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The Open-Access Movement


Dysfunctional practices in the journal publishing system

Recent independent studies of the journal publishing market have concluded that it is not working optimally because of structural problems (source). Subscription fee-based and print-based scholarly publishing system has become dysfunctional and is in a state of crisis. 

Journal subscription fees have risen four times faster than inflation since the mid-1980s. According to Blackwell Periodical Price Indexes, there has been an average increase in journal prices of 178.3% in science and technical journals between 1990 and 2000. Institutional subscriptions to individual journals can cost up to $20,000 per year. Recent estimates indicate that profits for traditional journals are, on average, 40% in a $9 billion industry.

The restricted-access subscription-based journal publishing system is in and of itself a barrier to advancement of knowledge because only the most affluent universities and scholars have access to most of the journals.  Moreover, during the past few years, the escalating cost of research journals has forced many scholars, libraries and institutions to cancel their subscriptions. The current system has become economically unsustainable for libraries, limiting their ability to provide access to vital research information. Universities have also faced decreasing support for libraries as spending on libraries has fallen under 3% of average university spending since 1980s. 

At a time when digital and online access should enable researchers to maximize the reach and impact of their research, the restrictive business practices of traditional publishers have placed serious constraints on the dissemination of knowledge. All of this is detrimental to both readers and authors. As the readers’ access to research becomes limited, it reduces the authors’ exposure. It creates barriers for the scientific community from scholarly interaction and access. Consequently, access to scientific knowledge has gone into a state of decline in recent years. Moreover, the US-based share of world scientific output has declined (source).
 

Discontent with the traditional business model

A widespread discontent with the traditional business model for scholarly journals has led to the proposal of a new business model, the open-access.  Open access publishing provides an accessible alternative by taking advantage of the Internet. As the printing press of the modern age, the Internet widens distribution and allows scholars to share knowledge instantly with a worldwide audience. It fosters openness in the flow of scientific and creative ideas as a means to advancing knowledge.  Many scholars now believe that open-access publishing is the wave of the future.
See what scholars are saying. 
 

 

"SJI is exactly what the scientific community needs.  With the Internet greatly reducing the cost of information distribution, the age of restrictive and expensive content from the traditional journal publishers should be on the way out and a new age of truly widespread and available discourse on scientific results can begin." -- Dr. Cory DiCarlo,  Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Grand Valley State University, Michigan.


"I strongly support SJI and its mission.  Open access journals increase and inspire research interest world-wide. These open access journals including SJI are edited by scientists who value the integrity and ethics of medical research. I have personally reviewed manuscripts for publications in SJI with the same process and scrutiny that I have reviewed manuscripts for other high impact journals." -- Dr. Atif Ali, Associate Professor of Pathology and Pediatrics, University of Missouri, Kansas City. Director of Immunohistochemistry, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.


"I strongly support open access peer reviewed journals like SJI. Open access journals are leading the way to scholarly work being available to all people around the world. As a sociologist I favor open access journals over journals reserved for a select group of people." -- Dr. Donna Dea Holland, Department of Sociology, Indiana Purdue University, Indiana.


"I strongly support SJI. Open-access journals are becoming the wave of the future, and they are highly beneficial to scholars and researchers all around the world.  As an open-access journal, SJI sets very high standards for peer reviews and for publication." -- Dr. Jianjun Sun, Research Fellow in the Department of Microbiology and  Molecular Genetics, Harvard Medical School.


"Open access journals are the need of the times, especially when there is a dearth of good journals in many regions of the world. Also, there is difficulty in accessing those that exist due to the prohibitive costs. The world has been witnessing an information explosion, and the knowledge so created requires such journals for the purpose of its dissemination." -- Dr. J. H. Khan, Professor and Head, Department of English, Sardar Patel University, India.


"Open access journals, such as SJI, are extremely beneficial to international scholars who will not be able to access most of the journals published overseas but are eager to obtain knowledge and exchange ideas with scholars around the world." -- Dr. Yali Zhao, Assistant Professor, Georgia State University, USA.
 

 

The open-access model of publishing

The open-access concept shifts the funding from subscription fees to article processing fees. This new model for scholarly publishing has gained support from scholars, universities, and funding agencies in recent years. According to surveys, many funding agencies are willing to allow direct use of their grants by researchers to cover article-processing fees (source). The concept of article processing fee, however, is not an entirely new practice.  Many traditional journals levied page charges or reprint charges, long before open access became a possibility. In addition, traditional journals charge subscription fees and restrict access to scientific knowledge to those scholars and institutions that can pay their escalating charges. 

Open-access publishing model has changed this unfair practice. It has eliminated the subscription fees and opened up access to scientific knowledge. However, in order to pay for the publishing costs and generate adequate revenues, many open-access publishers charge a processing fee on accepted articles. In some cases, it is the author's employer or research grantor who typically pays the fee. 

In the traditional subscription model of publishing, the journal is exclusively available to subscribers for a fee.  In the open-access model, the article is freely available for all immediately upon publication. Open-access publishing promises to remove both the price barriers and the permission barriers that undermine library efforts to provide access to journal literature.  The open-access model has improved the circulation of knowledge, and has expanded its value by enhancing participation in a global exchange of ideas. 

Open access makes knowledge freely available to all, regardless of whether the researcher or scholar is at Oxford or Yale, or at a small college in Mississippi, Mumbai or Manila. Open-access publishing enhances the visibility of university faculty, reduces their expenses for journals, and advances their mission to share knowledge. Open access publishing ensures a free flow of scientific information and knowledge at the worldwide level. Most scholars now agree that electronic journals are a much better way of delivering journal articles than paper journals housed in libraries. Moreover, open access promises to enlighten the citizens outside the academy, enhance teaching and learning, and speed up the pace of discovery. 

To a large extent, the open-access movement is a reaction to the dysfunctional practices in the conventional scholarly publishing system. Many scholars consider the traditional publishing system obsolete and believe that the future of scholarly publishing lies in the open-access model. Richard Roberts, a Nobel Laureate and Editor of NAR stated "Open access is the future of scientific publication and one that we should all work hard to make successful" (source).


Benefits of open access publishing


The open-access model of scholarly publishing serves the interests of everyone. Open-access publishing offers the authors a worldwide audience larger than that of any subscription-based journal. Scholars benefit because the open-access publishing provides them barrier-free access to the scientific literature they need for their own research (as they are not constrained by the budgets of the libraries).  Open-access publishing also helps solve the pricing crisis for scholarly journals. No library in the world can afford to subscribe to every scientific journal and most can only afford a small fraction of them.  Open-access also makes research articles more visible, retrievable, and useful at the worldwide level, and fosters scientific collaboration and advancement.

Several studies have confirmed that an open access article is more likely to be used and cited than articles behind subscription barriers.  A 2006 study in PLoS Biology found that articles published as immediate open access were three times more likely to be cited than non-open access papers. From the point of view of funding agencies, open-access publishing increases the return on their investment in research by making the results of the funded research more widely available. From the citizen's perspective, open-access publishing offers them access to peer-reviewed research, most of which is not available in public libraries. It gives them access to government-funded research for which they have already paid through their taxes. It also helps them indirectly by helping the researchers, academics, physicians, and others who make use of cutting-edge research that can benefit the public. In other words, open access extends the reach of research beyond its immediate academic circle.

Governments fund research in order to make an impact on the economy and society. Making the research results available more easily to the commercial sector (through knowledge transfer from research institutions to the industry) has great potential to promote innovation. Recently, Houghton et al had provided research data that reveal the economic value of increasing access to research outputs (source). Open-access publishing facilitates more effective search and retrieval as well as sophisticated processing and analysis of content. Access barriers associated with the traditional publishing system make such access and analysis difficult. 

There is now a growing global demand for open access publishing. According to a recent international study by researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians University of Germany and University of Arkansas, about 96% of researchers indicated that open-access publishing provides easier access to scientific knowledge and it is desirable. Many scholars believe that open access to scientific knowledge can bring a global revolution in teaching, learning, research, and collaboration. These findings are consistent with the widespread international support for global open access initiatives.
 

Worldwide support for open access

The open access concept has received considerable support from researchers, academics, librarians, university administrators, funding agencies, governments, national research agencies, commercial publishers, and society publishers. Recently, The Alliance for Taxpayer Access has been formed to create awareness about public’s right to open access to scientific information. More than 30 nations have signed the Economic Co-operation and Development Declaration on Access to Research Data from Public Funding (source).

During the past few years, a number of national and international initiatives have stressed the importance of open-access publishing. These include Open Society Institute’s Budapest Open Access Initiative in 2002, World Summit on the Information Society and its Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in 2003, and Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing in June 2003.  Many countries, granting agencies, foundations, universities and research organizations have now either made commitments to open access, or are in the process of opening up access to research. Government committees around the world are also taking steps to promote free online access to scientific literature.

Research funding agencies and universities want to ensure that the research they fund in various ways has the greatest possible reach and impact. Many funding agencies including The National Institutes of Health and The Wellcome Trust have adopted open-access self-archiving mandates. The European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) has also expressed support for open-access archiving. In 2005, the Canadian Library Association endorsed a Resolution on Open Access. The Association of College and Research Libraries of the American Library Association has also documented the need for increased access to scholarly information.

Recently, several leading European research institutions launched a petition that called on the European Commission to establish a new policy that would require all government-funded research to be made available to the public shortly after publication (source).  This petition has been signed by several Nobel Laureates and more than 20,000 scholars from hundreds of educational and research organizations from around the world. In response, the European Commission committed more than $100 million towards facilitating greater open access. In the United States, the Federal Research Public Access Act has been introduced that would require federal agencies that fund over $100 million in annual external research to make peer-reviewed journal articles stemming from that research publicly available on the Internet.

In 2007, there were calls for an EU-wide open access mandate from the European Research Advisory Board.  In the US, eight non-profit organizations launched a similar petition.  Other calls for open access to publicly-funded research came from Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Energy.  The final report of a joint UK/US meeting (sponsored by JISC and NSF) recommended an open access mandate for publicly-funded research.  In the UK, the e-Infrastructure Working Group of the Office of Science and Innovation endorsed the open access mandate at the Research Councils UK.  Library and Archives Canada has also called for open access to publicly-funded research.  In India, the National Knowledge Commission recommended an open access mandate.  University-level open access mandates are under consideration at Harvard, MIT, University of California and dozens of other major universities around the world. 

Twenty-five Nobel Laureates have recently asked the U.S. government to make all taxpayer-funded research papers freely available through open access platforms. The scientists said in a letter to Congress and the National Institutes of Health “Science is the measure of the human race’s progress. As scientists, and taxpayers too, we therefore object to barriers that hinder, delay or block the spread of scientific knowledge supported by Federal tax dollars - including our own works.”
 

 
 

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