was the norm. The immediate question, to my mind, though should be how libraries go about facilitating compliance with new HEFCE OA mandates and reassuring academics concerned about these mandates. Martin Eve presented some really interesting solutions to the problem of high APCs, including an international library consortium, the Open Library of Humanities, that funds a gold open access journal and books platform without APCs. This kind of development is what librarians could and should be promoting. And of course working on the repositories and preservation technologies that make OA possible are another area that librarians can help with. Not to mention providing guidance on resources for specific subjects, citation standards etc. Just as they always have.
I’ll leave you with a video that Ernesto showed us and some references and further resources.
Eve, M. P. (2014). Open Access and the Humanities [online]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Available: http://ebooks.cambridge.org/chapter.jsf?bid=CBO9781316161012&cid=CBO9781316161012A015. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316161012.008
Suber, P. (2014). Open Access [online]. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Available: https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/content/9780262517638_Open_Access_PDF_Version.pdf
Finch Report – report commissioned by UK government into open access
QMUL website’s open access pages – useful introductory info
Stuart Lawson’s datasets on figshare (including journal subscription costs – FOIs to universities)
SHERPA/RoMEO – publisher policies on OA
Stephen Curry’s blog – OA-related posts by science academic, includes review of Martin Eve’s book
Beall’s list – list of predatory publishers, including OA publishers