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OPLIN 4Cast #287: News from the open access struggle

Posted in 4cast

At the end of 2010, the 4cast took a look at open access to scholarly information. While news on this topic may not be as frequent as news about ebooks, for example, or other more popular topics, there have been some significant, if gradual, developments in this area over the last year and a half. The whole discussion of open access may seem simply academic wishful thinking to some people, but the fact that the latest news all seems to concern practical things like money and politics might indicate that open access to research finally is approaching reality.

  • Open access victory in successful Access2Research petition (Electronic Frontier Foundation/Parker Higgins)  “Earlier this year, we saw the resounding defeat of the misguided Research Works Act, which would have severely restricted the amount of research that could be released under open access conditions. A group of researchers launched the ‘Cost of Knowledge’ campaign responding to the proposal, and allowed other academics to publicly boycott the bill’s primary supporter, the publishing behemoth Elsevier. In response to that boycott and other pressure, Elsevier withdrew its support for the Research Works Act in February, effectively killing the bill.”
  • MLA shift on copyright (Inside Higher Education/Scott Jaschik)  “Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the MLA [Modern Language Association], said that the association’s new policy ‘was not responding at all’ to the legislation and regulations. Rather, she said, ‘we see that publishing needs are changing, and our members are telling us that they want to place their scholarship in repositories, and to disseminate work on blogs.’ Professors want to produce articles that ‘circulate freely,’ she said, and that reach as many people as possible.”
  • Open access to research is inevitable, says Nature editor-in-chief (Guardian/Alok Jha)  “Philip Campbell said that the experience for readers and researchers of having research freely available is ‘very compelling’. But other academic publishers said that any large-scale transition to making research freely available had to take into account the value and investments they added to the scientific process.”
  • Pay (less) to publish: ambitious journal aims to disrupt scholarly publishing (Ars Technica/John Timmer)  “Publishers that offer open access options need to recoup their costs without subscription fees, however, and had researchers pay for their publications with charges that are generally over $1,000. Now, a new open access journal is being launched that aims to turn the finances on their head. Researchers will only have to pay a one-time fee of $259 to gain lifetime publishing privileges in the journal, which will focus on biology research.”

Library subscription fact:
A May report commissioned by The Publishers Association and the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers found that, if open access became mandatory, 46% of libraries would cut back their subscriptions to scientific journals and 65% would drop subscriptions to humanities journals.