4 - Addressing the concerns about Open Access

What about monographs?

The OA movement developed around periodical articles; it therefore concerns all fields, scientific as well as literary. Nevertheless, in many fields, especially in the HSS, the publication of monographs remains an — if not the most — important means of scientific dissemination. Researchers in these fields may fear that – fairly strict – mandates governing articles could harm their careers by forcing them to publish in formats unsuited to their discipline.

OA for monographs is starting to grow but is falling behind on and has different issues from the publication of scientific articles, notably concerning the quantity of work devoted to each monograph by the publishers, the necessity of selling copies to cover costs and the payment of royalties to the authors.

It is for these reasons that OA mandates are more flexible for monographs than for articles, allowing longer embargoes and even sharing the costs of BPCs and BCPCs.

The main difference between article and monograph OA is that publishers have accepted APC-based article OA and specific clauses for Green OA are by default included in publication contracts, whereas for monographs authors must negotiate their inclusion case-by-base.

The UNIL’s rectorate is aware of these differences and is planning a slower transition towards OA for monographs than for articles.

Academic Freedom

Many researchers have shown concern regarding their academic freedom in the face of a compulsory policy from the rectorate. This concern is particularly strong for the HSS and the publication of monographs.

Though article OA is well developed, monograph OA is still in its infancy and practices are much less standardised. Nevertheless, more and more publishers allow for the OA publication of digital versions of books from the moment of publication (Gold OA), or the self-archiving of the manuscript and it’s opening after an embargo. In the latter case, researchers are expected to negotiate with publishers on a case-by-base basis.

The rectorate is aware of these distinctive features and will take them into account when writing the Open Access policy. Its intention is not to limit the academic freedom of its researchers, but rather to present to them all the possibilities available and to encourage them to make their work as open as possible, as soon as possible.

What about the costs?

Open Access is not free. Gold OA implies administrative costs (in addition to the APCs) estimated at £81 per article in the UK. As for Green OA that number is £33 per article.

It is also estimated that the transition costs towards OA may be costly for Switzerland depending on the strategies adopted by Switzerland, Europe and the World. Additionally, transition towards an « author pays » system could engender new inequalities of access to scientific publication, especially for young researchers in developing countries.

It is therefore natural that researchers wonder about the sources of funding necessary for this transition, especially for Gold OA. Currently, the SNF and the EC cover the OA publication costs for articles and the former covers book publication costs and will do the same for chapters, starting 1 October 2018.

As for Green OA, UNIL makes its institutional repository available to its researchers and is committed to its improvement to better reflect their needs, especially in terms of user-friendliness and of the visibility of the deposited full texts.

Gold OA: « predatory » OA reviews

With OA’s incredible development, parasitic or « predatory » OA journals have started to exploit the « author pays » model. The authors, generally solicited by email, are invited to submit articles, which are systematically accepted after publication fees are payed for, regardless of the scientific value. One must note that this problem exists only for Gold OA journals.

Jeffrey Beall, of the University of Colorado, created in 2008, scholarlyoa.com, a website that contained a list of potentially predatory journals based on 52 criteria. This list was used as a standard until its discontinuation in January 2017. An archived version is still available and other sites have tried to carry the torch. It is also possible to consult the DOAJ to evaluate the credibility of an OA journal.

The recently launched cross-sector initiative called « Think. Check. Submit » is a campaign seeking to help researchers identify journals of quality for their research. It consists of a simple check-list that researchers can use to evaluate journals or publishers. This initiative is an excellent way of fighting against « predatory » journals.

Follow us: