What’s happening in scholarly publishing?
There has been considerable discussion of scholarly publishing in the media recently.
In the United States, the Research Works Act and the Federal Research Public Access Act cthat generated a storm of protest across the world, including a boycott of Elsevier journals. This debate was significant in succeeding to get the issues about Open Access Publishing debated on the international stage.
In Great Britain, the Finch Report expanded and deepened the debate on Open Access Publishing significantly. The report met with mixed reviews from Open Access proponents and the publishing industry. The greatest benefit of the report is that it brought the debate about ‘Green’ and ‘Gold’ Open Access to a much broader international audience. The likely funding and policy implications for research agencies was laid out clearly in this report but is, at this stage, unresolved.
In Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has changed its policy position requiring NHMRC supported research to be deposited in Open Access Research Repositories. This initiative has prompted widespread discussion about Open Access Publishing in the Australian context.
There are many more examples: International events have brought the issues of Open Access Publishing into the spotlight and it is highly likely that the momentum towards Open Access Publishing will increase. There are clear signals of significant shifts in scholarly publishing conventions in New Zealand in the future.
What problems are we trying to address?
In essence, the conversation about scholarly publishing is trying to address several issues including:
- better, faster, more affordable access to publicly funded research publications for everyone
- greater public access to research funded by the public purse
- the increasing disquiet that the process of scholarly communication has not really yet leveraged the potential, reach and scale of the internet
- the unacceptable and unaffordable escalating cost of research publishing and scholarly output, particularly relating to the larger science based aggregates and publishers
- understanding how we assess research impact, peer review processes and the integrity of the research process in an Open Access environment.
What is open access?
While journals are now online, they are only available to people who pay a subscription or who are members of an institution who pays a subscription. Put simply open access uses digital technology to make research findings widely available. Researchers can make their work open access by one of two ways.
Publishing in an open access journal such as PLoS One is referred to as ‘gold’ open access. This may incur an article processing fee. While a few universities in Australia provide funds for open access publishing, the majority do not. Researchers may wish to consider including these fees in any grant proposals. Note that the 2012 ARC Discovery Grant funding rules allow 2% of the grant to be used for this purpose.
Alternatively researchers can deposit a version of their work into a subject based repository such as arXiv.org, SSRN or RePEc, or an institutional repository. Every university in Australia and New Zealand has a repository for this purpose.
Doesn’t open access contravene copyright?
Generally the copyright of a paper is held by the author or the author’s institution prior to publication. The publisher’s agreement the author signs at the time of publication usually transfers the copyright of the work to the publisher. This then restricts use of the published work.
While putting the published version of a work into a repository (or onto Mendeley or Academia.edu) will contravene most publishers’ agreements, the majority of publishers allow an earlier version of a paper to be deposited into a repository.
The version most researchers make available is the accepted version – the final peer reviewed and corrected paper. This is sometimes called a post print. The Sherpa/RoMEO website (http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/) lists the policies for most publishers.
What are the alternatives to copyright?
The Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org.au/) is a set of internationally accepted licences which helps an organisation, author (or content) to share their work and indicate how they wish their work to be used. In New Zealand the government has adopted Creative Commons (see NZGOAL http://nzgoal.info/).
Alternatively there is an option for authors to amend their publisher’s agreement with an author addenda. There are online tools to generate these automatically (http://www.arl.org/sparc/author/addendum.shtml)
What are the benefits of OA?
The pursuit of research is to increase global knowledge. Disseminating work through open access channels means that researchers in less resourced institutions, practitioners in the field and the general public can share findings. The taxpayer supports the research, the writing up of results, and the peer review and editing process. Open access allows these taxpayers to see these findings without having to pay to view.
What are some of the concerns with OA?
Some researchers express concern about plagiarism, particularly in terms of making theses available. However, while plagiarism occurs all the time, making work available in a repository clearly identifies the author as the owner of the work.
Publishers clearly have concerns that making work open access could affect subscriptions to their journals and threaten their viability. However, to date there is scant evidence that this will happen. The physics community has been making their work available through arXiv.org for over 20 years and this has not caused physics journals to fold.
How can universities support open access?
Universities can support the sharing of their researchers by:
- Ensuring the university has a robust open access policy
- Considering an open access mandate
- Educating researchers on the benefits of open access
- Raising awareness of scholarly communication issues amongst the academic and library staff
- Encouraging authors to use Creative Commons licenses or author addenda
What does this mean in the New Zealand context?
At this stage in New Zealand we are not seeing the magnitude of change that is being observed in Europe, USA and Australia. Having said this, there are strong Central Government signals about Open Access in relation to government data and information that may well transfer to research funding generally before long.
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Penny Carnaby is University Librarian and Professor, Digital Knowledge Systems at Lincoln University. She also chairs the Advisory Panel of Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand.