Academic spring or media hype? Theopen access debate and what it meansfor researchers
How often do you encounter that sort of screen?Have you ever bought the article at the price offered? How often haveyou even momentarily considered doing so?JSTOR report turning away 150 million access requests a yearWHY do you encounter that sort of screen? SHOULD you encounterthat sort of screen?”The publishing process involves: soliciting and managingsubmissions; managing peer review; editing and preparingmanuscripts; producing the articles; publishing and disseminatingjournals; and of course archiving. And the end result acts as a callingcard and mark of quality, helping readers find content that is relevantto them and is trusted.” - Graham Taylor, UK Publisher’s AssociationProfits are what keep this system turning. But what are the scale ofthese profits?
£724m profit from revenues of £2b in 2010 = 36% of revenue taken asprofit“There is the scale of those profits, regularly and consistently over 35%.In most other markets this would be a signal of market failure [...]Making 40% in one year is the sign of a company ahead of the curve,but in a functioning market returns usually hover around 5-15% whenaveraged over time” - Cameron NeylonHow did this come about?As publishing companies get larger through mergers and acquisitions,scholarly publishing is increasingly dominated by major commercialplayers which are able to use their market power to raise prices.“Although there are over 2,000 publishers of academic journals, noother publisher beyond the big three accounts for more than a 3%share of the journal market. Moreover, the big three control the mostprestigious journals with the largest circulations.” - McGuigan andRussell
Commercial publishers play a role in publishing over 60% of all peerreviewed journals.Case study: English-language Economics journals 30 English-language journals in 1960, mainly published by not- for-profit publishers. By 1980, 120 journals were evenly divided between not-for- profits and commercials. By 2000, there were 300 journals, more than two-thirds of which were published by commercial firms.The bargaining power of libraries is weak because they are acting onbehalf of faculty - an economy of prestige means that libraries MUSTacquire certain journals.
The costs imposed on university libraries by publishers have risencontinuously.This increase has vastly outstripped both inflation AND the quantity ofjournal provision.Many of the bulk deals which are responsible for expansion in thequantity of journal provision have built-in price increases of 5% ormore a year.The Research Information Network calculated after a 2009 survey thatthe fall in the value of the pound had brought a further increase incosts of over 15% for many universities.Given that a decade of growth in budgets is now giving way toexpected cuts across the sector, something has to give up.The steady growth of journal costs calls into question thesustainability of current levels of journal provision.
“Annual cost for journals fromthese providers nowapproaches $3.75M”“Some journals costas much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands” “Prices for online content from two providers haveincreased by about 145% over the past six years” “Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profitmargins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from anincreasing supply of new articles”
As if that weren’t enough...Commercial publishing is reliant on unpaid labour in the form ofeditors and reviewersThe social structures of both the modern university and of commercialpublishing have combined to crystallise a structure of perverse careerincentives - is increasing scholarly output a good thing?Public funds are being used to undertake research yet the results ofthis research are often far from publicResearchers are being pressured to demonstrate ‘impact’ yet theirresearch is rarely available to those outside academia.The length of the process from submission to publication curtails therelevance of academic debateThe fragmentation of the knowledge system means that much time iswaste accessing papers even when they are available
The ranking given by ‘Generation Y’ researchers in 2011 to access issues as a constraint on their research. This shows mean ranking on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being the most severe. Source: JISC Researchers of Tomorrow
How do you deal with these issues?47% of the Generation Y doctoral researchers ask a colleagueelsewhere to get the article for them e.g. facebook, twitter, e-mail43% said they make do with the abstractThis impedes the quality of research i.e. either ignoring anotherwise desirable paper or making do with the abstractOr it adds to the TIME costs created by paywallsThe time taken to ask for a paper and someone else to send itmight be insignificant but it is significant over the system as awhole.
The Research Works Act: “No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in anypolicy, program, or other activity that--(1) causes, permits, or authorises network dissemination of any private-sector research work without theprior consent of the publisher of such work; or (2) requires thatany actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author,assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.”It was an attempt to preventPUBLIC funding bodies from mandating that PUBLICLY funded research be made available to, er, the PUBLIC... Elsevier dropped their support for the RWA but denied it hadanything to do with the petition.
“What is Open Access?”Providing unrestricted digital access to peer reviewed scholarly researchThe role of digital technology - the only costs involved in distributingexact copies are infrastructuralOpen Access potentially increases research impact - it DEFINITELYincreases research visibility and downloadsOpen Access is attracting large scale institutional support“We believe open access provides the best opportunity to maximise thereturn on our investment. Why would we spend £600 million a year onresearch, the outputs of research would be behind a pay wall? It doesn’tmake sense” - Robert Kiley, Wellcome TrustWellcome want to “create an atmosphere and an environment wheresharing research outputs, making them open and publicly available,makes good sense to the researcher”
“My department spends about £5bn each yearfunding academic research – and it is because we believe in the fundamental importance of this research that we have protected the science budget for the whole of this parliament.” “Moving from an era in which taxpayer-funded academic articles are stuck behind paywalls for much of their life to one in which they are available free of charge will not be easy. Thereare clear trade-offs. If those funding research pay open-access journals in advance, where will this leave individual researchers who cant cover the cost? If we improve the worlds access to Britishresearch, what might we get in response? Does a preference for open access mean different incentives for different disciplines?” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/01/open- free-access-academic-research
Pervasive confusions & uncertainties about Open AccessSource: JISC Researchers of Tomorrow
Gold Open AccessAuthors pay the publishing costs upfront i.e. researchers paypublishers for opening up access to their papersWellcome Trust found that this amounted to $2,500 per paper onaverage for a sample of 4000 they fundedNormally per article published but some per manuscript or per authorFunds from either institutions or funding bodiesBut what about independent researchers? Risk of vicious cycle whenyou need publications to win a job and/or research fundingSome have alleged that potential conflicts of interest can exist in goldopen access models e.g. corporate sponsorship of author feesDoes this resolve the problem? Or does it allow a broken system tocontinue while transferring the costs from libraries to authors anduniversities?
Green Open AccessAuthors self-archive papers in open-access repositories (either a universityarchives or a central forum) usually after an embargo periodSometimes pre-print publication, sometimes peer reviewed post-printThis involves a much more radical rethinking of scholarly communication -it also challenges the business model, even with an embargoWhen publishing costs were much higher, it made sense to FILTER priorto publication. With digital technology, does this still hold true?“The order of things in broadcast is ‘filter, then publish’. The order incommunities is ‘publish, then filter’. If you go to a dinner party, you don’tsubmit your potential comments to the hosts, so that they can tell youwhich ones are good enough to air before the group, but this is howbroadcast works every day. Writers submit their stories in advance, to beedited or rejected before the public ever sees them. Participants in acommunity, by contrast, say what they have to say, and the good is sortedfrom the mediocre after the fact.” - Clay Shirky
Critique“The Open Access movement should be seen for what it is – nothingmore but nothing less than a consumerist revolt, academic style ...Nothing in this dispute bears on questions concerning how one mightdemocratise knowledge production itself” - Steve Fuller, University ofWarwick“Technologists also believe that publishing is transportable — anyonecan be a publisher ... I may think I’m a good cook because I canoccasionally prepare a surprisingly tasty meal on a Sunday night byfollowing someone else’s recipe and using the right ingredients, butthat by no means translates into my ability to create, finance, run,and manage a restaurant. If you’re a “cooking technologist,” you thinkall you need is an oven, pans, and ingredients.” - Kent Anderson, TheScholarly Kitchen
Scholarly Publishing and the Prestige EconomyAs scholarly output continues to expand, the efficacy of scholarlycommunication in general declinesIt’s unlikely anyone outside the academy will read us but it’sincreasingly unlikely anyone WITHIN the academy will read usCommunicating vs Credentialing? Resources are allocated on the basisof the status hierarchies encoded into the publishing systemBut these are profoundly fallible -> a journal’s prestige as a cypher forintellectual quality, impact factor as a cypher for, well, making animpactThese serve a real purpose (filtering) but they also perpetuate a stateof affairs which, in part, makes filtering necessaryThis structural dimension grants these problems an intractability whichis sometimes insufficiently acknowledged in debates about reform
At root it’s a WEIRD business model... “Publishers have a mediating role in the industry. They collect, package and disseminate the articles produced by faculty authors. The primary user of the journals is the very same group that produced journal content – faculty of colleges and universities. After journal content is consumed by the faculty/scholars, new knowledge and research is produced and continues the cycle.” McGuigan and Russell (2008)And this weird business model has very real day-to-day consequences for researchers...
Do we definitely need the intermediaries?Other spheres of cultural production have seen radically disruptiveprocesses of disintermediation.Self-archiving -> are your publications deposited in an institutionalrepository? Do you make them available online? Pre prints and post prints- technicalities of copyright and personal choice.One option is DIY journal publishingOpen source software like Open Journal Systems and DPubS meanstartup and running costs are lower than ever beforeQuality control is built into these systems - they still need (unpaid) editors& reviewers but dynamics of participation can be very different.However there are inevitable limits to how sustainable and generalisablethis kind of DIY activity can be.Without allocation of resources, quality WILL suffer. Institutional supportis needed
The University ePress?Libraries would be the main financial beneficiaries of the reducedjournal costs ensuing from a move away from commercial publishing.Digitisation programmes and repository initiatives have left a body ofexpertise within libraries directly applicable to ePublishing.Exciting trends in this direction in North American and Australian highereducationThe Digital Change programme at the University of Warwick spentmuch of this year exploring the viability of setting up a digital pressIt’s possible, though far from certain, UK higher education could followStrategic benefits to universities - particularly the early adoptersThere may also be a role for professional associations and non-profitcollectives
Why do you publish? Career progression - CV + REF Influencing debates in your area Sharing ideas with a wider audienceThe options for (1) have narrowed, options for (2) and (3) haveexpandedIncreasing necessity to be reflexive i.e. forming your OWN publishingplan, guided by your own concerns, rather than accepting commonsense.Balancing values against instrumentality when planning publishingKeeping up to date with these issues: the landscape is changing rapidlyHaving an online presence & using it to promote your work - uncertainwhere publishing will go but digital dimensions seem assured