Response by the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)
18 January 2013
Submitted by Caroline Sutton, OASPA President, on behalf of OASPA
- OASPA recognizes the interests of funders in seeking to maximize access to the results of research funded under their programmes.
- OASPA supports the RCUK policy support for gold open access as the preferred model, with additional funds being made available.
- OASPA supports the RCUK policy requirement for a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) Licence to be used where Research Council funds are used to meet a gold open access fee.
- The APC levels per article that are assumed by the RCUK policy following the Report by the National Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings, are reasonable and in line with the experiences of open access publishers.
- Infrastructural challenges exist (e.g. payment mechanisms), and are being addressed by the necessary stakeholders. OASPA is committed to engaging actively with stakeholders to resolve these.
1. The Open Access Scholarly Publisher’s Association (OASPA) is pleased to respond to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry into open access. As the first and primary association for publisher’s working in the field of open access publishing, OASPA aims to expand open access publishing through exchanging information, setting standards, advancing models, advocacy and the promotion of innovation.
2. OASPA was founded in 2008. At the time only a small number of publishers were engaged with OA publishing. Today our membership includes a rapidly expanding list of publishers, including many of the larger legacy publishers such as Springer Science + Business, SAGE Publications and Wiley-Blackwell, as well as society publishers such as the Royal Society and Institute of Physics.
3. Membership is granted to those publishers who demonstrate a commitment to engaging actively with OA publishing, including the publication of at least one title that makes all original research immediately upon publication under a liberal license (see below), and who meet a list of quality assurance criteria (e.g. rich description of peer review process, full names and affiliations of board members, etc. see https://oaspa.org/membership/membership-procedures/).
4. OASPA engages not only with the publishing community but is also working with other stakeholder groups such as SPARC Europe (board member), OAPEN (chair of advisory board), and OpenAIRE (member of advisory board) to develop the OA ecosystem.
Support for the current recommendations
5. OASPA recognizes that the current House of Lords inquiry does not question the aims of the current policy but is investigating the current plans for implementation.
The report from the National Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research findings and the policy adopted by the RCUK set a clear policy direction in support of open access. OASPA particularly supports the following points:
- its choice of gold open access as the preferred model, with additional funds being made available;
- the requirement for a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) Licence to be used where Research Council funds are used to meet a gold open access fee.
Support for gold
6. Gold OA is expanding quickly, both among the early pioneers of OA publishing as well as within the publishing sector more broadly, including by new actors in the sector. A study by Laakso and Björk published in BMC Medicine shows that gold OA (in immediate OA journals and published together with articles published under a hybrid option) have grown 16-fold between 2000 and 2011. Approximately 17% of the articles published during 2011 and indexed in Scopus are available under gold OA.(doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-124) (link http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/10/124).
7. As the RIN Report Heading for the Open Road made clear through its cost benefit analysis, green OA is reliant upon the current subscription system as a foundation. As noted by Dame Janet Finch in her testimony to the House of Lords Committee on 16 January 2013, this system is currently being disrupted. OA publications are already biting at market shares that were earlier occupied by subscription titles and many publishers are experiencing subscription cancellations that are of concern from a business perspective. In this context, Gold OA offers a business opportunity to publishers and more stable foundation for offering extended access in the long run.
8. OASPA recognizes that publishers and scholarly societies have expressed concerns over the uncertainties associated with shifting business models (bearing in mind that an APC model is but one funding model). It is for this reason that OASPA invites members of the community to share knowledge and experiences at an annual conference dedicated to OA publishing.
Support for Licensing Requirements
9. One of the key motivations of Open Access publishing is to maximize the potential impact of any piece of published research by removing any barrier to access or reuse of that work. The best way to achieve that is to attach a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY) to each and every publication. Among other things, the use of a CC-BY license assures that researchers and institutions are free to post the final published version of that work in any repository, archive, etc., removing concerns about the circulation of multiple versions of a particular article.
10. At OASPA, one of the criteria for membership is that a publisher must use a liberal license that encourages the reuse and distribution of content. We strongly encourage (but currently do not require) the use of the CC-BY license wherever possible. A CC-BY-NC license is also accepted.
11. As emphasized by the early declarations on open access in Budapest, Bethesda and Berlin, open access is about more than access – open access removes access and reuse barriers, and thus has the potential to transform the literature into a much more powerful resource for research, education and innovation.
12. The human genome project is a compelling demonstration of the power of open access to research, and reflects a well-established practice within the genome community to make research data publicly available for all reuses via resources such as GenBank. It is also interesting that one of the early visionary articles about open access to literature (published in Science in 2001) was entitled “Building a GenBank of the published literature”, the creation of which would “encourage the development of new, more sophisticated, and valuable ways of using this information, much as GenBank has done for DNA sequences”.
13. Also in the Social Sciences and Humanities the application of liberal licensing can offer as yet untapped advantages in scholarly advancement. Among others, the European Commission has supported projects in these subject areas that deal with developing a robost and integrated infrastructure for research outputs. Projects like CLARIN (Common language resources & technology infrastructure), DARIAH (Digital Research Infrastractures for the Arts), and CESSDA (Council of European Social Science Data) are demonstrating the value of open access to outputs.
14. One argument against applying liberal licenses within the Humanities has been that publications in many subject areas include images and other elements that are reproduced under permission from a copyright holder. As a solution to the issues this raises, open access publishers apply alternative licenses to the specific item within the overall publication to honour copyright conditions and permissions. The Wikimedia Foundation, among others, is also working in this area to address copyright concerns in relation to images.
15. The largest OA publishers (BioMed Central, PLOS, and Hindawi) have between them already published hundreds of thousands of peer-reviewed articles under the CC-BY license and in doing so have created high-quality sustainable businesses. Major established publishers, such as Springer and Wiley-Blackwell, whose businesses have been built on subscription models, have also recently embraced CC-BY for their open access content. As the open access corpus grows, new services, commercial and non-commercial, will be built on top of open access literature, and publishers that impose no limit on the reach and impact of the work that they publish (thanks to their use of the liberal CC-BY license) will be the most attractive option for authors.
16. OASPA has expressed its support for Creative Commons Licensing (either CC-BY or, as a second-best choice, CC-BY-NC) in other policy contexts (the European Commission and the United States, notably) as this assures that researchers and institutions are clear about their rights and are free to post the final published version of a work in any repository, archive, etc., and avoids the dissemination of multiple versions of an article.
Addressing concerns and challenges raised about the RCUK policy
17. OASPA feels that the information on APC levels upon which RCUK recommendations are based is reasonable. The Wellcome Trust, as noted in the report “Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications” has the longest and broadest experience of funding APCs. Elsewhere, results of a study by Björk & Solomon showed that the average APC level by journal is 906 USD, with averages varying across fields (DOI: 10.1002/asi.22673). Further figures in the same study, support the calculations within the working group’s report.
18. Concerns have been raised that the UK will be funding OA for other countries by being a first mover. Further criticism has been raised that the allocated funds will not be sufficient. In this context it may be worth noting that most OA publishers are able to split payments between more than one funding body or institution. The Open Access Key system (a third party payment aggregator that many OA publishers are partnering with) also allows for split payments.
19. As yet the full infrastructure for gold OA has not been established. OASPA is currently cooperating with other stakeholders on three issues that are critical to address: payment mechanisms, metrics, and quality control. While all three of these areas pose challenges, concrete steps are being taken.
20. In particular, the emergence of intermediaries in this area, with systems built on the input of experienced OA publishers and institutions who have managed central funds, contributes to reducing what could otherwise amount to an unmanageable number of micro payments. OASPA is aware that JISC is involved in investigating means of managing the RCUK funds allocated for gold OA.
21. The development of alternative metrics for measuring impact as well as a standard for reporting such measures will be key to evaluating the value of publishing services in future. OA publishers have begun to discuss these issues and are working to make progress towards solutions that will be of value to the broader community.
22. It is particularly in relation to infrastructural issues that OASPA agrees with the argument that there is a need to bring stakeholders together at this time in order to manage change as the publication eco system evolves. OASPA would support and be happy to be involved in any attempts to make the infrastructure for OA and payment of APCs easier for authors, HEIs and publishers.
Variations across fields
23. Some stakeholders have argued that the RCUK policy as it currently stands does not take account of the differences between scholarly subject areas; noting in particular that the policy ignores the realities of the Social Sciences and Humanities.
24. OASPA recognizes that the uptake of OA varies across subject areas. For this reason, it is important that the RCUK policy also allows for alternatives to publishing gold OA. The possibility to take advantage of author archiving (green) provides a secondary route of compliance that will likely be important for journals in the social sciences and humanities , for example.
25. At the same time, OASPA would argue that the RCUK policy speaks to an argument against OA in the Humanities that has been raised earlier. Namely, that funding levels in the Humanities do not allow for adoption of gold OA. OASPA applauds the RCUK policy for providing funding across all fields of scholarship which it supports. This may also provide a context for some journals in fields that are underrepresented in the OA publishing market to experiment with OA.
Learned Societies will be damaged by the policy
26. OASPA recognizes the concerns of scholarly societies for whom journal income has become an important source of income for other important society activities. In particular for those societies whose primary income is derived from a subscription-based journal, a consideration of OA and move to gold OA cannot be taken lightly.
27. Given the difficult situation many societies face, it is important that the RCUK policy provides for a green option as well as allowing for a hybrid solution (i.e. offering authors a choice of gold for the individual article in exchange for a payment). Indeed many society titles already offer a hybrid option.
28. PLoS, BioMed Central, Springer, Co-Action Publishing and Copernicus Publications have all gained experience from working with scholarly societies to transition journals to gold OA. In some cases, particularly for smaller and medium sized societies, the transition has resulted in the same or a better financial situation in relation to the journal.
29. Among the resources that might be useful to societies considering gold OA is a list that Peter Suber and Caroline Sutton have made freely available covering journals that have moved to gold OA. This list currently contains nearly 700 titles. The OAIG has funded a project aimed at developing resources for societies considering gold OA. These resources are due for publication within the next couple of months.
Relationship between gold and green
30. From an Open Access publishing perspective, archives and repositories provide channels for disseminating authors’ work and encouraging re-use, leading to greater impact. When published under an appropriate licence, the final published version of an article can be deposited within an institutional or subject repository immediately upon publication. OA publishers generally provide support to authors in depositing their articles as well as providing automatic deposit on behalf of authors.
31. As a society dedicated to developing gold OA, OASPA refrains from offering opinion on embargo periods.
Rushing in to Open Access
32. As a reaction to the limited discussion and debate of the National Working Group’s report, before the RCUK policy was adopted, it has been argued that the Council is “rushing in to Open Access”. While the current surge in debate over the Councils’ policy may well indicate that a greater debate period was desired by many actors, it is worth noting that Open Access, and gold OA, have been debated for over a decade. The issues and concerns that are being raised in current discourse are unsurprising and echo those that have been aired for a number of years. Gold OA was established over 10 years (with earlier examples of single journals going back to the mid -1980s, using bitnet for distribution).
Sustaining peer review and high-quality editorial work
33. Throughout the debate on OA claims have been made that gold OA is not compatible with quality editorial work or peer review. In the worst case scenario presented, authors may engage in vanity publishing as the APC model is corrupt and leads publishers to accept everything and anything for publication. This myth has largely been debunked over the last few years. In addition to the stringent membership criteria OASPA applies (and which has been adopted by a number of funding bodies and central fund managers), most OA publishers have established mechanisms to separate financial decisions (for waivers) from editorial decisions (to publish). Editorial quality is not dependent on business model.
34. Often quality is conflated with prestige. While a new journal may offer high quality editorial practices from day 1, prestige takes time to build up. Now that open access publishing is over a decade old, a growing number of Open Access journals have rapidly become leaders in their fields in terms of impact factor, etc.
First mover disadvantage?
35. A second concern that has been raised is the notion that the UK stands to suffer as a first mover; UK research will be available to the world, but the UK shall not be rewarded with the same access to global research, at least initially. While understandable, this concern ignores fact that a healthy research sector requires that the output of the research should be widely read and cited around the world – this provides the key to fruitful international cooperation. So, increasing the global visibility of the output of UK research will itself benefit the UK research sector. It would certainly be unfortunate if the global scientific publishing system were to be stuck with a non-optimal model in terms of access and impact because no country was prepared to act first.
36. The leadership shown by the Wellcome Trust and NIH in unilaterally implementing open access policies rapidly resulted in adoption of similar policies by many other organizations worldwide, RCUK’s recent efforts to add impetus to the move to gold OA seem poised to have a similar influence on policy in Europe, the US, and the rest of the world. The Global Research Council is due to hold its inaugural global summit meeting in May 2013, and “agree on an action plan for implementing Open Access to Publications” is one of the two key topics for discussion, http://www.globalresearchcouncil.org/meetings .