Over the past few years, there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not research publications should operate with an open source format. Many believe that this approach facilitates better discoverability and collaboration. Others argue that it would threaten the integrity and quality of journals.
University World News recently reported that, this month, two significant measures were taken that work in favor of those who believe the scholarly and scientific publications should be moved to open access platforms. The first move was taken by The Max Planck Society, which released an Expression of Interest calling on industry professionals to support the "swift and efficient transition for the benefit of scholarship and society at large."
Among the list of its 30 signatories include the Spanish National Research Council, the European University Association, the Austrian Science Fund, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the German Research Foundation and the German Rectors' Conference.
The second step taken to back open access journals came from Springer Nature, only a day later, the news source revealed. The organization said it would be placing an extension on its site to allow research articles to be accessed by both researchers within the STM community and the general public, free of charge.
Controversy over OA platforms continues
These two announcements are far from the only pushes the industry has received to wave subscription fees and provide more immediate access to scientific works. It makes sense that so many people would want the publishing industry to adapt in accordance to the rapid evolution of digital systems and technologies.
"Open access journals can facilitate better research and accelerate scientific discoveries."
Those in favor of the open source model insist that implementing this innovative approach to journals is a necessary step in the progression of scientific discoveries. And while many opponents have cited a decrease in quality and credibility as their reasoning for not supporting OA publishing, it is likely that the bigger concern is the potential loss of revenue.
The traditional approach to scientific publishing has been for the journals to collect yearly subscription fees. In a recent article for The New York Times, Kate Murphy reported that the publishers of these journals earned an accumulative of $10 billion in 2015. Research libraries can either spend anywhere between $2,000 and $35,000 for individual titles, or they can pay millions for a bundle subscription, according to the source.
Murphy pointed out that, although a single work may only cost approximately $30 to buy that is no small price to pay considering the amount of articles researchers need when conducting a study. These paywalls, then, limit the breadth and capabilities of the STM community because they can only be utilized by authors, scientists and researchers with the necessary financial resources.
A genetics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Michael Eisen, explained to Murphy that the only people with complete access to published research are the scientists that work at established colleges and universities that have a substantial financial-backing. He also added that, "The current system slows science by slowing communication of work, slows it by limiting the number of people who can access information and quashes the ability to do the kind of data analysis that is possible when articles aren't "sitting on various siloed databases."
Traditional publishing limits scientific research
Part of the problem is that, with the way the process of traditional scientific publishing works, it makes it all too easy for authors to become more focused on getting published in a journal that makes them look credible; they process of publishing becomes more about their reputation than it does about the scientific discovery itself. And, taking into account the aforementioned expenses that limit accessibility, it's easy to see why many people are in favor of open access journals.
According to the NYT, some researchers have created new open access journals to avoid the increasing costs of subscriptions fees. And some have even started associations to handle cover the fee some publishers charge for OA works.
Although achieving total support from STM publishers will likely be a long battle, it seems progress is slowly yet steadily unfolding. Oxford University Press Journals Policy Editorial Director David Crotty told the source that, as more people start to test and experiment with open source journals and how the platform would work, there is a noticeable transition taking place.