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I would like to see more intense competition on price and service

“I would like to see more intense competition on price and service”
Name: Prof Stephen Curry
Position: Professor of Structural Biology
Expertise: Protein crystallography, RNA viruses
Institution: Imperial College London, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Department of Life Sciences
Country: UK
More info: Home PageTwitter Blog

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-0552-8870

An interview with Prof Stephen Curry on 11 December 2015

What got you originally interested in Open Access (OA)?

Like many academics, I suppose, I can’t really remember when I first became aware of Open Access. For a long time it was one of those background issues that would only poke itself into the forefront of my mind when my latest paper was accepted for publication and I had to check if the funder required anything to be done about making it OA.

For me, Open Access rose to prominence when I learned about the boycott of Elsevier, triggered by their lobbying for the nefarious Research Works Act in the USA. What outraged me was Elsevier’s attempt to recast publicly-funded research as the property of the private sector.

How are you involved in Open Access (OA)?

Since publisher-lobbying for the US’s Research Works Act, I started reading and writing about Open Access and the opportunities it offers to researchers in the digital age, and the challenges it presents to academic culture. I have written more posts than I can mention on my Reciprocal Space blog, in addition to pieces for The Guardian and the New Scientist.

“We need to take on board the entrenched conservatism, not just of academics but of universities, funding agencies and politicians.”

This volume of output reflects the complexity of the issues that are stirred by the slow transformation of the scholarly publishing landscape. The journey is far too slow for some advocates, but I think it is important to recognise the progress that has been made. We also need to take on board the entrenched conservatism, not just of academics but of universities, funding agencies and politicians, when it comes to plotting shifts in publishing practices.


What still needs to be done to provide more Open Access to research?

Personally, I am encouraged by the ferment of innovation that has come, mostly from relatively new publishing outfits, and is helping to establish a more vibrant market in Open Access journals. I would like to see more intense competition on price and service, but of course these market forces remain perverted by the continued obsession with journal impact factors. Here, progress remains slow, but I hope I am not deluding myself in detecting greater awareness of the detrimental effects of our over-reliance on impact factors as a measure of research and researcher assessment. More and more people are at least a little embarrassed if they are challenged when found to be bragging about journal metrics. I hope that recent moves by some publishers to display their citation distributions – and, in the life sciences, the arrival of new pre-print repositories such as bioRxiv and PeerJ PrePrints – will help to re-focus attention on papers and not journals. This will help to further clear the landscape for the development of new Open Access titles.

“In our inter-connected world, this (Open Access) seems to me to be the only sensible way to proceed.”

For me, the process of engaging with Open Access was a process of politicisation. It matters to me that there is still a strong amateur ethos within the research community, which translates into an ethos of sharing. We write and review (and often edit) ‘for free’. In the life sciences – my own field – we exchange reagents freely. Open Access gives us the opportunity to extend that ethos, beyond disciplinary boundaries and beyond the walls of the ivory tower. In our inter-connected world, this seems to me to be the only sensible way to proceed. Yes, there are challenges, not the least of which is ensuring that all parts of the globe have the chance to participate in the Open Access project. Researchers in the developing world clearly benefit through access to the literature but still face barriers to publication that include cost and the hidden biases of reviewers in the developed world.

“The important thing is to keep moving and keep the channels of communication open.”

The important thing is to keep moving and keep the channels of communication open. I have learned so much about Open Access through many blog posts and talks, principally through conversations with those of a different perspective – either from another country or another discipline – and I’m still learning. I may have been writing and thinking about this for nearly four years now, but I don’t yet feel I have mastered the topic, and I look forward to further discussions – perhaps triggered by my contribution to this site?

 

Copyright: Stephen Curry, Imperial College London. Creative Commons CC-BY Licence. For more information, mail openaccess@imperial.ac.uk

Tags: OA journals, OA publishing, Open Access, academic culture, benefits, blogging, business models, change, collaboration, conservatism, costs, developing world, disciplinary differences, funders, impact factors, innovation, journal metrics, lobbying, opportunities, papers, peer review, pre-print repositories, progress, public funding, public responsibility, research assessment, research evaluation, scholarly communication, service, sharing

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