When the open access movement began it was focused on solving two problems – the affordability problem (i.e. journal subscriptions are way too high, so research institutions cannot afford to buy access to all the research their faculty need), and the accessibility problem that this gives rise to.
Today, however, there is a growing sense that what really needs addressing is an ownership problem. Thus where in 2000 The Public Library of Science petition readily acknowledged publishers’ “right to a fair financial return for their role in scientific communication” (but sought to “encourage” them to make the papers they published freely available “within 6 months of their initial publication date”), today we are seeing calls for research communication to become “a community supported and owned enterprise” outside the control of publishers (see also here).
The key issue today, therefore, concerns the question of who should “own” and control scholarly communication, and more and more OA advocates are concluding that it should no longer be traditional publishers.
This change of emphasis is not surprising: as legacy publishers have sought to co-opt open access and bend it to their own needs, it has become clear that, since it is leaving legacy publishers in control, OA is insufficient on its own – because for so long as publishers remain in control the affordability problem that drove the calls for open access will not be solved. (More on this theme here).
What gives this issue greater urgency is a new awareness that legacy publishers are looking to leverage the control they have acquired over scholarly content to dominate and control the data analytics and workflow processes/tools that are emerging in the digital space – a development that could usher in a new generation of paywalls, and lock the research community into expensive proprietary services.
This then is the ownership problem facing the research community. How is it playing out in practice? The linked interview with Judy Ruttenberg, Co-Director of SHARE, surfaces the issues well I think.
SHARE (the SHared Access Research Ecosystem) was launched in response to a 2013 memorandum issued by the US Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) directing Federal agencies with more than $100M in R&D expenditures to “develop plans to make the published results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication and [require] researchers to better account for and manage the digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research.”
SHARE was an expression not just of librarians’ conviction that publicly-funded research should be freely available, but an assertion that it should be universities that provide access to it. As Ruttenberg puts it below, SHARE was founded in the belief that “university-administered digital repositories should be the mechanism by which federal agencies provide public access to funded research, most of which is conducted in universities.”
To read the Q&A please click here.
As is my custom, I have prefaced the interview with a long introduction. However, those who only wish to read the Q&A need simply click on the link at the head of the file and go directly to it.