Academic-Led Publishing and the Necessity of Open Access - Michigan Publishing
peter.suber's bookmarks 2019-04-03
"First, not everyone lives near a university or library with access to journals; most universities and libraries are in urban centers, and while in the U.S. over 80% of people live in or near urban centers, globally the number is closer to 55%. Second, even is one does live near a university, that university might not have access to a large number of journals, since libraries have limited budgets they can spend on either print subscriptions or purchasing digital access to serials and ebook content. My own undergraduate alma mater had significantly low levels of access to online journals content, as did my master’s alma mater; I either had to request multiple articles a semester through Interlibrary Loan (which costs the university money), or had to ask folks at other universities with better access packages to send me PDFs of what I needed for research. Not until I entered my PhD program at a major state research university did I get access to most serials research available behind paywalls. Third, even assuming a publishing landscape in which most research is available as no-fee online open access content, 53.6% of the global population (as of 2017) does not have easy, regular access to the internet—and that number obscures significant inequalities across regions, since the data for developing and least-developed nations is significantly offset in the global percentage by that of the developing world, where 84.4% of the population has household access to the internet.
The benefits of open access will always be weighed against the larger inequalities of global capitalism, but open access still remains an important goal for combating global information inequality. This was recognized as early as the 1970s, when Michael S. Hart founded Project Gutenberg to provide widespread access to public domain materials, and reiterated throughout the 1980s and 1990s as the Free Software Movement and development of arXiv pushed for the free sharing of information and academic publications, giving birth to the contemporary open access movement by the early 2000s. At the end of the second decade of the 21st century, open access has been embraced by many publishers and government agencies. Europe clearly leads the rest of the world in open access. Science Europe and the European Research Council’s Plan S, for example, has pushed to have all government-funded academic research made open access by 2020, and many European governments and universities provide researchers with open access funds earmarked for publisher subventions that make monographs open access (my first edited collection benefited from such funds provided by Utrecht University). American academic publishers have also begun to emphasize open access for monographs, and the landscape for journals publishing—especially questions of venue prestige that reflect on tenure and promotion—is swiftly changing....
Michigan Publishing and other library publishers are major forces behind the push for open access journals publishing. With the exception of two journals whose issues are under six month embargoes, all of our 46 serials (30 of which are actively publishing) are available open access as soon as they are published. The goal is to provide anyone who wants to view journal content the ability to do so for free. Of course, the creation of journal content and the labor that goes into copyediting, typesetting, and coding the articles for HTML are not free. Cost of journal creation is and always will be the major barrier to making scholarship open access, meaning that journals and/or publishers dedicated to open access have to eat the cost of providing labor, materials, and the final journal products to their audience. Because labor must be paid, and because labor and materials will always be involved in the production of scholarly publications, it is inevitable that open access will always cost someone something. Some journals, particularly in the sciences, make up for this by requiring authors to pay article processing charges; though this is a solution to the necessary costs of open access, it raises other concerns about who has access to the funds required to pay APCs...."