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Open Access

I recently went to an evening hosted by OPuS, entitled “Open Access – Three Shades of Gold” and I wanted to share a little bit with you.

Before I go any further, I am going to say that this is a fascinating topic, brighter minds than mine have already said a lot of well-considered things, and there is just too much to go into here – but if you are looking for more in depth information, please see the links at the bottom of this post to start you off.

Open Access, or “OA”, is a huge topic that not only affects the academic community, but everyone in publishing to one degree or another. OA is the practice of providing unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles. OA is also increasingly being provided to theses, scholarly monographs and book chapters. Laird Barrett has already talked a little bit about it here. Ernesto Priego of the Comics Grid journal also talked about the challenges of Open Access in his interview here.

A recent survey by Wiley Open Access of their authors showed that over 80% felt that OA was more prevalent in their field than three years ago. 1; The Finch Report, released this summer, says that open access is the future of academic publishing. 2.; and the UK government announced in July that it plans to make all research open access by 2014.3

Simply put, OA publishing, turning as it does the traditional journal subscription-based publishing model on its head, has got a LOT of people talking and trying to work out what comes next.

As an academic whose thesis was all about the democratization of content, review, and it’s accessibility to readers, OA has the potential to make me happy. As someone who’s worked in publishing and who understands that what we do is a business and that someone has to pay to get a journal published, OA makes me nervous. So you can imagine I was fascinated to hear from some key industry players on their experiences.

Deborah Kahn (@deborahatbmc), Publishing Director at Biomed Central (the largest OA publisher) gave a really good overview of the state of OA publishing as it stands, primarily as it relates to science and medical journals. She quoted recent research which has looked into the state of OA – and because it is open access, I can share it with you. 4

David Ross, Publisher at Sage, then gave an overview from the humanities angle. The differences in funding structures between the disciplines really do make for some challenges and it was clear that what works for STM might not be what is best for the humanities.

Finally, Brian Hole, CEO of Ubiquity Press (@ubiquitypress) gave us a glimpse into the possible future, with his emphasis on humanities journals and how they can be developed to fit in with the needs of scholarly communities.

Open Access clearly has the potential to affect us all. The snowball has started rolling and Academic and STM publishers are trying out various different approaches to make it work. But looking to the future, and across into trade publishing and the “e-book revolution”, I can see parallels. Simply put, how DO you monetize content in a world that sees digital as “free” or at least “cheaper”? How do you value intellectual property as opposed to a physical object? I can’t even pretend to have ANY of the answers, but I will tell you it is a truly AWESOME time to be involved in publishing and I cannot wait to see what is around the corner.

Footnotes and links:
The Guardian has done a good round-up of the open access debate: http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/blog/2012/aug/10/uk-open-access-research-debate-round-up

1Slideshow of results of Wiley Author Survey on Open Access 2012: http://www.slideshare.net/WileyScienceNewsroom/wiley-14895586 (found via @publish_advice)

2 Guardian article on the Finch Report: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jun/19/open-access-academic-publishing-finch-report. The full report can be found here.

3Department for Business Innovation and Skills: Government to open up publicly funded research press release.

4 Anatomy of open access publishing: a study of longitudinal development and internal structure. Mikael Laakso* and Bo-Christer Björk. BMC Medicine 2012 10:124 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-124 http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/10/124

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