For years now, the international academic Open Access movement has fought an economic model dominated by academic publishers, some of which have reported greater profits than Apple, Facebook or Google. But how can academia bring about a switch to Open Access?

On Tuesday afternoon, the university hosted an event designed to raise awareness of Open Access. Leonidas Pakos, the University Library’s Licences & Open Access Specialist, answered the six questions about Open Access you always wanted to ask.

What is the problem?

“The way things are done at the moment, society pays for access to scientific research in at least two ways. First scientists are paid to conduct their research using Dutch taxpayers’ money. In order to distribute the study results, universities will then seek a publisher who will publish them. This will involve their paying more money to be able to read the publication, be it through a subscription plan or through a licensing plan. Hopefully, Open Access will change this.”

What exactly is  Open Access?

“There are several definitions, but it basically boils down to making your scholarly publications available to the public free of charge. In a nutshell, study results can be publicised in different ways, using either the green route or the gold route. Authors who opt for the green route post a plain-text version of their study report, which is to say, without any formatting by the publisher, to an institutional repository, i.e., a university’s public archive. Authors who opt for the gold route have their publications made available to the public at once. In such cases the publishers will still charge article-processing charges (APC) to offset their editing and production costs. In other words, there will still be two payments involved, but at least the publication will be made available to everyone at once.”


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Several EU member states have stated that all researchers and universities must ensure their publications can be freely accessed by the public by 2020. What are the greatest impediments to bringing about such Open Access?

“The plans to bring about Open Access are very ambitious, but no one is quite sure how to realise them. Take, for instance, the Taverne amendment, an amendment to the Dutch Copyright Act. In a nutshell, this states that reports on publicly funded studies must be able to be published in Open Access journals within a reasonable time frame, as well. This rule applies without exceptions, so when a study is distributed by, say, a Japanese publisher, and this publisher owns the distribution rights, Dutch law will prevail and the author must be allowed to publicise the study results, as well – for instance, through his or her university’s repository. However, the implications of the amendment are not entirely clear yet. For example, there is no clear definition as yet of what constitutes ‘a reasonable time frame’.

“Other impediments include the significant influence still wielded by publishers, and authors not having enough money to pay the publication fee, among other things. Authors who take the green route sometimes wonder how their articles are supposed to be cited, although obviously, not all readers will wish to quote articles academia-style. These are all things academics will have to work out together. If they stand together in their effort to take on the publishers, more and more people will have the courage to make big decisions. For instance, German universities have refused to extend their contract with Elsevier due to the exorbitant fees. A movement is arising, but academics must stand together in order to stand strong. At the end of the day, we will need the publishers on our side, too.”

What did you seek to achieve by organising this Open Access event at the university?

“We mainly wish to raise awareness to a new level, both among policy officers and among scientists themselves. Many people are aware of Open Access publishing, but it is still important that we explain to them how the mechanism works. Once scientists understand the system and revenue model behind the scenes, they will realise that Open Access serves all of society. The next step will then be to explain how the university can help researchers publish in Open Access journals.”

So how exactly is the university supporting Open Access?

“The University Library can help researchers find their way through the publication process. EUR has a public repository where all the Gold Open Access publications are collected, and authors can have their publications included for free through Green Open Access, while keeping them under embargo if necessary. In addition, the university has entered into so-called ‘big-deal’ agreements regarding Open Access with several publishers. EUR has pre-paid these publishers’ publication fees, so researchers can now have their studies published ‘for free’ on sites that are open to the public. If authors wish to be published by a publisher with whom EUR has not signed an agreement, they may, for example, get a grant from the Erasmus Open Access Fund to do so. Furthermore, we have an on-line Open Access helpdesk, which provides information on proper, reliable publishers, among other things.

“EUR’s current policy is that EUR-affiliated scientists must have their publications included in the university’s repository by taking the green route. In this way, the institute that financed the study will always have its own copy of the report.”

How can scientists publish in Open Access journals themselves?

“Scientists who wish to publish in Open Access journals should start their journey at the Erasmus Journal Browser, which lists all the journals and publishers known to EUR. This browser will also show you whether or not the university has pre-paid the APC. If the charge has not been pre-paid, academics can either try and find another (but comparable) publisher or apply for a grant from the Erasmus Open Access Fund. In addition, they are always free to submit their publications to the repository by taking the green route. But we advise academics to start thinking about the Open Access journal in which they wish to publish when they first embark on their study, and perhaps to include the APC in their funding applications.

“Lastly, perhaps a few well-established scientists should serve as role models. Young academics who are still seeking to prove themselves often seek to have their articles published by journals with a high impact factor. This costs a lot of money, because good editors are expensive, among other reasons. When well-known researchers take the lead in publishing in Open Access journals, we may be able to change the system. However, we will need major collective action to really bring about a culture change.”