Friday, December 22, 2017

Realising the BOAI vision, by disengaging from voluntary servitude

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), the meeting that led to the launch of the open access movement, and which defined open access thus:

“By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users 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 only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”

A great deal of water has passed under the bridge since 2002, but as 2017 draws to an end what should the stakeholders of scholarly communication be doing now to fully realise the vision outlined at the Budapest meeting?

That is a question I have been putting to a number of people, inviting them to say what they believe the priorities should be going forward for the following stakeholders: researchers, research institutions, research funders, politicians and governments, librarians, and publishers.

Today I am publishing the response I received from Florence Piron. Florence is an anthropologist and ethicist, and a professor in the Department of Information and Communication at Laval University in Quebec, where she teaches critical thinking through courses on ethics and democracy.

She is the founding President of the Association for Science and Common Good and its open access publishing house, Éditions science et bien commun. Piron has also founded Accès savoirs, a science shop in Laval University.

Florence is interested in the links between science, society and culture, both as a researcher and activist for a science, that is more open, inclusive, socially responsible and focused on the common good, which she interprets as the fight against injustice and environmental degradation. She has been responsible for the SOHA project (open science in Haiti and French-speaking Africa) from 2015 to 2017 and is now leading a research-creation project in theatrical writing and an action-research project on science shops in French-speaking Africa and Haiti.

This is what Florence had to say:

Dans ce billet, je réfléchis au chemin qui pourrait conduire vers une science authentiquement en libre accès dans les pays du Nord et des Suds. Au coeur de mon argumentation se trouve la nécessité que les scientifiques (surtout du Nord) sortent de leur servitude volontaire envers les éditeurs à but lucratif, refusent ou rejettent la pratique des frais de publication et s'efforcent de rapatrier la publication scientifique dans les universités, avec l'aide des organismes de financement, des bibliothèques et des logiciels libres.


Researchers are the key to the implementation of the vision proposed in BOAI, but this depends on their managing to collectively and definitively disengage from their “voluntary servitude” to for-profit scientific publishers, the one group that refuses to implement an authentic open science, despite their strategic recent shift towards pay-to-publish gold open access.

Currently, most researchers, including researchers in the North, seem to me to be in favour of open access, but for very different reasons, some of which may even be contradictory. Here is my list of the six main reasons for endorsing open access, categorised in two groups.

 The first group consists of technical or managerial reasons:

1.       Open access improves the circulation of studies and results, and so increases research productivity and the potential for discovery and innovation, while reducing duplication and unnecessary research.

2.       Publications made open access are more widely read and cited, and so increase the reputation and prestige of authors and labs.

3.       Everybody is already doing this, or will have to do so in order to comply with the open access policies that are being implemented in most countries in the North in the name of fiscal justice ( funded by citizens must be accessible to those citizens).

In addition to these reasons – which are perfectly compatible with the values of the knowledge-based economy that inspires most of the science policies in the North – there are three “social” reasons. These can be seen to oppose the former by favouring a “knowledge society”:

4.       Open access allows for a return to the classical practice of the free flow of scientific work and communication that was at the heart of the modern science ethos defined by Merton, but which has been subverted by the commodification of knowledge that began in the 1960s. This practice is defined as one in which “all scientists should have common ownership of scientific goods, to promote collective collaboration; secrecy is the opposite of this norm”.

5.       Open access makes it possible to democratise access to science and, consequently, to improve the quality and relevance of the public debate on science and future scientific orientations.

6.       Finally, open access improves the quality of higher education, especially in countries in the global South (where university libraries have very few resources) and the quality of teaching in general by allowing teachers to regularly update their knowledge. Open access science can also help all graduates stay informed and up to date.

Strangely enough, all these reasons can coexist in some Northern researchers’ minds with the idea that open access is impossible because the for-profit publishers won’t allow it. As if the latter were inescapable, irreplaceable and always able to triumph!

In addition to their persistent voluntary servitude, there remains in the minds of researchers some concern about open access, especially for those in the social and human sciences (SHS). Addressing them would help researchers move confidently towards more (green) open access.

One common concern is over the many independent scholarly journals, often connected to learned societies or innovative and original intellectual projects focused on a variety of epistemological positions.

Could open access destroy their ability to sell subscriptions and therefore cause their disappearance? If it did, it would work in the favour of journals produced by large for-profit groups that standardise publishing practices and thinking, and reproduce business models imposed by the United States and Great Britain, the two English-speaking countries that are at the heart of the world system of science.

In the global South, the fear of losing potential revenue from these publication is sometimes cited, but then often followed by the recognition that such revenue is more dream than reality.

More generally, this issue highlights a major epistemological dimension to the open access debate, one often ignored by (epistemologically-indifferent) open access scholars: there is today a real risk that the epistemological and linguistic plurality of science so essential for sustaining a worldwide innovative research activity could disappear. In other words, one consequence of an intensified open access environment could be to reinforce a homogenous unilingual type of science publication at the expense of the ecology of locally relevant knowledge

Another issue with open access as conceived in the North is that it could serve to reinforce the present "publish or perish” system, a system that is increasingly open to criticism, not least because of the shortcomings of the peer evaluation system, the increase of misconduct and fraud, the psychological suffering it causes and the Matthew effect, which leads to the concentration of funding in the hands of a small group of (male) researchers based in the North.

In light of all this, what can we do to advance the Budapest vision of open access?

In the North, the article-processing charge  the publication fee requested from authors by journals who want to convert to open access without losing profits – seems to me to be at the heart of the voluntary servitude to publishers that is blocking open access.

Even if this commercial innovation remains marginal in the ecosystem of journals, especially in SHS, it is becoming increasingly “naturalised” by the groups that practice it, and presented as obvious and unavoidable, even though it is highly questionable for many oft-cited reasons.

Consequently, I advise all those researchers who are sincerely committed to open access (at least in its “social” version) to refuse to pay APCs or to include them in their research budgets.

On the contrary, researchers and scholars need to collectively reclaim scientific publishing and repatriate it to the university, with the help of libraries and free software. Researchers have learnt to be managers of their grants and research units, they can (re-)learn to be publishers!

This vision of universities reclaiming scientific publishing is increasingly being publicly affirmed as the only path to true open science. Consider, for instance, these three very encouraging examples: the manifesto of Fair Open Access, the Radical Open Access movement (which brings together Open source books owned and run by academics) and the new OA2020 site.

However, in the global South, particularly in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa, the situation is quite different. The risk of scientific neo-colonialism and cognitive injustice posed by open access is very real if the science being made accessible continues to exclude, or remains blind to, the epistemologies, works and research questions specific to these countries, or if the science produced in local universities is not scanned, uploaded online and made open access (which is currently the case).

The difficulties of regular electricity supply, or access to the web, concretely embody the difference between the technical accessibility of science and real access.

Be that as it may, all actions in favour of open access in the global South must absolutely take into account the need to preserve the epistemological and linguistic plurality of published science in order to better decolonise it and make it really useful and relevant for sustainable local development. The development of an African citations index by CODESRIA is good news from this point of view.

I also invite researchers from the North to rein back the current drift towards the ever greater professionalisation of scientific research as this leads to disproportionate importance being given to careers, CVs, grants and money, in favour of engaging sincerely in the construction of the knowledge commons (doing so would also be better for their health and happiness!).

Finally, to researchers who are members of Editorial Boards I would say: In addition to boycotting commercial journals, a number of other desirable actions should be considered: researchers need to create non-profit open access journals, reject the growing practice of paying APCs, and require that public financial support be provided for journals, as is the case in Canada, in Quebec and in France (with Openedition). Consider also that recently the journal Sociologie du travail decided to leave Elsevier (despite the “prestige” of being associated with this publisher) and move towards a more authentic open access policy. 

Journals can use open source software and share secretarial services to reduce their expenses. They can also seek help from university libraries, for example to directly archive the articles they publish. So, the journal deposits its articles in an open archive and then publishes links to the articles on its website. Practising open evaluation or post-publication evaluation in order to ensure the integrity of the process, and the absence of any conflict of interest, is also a possible path to open access.

Research Institutions

Obviously, research institutions must not lose sight of the need to adopt an open access policy in order to promote their institutional open archives, be it by means of a mandate or awareness-raising activities and, depending on the country, encourage faculty to take advantage of fair use rules whenever possible in order to save students money.

And since open access is an integral part of both the globalised system of scientific publication and the professional life of academics, universities in the North and the South should change their evaluation and promotion policies so as to enhance the quality of articles produced rather than chase after the impact factor. They should also incorporate open post-publication evaluation practices into their policies.

They could also count the number of open access articles produced per year in their research centre evaluations.

Universities need also to be aware of the Matthew effect, i.e. the risk of a concentration of funding and publications among a small number of (white male) researchers, to the detriment of the epistemological and linguistic plurality necessary for the ecology of knowledge.

Granting organisations

Notwithstanding the fact that policies vary from country to country, granting organisations must absolutely refuse to fund the costs of publishing articles by means of APCs. On the contrary, they should support (not-for-profit) scientific journals and repatriate them to universities. The 2.5% movement reflects this necessary shift.

Why pay money from public funds to for-profit journals when that money could support non-profit journals run by the same people? Granting organisations could also further support the infrastructure of institutional repositories and open archives, as well as all the collective tools of open access to ensure their sustainability (directories, in particular) and prevent them from being bought by for-profit groups.

They can also play a large role in favour of multilingualism by more generously funding multilingual open access journals.

Finally, by encouraging the use of Creative Commons licenses, they can help to maximise open access, that is, to encourage the circulation and reuse of knowledge.

By contrast, becoming publishers themselves seems to me to be a strange idea.

Politicians and governments

Politicians and governments must continue to support open access through their policies, but they should also abandon the practice of giving generous support for for-profit scientific publishers, while universities suffer from recurrent budget cuts.

They should also devote some critical reflection to the impact factor, and instead seek to support open access research in service to national issues, published in national languages.


Librarians’ role is crucial in supporting researchers as they exit from their state of voluntary servitude and in contributing to the repatriation of journal and book publishing to universities.

By recovering funds through cancelling subscriptions or taking the 2.5% path, librarians can offer help to journals by means of evaluation, hosting, archiving, post-publication review, digitisation of heritage, etc. They can also support the production of open access books.

In so doing, they can contribute to maintaining the epistemological diversity necessary for scientific production. In the global South, they can also help develop scientific digital literacy, which is currently deficient.

Scientific publishers

For publishers the choice is simple: Either they become non-profit entities run by academics, or they disappear.

Earlier responses to these questions from Danny Kingsley, Lisa Hinchliffe, Richard Fisher, Alison Mudditt, Dominique Babini and Peter Suber can be read here, here, here, here, here and here.

A list of some of the more interesting OA developments during 2017 is available here.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Realising the BOAI vision: Peter Suber's Advice

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), the meeting that led to the launch of the open access movement, and which defined open access thus:

“By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users 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 only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”

A great deal of water has passed under the bridge since 2002, but as 2017 draws to an end what should the stakeholders of scholarly communication be doing now to fully realise the vision outlined at the Budapest meeting?

That is a question I have been putting to a number of people, inviting them to say what they believe the priorities should be going forward for the following stakeholders: researchers, research institutions, research funders, politicians and governments, librarians, and publishers.

Today I am publishing the response I received from Peter Suber. Peter is Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication, Director of the Harvard Open Access Project, Senior Researcher at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, and widely regarded as the de facto leader of the open access movement.

This is what Peter had to say:

Here are some recommendations for key stakeholders. I haven’t included all the useful and effective actions I find worth recommending, just those at the top of my priority list today. In almost every case I could add more detail and supporting arguments.

In some cases, I want to say much more, for example on the kinds of OA policies universities and funders should adopt, the ways that promotion and tenure committees could help the cause, the strategic restrictions to put on OA funds, and the harmful myths about OA to recognize and correct. I haven’t had time to dive into more detail here, but have almost always provided more detail elsewhere.


Above all, make your own work OA. For this purpose, it doesn’t matter whether you make it OA through journals (“gold OA”) or through repositories (“green OA”). Just do it. Make all your new articles OA, starting now. As you find time, make all your past articles OA.

Do the same with your data and code. Do the same with your books and book chapters, though it’s harder to get permission to make books and book chapters OA than for articles, data, and code.

Do the same for your preprints, if you won’t be punished for it. If you might be punished for it, that is, if you might want to publish in a journal that deliberately excludes authors who have already circulated a version of their work, that is, a journal that still follows the Ingelfinger rulethen at least understand the risk and choose your journals with care.

Don’t perform peer review for journals that violate or fall short of your standards for scholarly journals. For example, entirely apart from a journal’s quality, I don’t peer-review for non-OA journals, for hybrid journals, or for any journals, even OA journals, from publishers who lobby against OA policies at universities, funding agencies, or governments.

Write this list your own way, but set your own standards and follow them. Don’t donate your time and labor to publishers who work against the interests of researchers and research. Don’t donate your time and labor to enrich and entrench them. This is one kind of action that doesn’t take time, and even saves time. It’s an action that doesn’t require you to persuade anyone else, just yourself.

Write up a polite version of your “rejection letter” and send it to editors of insupportable journals who ask you to referee a new manuscript. BTW, you’ll be surprised how many editors send sympathetic replies.

If you have a chance to serve on the promotion and tenure committee for your institution or department, say yes. These committees create some of the largest disincentives to make new work OA, and not by insisting on high quality or deliberately trying to thwart OA. They could create some of the largest incentives to make new work OA, and not by lowering standards of quality or deliberately trying to foster OA. The best way to influence them is to join them and work for change from within.

Read your publishing contracts and learn how to understand them. If you’ve followed the practice of signing whatever a publisher puts in front of you, it’s time to stop.

If you’ve never tried to retain key rights, such as the right to make your work OA, it’s time to start. At least know what rights you want so that you can distinguish better from worse contracts.

Work for a rights-retention OA policy at your institution. If others propose one, support it. If others propose a different kind of OA policy, try to make sure it includes rights retention. More on this below, under research institutions.

When you hit a paywall trying to read an article, look for an OA edition using tools like Unpaywall, oaDOI, DOAI, the OA Button, and Google Scholar. Get good at finding OA editions when you need them.

Pass on your tips and skills to students and colleagues. Increase the demand for OA editions. Increase the expectation that research should be OA.

If one of your past articles is paywalled, and a reader asks for a copy by email, send one. But at the same time, deposit a copy in an OA repository. That will help all who need access, not just the tiny subset willing to hunt you down, write, and ask.

You needn’t become an expert in OA, but don’t fall prey to the most common and harmful myths about OA. Don’t let them lead you astray, and correct them when you hear them repeated.

A comprehensive list of these harmful myths would be long, but here are three from the top: that all or most OA is gold OA (OA through journals); that all or most OA journals levy article processing charges (APCs); and that all or most APCs are paid by authors out of pocket.

Or looking at the same myths from the other side: don’t overlook green OA (OA through repositories); don’t overlook no-fee OA journals (which constitute the majority of peer-reviewed OA journals); and don’t overlook the fact that author funders and employers, not authors themselves, pay the majority of APCs for authors who choose to publish in fee-based OA journals.

If you’re an early career researcher, you may feel pressure from your promotion and tenure committee to publish in high-prestige, closed journals. If you haven’t fallen prey to myths about OA, then you know that you can usually accede to your committee and still make your work OA through a repository. You can do this most of the time without retaining any special rights, because most publishers already allow it. You can do it nearly all the time if your institution adopts a rights-retention OA policy.

Do push back against bad incentives from your institution, but remember that this particular bad incentive is an obstacle you can step around. Remember that not all OA is gold OA, that green OA is compatible with publishing in a non-OA journal, and that OA benefits if you get a job, get promoted, and work for OA from within.

Research institutions

Launch and maintain an OA repository, or take part in a shared OA repository.

Adopt an OA policy. Make OA the default at least for scholarly articles. It could be a green-only policy, or green-gold agnostic, that is, satisfiable by green or gold OA at the author’s choice. But it should respect faculty freedom to submit new work to the journals of their choice, and therefore should not be gold-only.

Even if you think OA is more important than academic freedom, at least bring some realpolitik to bear here. Many or most faculty will disagree with you on that point, and you will need their support to adopt the OA policy.

Make sure the OA policy includes rights retention. There’s little point encouraging or requiring deposit in the repository if the repository doesn’t have permission to distribute most of the works it receives or if it must spend a lot of staff time seeking permission.

There are more than 70 examples of rights-retention policies in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, and more coming all the time. In the UK, you can support rights retention by supporting the UK Scholarly Communications License.

Launch an office to maintain the OA repository and implement the OA policy. Fund it adequately.

Create good incentives for making new work OA. For example, limit the review of journal articles for promotion and tenure to those on deposit in the repository.

Make download stats from the repository public. Publicly recognize papers trending in the repository or receiving press or social-media attention. Reward departments with high deposit rates.

Launch a fund to pay publication fees or APCs for faculty, students, and other affiliates who choose to publish in fee-based OA journals. Adopt strategic restrictions on how the money can be spent. These can make the money go further and create good incentives for authors and journals receiving the money. For example, see the general restrictions recommended by the COPE project or the specific restrictions adopted by Harvard’s HOPE Fund.

Collaborate with other institutions to the extent that anti-trust law will allow. We don’t really know where the anti-trust borderline is, in part because it’s rarely clarified by litigation, and in part because it varies from country to country, time to time, and issue to issue. But there’s little doubt that universities could safely undertake collective action far more often than they do today.

Monitor new and emerging OA infrastructure. First, look for platforms that are non-profit and open-source, in order to resist enclosure and corporate capture.

Second, avoid technological or business-model monocultures, in order to avoid lock-in, fragility, stagnation, and breakage. Look for open code, open standards, modularity, and interoperability. It may be a while before platforms emerge with all these properties plus the features you want. That’s a reason to monitor the scene. It’s also a reason to insert yourselves into the process, help develop the code or influence the specs, in order to increase the odds that at least one of the emerging platforms will meet your needs. 

Research funders

Adopt an OA policy. For work arising from grant-funded research, require OA for articles, data, and code. As with university policies, the OA policy for articles could be green-only or green-gold agnostic, but should not be gold-only.

The OA policy should also require rights retention, at least for the works destined for OA repositories rather than OA journals. Again, the purpose of retaining key rights is to permit the repository to make the deposited work OA without further ado. It avoids cases in which someone must spend time seeking permission, and it avoids cases in which the answer is no.

If you start by permitting embargoes on green OA, plan to reduce permissible embargoes to zero over a few years. Announce the plan in public.

If you start by permitting restrictive licenses on green or gold OA, plan to require CC-BY after a few years. Announce the plan in public.

Pay APCs for grantees who choose to publish in fee-based OA journals. As with university APC funds, put strategic restrictions on how the funds can be spent.

If you support OA by adopting a strong OA policy, covering the results of the research you fund, also consider supporting OA by funding projects to advance OA itself. Many of the most OA-friendly funders cannot do this, because it wouldn’t fit their public mission or charitable purpose. But explore the possibility in your own case. Many OA promising initiatives could use your support.

Politicians and governments

See the section on research funders above. Insure that all public funders adopt OA policies for publicly-funded research. Minimize exceptions, such as classified research or research whose release would violate medical privacy.


Support an OA repository, OA policy, and office to implement the OA policy. See the section above on research institutions.

When negotiating site licenses, don’t sign offset agreements unless the covered journals say they are in the process of converting to OA. When journals do say they are in the process of converting to OA, don’t take them at their word. Insist on putting that promise into the contract. More generally, don’t use your limited budgets to reward hybrid journals for remaining hybrid.

Think about redirecting funds from supporting paywalled journals to supporting OA. Think about a timetable for doing this. Think about doing it in concert with other institutions.

Notice that large-scale cancellations almost never trigger the faculty protests that many people fear and predict.


Here I’m only making recommendations for OA publishers and those conventional publishers transitioning to OA and sharing the goals of the OA movement.

Join the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) and live up to its code of conduct. Submit your journals to be listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). When authors are confused about which journals are predatory and which are not, OASPA membership and DOAJ indexing are two ways to flag your professionalism.

Another way to put this: Don’t underestimate how the existence of predatory journals, and the fear of them, are harming legitimate OA journals. Take steps to avoid becoming collateral damage.

Publish your research articles under CC-BY licenses.

Never publish in PDF-only. Always offer at least one other file format friendlier to text mining, visually impaired users, and low-bandwidth parts of the world.

Require authors to provide ORCIDs. Publish their ORCIDs alongside their names and institutional affiliations.

Don’t refuse to consider preprints as submissions. Don’t follow the Ingelfinger rule. If you’re a book publisher, don’t refuse to consider OA theses and dissertations as submissions, especially when they’re revised for publication.

If you charge APCs, then waive or discount them in cases of economic hardship.

Likewise, if you charge APCs, then don’t charge whatever the market will bear. Charge your production costs and a modest surplus to grow the enterprise.

While there’s an obvious market incentive to dismiss this recommendation, at least today, there’s some self-interest on the other side to consider as well. We may never see a market in which APC-based journals compete at the fee level to attract authors. But many organizations are experimenting with incentives to create such a market, in order to keep fees as low as possible. Don’t bet against them, or don’t deliberately step away from an advantageous market position if these incentives should start to take effect. You could even help that cause, and help yourself, by lowering your APCs to test the waters.

Finally, consider flipping subscription and hybrid journals to full OA. Look at the many approaches or scenarios for doing this, and don’t assume that flipping a journal must mean flipping to an APC-based business model.

The full range of these scenarios is documented in the journal-flipping literature review commissioned by Harvard Library in 2016, and conducted by David Solomon, Mikael Laakso, and Bo-Christer Björk. Among other things, the study concluded, “Journals that picked a scenario that fit their circumstances were able preserve or enhance their readership, submissions, quality, and financial sustainability.”


Earlier responses to these questions from Danny Kingsley, Lisa Hinchliffe, Richard Fisher, Alison Mudditt and Dominique Babini can be read here, here, here, here and here.

A list of some of the more interesting OA developments during 2017 is available here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Realising the BOAI vision: A view from the global South

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), the meeting that led to the launch of the open access movement, and which defined open access thus:

“By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users 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 only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”

A great deal of water has passed under the bridge since 2002, but as 2017 draws to an end what should the stakeholders of scholarly communication be doing now to fully realise the vision outlined at the Budapest meeting?

That is a question I have been putting to a number of people, inviting them to say what they believe the priorities should be going forward for the following stakeholders: researchers, research institutions, research funders, politicians and governments, librarians, and publishers.

Today I am publishing the response I received from Dominique Babini. Based in Argentina, Babini is open access advisor, and previously repository manager, at the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), a network of 623 research institutions, mostly in Latin America.

This is what Dominque had to say:


In developing regions, where research and its communication are mainly publicly-funded, or the result of international cooperation, many more venues than the so-called “mainstream journals” are used by researchers to share their research. This encompases subjects like health, education, agriculture, socio-political and economic matters etc., and the results are communicated to diverse audiences.

This diversity is not reflected in the traditional WoS and Scopus indicators that are used to evaluate researchers in our countries. As a result, researchers are punished for not publishing in journals included in the commercial international indexing services, and so our present reality is that we are to a great extent excluded from the mainstream scholarly communication and evaluation systems.

Researchers can help change this situation. When evaluating research projects and colleagues, for instance, it would help if they followed the DORA and Leiden recommendations and sought to include in their assessment research outputs published in local/regional venues, and in local languages. In other words, they should seek to complement the traditional indicators with local/regional open access indicators, where available.

And when publishing or distributing online research outputs, researchers should be mindful of the need to include in each digital object they are preparing (and in a prominent place) information that will help create metadata when these research outputs are incorporated into diverse open access venues, e.g.: they should describe the evaluation process used to assess the content, and provide licensing information to enable the content to be shared. They should also include their ORCID if they have one, and provide details of the organisation that funded the research.

Research institutions

A top priority for research institutions and universities in developing regions is to review and update the evaluation indicators used for tenure, promotion and grant requests, in line with the DORA and Leiden recommendations previously mentioned. 

Likewise, they should value the quality of research outputs published in local/regional venues in local languages, and complement traditional indicators with local/regional open access indicators when available.

They should also reward researchers for participating in pre- or post-peer-review processes, and for publishing in non-profit open access venues (e.g. repositories, non-profit publications etc.). These new elements should be incorporated into evaluation processes as they are reviewed and updated, and then used in conjunction with traditional indicators for evaluation based in WoS and Scopus, since the latter poorly represent the diversity of research contributions from the developing regions. 

It will also help for research institutions to be aware that they have a fundamental role to play in building a more inclusive and participatory non-profit global open access, open science and open evaluation ecosystem. 

Another priority for accelerating the transition to open access and open science at the institutional level is for institutions to introduce and fund open access policies. As a percentage of the total spent in traditional subscriptions, too little funding is currently dedicated to open access publishing and infrastructure, or to collections development, training, and advocacy. 

Again, metadata is key. It would help if every research output published by researchers in the institution – be it in publications distributed by the institution or elsewhere, in its own repository, say, or in other repositories – inserts within the digital object the information that will be needed for preparing metadata to allow the research output to be incorporated into open access venues. Again, examples of the information needed include a description of the evaluation process the content underwent, information about licencing, institutional identifiers, and information identifying the organisation that funded the research.

If the research institution, and/or university/organisation to which it belongs, publishes open access journals and books, it will greatly help if they follow international quality standards for open content and repositories, e.g. those recommended for journals by DOAJ, those recommenced by DOAB for books, and those outlined by COAR for repositories.

Research funders

For research funders the top priority is, again, the need for an international review of the evaluation systems used by the research community. Here the various declarations issued in recent years (e.g. the DORA, Leiden and The Hague recommendations) are relevant.

Funders should also be forming alliances with international initiatives like COAR, DOAJ, SPARC, UNESCO (among others), to coordinate and fund a scholar-led non-profit future for open access indicators to complement the traditional indicators which, as noted, poorly reflect research outputs in the diversity of digital formats now used, and research outputs from less privileged researchers and institutions. In our region UNESCO has provided support to give Web visibility to regional open access indicators.  

If the international evaluation systems continue to be based only on the WoS and Scopus indicators, I think we will see the slow death of local and regional voices and venues, and of those indicators that could contribute to the diversity needed in the global agenda of research, and which are more suited to sustainable development priorities.

Now is a good time for members of global funder and science organisations like the Global Research Council and Science International to review whether the research community should continue to channel so much of its scarce funding dollars to support a global scholarly communications industry that has long enjoyed huge and growing profits from publishing research, and which is now complementing its traditional revenues with APCs for providing open access. Moreover, these APCs are set at a market price designed for developed countries, which is prohibitive for those in the developing world.

Funders might instead want to consider progressively redirecting public money earmarked for scholarly communication to initiatives focused on creating a more inclusive and participatory global scholar-led non-profit open access infrastructure, one that facilitates and encourages collaboration, diversity (of both content and formats) and so helps enable a more equitable scientific dialogue to take place, both within the global research community itself, and with other publics.

In our particular case, CLACSO has received funding from SIDA and Norad to make the transition to open access scholarly communication in collaborative ways with its research member institutes in Latin America and the CLACSO digital repository (including the CLACSO-REDALYC collection of 896 journals), which receives an average of 4 million downloads each month.

Politicians and governments

We need more governments to engage with open access, both by means of creating and updating OA policies and through the allocation of funds and other resources to support scholar-led non-profit open access venues.

We also need to see more negotiations taking place between commercial publishers and alliances of governments, with a view to promulgating the FAIR open access principles, including ensuring that fees are set “in proportion to the work carried out”.

We also need to see a reduction in publisher embargo periods to bring them into line with the embargoes specified in the many institutional and funder OA policies being introduced around the world, and with OA legislation. In light of the fact that the salaries of the authors and peer-reviewers of the articles published in commercial scholarly journals are usually funded by the public this is a reasonable demand.

To allow the transition to an equitable global open access scholarly communications environment – one that includes the active participation (as readers and as authors) of less privileged research communities both in developed and developing countries – governments need to engage more with global community-based organisations like SPARC, COAR, UNESCO,  EIFL, FORCE11, among others. 

Open access and open science issues should be integral to the agenda when S&T parliamentary commissions are undertaken, and in the meetings of ministers of science in each region. They should also be on the agendas of political parties.


Librarians are key players in open access advocacy and implementation. Discoverability, open access to traditional and digital resources, networking, collaboration, are all in the spirit and tradition of this profession. It is, for instance, libraries who usually manage the institutional repositories, and undertake OA advocacy and training activities.

In some cases, research university libraries also manage open access journal collections ( Latin America with the National Autonomous University of Mexico-UNAM and the University of Sao Paulo-USP, which manage more than a hundred journals each using the OJS-PKP platform).

As such, libraries need more money, or the reallocation of present budgets where possible, to allow these initiatives to develop, grow and flourish. It would also help if information science and library science education and training programs regularly updated their curricula to include the new challenges the profession faces – e.g. the need to research, design, implement and manage the changing needs of scholar-led open access initiatives.

We also need a better understanding of the users of open access content that we make available. We all feed research content onto the Web, which has become the most used library in the world, but we know very little about the profiles and motives of users outside the research community.

One of the few surveys undertaken in our region reported that 50% of users of peer-reviewed open access journals from SciELO and Redalyc are students (Alperin 2016). This is understandable given that university libraries in the region face constant financial difficulties keeping up with the materials their students need for their studies.

At an international level we are seeing some very interesting experiments and projects with libraries working collaboratively to develop and fund open access initiatives, but more research is needed to better understand the real possibilities of this model for developing countries. Very few libraries in the developing world manage the purchase of international journals (which is usually carried out at a central national office) and so very few libraries have the ability and permission to transfer money abroad.

The tradition in developing regions is more one of in-kind participation in local and international open access collaborative initiatives. This tradition emerged from the experience of participating in decentralised UN international information systems (e.g. in agriculture and health)


All the stakeholders being considered here are, in one way or another, publishers in the context of the emerging scholar-led open access environment. This includes the publishing of individual journals, and collections of journals published and managed by the scholarly community and indexed in non-profit open access journal portals, e.g. DOAJ, SciELO, AJOL, Redalyc, JOLs, Latindex, Dialnet. It also includes repositories (institutional, subject, funder, pre-prints servers, data, software repositories), and books (e.g. collections of academic open access books in DOAB, SciELO Books, CLACSO books). 

Today publishing also encompasses online content outside traditional formats – e.g. blogposts, Wikipedia articles, opinions in newspapers etc.. All these open access publishing initiatives face the difficult task of complying with international standards of quality, and best practices designed to make the content searchable, accessible, indexed and interoperable.

So, for instance, scholar-led publishers should meet international quality requirements for editorial processes and peer-review, and ensure that these processes are properly described in the journal, as per the recommendations of DOAJ. Some are also already utilising the Fair Open Access Principles.

Latin America is the largest user of the open and free OJS-PKP Open Journal System software for managing the editorial and peer-review processes of journals which in our region are published by research institutions and societies, without any outsourcing to commercial publishers. These journals also don’t use APCs and they participate in the regional journal portals SciELO and Redalyc. As early as 2010 around 85% of academic publications in Latin America were publicly available through the Internet (Carlee Adams, SPARC website).

Latin America issued the open access Declaration of Salvador in 2005  and has introduced national legislation mandating the deposit of state-funded research results in open access digital repositories in several countries (in Argentina and Peru in 2013; in Mexico in 2014; and a bill was introduced into Congress in Brazil in 2007 and reintroduced in 2011).

As noted, international commercial publishers should adapt their embargoes to conform to the time limits specified in the different national legislation and policies introduced, and to collaborate with countries and institutions to ensure that articles they publish can be easily harvested by the relevant institutional repositories once the embargo period is over. Again as mentioned above, this is not an unreasonable demand given that the authors and peer-reviewers of the articles published by commercial publishers are usually publicly-funded.

In relation to the payment of APCs to commercial publishers: at the recently-held first meeting of the national consortia of Iberoamerican countries (the consortia that manage the centralised national purchase of international journals in each country) a declaration was issued (rough English translation here, original text in Spanish here) agreeing that a policy of expansion of open access through payment by means of APCs is impossible from a financial point of view for the signatory countries. As such, it was recommended that institutions do not create subsidies to pay APCs.

Once again, I would stress that the APCs of so-called “mainstream journals” are set at levels intended to meet the needs of developed countries, and bear no relation to the research project budgets and research salaries in developed countries. Yet these researchers also need to publish in these journals (or perish) given the present evaluation systems they are subject to. For this reason, if no other, the indicators used for evaluation need to be reviewed and updated so that researchers are able to select other open access publishing venues.

Finally, CLACSO has also signed and endorsed the Jussieu Call for Open science and bibliodiversity. Amongst other things, this states that “… current journal subscription spendings should be changed into investments enabling the scientific community to regain control over the publishing system and not merely into new spendings only earmarked to pay the publication fees for researchers to commercial publishers” 


In the 15 years since BOAI, developing regions have seen the gradual growth and expansion of a number of collaborative open access initiatives (e.g. repositories and repository networks, regional open access journal portals etc.). We are therefore confident that a global transition to a collaborative non-profit open access future is possible, so long as we continue to create and strengthen the diverse set of scholar-led non-profit open access initiatives that have begun to emerge.

An open access future that allowed less privileged researchers and institutions in both developed and developing countries to participate would see the realisation of BOAI’s vision. This vision, let’s recall, assumed that “Removing access barriers to [the] literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.”

To achieve this, BOAI invited governments, universities, libraries, journal editors, publishers, foundations, learned societies, professional associations, and individual scholars to “join us in the task of removing the barriers to open access and building a future in which research and education in every part of the world are that much more free to flourish.”

Let’s all work towards that!


Earlier responses to these questions from Danny Kingsley, Lisa Hinchliffe, Richard Fisher and Alison Mudditt can be read hereherehere, and here.

A list of some of the more interesting OA developments during 2017 is available here.