My previous post outlined some of the differences between #openaccess and other Open initiatives and was, by implication, somewhat critical. In this post I’ll list some of the things that are successes or going well for #openaccess. In the next I’ll contrast this with things that are serious problems or failings. I welcome criticism and may amend my position – one tragedy of OA is that useful debate is stifled by factionalism (I’ll discuss this later).
So here’s my list of successes. (By implication important things that are not on the list (e.g. repositories) have serious problems).
1. Recognition: “OpenAccess” is now widely recognized as an issue within important parts of the community. It’s part of the political agenda and cannot be overlooked (it may be deliberately ignored). Open access has roughly the following actors, and I’ll expand below:
* publishers. All publishers are intensely aware of it.
* funders of research. Again almost all funders – both government and charity – are highly aware of OA.
* government. OA is frequently on parliamentary and legislative agendas
* university managements. All are highly aware of the issue. Many, but by no means all, academics are aware of OA.
2. OA publishers. The brilliance of Vitek Tracz’s BioMedCentral showed that OA could prosper in the marketplace. Not enough people recognize this and all OA advocates, whether favouring “green” or “gold” (terms I deprecate and will discuss later) should give unfettered praise. BMC started with an apparently mad idea – ask authors/universities to pay for publication rather than publishing for free in conventional journals. This paradoxical strategy is very hard to sell and it required Vitek’s brilliance (and personal capital). BMC got all the important things right and many have followed.
* quality. Any new journal struggles against established brands and there could have been a tendency to shade quality. However BMC journals stressed quality and I am proud to be on the Ed Board of one) have standards as least as good as their legacy equivalents.
* price. BMC prices are largely affordable. Yes, it’s real money and from a personal pocket it’s a lot, but many chemicals and reagents can cost as much as the APCs.
* brand. BMC has a coherent brand. (And #animalgarden have embraced @GulliverTurtle).
* outreach. BMC has actively promoted aspects of #openaccess = running meetings, organizing competitions, supporting projects, etc. so that the human and technical infrastructure of #openaccess has been enhanced.
* innovation. BMC was relatively conventional apart from the market model. Later OA publishers have innovated significantly, especially PLoS. PLoS introduced the mega-journal PLoSONE which deliberately accepts solid useful but not necessarily dramatic science. It’s probably the largest impact in publishing innovation so far. Journals such as BMC’s Gigascience are also succeeding in innovation (data journals).
* regulatory processes. Recently the OA publishers have set up OASPA, the OA publishers’ association, which monitors quality of parts of OA practice. It’s an effective protection against “predatory journals” which have low quality, and very dubious practices. I would hope and expect that OASPA will offer some form of certification.
3. Funders. Huge credit goes to the Wellcome Trust – Mark Walport, Robert terry and Robert Kiley. Because Wellcome is independent of government it can make its own policy and has done so. Wellcome proved that funders could have a coherent, workable policy for requiring that their funded work was published openly, and they have constantly pressed for BOIA-compliance. Wellcome effectively set the rules for other funders to emulate, so that RCUK, Europe and many others have seen that the process can work.
4. Governments and other policy makers. Open Access is now an important political issue. It’s argued to have considerable benefits – that funded work which is universally visible brings economic and moral/political rewards. Governments making all funded work public are providing important resources to the world. In the UK, for example, there have been commissions (Finch) and debates in the Houses and similar issues are debated in many other countries. The EU, under the inspired leadership of Neelie Kroes, has insisted on Open Research in Europe.
5. Public infrastructure. There’s a modest, but not sufficient amount of infrastructure to support Open Access. Funders include JISC in the UK, SURF in NL, and there are useful initiatives such as DOAJ (directory of Open Access journals). I applaud these but there’s nowhere near enough and University investment in repositories has been fragmented, wasteful and almost completely ineffective.
In the next post I will outline some of the failings of OA, and then in the final post list issues that need to be addressed.