Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dominique Babini on the state of Open Access: Where are we, what still needs to be done?

Dominique Babini
This is the ninth Q&A in a series exploring the current state of Open Access (OA). On this occasion the questions are answered by Dominique Babini, Open Access Advocacy leader at the Latin American Council on Social Sciences (CLACSO). Based in Argentina, CLACSO is an academic network of 345 social science institutions, mainly in the universities of 21 of the region’s countries.

In inviting people to take part in this Q&A series I have been conscious that much of the discussion about Open Access still tends to be dominated by those based in the developed world; or at least developing world voices are often drowned out by the excitable babble of agreement, disagreement, and frequent stalemate, that characterises the Open Access debate.

It has therefore never been entirely clear to me how stakeholders in the developing world view OA, and whether their views differ greatly from those that have dominated the OA conversation since it began in around 1994. In the hope of gaining a better understanding I plan to invite a number of people based in the developing world to take part in this series.

To start the ball rolling I am today publishing a Q&A with Dominique Babini, who is based at the University of Buenos Aires. Readers will judge for themselves how, and to what extent, Babini’s views differ from those we hear so often from those based in, say, North America or Europe.

Personally, I was struck by two things. First, unlike everyone else so far in this series, Babini does not directly mention either the Finch Report or the controversial OA policy introduced earlier this year by Research Councils UK (RCUK).

Second, Babini is quite clear that commercial publishers should no longer be allowed to set the agenda for scholarly communication. Indeed, she sees little useful role for them in a world where research is now routinely shared and distributed online.

This latter point confirms a suspicion I have had for a while. That is, as the world increasingly moves to OA two opposing views of how scholarly communication should be organised appear to be emerging. One view says that the only way scholarly publishing can be efficient and effective is if market forces control the process. Of necessity, this implies that commercial publishers should continue to play a major role in the process of distributing research.

A second view says that since commercial publishers have shown themselves to be excessively greedy and controlling, it is no longer appropriate for them to be involved in the process of managing and sharing publicly funded research, particularly now that the online environment makes it possible for the research community to take back ownership of scholarly communication.

This second view appears not to be confined to the developing world. The impact of commercial publishers on scholarly publishing has been aired twice in this series already. In the first Q&A, for instance, palaeontologist Mike Taylor said, “I'm so frustrated by the compromises that researchers, librarians and even funders make to the legacy publishers. Those publishers are not our partners, they're our exploiters. We don't need to negotiate with them; we don't even need to fight them. We just need to walk away.”

And in the sixth Q&A, Portuguese librarian Eloy Rodrigues remarked “while I am convinced that OA is the future, I’m not completely sure whether it will be a ‘research-driven OA’, or a ‘publishing-driven OA’. Both scenarios are still possible, and the way in which we will transition and implement OA will make a world of difference.”

Specifically, Rodrigues suggested that the extent to which scholarly publishing proves to be cost effective in the future will depend on which form of OA emerges.

Alternative model

Of course, any suggestion that the role of commercial publishers in scholarly publishing should be curtailed, or ended, invites an obvious response: What alternative model is there? As publishers (and apparently librarians) believe that there is no alternative, this is an important question.

Could it be, however, that the developing world has an answer? In her Q&A Babini draws our attention to a number of online indexing services in Latin America and Africa that have over time developed into novel OA platforms — notably Brazil-based SciELO, Mexico-based Redalyc and South Africa-based African Journals Online (AJOL).

Babini points out that none of these are commercial services but local non-profit community-organised projects. And while initially they were created simply to index the content of local journals in order to raise their visibility, over time they have evolved into full text OA services and, for those journals that want it, some can even provide complete OA publishing platforms. (For instance, a number of the journals on AJOL — which is based on the open source software Open Journal Systems (OJS) developed by the Public Knowledge Project (PKP) — do not have their own web platforms, but manage the entire publication process on AJOL, including peer review.

Between them SciELO and Redalyc now index nearly 2,000 Latin American peer-reviewed journals, all of which are available in full-text and all of which are available on an OA basis. And AJOL offers access to 460 African journals, although only 150 of these are currently OA (45% of the individual articles indexed by AJOL are OA).

Most of the journals indexed by the three services do have their own web sites, but the services offer a unified platform to allow users to search across all the journals in one go. However, this is no longer the most significant point about these OA portals. What is noteworthy is that, with the exception of those journals in AJOL that still levy subscriptions, all the content is freely accessible to anyone, and (most notably) none of the OA journals indexed by the portals levies article-processing charges (APCs).

In other words, in this environment Gold OA does not imply “pay to publish/free to read”, but “free to publish/free to read”. So when OA advocates in Latin America say that they support Gold OA they do not have in mind the kind of model envisaged by Finch/RCUK (where researchers are able to access third-party content for free, but need funds to pay to publish their own research), but the model exemplified by SciELO and Redalyc (where research can be both accessed and published without charge).

In addition, research institutions in Latin America are busy setting up Green OA institutional repositories. These are viewed not as publishing platforms but the locus for researchers to self-archive papers they have published elsewhere (either in subscription or OA journals), as well as their theses, books, and research reports. That is why Babini talks below of both Green and Gold open access platforms.

Given the apparent success and popularity of non-profit OA platforms like SciELO, Redalyc and AJOL, and the growing disillusionment with the OA roadmap envisaged by Finch/RCUK, we might wonder whether the new model emerging in the developing world offers a better option for the developed world too.

Two different directions

Either way, right now OA publishing appears to be pointing in two different directions. One direction envisages a world in which scholarly communication continues to be moulded and driven by commercial interests (as envisaged by Finch/RCUK), the other points to a world in which scholarly communication is moulded and driven by the research community itself, and on a non-profit basis.

It may of course be that the Global North will end up adopting the Finch/RCUK model while the Global South adopts the SciELO/Redalyc model — and these different models might turn out to suit those respective parts of the world well enough. We might also see the development of mixed models; and additional new models could emerge too. Whatever the future holds, however, we should note that it is public money that is used to fund the process of scholarly communication. It therefore surely behoves the research community to spend that money responsibly, wisely and cost effectively.

The problem right now, as Babini points out, is that the research community seems to be sleep-walking into the future rather than planning it. What is needed, she suggests, is a global discussion on how best to build the future of scholarly communication.

Instead, what we too often see today is an OA movement at war with itself, or simply so focused on small details that it cannot see the big picture. And for their part, governments appear over keen to, as Peter Suber puts it in the eight Q&A in this series, “put the business interests of publishers ahead of the access interests of researchers.”

Meanwhile, legacy publishers are now working overtime to create OA in their own (profitable) image.

“Now that OA is here to stay we really need to sit down and think carefully about what kind of international system we want to create for communicating research, and what kind of evaluation systems we need, and we need to establish how we are going to share the costs of building these systems,” says Babini.

For her part, Babini believes that scholarly output should be treated as a commons, and so managed as a “shared social-ecological system”. Her thinking on this has been heavily influenced by the ideas of Elinor Ostrom and Charlotte Hess, ideas they expounded in their book Understanding Knowledge as a Commons.

And that, it seems, is the kind of picture that starts to emerge if one asks an OA advocate based in Latin America to comment on the current state of OA. But please do read the Q&A below to get the complete picture.

Earlier contributors to this series include palaeontologist Mike Taylor, cognitive scientist Stevan Harnad, former librarian Fred Friend, SPARC director Heather Joseph, publishing consultant Joseph Esposito, Portuguese librarian Eloy Rodrigues, Executive Officer of the Australian Open Access Support Group Danny Kingsley, and de facto leader of the Open Access movement Peter Suber

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Peter Suber on the state of Open Access: Where are we, what still needs to be done?

Peter Suber
This is the eighth Q&A in a series exploring the current state of Open Access (OA). On this occasion the questions are answered by Peter Suber, de facto leader of the OA movement.

Philosopher, jurist, and one-time stand-up comic, Peter Suber was one of the small group of people invited by the Soros Foundation to the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) meeting held in Hungary in 2001. It was in Budapest that the term Open Access was chosen, and a definition of OA agreed.

And it was Suber who drafted that definition, doing so with words that still stir, inspire, and motivate OA advocates everywhere.

It was also Suber who chose to make the biggest sacrifice for the cause. In 2003 he gave up his position as a tenured full professor to become a full-time advocate for the movement, swapping secure employment for a series of uncertain, short-term grants.

But Suber’s commitment and hard work for the OA cause has been rewarded. In 2003 he was named Senior Researcher for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), in 2009 he received a joint fellowship at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and in 2011 he became Director of the Harvard Open Access Project. His relationship with Harvard deepened this year when he was appointed the new Director of Harvard’s Office of Scholarly Communication, replacing Stuart Shieber, the architect of the Harvard OA mandates.

Suber is also the author of the definitive book on Open Access, which is itself now available OA.

Who better then than Peter Suber to summarise the current state of Open Access, outline what still needs to be done, and suggest what the priorities should be?

Suber’s answers to my ten questions are published below. Personally, what I found noteworthy about them is that — along with most of the interviewees in this series so far — Suber singles out for censure both the Finch Report and the subsequent Research Councils UK (RCUK) OA policy, in which researchers are exhorted to favour gold OA over green OA, and permitted to opt for hybrid OA.

Like many OA advocates, Suber also argues that green OA is a more effective and efficient strategy for achieving Open Access than gold OA in the short term. As he puts it, “[I]t’s still the case that green scales up faster and less expensively than gold. I want us to work on scaling up gold, developing first-rate OA journals in every field and sustainable ways to pay for them. But that’s a long-term project, and we needn’t finish it, or even wait another day, before we take the sensible, inexpensive, and overdue step of adopting policies to make our entire research output green OA.”

He adds, “I still believe that green and gold are complementary, and that in the name of good strategy we should take full advantage of each. From this perspective, my chief disappointment with the RCUK policy is that it doesn’t come close to taking full advantage of green.”

And like the majority of interviewees in this series, Suber deprecates hybrid OA. “Bottom line: hybrid journals offer very little OA content and still charge subscriptions, and therefore offer very little help to authors or readers and no help at all to libraries.”

However, unlike earlier interviewees, Suber makes a point of deploring the phenomenon that has come to blight the OA movement like nothing else — what he refers to as the “cancerous growth of scam or predatory OA journals”.

But lest there be any doubt, Suber has much to say that is positive about OA as well, and he takes the opportunity to underline his continuing belief in its ultimate success, and the many benefits he expects it to bring. “A couple of years after Budapest, we already had worldwide momentum for OA,” he says. “Today policy makers agree that the question is not whether to make the shift to OA, but how.”

But don’t listen to me, read the careful, measured and informative words of Suber himself in the Q&A below.

Earlier contributors to this series include palaeontologist Mike Taylor, cognitive scientist Stevan Harnad, former librarian Fred Friend, SPARC director Heather Joseph, publishing consultant Joseph Esposito, Portuguese librarian Eloy Rodrigues, and executive director of the Australian Open Access Support Group Danny Kingsley.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Danny Kingsley on the state of Open Access: Where are we, what still needs to be done?

Danny Kingsley
This is the seventh Q&A in a series exploring the current state of Open Access (OA). On this occasion the questions are answered by Danny Kingsley, Executive Officer of the Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG), an organisation founded at the end of last year by six Australian universities in order to provide “a concerted and coordinated Australian voice in support of open access.”

So far, 2013 has seen the OA scene dominated by events in the US and Europe. In the US, for instance, we have seen the publication of the OSTP Memorandum and the introduction of the FASTR bill in Congress. In Europe, the EU has committed to OA for its Horizon 2020 Framework Programme and the European Research Council has published its Guidelines for Open Access.

But it is the controversial OA Policy introduced on April 1st by Research Councils UK (RCUK) that has attracted the greatest attention (and opprobrium) within the OA movement, not least because of its stipulation that researchers favour Gold over Green OA, and its endorsement of Hybrid OA.

But how does the picture look outside the US and Europe? I hope we can explore this in some of the Q&As in this series. Today, Danny Kingsley provides a perspective from Australia. Prior to taking on her role at AOASG, Kingsley spent five years studying the OA situation in Australia for her PhD, and then four years as a repository manager at the Australian National University (ANU), so she has a keen understanding of the OA scene in Australia.

On the positive side, says Kingsley, the flood of international statements about OA we have seen this year (e.g. here) has strengthened the voice of those advocating for OA. And Australia is well placed to benefit from this: All of its universities now have an institutional repository, and both the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have introduced OA mandates that favour Green OA.

On the negative side, says Kingsley, researchers' lack of engagement with Open Access remains “a continual disappointment.” As a result, she suggests, OA advocates need “to stop talking to ourselves and work out the best way to engage the researchers.”

Unfortunately, however, this task has been made that much harder by the recommendations of the Finch Report (on which the controversial RCUK Policy was based), and the consequent decision by RCUK to favour Gold OA, and endorse Hybrid OA.

Indeed, Kingsley’s account suggests that, rather than being a tipping point for OA, the RCUK Policy has impeded progress, not just in the UK but globally. “The Finch/RCUK decision to back and fund Gold Open Access including Hybrid has had ramifications around the world with publishers tightening the deposit and embargo rules for repositories,” she says. “While this is ostensibly to encourage UK researchers to take the Gold OA option to comply with their rules it affects everyone.”

Moreover, adds Kingsley, “Hybrid is tainting Open Access because researchers often think this is what Open Access means and are (understandably) upset and angry about the changes they feel are being forced upon them.”

Whether the impact of Finch/RCUK is being felt in the same way elsewhere, including in the developing world, will perhaps become clearer in future interviews. As Kingsley acknowledges, “Australia still aligns itself mostly with Europe and North America”.

It is worth noting, however, that Kingsley views OA in a broader context than some. She suggests, for instance, that it be seen as a component part of a larger revolution that the research process needs to undergo. For instance she says, changing the reward system, “such as including Open Access as something that counts for assessment exercises, will be a definitive incentive to change behaviour.”

However she adds, “the real game changer” (and which would encourage take-up of OA) would be to overhaul the reward system used to incentivise researchers. “The publishers have been able to maintain the status quo because the reward system backs the outdated and inappropriate Journal Impact Factor as a measure of quality.”

She adds, “We need to instead value & reward article level metrics. A focus on these rather than the journal not only makes it more difficult to game (as there are multiple factors) but it also means there will be a push away from the journal as a measure of value. That’s when we can really start looking at revolutionising the scholarly communication system.”

To get the full picture on how Kingsley views the current state of OA, what she thinks still needs to be done, and where she believes the priorities should lie, please read the Q&A below.

Earlier contributors to this series include palaeontologist Mike Taylor, cognitive scientist Stevan Harnad, former librarian Fred Friend, SPARC director Heather Joseph, publishing consultant Joseph Esposito and Portuguese librarian Eloy Rodrigues.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Eloy Rodrigues on the state of Open Access: Where are we, what still needs to be done?

This is the sixth Q&A in a series exploring the current state of Open Access (OA). On this occasion the questions are answered by Eloy Rodrigues, Portuguese librarian and Director of the University of Minho’s Documentation Services.
Eloy Rodrigues
In any movement there are those who talk about what needs to be done and there are those who get on and do it. Judging by the limited number of posts that Eloy Rodrigues has made to the primary OA mailing list (GOAL) he does not belong to the former group. However, Google offers ample evidence that he regularly gives business-like presentations and workshops on OA.

But Rodrigues’ most important contribution to OA is surely his practical work in helping to develop the essential building blocks required for OA to become a reality — particularly the all-important infrastructure needed to facilitate Green OA, or self-archiving. This includes creating interoperable institutional repositories and introducing Open Access policies.

Who better to describe what Rodrigues has contributed to the cause than de facto leader of the Open Access movement, Peter Suber? “Eloy Rodrigues led the effort to adopt an OA mandate at the University of Minho in December 2004,” he explains. “The Minho policy was one of the first two OA mandates anywhere, which makes Eloy one of the first among the effective OA advocates anywhere.”

Suber adds, “His influence has continued to grow over the years, for example, as a leader in the Portugal Open Access Science Repository (Repositório Científico de Acesso Aberto de Portugal or RCAAP) project, a member of the European University Association Working Group on Open Access, Chairman of the COAR Working Group on the Interoperability of Open Access Repositories, and a participant in the 10th anniversary meeting of the Budapest Open Access Initiative.”

Above all, Rodrigues’ work has shown that, when implemented correctly, Green OA is the quickest and surest way for a university to make its research freely available. This November the University of Minho’s institutional repository (RepositóriUM) will be ten years old. During its lifetime the number of items deposited in the repository (articles, conference papers, working papers, theses and dissertations, etc.) has grown from a couple of hundred to more than 23,000.

What UMinho’s experience has shown, however, is that it is not enough simply to build a repository, and it is not even enough to then mandate researchers to deposit their work in that repository — researchers also have to be incentivised to comply with the mandate. This is evident in the graph below, which shows the annual growth in the number of items deposited in RepositoriUM. Two upticks are apparent, the first occurred after the university first introduced its mandate in 2004, the second (in 2011) after the mandate was upgraded to provide greater incentives to researchers to comply. Compliance with the University of Minho’s OA mandate is currently approaching 70 percent.

Number of new items deposited in RepositoriUM by year
But how does Rodrigues view the current state of OA, and what does he feel still needs to be done? To find out, read the Q&A below.

For me what stands out from Rodrigues’ answers is his assertion that how OA develops from now on will to a great extent depend on who drives it. Above all, he says, this will determine whether the costs of scholarly communication will be driven down — a long desired objective of the research community. 

As he puts it, “[I]f, and how much, cheaper it will be will depend to a great extent on what kind of transition to OA we have. If we have a ‘research-driven’ transition — where research organizations and researchers assume a greater role and responsibility for disseminating and publishing their own results, there should be sufficient pressure to squeeze down publishing costs and publisher profits to a quasi-optimal level. In such a scenario I am pretty confident that OA will be much cheaper.

“If, on the other hand, the research community accepts a ‘publishing-driven’ transition, where costs, prices and profit margins all remain primarily in the control of publishers, there will be little incentive to reduce costs and prices, and OA could end up being little cheaper than the current model.”

What remains to be seen, of course, is the extent to which the research community is either willing or able to “take back” scholarly publishing. On this, we could note, University of Utah librarian Rick Anderson has recently expressed some scepticism.

Nevertheless Rodrigues makes an important point: the OA movement has arrived at a key turning point, a turning point that will likely determine how scholarly communication evolves, not just in the next few years, but in the long term. When and how (even whether) the research community benefits from the change remains to be seen.

Earlier contributors to this series include palaeontologist Mike Taylor, cognitive scientist Stevan Harnad, former librarian Fred Friend, SPARC director Heather Joseph, and publishing consultant Joseph Esposito.

The Q&A begins

Q: When and why did you become an OA advocate?

A: It’s hard to indicate a specific point in time, but I would say that I started to be interested in Open Access from the end of 2002. However, it was more than year later before I fully understood the overall potential and implications of OA, and it was at that time that I became an active Open Access advocate.

My interest started as a result of several events that took place at the end of 2002:  Having become the Director of Minho University (UMinho) libraries in December 2002, I wanted to implement a solution for the preservation and ongoing access of Minho’s theses and dissertations. It was at that time that I also first became aware of the concept of institutional repositories, and in December of that year an Open Archives Forum Workshop about OAI-PMH was organized in Lisbon (I didn’t attend personally, but asked a colleague to participate). As a consequence, by the end of January 2003 we had decided to create an institutional repository — not only for theses and dissertations, but for all the university’s research output. That led to a growing interest on Open Access.

Our institutional repository — RepositóriUM — was publicly launched in November 2003, but we pretty soon “discovered” that creating a repository doesn’t mean that researchers will immediately start to self-archive their publications in it. Conscious by now that others were facing the same problem I began to engage in advocacy, and subsequently led the efforts to introduce an OA policy and mandate at Minho. At the end of 2004, therefore, UMinho established a self-archiving policy by a Rectors decision.

This also led to my becoming an increasingly active Open Access advocate, not just at UMinho but elsewhere...

Q: What would you say have been the biggest achievements of the OA movement to date, and what have been the biggest disappointments?

A: Probably like most OA advocates I always experience mixed feelings when trying to assess our progress towards OA. On one hand it’s indisputable that we’ve made tremendous progress, and in a short period of time. When the original Budapest meeting was convened in 2001, “Open Access” (at that point still not defined) was “marginal”, practised by a very small number of researchers (physicists aside) and completely unknown to the vast majority of people working in research and academia. Today OA is “mainstream”, recognized and accepted by almost all researchers, required by a growing number of research funders, and the percentage of research output available as Open Access is now estimated to be close to one third of the total. In Portugal, we have moved from one repository in 2003, to more than 40 in 2013, from no Open Access journals to more than 80, from no Open Access policies to 15 Open Access policies introduced in research institutions. This is certainly very impressive! So I think the OA movement can be proud of making, in just 11 years, Open Access inevitable. That is the biggest achievement and I’m convinced that there is no turning back anymore.  

On the other hand, progress towards OA has not been as “linear”, or as fast, as some of us would have anticipated or wanted, or even as fast as is possible. There are many objective reasons for this (e.g. the diversity of contexts — from disciplinary to national ones — and stakeholders: researchers, research funders and policy makers, research institutions, libraries, publishers, etc.). There are also subjective reasons — from the challenges in establishing co-ordinated positions within the OA movement, to the consequences of the efforts made by opponents of Open Access to stop or slow progress (often operating behind the scenes).

I have been particularly disappointed over the last year to see how a move (the new RCUK OA policy) that was intended to foster OA, has contributed to a more confused landscape, and could have some very dangerous consequences — e.g. the wasting of research resources by diverting even more money into a currently very well (if not over) financed publishing industry, the downgrading of green OA, the lengthening of embargoes etc., etc.). The impact of this will not be confined to the UK, but will have implications worldwide.

Q: There has always been a great deal of discussion (and disagreement) about the roles that Green and Gold OA should play. What do you think should be the respective roles of Green and Gold today, especially in the context of Southern Europe and the Portuguese-speaking world?

A: I firmly believe that both Green and Gold OA are useful and valid approaches during the transition to OA, as originally stated in the BOAI Declaration. My work has been focused so far on promoting repositories and green OA (through RCAAP and its repository hosting service), but I’ve supported several initiatives, in Portugal and elsewhere, focused on OA journal creation and development (e.g. the RCAAP journal hosting service).

But as SPARC’s Heather Joseph stated in her Q&A earlier in this series, when it comes to policies, requiring deposition in an OA repository is the baseline requirement. Fortunately, this has been the requirement of most institutional and funder policies. And the reason why universal Green OA mandates should remain the baseline for funder and institutional policies is that, not only do they offer an immediate solution (even with temporary limitations related to embargoes and/or re-use rights) for open access, but they exert pressure and provide incentives for the establishment and operation of what Stevan Harnad calls “fair gold”.

In Portugal, as in other Southern European countries (especially those participating in the MedOANet project, which is preparing guidelines for effective and co-ordinated OA policy implementation), the baseline on Green is particularly relevant, because in addition to the reasons I mentioned above, we face a severe economic and financial crisis. So it would be a complete nonsense to divert our increasingly scarce national research funds to paying to publish in OA journals (after all, since we will need to maintain our journal subscriptions during the transition, paying for APCs would require additional and unnecessary expense). 

That said, I think we should maintain support for very relevant, and research driven, Gold OA initiatives in the Portuguese speaking world.

Q: What would you say should be the role of Hybrid OA?

A: I understand that Hybrid OA could, theoretically, be a good way of transitioning to Open Access. But I fear that, in practice, Hybrid OA is not providing a valid and fair strategy for the transitional period. In fact, despite a few examples of genuine commitment from publishers, the truth is that for most of the “big players” Hybrid OA seems to be essentially an opportunity to increase revenues by “double dipping”.

One essential (but certainly not sufficient) condition that would be needed in order for Hybrid OA to work on a “fair” and useful way for OA, would be complete transparency about subscription revenues and publication costs. But transparency is simply not possible in a market now dominated by “big deals” (often with confidentiality clauses attached) between publishers and different types of consortia.

So, I think Hybrid OA should not be supported, or at least stimulated, and I agree with those funders who will only pay APCs for pure Gold journals and not Hybrid ones.

Q: How would you characterise the current state of OA, both in Portugal and globally?

A: I think we are living in very interesting and crucial times for OA, both in Portugal and at the global level. As I indicated, I’m personally convinced that OA is already an inevitability. So, the question now is how and when we will get there, and who will lead the transition to Open Access. I think even those who were opposing Open Access have come to understood that, and they have started to concentrate on the “battle” over OA implementation.

What I am saying is that while I am convinced that OA is the future, I’m not completely sure whether it will be a “research-driven OA”, or a “publishing-driven OA”. Both scenarios are still possible, and the way in which we will transition and implement OA will make a world of difference. 

The next few months will shed some light on the road ahead. Two of the most influential events will certainly be the results of the political initiatives in the US (the OSTP Memorandum and the proposed FASTR legislation), and the implementation details of the Open Access principle in Horizon 2020 in Europe. With regard to the latter, I hope the universal requirement will be for publications to be made available on the OpenAIRE portal (which I think should also be used for the reporting, monitoring and assessment of EU funded projects).

In Portugal we are waiting for the final version of the national funder (FCT) announced Open Access policy. So, interesting times are in front of us...

Q: What still needs to be done, and by whom?

A: There is still plenty of work to be done. I would suggest there are two main priority areas. The first is the way in which OA policies/mandates are defined and implemented by funders and research institutions. Experience has shown that the most crucial factor in trying bring us faster and closer to 100% OA is the existence of effective Open Access mandates.

The other priority relates to advocacy, dissemination and cultural change.  “Open” is not yet the “default” in the research community, and there are still many old habits, beliefs, misconceptions, and fears, both among researchers and research organizations. These are real obstacles to moving to Open Access and Open Science. Making “open” the default, as defined in the Budapest meeting last year (BOAI10), and changing the dominant research culture, will require a lot of advocacy work, and a lot of education and training, in the coming years.

Policies are more of an immediate to short term priority, while changing the research culture is more of a medium to long term goal. But I think we need to act in both directions now, as they will mutually reinforce each other.

Q: What in your view is the single most important task that the OA movement should focus on today?

A: I will point again to policies. In the short term the factor that will have greatest impact on OA progress will be our capacity to get good Open Access policies from funders and research institutions.  What do I mean by “good OA policies”? I mean consistent, verifiable, monitored, enforceable and really enforced policies. Policies with the baseline requirement of repository deposition, and using repository deposition and availability as a reporting and monitoring tool to assess and ensure compliance.

Another challenge for OA advocates on the policy front is to try and ensure that policies from different funders and institutions are convergent (or at least not “competing”). This is crucial in the European context, as many researchers will have to comply with policies from their institutions plus several national or European research funders. It will be a nightmare if they are required to do a set of different things for each of them.

Q: What does OA have to offer the developing world?

A: Open Access offers the opportunity — as proclaimed in the Budapest Declaration — to “lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge”. So, for the developing world, as for the rest of the world, OA means enabling a two way dialogue.

Not only will researchers, teachers and students from the developing world have the opportunity (assuming Internet access is available) to access and use the knowledge produced in any part of the world. At the same time they will have the opportunity to disseminate and showcase the results of their own work. And there are many relevant examples where Open Access repositories and Open Access journals provide a global audience to research results, research that would otherwise probably be confined to local scientists.

I am proud to have been involved in two examples of this in Portuguese-speaking countries: Repositório SABER (Mozambique) and Portal do Conhecimento (Cape Verde)

Q: What are your expectations for OA in 2013?

A: I hope that the most relevant initiatives in Europe and the US that I mentioned above will have positive outcomes. That will have a huge influence on OA progress in the coming years.

And I particularly hope that the Portuguese national funder Open Access policy will finally be approved and start to be implemented. That is the missing piece for OA growth in Portugal.

Q: Will OA publishing in your view be any less expensive than subscription publishing? If so, why/how? Does cost matter anyway?

A: I’m convinced that OA will be cheaper. That is, the cost per published article will be lower than it is today. But if, and how much, cheaper it will be will depend to a great extent on what kind of transition to OA we have. If we have a “research-driven” transition — where research organizations and researchers assume a greater role and responsibility for disseminating and publishing their own results, there should be sufficient pressure to squeeze down publishing costs and publisher profits to a quasi-optimal level. In such a scenario I am pretty confident that OA will be much cheaper.

If, on the other hand, the research community accepts a “publishing-driven” transition, where costs, prices and profit margins all remain primarily in the control of publishers, there will be little incentive to reduce costs and prices, and OA could end up being little cheaper than the current model.

And yes, it matters a lot, because resources for research are limited, and if we spend more than is necessary on publishing each article the money used to do so will not be available to do, or to publish, more research.


Eloy Rodrigues is the Director of the University of Minho Documentation Services. In 2003, Rodrigues led the project to create Minho University’s institutional repository RepositoriUM, and in 2004 he drafted Minho University’s formal policy requiring open access to the institution’s scientific output.

One of Rodrigues’ main focuses of activity today is to promote and advocate for Open Access and institutional repositories, both in Portugal and in the Portuguese-speaking world. As part of that activity, since 2008 Rodrigues has led the technical team at Minho University in developing the RCAAP (Repositório Científico de Acesso Aberto de Portugal = Portugal Open Access Science Repository) project.

Rodrigues was a member of the EUA (European University Association) Working Group on Open Access, representing the Portuguese Rectors Council, he chairs the Repository Interoperability Working Group of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR), and he coordinates the participation of Minho University in various FP7 funded projects related to Open Access and repositories, including NECOBELAC, OpenAIRE, OpenAIREplus, and MEDOANET.