There is a long-lasting debate ongoing about the future of academic publishing and scientific communication with the rapid technological changes and digital revolution. Scientific communication is under continuous renovation in a digital setting closely associated with a world progressively open: open sources for researchers, electronic journals without access barriers, progressive alteration of publishing offers since the last decade of the 20th century.
What do you think about open access? Should all scientific research be made open access? Or the scientific knowledge should be locked behind paywalls? If you are the one who wants all scientific research be accessible and freely reachable, you are an open access advocate and don’t you think its worthy to be an advocate for open access! If so, you should wonder about the future of open access journals.
The open access movement was consolidated by fundamental political statements in the beginning of the 21st century. Governments and funders come to consider open access as a way to control their investment in research. At the same time, the major publishers adjust their strategy with new business models including open access.
Council of the European Union thinks that the challenge is to transform the academic publishing system to an open system without access barriers. And it seems that this is closely related with societal challenges and international competitiveness. In the last couple decades, open access, i.e. free and unrestricted access to scientific information, has become a significant part of scientific communication. Open access started, together with the Web, at the grassroots, as a bottom-up, community-driven model of open journals and repositories. Today the key driving forces are no longer community-driven needs and objectives but commercial, institutional and political interests. This development serves the needs of the scientific community insofar as more and more content becomes available through open journals and repositories. Yet, the fall of open access as a community-driven model is running the risk of becoming dysfunctional for the scientists and may create new barriers and digital divides.
Confronted with open science, learned societies, academic publishers, university presses and libraries have to “reinvent” their model. However, in spite of much enthusiasm, new business models are still uncertain, especially for smaller publishers. In the age of the new digital economy, some issues call for attention, such as the low survival rate of many start-ups, the rapid devaluation of a company such as Yahoo, or the omnipresence of Google… Even if it seems hard not to adhere to open science, it is time to take some critical stance and to ask if all these transformations are possible and desirable.
Even though there have been several things written and conversed at several platforms to discuss this critical issue and even special issues are published on this important topic to investigate the opportunities and risks of the transition of the academic publishing model and more globally, of open science, there are still lots of vital questions/issues to consider:
– What is the best business model of open access to recast the global funding of the system, i.e. transform the actual subscriptions into upstream subsidies for academic publishing?
– On the international level, how to globalize costs and respond to the risks of inequity between contributing countries?
– Which relationship between the business models of scientific research and academic publishing? How to establish sustainable models?
-Does open access provide the opportunity to articulate the publication system with public research management? Which is the impact on research evaluation?
– Which connection between research information systems and open access infrastructures?
– Societal and economic mediation: the two major arguments for open science are improved transfers of research results to society and to economy and business. Can we already assess even partial achievements?
– Is open access as relevant and efficient as other vectors of scientific mediation (transfer journals, public debates, museums …)?
How is open access related to citizen science?
– Can we observe positive effects on economy and business, in terms of innovation? Is open science compliant with the inherent logics of competition, public-private partnerships and industrial property?
All the questions listed above and many other questions need to be discussed in details to be able to better understand the future of open access and also the future of academic journal publishing.
- Chartron, G. 2016. Stratégie, politique et reformulation de l’open access. Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication . Available at http://rfsic.revues.org/1836
- Schöpfel, J., 2015. Open access – the rise and fall of a community-driven model of scientific communication. Learned Publishing 28 (4), 321-325. Available at http://hal.univ-lille3.fr/hal-01282744