Open Access: Why do scholarly communication platforms matter and what is the true cost of gold OA?

During the past 2,5 years Open Knowledge has been a partner in PASTEUR4OA, a project focused on aligning open access policies for European Union research. As part of the work, a series of advocacy resources was produced that can be used by stakeholders to promote the development and reinforcement of such open access policies. The final two briefing papers, written by Open Knowledge, have been published this week and deal with two pressing issues around open access today:  the financial opacity of open access publishing and its potential harmful effects for the research community, and the expansion of open and free scholarly communication platforms in the academic world – explaining the new dependencies that may arise from those platforms and why this matters for the open access movement. 

Revealing the true cost of gold OA

financing“Reducing the costs of readership while increasing access to research outputs” has been a rallying cry for open access publishing, or Gold OA. Yet, the Gold OA market is largely opaque and makes it hard for us to evaluate how the costs of readership actually develop. Data on both the costs of subscriptions (for hybrid OA journals) and of APCs are hard to gather. If they can be obtained, they only offer partial but very different insights into the market. This is a problem for efficient open access publishing. Funders, institutions, and individual researchers are therefore increasingly concerned that a transition to Gold OA could leave research community open for exploitative financial practices and prevent effective market coordination.

Which factors contribute to the current opacity in the market? Which approaches are taken to foster financial transparency of Gold OA? And what are recommendations to funders, institutions, researchers and publishers to increase transparency?

The paper Revealing the true costs of Gold OA – Towards a public data infrastructure of scholarly publishing costs, written by researchers of Open Knowledge International, King’s College London and the University of London, presents the current state of financial opacity in scholarly journal publishing. It describes what information is needed in order to obtain a bigger, more systemic picture of financial flows, and to understand how much money is going into the system, where this money comes from, and how these financial flows might be adjusted to support alternative kinds of publishing models.


 Why do scholarly communication platforms matter for open access?

Over the past two decades, open access advocates have made significant gains in securing public access to infrastructuresthe formal outputs of scholarly communication (e.g. peer reviewed journal articles). The same period has seen the rise of platforms from commercial publishers and technology companies that enable users to interact and share their work, as well as providing analytics and services around scholarly communication.

How should researchers and policymakers respond to the rise of these platforms? Do commercial platforms necessarily work the interests of the scholarly community? How and to what extent do these proprietary platforms pose a threat to open scholarly communication? What might public alternatives look like?

The paper Infrastructures for Open Scholarly Communication provides a brief overview of the rise of scholarly platforms – describing some of their main characteristics as well as debates and controversies surrounding them. It argues that in order to prevent new forms of enclosure, it is essential that public policymakers should be concerned with the provision of public infrastructures for scholarly communication as well as public access to the outputs of research. It concludes with a review of some of the core elements of such infrastructures, as well as recommendations for further work in this area.