What Is Open Access?
The classic definition of Open Access (OA) remains that of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, drafted at a meeting held in Budapest in December 2001: “free and unrestricted online availability [of the scholarly literature] … permitting any user to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the Internet itself.”
The transition to OA from subscription-based society publishing operations in humanities and social sciences (the so-called HSS disciplines) has been particularly difficult, for reasons that expose the limitations of the most popular current OA funding models: in HSS, articles are not the only publication type of value or even the most valued type of publication; external funding for research is minimal or non-existent; many (if not most) societies consider their publications to be the primary benefit they offer their members and find it difficult to imagine how they would support their society’s activities if their current publishing operation were to change.
Why the Open Access Network?
The Open Access Network (OAN) looks to tackle head-on the major drawback to the predominant OA business model at the heart of these complaints: that it is based on object-level payments made by individuals for only certain types of publications.
Our model, in contrast, looks to all tertiary academic institutions to contribute to systemic support of the research process itself, including (but not limited to) the entire scholarly record, whether article, monograph, dataset, conference presentation, multimodal project, or format not yet envisioned.
Our model likewise looks to societies and university presses to play a central, rather than peripheral, role within the scholarly communication ecosystem, and asks that academic libraries become true partners with them.
The solution proposed here is one that encourages partnerships among scholarly societies, research libraries, and other institutional partners (e.g., collaborative e-archives and university presses) who share a common mission to support the creation, distribution, and preservation of research and scholarship to improve society and to help solve the world’s most challenging problems. Our model includes a plan to convert traditional subscription publication formats, including society-published journals and books or monographs, to OA; however, our ultimate goal is to present an approach to funding infrastructure for scholarly communication that is fair and open and fully supports new and evolving forms of research output.
The financial model of the OAN is based on an annual or multi-year payment made by every institution of higher education, no matter what its size or classification, and by any institution that benefits from the research that is generated by those within the academy. For tertiary institutions, the payment is based on the number of their students and full-time faculty on a sliding scale tied to the Carnegie classification (or, outside the United States, the International Standard Classification of Education or other standard system), as well as on the number of researchers, scientists, or scholars at other types of institutions (e.g., medical research centers). The model has been designed to be — above all — highly transparent and simple to calculate and understand.
The payment is modest relative to the overall budget of most institutions, but, when spread broadly across all institutions, results in a sum substantial enough to sustain a vibrant and open scholarly communication environment. The institutional payment goes into a centrally managed fund. Institutions, scholarly societies, university presses, and others come together in partnership to apply for funds through a transparent granting process; the funds dispensed are used to provide direct support for the distribution, access, and long-term archival preservation infrastructure of the partnerships. Because the goal of this program is sustainability, grants are open-ended so recipients are guaranteed a reliable source of income. At the same time, adherence to strict guidelines and transparent oversight of the funding are required.
- Successful applications submitted to funding organization
- Annual fee Matching grants Donations
- Representation on review panels
- Payments to approved grant partnerships
- Reviews submitted for processing
- Submission of grant applications
Key Components of Our Approach
- We are focusing in the first instance on supporting the transition to OA in the humanities and social sciences (HSS). For all the problems inherent in an article-processing charge (APC) OA funding model, in the STEM disciplines that model does work, at least for now. HSS needs are different.
- We are looking to academic and research institutions to fund this model, not to their libraries. The dollar amounts provided in the original white paper that forms the basis of this approach may look large to a library, but are modest at an institutional scale.
- We want full participation from the entire higher education community, from small community colleges and large research universities alike. As everyone will benefit from a world in which all research output is freely available, everyone in the academic community has the responsibility to play a part in creating this reality.
- A bold rethinking of the economics of OA, our approach is nevertheless designed to assuage the fears and embrace the investments of the stakeholders in the scholarly communication system.
- Our plan is intentionally incremental, acknowledging the inherent conservatism of academia. It also suggests employing traditional roles in evolving ways. Preservation and curation, for example, should be a primary role for libraries, because this is a natural space for libraries to occupy and has always been part of their mission.
- Our model enables scholarly societies to have the financial freedom to develop the strategies they need to continue to provide their members with services that are useful and meaningful.
- Our approach not only allows but enables all the partners in the scholarly communication ecosystem to begin to work together to agree on community best practices, not only for infrastructure, metadata, etc., but for business practices as well.
- Our model provides a clear but ever-evolving and expanding roadmap to address concerns about “free riders,” including a campaign in a stepwise but nevertheless assertive way to persuade all tertiary academic institutions to participate financially, raise endowment funds from foundations, accept donations from the public, and otherwise engage all beneficiaries — very much in keeping with the core mission of academic institutions, societies, and libraries: the advancement of knowledge and learning and communication of the products of those efforts to the entire world.
- And just as research and scholarship are increasingly global and collaborative, our plan is not bound by national borders but can — and we hope will — be adapted, with regional modifications, in all countries by those looking for a more equitable and sustainable OA model.