“As the heads of progressive university presses on two sides of the North Atlantic, we support open and equitable access to knowledge. If history is any guide, however, the new policies may unintentionally contribute to greater consolidation in academic publishing — and encourage commercial publishers to value quantity over quality and platforms over people. Unless the new open-access policies are accompanied by direct investment from funders, governments, and universities in nonprofit publishers and publishing infrastructure, they could pose a threat to smaller scholarly and scientific societies and university presses, and ultimately to trust in published knowledge….
Without meaning to, many putatively open-access policies could further privatize the results of academic research….
The open-access movement has its roots in the practice of self-archiving (also called “Green” open access), wherein scholars deposit prepublication versions of their work in university repositories or community-owned preprint servers that function (to the extent possible) outside the economic strictures of formal publishing. Publishers effectively co-opted the movement by promoting instead models in which authors or their institutions pay publishers for the privilege of openness (also called “Gold” open access). As a result, open-access policies that enforce openness at any cost, under any model, have paradoxically, and against the intentions of policymakers, furthered the commodification of knowledge….
With paid open access, the academy is being asked, in effect, to subsidize the commercial sector’s use of university-research outputs with no reciprocal financial contribution….
Questions about academic freedom, widening inequality, the impact on smaller publishers, and the applicability of science-based policy for the arts, social sciences, and humanities have long been overlooked in conversations about open access….
The answers, we propose, lie somewhere in that overlooked, undervalued middle ground of nonprofit or fair-profit university-press publishing, mission-aligned with the academy. Many of those presses have been leaders in findings ways to meet the goals of providing both equitable access to knowledge and equitable participation in the creation of new knowledge. These are the publishers that universities should protect, invest in, and make deals with. Perhaps an international network of university-based publishers, libraries, and other public-knowledge providers could work together, balancing paid-for and open research content in a way that is sustainable rather than extractive, and that still values the research itself. Such a network could face down the likes of academia.edu….”