On the road towards a sustainable open access publishing market: workshop report

On 20th April 2017, the ‘closing’ workshop of the FP7 Post-Grant Open Access Pilot, organised by LIBER, took place at the Royal Library in The Hague, Netherlands. (as has recently been announced, the Pilot has been extended with another 10 months – so ‘closing workshop’ might not be that accurate of a description) 60 stakeholders assembled for this day-long workshop. While the morning session focused on the activities undertaken during the Pilot, the afternoon was reserved for a presentation of the report “Towards a Competitive and Sustainable OA Market in Europe” by Research Consulting and a break-out session intended to gather input for the Roadmap that will accompany this report.

In the Pilot overview and results, Gwen Franck: LIBER Open Access Project Officer Gwen Franck presented some notable statistics from the Pilot up to now, basically an update of this report. The presentation also focused on some lessons learnt:

  • We need to simplify procedures and create transparent workflows,
  • A majority of journals stays well below the set cap of 2000€ and the importance of actors such as research librarians as a catalyst to increase researcher awareness – both on Open Access in general and on the existence of funding streams such as this one.
  • As has been the case for all communications around the EC Open Access policies, targeting project coordinators at the start of projects also proves to be a very efficient way of communication.

After this, there was a panel discussion featuring two publishers (Mark De Jongh, River Publishers, and Xenia Van Edig, Copernicus Publishing) and one librarian (Dirk Van Gorp, Radboud University Nijmegen), all of whom worked with the ‘block grants’ and ‘pre-paid funds’ from the pilot – meaning that ‘their’ authors do not use the central submission system, but that their submissions get mediated by these third parties. All were very enthusiastic about the opportunity to use these block grants – and asserted that without their intermediary actions, most authors would not have known about this funding opportunity. The hurdles were similar for all three: there is need for a unified reporting system in the back-end and some red tape needs to be cut as the procedure has some very bureaucratic elements. In the discussion with the audience, two major publishers challenged both the ‘no hybrid’ rule and the 2000€ funding cap – both remarks being tackled by the official pilot positions that there are enough quality OA journals who stay well below the 2000€ cap and that, as long as the double-dipping issue is not sufficiently addressed Europe-wide via offsetting deals, it makes no sense to support hybrid journals. A more justified critique by one of the audience members is that the Pilot raises the expectation of uninformed researchers that Open Access comes with a (high) publication charge for authors in any case. This does not do justice to the tons of initiatives where there are no author-facing processing charges – and it might put people off of the idea of Open Access all together. The Pilot has tried to tackle this issue by creating a separate activity around alternative funding models, as discussed below.

A second panel closed the morning session. This panel focused on alternative funding models and mechanisms for OA publishing platforms. Three participants in the alternative funding workline of the pilot presented their results: Jadranka Stojanovski (HRCÁK, Croatia), Johanna Lilja (FFLS) and Inés Gil-Jaurena (Open Praxis)While these initiatives mostly focused on the technical aspects of running an Open Access publishing platform, and how they used the Pilot funds to improve the quality of their platforms in order to offer a quality experience for authors – without them being charged article processing charges. One of the panel members even made the remark that they upgraded their entire system. The fourth panel member, Saskia De Vries, talked about the Open Library of Humanities and the principles of FAIR open access– an entirely different funding model for non-author facing APCs.

In the afternoon, Rob Johnson and Mattia Fosci from Research Consulting presented the report they created for the European Commission and OpenAIRE: “Towards a Competitive and Sustainable OA Market in Europe”. In this report, Research Consulting investigated what would need to happen to reach immediate Open Access as default by 2020. It is very clear that at the current rate, this won’t happen – and the report focuses on the roadblocks that prevent this. Due to the large diversity in the field of Open Access, one of the recommendations of the report is not to look for a silver bullet – but to take (sometimes small) practical steps towards more Open Access – acknowledging the pluralism of the publishing market. Link to presentation

In the breakout sessions that followed, the audience first got the opportunity to identify short-term opportunities, idealistic long-term goals and potential roadblocks along the six criteria the report has identified (author incentives and publisher incentives, monitoring and infrastructure, competition and pluralism) – and this for 4 distinctive areas: Gold APC-based OA, Gold non APC-based OA, Hybrid OA and Green OA. After half an hour of fun with stickers and group talk, the audience broke up in three groups, each discussing one area (Gold APC and hybrid were in one group). What comes out of this discussion will, among other sources of input, be used as the basis for the Roadmap that will eventually accompany the report.

Some highlights of the break-out sessions – by no means exhaustive. The results and write-up of this break-out session will be shared later under the form of a Roadmap:

  • Create a real marketplace for authors – a big advantage of gold OA is authors have to make a choice. First criterion in journal selection is discipline, second is quality, but price sensitivity could become a third factor – then they will start to compare quality and price. A market could then bring down the prices. There is a beginning of price awareness. A related discussion focused on efficiency vs author awareness: in order to increase the total amount of OA publications, whether it’s preferable to have very well informed researchers who arrange their own OA funding or to increase efficiency via transparant and standardised workflows on research administration level – where intermediary actors facilitate open access.
  • Reveal true figures/transparency of APC costs: the lack of transparancy and predictability in APC/BPC price setting is a big frustration for administrators.
  • Improve visibility and research into alternative business models for publishers and platforms that work without author facing publishing charges. Shift to added value of services from publishers, rather than simply basing value of on copyright – there is also more research to alternative business models needed
  • Standardise  publishing, grant processing and offsetting workflows – this will make advocacy and monitoring much easier, will also provide statistical support for research

Photos taken by Friedel Grant, LIBER

Related article: OpenAIRE FP7 Post-Grant Open Access Pilot – extension

Gwen Franck

Open Access Programme Coordinator at EIFL - Electronic Information for Libraries / Open Access Project Officer at LIBER - Association of European Research Libraries

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  1. OpenAIRE Newsletter April 2017 | Open access i Sverige | 2017-05-04

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