Genuine open access to academic books requires collective solutions | Impact of Social Sciences

UKRI, the UK’s national research funding agency, and cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funders, recently reaffirmed their commitments to delivering open access to academic books. However, whilst an open trajectory has been clearly set, how this is to be achieved remains unclear. In this post Lucy Barnes argues that for academic books to be genuinely open, an emphasis should be placed on collective funding models that limit the prospect of new barriers to access being erected through the imposition of expensive book processing charges (BPCs).

Re-thinking Academic Publishing: The Promise of Platform Cooperativism · Business of Knowing, summer 2021

Sustainable, just, and equitable open access academic publishing may sometimes seem to be a utopia. There are just too many “buts” — “but the academic career depends on your scholarly output,” “but you have to publish in ‘high-ranking’ journals.” Yes, there is much to say about the injustices of the academic publishing system, and how we got there and the need for “high-level” action to change funding models and incentives. Yes, it may seem that there are just too many factors outside our control. But are they? Or could we imagine a future where scholars are the ones at the helm of the scholarly publishing ecosystem? In this contribution, we propose to do just that: imagine a different — fairer, more economically sustainable, and inclusive — approach to open access. However, to do that, we need to think not only outside the scope of existing business and publishing models but also the existing organisational models.

Collective Funding to Reclaim Scholarly Publishing · Business of Knowing, summer 2021

“The open access movement has dropped barriers to readers only to erect them for authors. The reason is the article processing charge (APC), which typically runs $3,000 to $5,000. The APC model, with its tolled access to authorship, is the subscription model seen through a camera obscura: author paywalls in place of reading paywalls.

Most scholars cannot afford the steep fees, a fact masked by the privileged segment who can: scientists in the rich industrialized world, and scholars in a handful of wealthy European countries and North American universities. The fees are often paid via so-called “read-and-publish” deals, which fold APCs into the subscription contracts that libraries negotiate with publishers.

The emerging APC regime is also re-anointing the commercial oligopolists—the same five firms that fleece universities through usurious subscription charges. Springer Nature, Elsevier, and their peers are, with every read-and-publish deal, transitioning their enormous profit margins from tolled to open—and capturing the lion’s share of library spending in the process. Librarians continue to fund the tolled system, while also—at the richer institutions—picking up the tab for their faculty’s author fees. The result is an incumbent-publisher spending lockdown, one that ratifies the APC regime….

Collective funding is an appealing idea, versions of which have been circulating since at least 2006, with important variations on the theme published since. The challenge is getting the model to work beyond a handful of successful, single-resource experiments (including the ArXiv preprint server, the Open Library of Humanities, and the SCOAP3 particle physics journals, among others). The two main hurdles are coordination and funder participation. The academic communication system involves thousands of funders and hundreds of publishers, which makes for a nightmarish coordination challenge. A related obstacle, one made much worse with lots of actors, is the free rider problem. Fee-free open access is a public good that benefits everyone, even non-payers; if enough libraries opt out, the collective funding scheme is likely to collapse….”

Business of Knowing: Bringing about [infra]structural change to Knowledge Communication – a summer 2021 series | Commonplace

This Commonplace series comprises essays in response to a call for submissions that itself was a response to channel community conversation prompted by the essay “Clarivate, ProQuest, and our Resistance to Commercializing Knowledge.”

List of Contributions:

Ahearn, Catherine, and Sarah Kearns. 2021. ‘The Business of Knowing: Bringing about [Infra]Structural Change to Knowledge Communication’. Commonplace, June. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.ec94434e.

Ayers, Phoebe, and Samuel J. Klein. 2021. ‘The Invisible Citation Commons’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.5af8c64c.

Brundy, Curtis, and Ginny Steel. 2021. ‘Subscribe to Progress: Advancing Equity Through Openness’. Commonplace, August. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.20811f1e.

Chan, Joel. 2021. ‘Sustainable Authorship Models for a Discourse-Based Scholarly Communication Infrastructure’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.8b4aad0c.

Cressman, Colleen. 2021. ‘Trust in Infrastructure’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.ae158f91.

Kaufman, Peter B. 2021. ‘Video and Knowledge Communication’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.22ccbe45.

Kearns, Sarah, and Catherine Ahearn. 2021. ‘It’s All of Our Business’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.70cc6804.

Kraker, Peter. 2021. ‘Now Is the Time to Fund Open Infrastructures’. Commonplace, August. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.a1d2856b.

Martin, Shawn J. 2021. ‘Historical Choices and Knowledge Production’. Commonplace, August. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.5ebdd587.

Pooley, Jefferson. 2021. ‘Collective Funding to Reclaim Scholarly Publishing’. Commonplace, August. https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.250139da.

Rudmann, Dan, Kayshini Holbourne, and Elli Gerakopoulou. 2021. ‘Hire Everyone: Scholarly Publishing and Cooperative Sustainability’. Commonplace 1 (1). https://doi.org/10.21428/6ffd8432.72cb6467.

Collective Funding to Reclaim Scholarly Publishing | Commonplace

by Jefferson Pooley

The open access movement has dropped barriers to readers only to erect them for authors. The reason is the article processing charge (APC), which typically runs $3,000 to $5,000. The APC model, with its tolled access to authorship, is the subscription model seen through a camera obscura: author paywalls in place of reading paywalls.

Most scholars cannot afford the steep fees, a fact masked by the privileged segment who can: scientists in the rich industrialized world, and scholars in a handful of wealthy European countries and North American universities. The fees are often paid via so-called “read-and-publish” deals, which fold APCs into the subscription contracts that libraries negotiate with publishers.

The emerging APC regime is also re-anointing the commercial oligopolists—the same five firms that fleece universities through usurious subscription charges. Springer Nature, Elsevier, and their peers are, with every read-and-publish deal, transitioning their enormous profit margins from tolled to open—and capturing the lion’s share of library spending in the process. Librarians continue to fund the tolled system, while also—at the richer institutions—picking up the tab for their faculty’s author fees. The result is an incumbent-publisher spending lockdown, one that ratifies the APC regime.

Any alternative to the prevailing scholarly communication system must be built atop a different funding model, one that excludes neither readers nor authors. In broad strokes, that model will center on direct support for publishing, drawn from funds currently allotted to subscription and APC spending. The same funders who finance the tolled-and-APC system—libraries but also foundations and government agencies—will, on this approach, redirect budgets to underwrite a diverse, community-led publishing ecosystem. Call it the collective funding model, predicated on open access for both readers and authors.

[…]

bjoern.brembs.blog » Minimizing the collective action problem

“Thus, researchers need to modernize the way they do their scholarship, institutions need to modernize their infrastructure such that researchers are enabled to modernize their scholarship. These have now had more than 30 years for this modernization and neither of them have acted. At this point it is fair to assume, barring some major catastrophe forcing their hands, that such modernization is not going to magically appear within the next three decades, either. Funders, therefore, are in a position to incentivize this long overdue modernization which institutions and hence researchers have been too complacent or too reticent to tackle.

If, as I would tend to agree, we are faced with a collective action problem and the size of the collective is the major determinant for effective problem solving, then it is a short step to realize that funders are in a uniquely suited position to start solving this collective action problem. Conversely, then, it is only legitimate to question the motives of those who seek to make the collective action problem unnecessary difficult by advocating to target individual researchers or institutions. What could possibly be the benefit of making the collective action problem numerically more difficult to solve?”

 

Direct to Open

“Direct to Open harnesses collective action to support open access to excellent scholarship. Developed over two years with the generous support of the Arcadia Fund, in close collaboration with the library community, the model will:

Open access to all new MIT Press scholarly monographs and edited collections (~90 titles per year) from 2022 via recurring participation fees.
Provide participating libraries with term access to backlist/archives (~2,300 titles), which will otherwise remain gated. Participating libraries will receive access even if the model is not successful.
Cover partial direct costs for the publication of high-quality works that are also available for print purchase….”

Raising research quality will require collective action

” Institutions are committing to working together to determine how their cultural practices, such as emphasizing the importance of novelty, discovery and priority, undermine the value of replication, verification and transparency. That is the goal of the UK Reproducibility Network, which I co-founded earlier this year. It started as informal groups of researchers at individual institutions that met with representatives from funders and publishers (including Nature) who were open to discussions about how best to align open-science initiatives — reproducibility sections in grant applications and reporting checklists in article submissions, for example. Now institutions themselves are cooperating to consider larger changes, from training to hiring and promotion practices….

Our ten university members span the United Kingdom from Aberdeen to Surrey, and we expect that list to grow. Each will appoint a senior academic to focus on research quality and improvement. Figuring out which system-level changes are needed and how to make them happen will now be someone’s primary responsibility, not a volunteer activity. What changes might ensue? Earlier this year, the University of Bristol, where I work, made the use of data sharing and other open-research practices an explicit criterion for promotion….

But these cultural changes might falter. Culture eats strategy for breakfast — grand plans founder on the rocks of implicit values, beliefs and ways of working. Top-down initiatives from funders and publishers will fizzle out if they are not implemented by researchers, who review papers and grant proposals. Grass-roots efforts will flourish only if institutions recognize and reward researchers’ efforts.

Funders, publishers and bottom-up networks of researchers have all made strides. Institutions are, in many ways, the final piece of the jigsaw. Universities are already investing in cutting-edge technology and embarking on ambitious infrastructure programmes. Cultural change is just as essential to long-term success.”

Collaborative transition to open access publishing by scholarly societies | Molecular Biology of the Cell

Abstract:  For decades, universities, researchers, and libraries have sought a systemwide transition of scholarly publishing to open access (OA), but progress has been slow. There is now a potential for more rapid and impactful change, as new collaborative OA publishing models have taken shape. Cooperative publishing arrangements represent a viable path forward for society publishers to transition to OA as the default standard for disseminating research. The traditional article processing charge OA model has introduced sometimes unnavigable financial roadblocks, but cooperative arrangements premised on collective action principles can help to secure long-term stability and prevent the risk of free riding. Investment in cooperative arrangements does not require that cash-strapped libraries discover a new influx of money as their collection budgets continue to shrink, but rather that they purposefully redirect traditional subscription funds toward publishing support. These cooperative arrangements will require a two-way demonstration of trust: On one hand, libraries working together to provide assurances of sustained financial support, and on the other, societies’ willingness to experiment with discarding subscriptions. Organizations such as Society Publishers Coalition and Transitioning Society Publications to Open Access are committed to education about and further development of scalable and cooperative OA publishing models.

 

 

Library Futures: Championing the Right to Equitable Access to Knowledge

“Library Futures Institute is a nonprofit organization that champions the right to equitable access to knowledge. Our mission is to empower libraries to take control of their digital futures.

We enable collective action while building power through an advocacy organization. We respond to 21st century needs, operate at the speed of change, and level the playing field between publishers and the public….”

Library Futures: Championing the Right to Equitable Access to Knowledge

“Library Futures Institute is a nonprofit organization that champions the right to equitable access to knowledge. Our mission is to empower libraries to take control of their digital futures.

We enable collective action while building power through an advocacy organization. We respond to 21st century needs, operate at the speed of change, and level the playing field between publishers and the public….”

OCLC-LIBER Open Science Discussion on Research Integrity – Hanging Together

“What does research integrity mean in an ideal open science ecosystem and how can libraries contribute to heighten professional ethics and standards required by open science? The sixth session of the OCLC/LIBER Open Science Discussion series brought together a small group of engaged participants focusing on these questions….”

OCLC-LIBER Open Science Discussion on Metrics and Rewards – Hanging Together

“What is the role of metrics and rewards in an ideal open science ecosystem? What are the challenges in getting there? What would collective action look like? The fourth session of the OCLC/LIBER Open Science Discussion series, which brought together a group of participants from universities and research institutes across ten different countries, focused on these questions….”

CAP Model FAQ – PLOS

An FAQ on the PLOS Community Action Publishing (CAP) program.

“In the case of PLOS Medicine and PLOS Biology, the community goal is to cover the costs of the journals (plus a 10% capped margin) by equitably distributing cost, rather than have individual authors pay the high APCs required to cover the cost highly selective publishing. Members of the collective receive the “private benefit” of publishing in both journals with no fees. Authors from non-member institutions are subject to “non-member fees” which increase considerably year-on-year to encourage participation in the collective….”