Richard Poynder asks: where are we with open access?

This post has been written simply to point you to an interesting series of interviews that Richard Poynder has published on his blog with a range of stakeholders in the open access arena. So far he has mostly interviewed advocates, but as anyone knows who has spent more than twenty minutes on this topic, open access is a broad church.

As a taster to tempt you to read the interviews in full for yourself, I’ve listed the participants and pulled out a couple of key quotations for each. The contributors are presented in reverse chronological order and I’ll update this post as more are added (holiday breaks permitting).

Update (31 July 2013): Richard has been busy and has posted four more interviews so I have added tasters to the original set. I recommend that you follow the links to the original interviews, especially since they now include Peter Suber and significantly expand the geographical reach of this project by incorporating contributions from Portugal, Australia and Argentina. On the particular question of hybrid OA, there seems to be a theme emerging.

Update (29 Aug 2013): And then there were two more (numbers 10 and 11). I can particularly recommend No. 11, the interview with Alexander Grossmann, a former publisher who is now looking to push open access in new directions.

Update (01 Oct 2013): I have run out of steam on maintaining this post (something to do with the start of another academic year…) but Richard Poynder is still going strong! His latest interviews are with Sven Fund from the publisher De Gruyter and a very different take from OA ‘radical’ Björn Brembs.

Keep up with the series at the OA story rumbles on via this summary page on Poynder’s blog.


11. Alexander Grossmann — Professor of Publishing Management at the Leipzig University of Applied Sciences; founder of ScienceOpen

On publishers: “One lesson I learned after more than a decade in scholarly publishing is that fewer and fewer scientists regard publishing houses as their partners.”

On OA: “One thing that would push authors to make the level of access to their paper a central consideration would be for funding bodies and universities to change their assessment standards to focus on article-level metrics rather than journal impact factors.”

On hybrid OA: “I cannot see why we should continue to formulate new models which attempt to combine the classical subscription model with OA publishing. For a certain period of time it was legitimate to use hybrid models in order to immediately react to the demand for OA. Today the transition process has moved on and both publishers and funding organizations should by now have had enough time to develop a new concept.”

10. Anthony Durniak — Staff Executive for Publications at IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)

On OA: ”OA publishing will probably not be much less expensive as some hope. Right now some say OA “is an order of magnitude less expensive” than traditional publishing. But as the experience of the Public Library of Science has demonstrated, OA publishing is in the same range as traditional publishing.”

On hybrid OA: “IEEE’s policy is that we will provide all options as long as the author community uses them.”

9. Dominique Babini — Open Access Advocacy leader at the Latin American Council on Social Sciences

On OA: ”We owe ourselves a global discussion about the future of scholarly communication. Now that OA is here to stay we really need to sit down and think carefully about what kind of international system we want to create for communicating research, and what kind of evaluation systems we need, and we need to establish how we are going to share the costs of building these systems.”

On hybrid OA: “I worry about this alternative approach. It is based on the needs of commerce, not researchers, and makes very little sense in the context of developing regions — where the average research salary and the average research budget simply cannot afford APC rates that are fixed at international levels.”

8. Peter Suber — Director of Harvard’s Office of Scholarly Communication

On RCUK policy: ”I’m disappointed with the RCUK policy. I’m disappointed that the UK government put more publishers than researchers on the Finch Group. I’m disappointed that the group gave a higher priority to insuring publishers against risk than assuring public access to publicly-funded research. I’m disappointed that the government accepted this recommendation as fulfilling its responsibility to serve the public interest.”

On hybrid OA: “Hybrid is a risk-free way for TA publishers to experiment with OA, and many conventional publishers are offering it. However, they aren’t offering it because they support OA, but because it’s risk-free and a growing number of funders are willing to pay for it. The uptake from authors is very low, and because hybrid journals can always fall back on subscriptions, publishers have no incentive to increase author uptake.”

7. Danny Kingsley — Executive Officer of the Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG)

On OA incentives: “The real game changer will be altering the reward system. The publishers have been able to maintain the status quo because the reward system backs the outdated and inappropriate Journal Impact Factor as a measure of quality. Apart from measuring the vessel (journal) rather than the content (article), it is becoming clear that this type of measure is being ‘gamed’, rendering this kind of assessment even less useful.”

On hybrid OA: “I do not support Hybrid Open Access in any way. It is from my perspective indefensible. If the publisher of a subscription journal feels that it would be good to have certain research available Open Access then they should permit deposit of and immediate access to the Accepted Version in a repository. Despite the repetition of the claim by publishers about threats to their ‘sustainability’, there is no evidence that this affects subscriptions.”

6. Eloy Rodrigues — Director of Documentation Services, University of Minho, Portugal

On RCUK policy: “I have been particularly disappointed over the last year to see how a move (the new RCUK OA policy) that was intended to foster OA, has contributed to a more confused landscape, and could have some very dangerous consequences — e.g. the wasting of research resources by diverting even more money into a currently very well (if not over) financed publishing industry, the downgrading of green OA, the lengthening of embargoes etc., etc.).”

On hybrid OA: “I understand that Hybrid OA could, theoretically, be a good way of transitioning to Open Access. But I fear that, in practice, Hybrid OA is not providing a valid and fair strategy for the transitional period. In fact, despite a few examples of genuine commitment from publishers, the truth is that for most of the “big players” Hybrid OA seems to be essentially an opportunity to increase revenues by ‘double dipping’”

5. Joseph Esposito — Publishing Consultant

On OA:“My view of OA […] is that it is a useful, marginal activity that opens up a new class of customers through the author-pays model and that it would be subject to the laws of market economics like any other thing. And that’s what has happened. It is additive, not substitutive. And it’s a great development. It’s just not a revolution.”

On hybrid OA: “I don’t have any evangelical feelings about any aspect of publishing, not traditional publishing, not OA, not hybrid OA. If people find it useful (as evidenced by their willingness to pay for it), that’s fine. If they don’t find it useful, it goes away, at least in theory, though many services lacking in demand get supported indefinitely in some settings.”    

4. Heather Joseph - Executive Director of SPARC 

On incentives:“The second is to more aggressively align the incentive system for scholars to reward the adoption of OA practices. Funders, research evaluators, administrators need to be educated about the potential benefits that can accrue to individuals and institutions when OA is supported as the norm, and rewarded accordingly. “

On hybrid OA: “while some publishers who have implemented hybrid models have done a terrific job of clearly reporting the uptake of OA by authors, and lowering subscription fees, many have not — especially in the cases where publishers require bundled subscription purchases.”  

3. Fred Friend - Retired Librarian, Consultant 

On OA: “The story of BOAI can be a source of encouragement to any who feel depressed by the power of vested interests to block changes needed to release the power of human endeavour.”

On hybrid OA: “In principle hybrid journals could have assisted in a transition to an individual-article publishing model, but the continuing publisher accounting model by journal title rather than by individual article has rendered hybrid journals ineffective as a mechanism for change.”  

2. Stevan Harnad - Professor of Cognitive Science and self-styled archivangelist 

On OA: “I have to remind everyone that OA means Open Access. It is about refereed research access, not about journal affordability. The accessibility problem and the affordability problem, though not entirely unconnected, are not the same problem. So once we reach 100% Green OA, my OA work is done.”

On hybrid OA: “Hybrid Gold is double-paid, over-priced, unnecessary and potentially also double-dipped Fools-Gold. It delays reaching 100% OA by holding it hostage to publishers’ current revenue streams.”  

1. Mike Taylor - Palaeontologist, computer programmer and indefatigable OA advocate.

On the future: ”The great barrier to universal open access is not opposition but inertia. It’s true that there is a whole industry doing its best to preserve ignorance of, and promote falsehood about, open access. But this deliberate damage is insignificant compared with the sheer weight of tradition.”

On hybrid OA: “There are two very fundamental problems with hybrid OA. First, new born-digital publishers like Hindawi, PeerJ and Ubiquity have shown that open-access papers can be published at literally an order of magnitude less than the $3000 APCs that are typical of legacy publishers offering a hybrid option. […] The second problem is that, while most publishers offering hybrid promise a “no double dipping” policy, it’s plainly impossible for anyone to verify whether this is true — and probably impossible for the publishers themselves to know.” There’s plenty more where those quotations came from — please take the time to explore further.


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8 Responses to Richard Poynder asks: where are we with open access?

  1. Mike Taylor says:

    Yes, it’s a fascinating series — one that I was very pleased to be a part of, and also one that I hope to see you participating in very soon!

    I found Joseph Esposito’s interview deeply troubling, and it’s left me wanting to hear from non-advocates and other traditionalists. It’s apparent that there is a much wider gulf between Joe’s and my position than I’d realised: judging by the interview he doesn’t just have different ideals from mine; he has none at all and is proud of it, and he wants everyone else to abandon their ideals too. (In typing that, I find myself worrying that I’m misrepresenting him, it sounds so absurd. But, no, that is definitely what he seems to be saying.)

    • Stephen says:

      I thought Esposito’s interview was usefully frank and robust. I didn’t read it that he lacked ideals just that he was facing reality unflinchingly and encouraging others to do the same.

      • Mike Taylor says:

        It certainly was frank and robust, and I’m very glad he did it. It’s important to understand what’s going on in other people’s minds, and one of the great value’s of Richard’s series is how it helps us recognise how very differently people think on the same OA issues.

        But how can you read the following and conclude that Esposito is any kind of idealist?

        “I don’t have any evangelical feelings about any aspect of publishing, not traditional publishing, not OA, not hybrid OA. If people find it useful (as evidenced by their willingness to pay for it), that’s fine.
        Rather than deplore the greed of [publishers who engage in double dipping], why not celebrate their ingenuity? Does anyone disparage a library because it decides it wants to set up its own publishing program? I just don’t see where all this moral urgency comes from.
        Q. What in your view is the single most important task that the OA movement should focus on today?
        A: Getting rid of the idealists.
        Q: What does OA have to offer the developing world?
        A: This is the “why isn’t Rwanda more like Marin County” argument. Not my topic, and I don’t see why anyone gives it much priority.
        This is the real failing of the OA movement: it is a movement, not a strategic plan. Emotion clouds judgment.”

        • Stephen says:

          OK, he does admit to being ‘non-ideological’ (see postscript), thought that isn’t quite the same thing as not having ideals. Also in the postscript he says:

          “You contrast the idealists with the pragmatists, who simply want to profit from the marketplace. Not so. I am very concerned with science and scholarship and believe that I have made my small contribution to their enhancement. I am in this for the money, but I am not in this only for the money. ”

          Admittedly he doesn’t spell out what ideals he draws on; but the real value in the piece is the frank assessment of realities that remain a challenge for advocates.

          • Mike Taylor says:

            Yep — as I said, the frankness is commendable and enlightening.

          • Dave Fernig says:

            We could be old fashioned and consider there are “workers” and the “means of production”. Yup, he controls an important element of the latter, he is in it for the money, the rest is a smokescreen. Otherwise he would be a ‘worker”.

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