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Open access: Current developments, future perspectives

Alicia Wise, Elsevier | Feb 26, 2013

Interested in open access? In addition to her article below, read Alicia Wise's "White House #OSTP memo plots course for open access" in Elsevier Connect and follow Alicia on Twitter @wisealic

Open access (OA) is high on the political agenda not only in the US, but also in many other parts of the world. Many of you are aware of the OA policy recommendations of the Finch Report in the UK.1  Elsevier supported the results of the report and how it shifted the conversation from the need for an  OA policy to when and how a managed transition to OA would be achieved.

When I talk about OA, it is often to consider the implications for researchers: choosing where to publish, affording article publishing charges, or considering new policies and mandates. Speaking at the ALA Midwinter Meeting provided a great opportunity to think about these changes from a librarian’s perspective.

Although the cost of the system as a whole remains the same, the way that the cost is shouldered is shifting from reader-side to author-side. Rather than the library carrying the weight of the cost load alone, research funders and research budgets will begin to help. Multiple budgets across funders, campuses and departments may need to be combined. Intensive internal coordination will be required to ensure institutions can enable and support new OA mandates.

With global investment in research increasing at approximately 4 percent per year, the number of researchers employed and articles published increases in kind.2 Therefore, budgets will remain under pressure.

You may be surprised to read that publishers feel this pressure too. Global investment in R&D fuels more research, which in turn produces more research articles. Elsevier’s submissions increased 9 percent during 2012, although the number of articles accepted for publication grew by only 4 percent. We must do more each year to ensure the quality and integrity of the scientific record, and with our average journal price increases at well below 9 percent, that means annual efficiency gains. Librarians will understand how challenging this is for any organization.

We also continue to make significant investments in our back-office systems to scale our OA services. Authors now have the choice to publish OA in 1,500 hybrid and 30 OA journals.  We also have a green OA program.

A question from the Digital Libraries Symposium is representative of the issues now arising: What is Elsevier doing to ensure that OA content in hybrid journals is discoverable by institutions that do not subscribe to that title? My colleagues inform me that they are discussing the issue with an array of vendors to find a solution.

A successful transition to OA presents challenges and opportunities for all stakeholders.  If all of us — academics, libraries, funding bodies, governments, publishers, societies and universities — work together, we have the best chance of changing what needs to be changed while preserving what we all value: the quality and integrity of the scientific record.


1    Finch Report, Research Information Network
2    “How libraries and publishers can work together,” Elsevier Connect