Open Access challenges: From adoption to operation

Open access challenges

We kicked off this year with the Publisherspeak Journals Think Tank, a forum of journal publishing professionals that meets regularly to discuss challenges and brainstorm ideas. We had our very first meeting in January, where we discussed several priority topics.

The open access (OA) movement has been in motion for decades now, but it gained significant momentum in the last two years—the COVID-19 pandemic raised the call for open data and unrestricted access to research, Plan S came into effect in 2021, cOAlition S launched more initiatives to advance the movement, Open Access Week 2021 took place with the theme “It Matters How We Open Knowledge: Building Structural Equity,” and more. 

Despite the growth of OA, there are still many pressing challenges that hinder progress.

Adoption hesitancy

While the OA movement has seen much success in many areas, some disciplines remain hesitant to adopt this publishing model. The panel debated the need for versatile models for different scenarios—there is no “one size fits all” model that works for all publishers, across all disciplines. However, the resulting emergence of a large number of OA options in itself presents challenges, especially for young journals.

On potential solutions for this challenge, the panel concurred that a hybrid publishing model can be a good starting point for established journals to dip their toe into the waters of the OA movement, but that launching new journals under an OA model typically makes more sense in the current market. It is important to ensure that journal integrity and quality are upheld in finding a balance between publishing costs and content affordability.

Metadata reliability

In the digital age, there is an abundance of metadata. But is this data being put to the best use? Publishers deal with a vast amount of author and article metadata across different sources, including submission systems, production systems, and hosting platforms. The panel discussed the challenge of having to match all this information to ensure consistency and reliability throughout the publishing lifecycle and beyond.

Uniform flow of metadata from submission to publication is the key to data integrity. This calls for a single system that would prevent siloing of data and simplify its flow from one stage to the next, with links out to essential persistent identifiers like ORCID.

The elusive sweet spot

A hard truth is that the need to secure a publication’s future can sometimes be another challenge in adopting OA. It is especially exigent to identify the “sweet spot” where a publication can make its article charges affordable and simultaneously cover its costs and have the surplus to grow its program in the future.

From a publisher’s point of view, submission fees and publication fees are good revenue streams that also serve the benefit of filtering out unqualified submissions. And from a reader’s perspective, online OA models are desirable because these models provide ample opportunities for receiving citations and recognitions for articles.

But the article processing charge (APC) route may not be the right–and the most inclusive–way to go. Funders and publishers need to consider scenarios where researchers and institutions are not as well funded. Considering this, an OA model that shifts the burden of payment away from both authors and readers seems more favorable.

Furthermore, the panel also discussed national grants and government initiatives and how these can go a long way in bolstering the OA movement. For instance, RedALyC is an OA digital library supported by Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, a public Mexican university along with other institutions. SciELO is an OA journal database that covers Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula, and South Africa.

The panel agreed that as the OA movement continues to expand, a concerted collaborative effort from publishers, funders, researchers, and governments is the need of the hour.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Journals Think Tank!

About the Publisherspeak Think Tank

The publishing landscape is evolving rapidly with time, giving rise to exciting developments and new challenges. The Publisherspeak Think Tank brings together experts from diverse areas of the publishing ecosystem, to share their experiences and insights to adapt to challenges and adopt industry trends.