The Fully OA blog was born out of the OASPA Interest Group of Fully OA journal organizations. The purpose of the group was to provide a platform for exchange of ideas and, where appropriate, collaboration amongst publishers that only publish Open Access content. The aim of the group – and now of this blog – is to provide unity, not by creating a single voice, but by bringing together a diversity of different voices and perspectives.
Whilst we share, in essence, a single aim – a transition to fully open scientific communication – we are a broad church, with differing paths and approaches to achieving that aim.
For the first piece on the blog, we wanted to explore what we share, and where we differ. Featuring contributions from Frontiers, JMIR Publications, MDPI, The Open Library of Humanities, PeerJ, PLOS and Ubiquity, we wanted to share what we see as The Future of Open, how we envisage getting there, and how we might overcome barriers to an open future.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and responses in the comments; regardless of whether you’re a researcher, publisher, librarian, funder or reader – what do you see as the Future of Open?
What do you see as the Future of Open?
All science open, so that scientists can collaborate better and innovate faster. That’s our social purpose as a business. In the face of global, existential threats, we think greater access to collective knowledge will drive better collective action. The public pays for billions of dollars of scientific research every year, and two thirds of its results are locked behind publishing paywalls. Science for the few, not the many. We need science that is freely and permanently available for anyone to view, download and disseminate with data in an interoperable, machine-readable format for re-use by anyone.
We envision a world where people are empowered by health research and technology to make effective, informed decisions, take control of their health and well-being, and live happier and healthier lives. Openness is a prerequisite for this vision. Open access ensures that decision-makers, researchers and ordinary people globally have unimpeded access to the latest research. The next frontier is to encourage transparency, collaboration, and accountability with open science. The future of open is not necessarily just “journals” – we aim to play our part in reengineering the scholarly communication ecosystem for the Internet age, which will consist of electronic platforms and interoperable preprint servers, AI tools and Web3 enabled virtual communities which review preprints, and electronic interactive journals that curate only the best work, making peer-reviewed preprints an acceptable form of knowledge sharing.
We believe open science is an irreversible on-going movement in the way research is performed, researchers collaborate, and knowledge is shared. Similar to the changes caused by the shift from print to online, the move to Open Access (OA) is having an impact on the way research literature is curated, disseminated, and consumed. The entire research cycle is affected by this transition, as are all stakeholders, with the end goal of facilitating greater transparency, reliability, accessibility and inclusivity. Researchers, for their part, can enjoy greater visibility, and increased networking. Funders can increase their reach by reusing funded research and ensuring greater impact for their investment. The opportunity to access research results can also benefit organizations in supporting their causes more effectively and governments in adopting evidence-based policies. In addition, the public can benefit from rapid knowledge transfer, increased expertise and greater involvement in science.
The Open Library of Humanities (OLH)
The end goal of Open Access is making research available for everyone. It’s also allowing people to re-use, copy or distribute research work through the applications of open licenses.
The main barrier to open access is its business model as it’s often based on the payment of expensive APCs. This APC-centered business model doesn’t work well in the humanities, for authors from the global south, or for smaller or less research-intensive institutions, because of the lack of funding at these places and areas of research. We therefore need a diversity of OA business models. The OLH recognises that the economics of the humanities are different. We are therefore funded by a consortial funding model in which institutions pool their resources in order to facilitate fee-free OA in the humanities.
Another important barrier is the current prestige economy that underpins research assessment practices, based on the impact factor. This has monetary and discriminatory repercussions: for instance, prestigious journals take advantage of their prestige to charge exorbitant fees. Open should mean open to everyone, not just to those in well-funded research institutions/departments in the global north.
The future of Open Access should recognise this and work together to devise a scholarly communications landscape that has equity, diversity, collectivity and sustainability as core values.
100% Open Access with:
a) the right to freely reuse, remix and build upon research
b) equity that allows anyone to engage in the process of research and research publishing
We see the end goal of “access” being not only the ability to read – access – research but the ability to participate, regardless of socio-economic barriers. Using 21st century technology we should be able to unlock access by recognizing the relative circumstances of different communities and create publishing solutions that meet their needs; and support researchers dealing with the real and hugely pressing problems facing the world, whether that be climate change, disease, food security or habitat destruction.
Open Access is now mainstream, and we’ve all played a big part in that. Open Science is advancing, along with behaviors that genuinely improve the rigor and credibility of research. But, there are still key voices missing. Therefore, “Open” for us is about getting closer to researchers, leveraging our journals as vehicles for change, and ensuring the co-creation of paths to Open Science that work for diverse communities and do not simply extend existing power structures.
We believe that a truly open future requires the broadest diversity of voices. This means not only open access, but ensuring that researchers from all parts of the world, languages and socio-economic backgrounds have an equal opportunity to publish, read and collaborate. It means that work in areas such as research data, software, hardware and the laboratory should be shared and recognized.
How do you envisage getting there?
We seek to help establish and foster independent, sustainable university presses throughout the world, as well as providing institutional repositories to disseminate all additional forms of research outputs. We believe that diverse voices are best supported within their local context, by the institutions that are there to serve them. We also believe strongly in open infrastructure, basing our platforms on open source, and feeding code back to systems used throughout the global research community. We’ve shown that you can run a successful business while also building capacity for independent publishing and independent infrastructure, a win-win.
Many of the business models and processes that underpin Open Access publishing are born of necessity and not by design, and there has been little room to truly experiment effectively with new ways of “doing OA.” A key priority for PLOS is to move beyond the Article-Processing Charge (APC) and devise the next business models that centrally and seamlessly support OA and feel less like an annoying “additional” expense for authors, which is how many people characterize APCs. Examples of PLOS initiatives are Community Action Publishing, the Global Equity model, and our approach to Flat Fees.
It’s clear that we need to work collectively to achieve an Open future, bringing together publishers, researchers, institutions, funders and technology to achieve our aims – no single organization can achieve it. At PeerJ, we’re thinking a lot about what you could consider the overlooked communities, those that don’t necessarily have the support of big funders or institutions to help them publish OA and practice open science. How can we remove barriers to their participation? We are actively creating more community-specific publishing platforms such as PeerJ Hubs, including more community-specific publishing and peer review options, and with more reward and support for those engaged with Open Access and open science, in the form of PeerJ Tokens and Contribution Points programs. We need to continue to build tools and programs that allow more and different research communities to publish OA, and allow them to take more control of the publishing process.
The Open Library of Humanities (OLH)
Coinciding with Audre Lorde famous words, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”, we believe that, though we need to devise new business models, long-term change requires a change of paradigm in research assessments practices.
We need to revise the incentive and reward system of science using the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) as a starting point to inform and push for change. This needs collective action and the drafting of policies to support this. Science Europe, for instance, has recently released an agreement on reforming research assessment, drafted in collaboration with universities, funders, research associations, learned societies, etc.
Going back to the question of business models, OLH is a non-for-profit diamond OA publisher; we recently joined the Diamond OA action plan and are part of a community of universities, funders and publishers that are working together to align and develop common resources for the entire Diamond OA ecosystem. This is a very positive and necessary initiative for the future scholar-led diamond OA publishers like OLH, as well as for the broader research ecosystem.
We believe there needs to be more collaboration across all levels, in order to find flexible options in publishing that allow more to embrace and adopt the transition to Open Access. This could include, for example, working with preprint platforms and other publishers to develop a more open infrastructure, or finding new ways of collaborating with libraries and scholarly societies. An important role we as a group play is to keep the stakeholders informed of all the benefits Open Access offers and find ways to adapt to their needs. Scholars can show their support for Open Access by choosing to publish their research in Open Access journals, and advocating at the institutional level on the importance of open science from the scholar’s perspective. At the organization level, we seek to remain agile and dynamic at all times to better serve the changing needs of the academic community and support them in adapting and embracing Open Access. We intend to maintain our focus on authors by continuing to explore innovative ways to provide them with the best possible service and experience.
As a pathway for institutions and funders to accelerate openness we are promoting what we call Plan P (planp.science), and we invite other progressive publishers and independent peer-review services to participate in this initiative. We need to incentivize and reward peer-review as an important currency for reputation. We invented karma credits in 2015 to reward our reviewers and rank our most productive authors and editors, and we are currently working on migrating these concepts into the blockchain, to provide transparent and robust metrics to institutions and funders. We help institutions and funders to promote publication as preprint-first (which would ensure 100% green open access) by offering peer-review of preprints, and have created the worlds’ first Pubmed-indexed preprint overlay journal series (JMIRx). We encourage publication of protocols and registered reports on a publisher-level, and promote the IRRID system to connect protocols with results papers across journals.
Our strategy is built on sharing high quality science at scale. We have a substantial, in-house research integrity team to maintain the quality of the work we publish. It is backed by cutting-edge technology and our careful application of Artificial Intelligence to increase both the depth and pace of article verification. And we have an award-winning, trademarked peer review that we believe is collaborative, fair, and transparent. We and others are proving a sustainable business model. Equally, the public benefits of Open Access science must be communicated consistently, broadly, and publicly. Fully Open Access publishers can and do work together to share good practice and advocate collectively for policies that support a more open science.
What barriers to Open do you see? Are there any dangers to achieving the end goal of Open Access?
One of the biggest barriers may in fact be the continuing reliance on proprietary and misleading impact metrics such as the impact factor or journal acceptance rates to assess researchers, providing continued incentives to publish in selective and expensive “high impact” journals, which drain budgets through outrageous subscription or APC fees. Another threat is the anticompetitive landscape where funders and institutions prioritize the largest publishers (e.g. Project Deal) or provide incentives for their researchers to publish in journals they want to transform to open access, without leveling the playing field by also incentivizing to publish with pure open access publishers (see prior OASPA pure OA blog). If library and funder budgets are drained there is no room for innovation and funding of pure Open Access publishers or progressive offerings such as Plan P.
When public trust in science is fragile, scientific authority comes from both the evidence and the public consensus around it. That consensus is stronger when backed by the latest knowledge, globally shared, free to read and fully open to all from the day of publication. Embargoes and models that provide only partial Open Access help sustain a paywalled knowledge system and inequity in science.
While Open Access publishing significantly reduces the barriers for readership of researchers, and the general public, we certainly recognize that this publishing model doesn’t completely eliminate all barriers. Some libraries, funders or institutions who support Open Access might still find Article Processing Charges (APCs) to be financially challenging for a variety of reasons. The APC model should be flexible in order to ensure that the ideals behind Open Access can become a reality for all authors, and we need to continue to find alternative solutions to ensure that the costs associated with publishing articles don’t become a barrier to publication. Ensuring transparency regarding publishing costs, engaging actively with institutions and providing them with support and information regarding various forms of centralized payment are essential to overcome the barriers.
The Open Library of Humanities (OLH)
The barriers to Open Access are the often-excessive prices of APCs facilitated by the prestige economy. It’s this prestige economy that lays the foundations of this unaffordable and unequal reality.
The price of publishing Open Access, and reading non-Open Access content, is still an insurmountable barrier for the majority of researchers, globally. Coupled with the ongoing obsession with spurious metrics, and the publish or perish paradigm, many have no choice but to publish behind a paywall. Supporting alternative routes to publishing OA and accessing research is increasingly important, as is education around Open Access. It still shocks us to regularly read misinformation around Open Access publishing and publishers, and saddens us to see researchers choosing Impact Factor over access or value for money. Many of these trends are also continuing to bolster publishers whose mission tends more toward profit than progress.
Like all transitions and movements, they can get dominated by loud “noises”. While the transition to Open Access is a great outcome, we must be wary of “baking in” costs or processes that have no basis in an Open paradigm Not all publishers are transitioning to OA, some of us have always been OA, so it is extremely important for organizations, institutions, funders, governments to collaborate with all OA publishers, and not just those transitioning.
A potential barrier to an open future is the imposition of low diversity. Government, funder and institutional policies should encourage and recognize multiple ways of performing and sharing research. Above all such policies should not cater to the demands of a select few legacy publishing businesses with the most lobbying dollars, but should support and include publishers with alternative business models, sizes and disciplinary focuses.
What are your hopes for the near and distant future of Open Access and open science?
We hope, should policies not be implemented that ensure open and diverse scholarship to flourish, that this will nonetheless happen from the ground up. University presses and repositories can be run sustainably, leveraging open infrastructure, and working closely to ensure the success of researchers in their local and global contexts. Right now we support 33 presses to do this, so we know it can work, and we hope for a less distant future in which a network of thousands of such presses can provide the diversity of voices that can make for a truly open world.
Our hope for Open Access is the designed seamlessness and efficiency outlined above. Our hope for Open Science is that it will simply be understood as science, done according to its norms. We have an important role as publishers to (1) encourage and support good top-down Open Science policies, (2) encourage and support grassroots researchers already doing Open Science, and (3) helping to showcase and signal all these activities as practices that improve the rigor and credibility of research. Open Science should never be regarded as something radical, or openness just for its own sake. Open Science is to increase the trust in, and inclusion in, science and scholarship, in the ways that support all stakeholders, and we support the UNESCO Recommendation for Open Science for this reason.
We hope that the trend to Open is irreversible and that, before long, everyone and anyone can publish their research in a fair, open, reproducible and responsible way. We are facing mounting problems that threaten our planet, and open science holds many of the answers. Shifting our focus to how we as publishers can support the endeavors of researchers working to understand and solve the issues that face humanity seems like a worthwhile and indisputable endeavor.
The Open Library of Humanities (OLH)
Our hopes are that OA becomes the default way of publishing academic research and that diamond OA becomes more generalised so that it gets support in the same way that resources are now directed towards the funding of transformative agreements or APCs at legacy publishers or hybrid journals. Our ideal future would also include a shift from the endorsing of DORA to actually putting it into practice in concrete ways.
As the publishing landscape is undergoing an undeniable transformation, we hope that the Open Access model is irreversible and will eventually become the predominant model in scholarly publishing. We hope that the scholarly communities will warmly embrace the change and directly support the industry in developing robust, sustainable and innovative strategies to enhance Open Access publishing.
In the near term we hope that the renewed ambition in the Biden-Harris administration in the US to tackle our greatest challenges with the backing of science will be translated into action, following the White House’s recent guidance on Open Access. In the longer term, we hope Open Access can help meet the public appetite for political accountability, transparency, and trust.
We hope that funders and institutions support publishers who are willing and eager to disrupt the system through innovation in scholarly communication, rather than only the publishers that cement the current status-quo. We hope that the current predominant funding model moves from APCs. We hope that researchers are rewarded for peer-review and contributions to open science, with reputation metrics not related to the selectivity or exclusivity of the publishing venue, but to adherence to Open Science practices, which starts with publication of a protocol, making data open, publishing interim results as preprints and publishing final results in well curated journals or on innovative electronic platforms.
Director of Communities, PeerJ
With support and individual contributions from Ubiquity, PLOS, PeerJ, The Open Library of Humanities (OLH), MDPI, Frontiers, JMIR Publications