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We need to motivate policy makers to mandate Open Access for all scientific publications at short notice

“We need to motivate policy makers to mandate Open Access for all scientific publications at short notice”
Benjamin A. Ward / HiOA
Name: Curt Rice
Position: University President
Expertise: Philosophy, General linguistics, Generative grammar, Phonology, Gender Equality, Open Access Leadership
Institution: Oslo and Akershus University College
Country: Norway
ORCID ID: 0000-0003-0936-4030

An interview with Curt Rice on 28 November 2015

Why the interest in Open Access (OA)?

My interest in Open Access is part of a broader interest in improving quality control in scientific publishing. Scientific publishing is really about two things: 1) acquiring readers and 2) quality control. It might generally be thought that Open Access is more about acquiring more readers and providing greater access to one’s research, and of course that is part of it. However, I also think it is interesting to think about how Open Access can have a positive effect on the scientific publishing quality control system by for example producing reliable, reproducible scientific results. Getting those results in front of as many people as possible creates the circumstances for improving those results.

What still needs to be done? What is your key hope or vision?

I would like to see more radical interventions from policy makers that would lead to all scientific publications being made Open Access at much shorter notice.

“It’s just a matter of having the political courage.”

This is rather easy to envisage. In Norway, for example, we have a government economic incentive for scientific publishing. If this were to be restricted, such that it was given only to publications that were Open Access, every Norwegian researcher would immediately switch to Open Access publications – so the policy challenge is trivial. The entire system is in place to change Norwegian research to Open Access overnight. It’s just a matter of having the political courage to do so – or not.

How are you spreading the message about Open Access?

I engage in the Open Access debate on social media, I blog about Open Access, and publish in Open Access journals. In my role as rector and as head of CRIStin, the Norwegian National Research Information System, I have the opportunity to meet with the Ministry where I push for Open Access as hard as I can.

I’m also involved in attempts to promote the move to Open Access through national and international organisations. For example, CRIStin is a partner in a couple of EU projects, so I work through those via CRIStin to develop the concept and to work towards implementing Open Access. As CRIStin is also the national consortium for negotiating resource collection deals, I work through them when negotiating with publishers, where we’re always pushing for Open Access in our contracts. I’ll also be participating in a workshop organised by the Max Planck Institute where we’re working with international partners in Europe to try to push for the radical OA conversion that we all hope for.

And what are still the challenges?

The main challenge I see is that the Open Access movement has largely been co-opted by the commercial publishers. Ten years ago commercial publishers were afraid of Open Access, and this is now a thing of the past. However, we should be concerned about this as publishers are buying up Open Access journals and are developing a variant of the business model in which they continue to make obscene profits that are breaking the backs of publicly financed universities.

“Obscene profits … are breaking the backs of publicly financed universities.”

The total cost for SciELO Brazilian articles are estimated at US$200 and $600. To make an article in an Elsevier journal open – in an otherwise traditional journal – generally costs about 3,000 dollars. In my opinion, Elsevier thereby takes advantage of its monopoly position, and the prestige that it has acquired – all to make profits that go far beyond the level of oil companies, for example. The problem here is that an idealistic and important development, namely Open Access, is about to be turned into yet another money-making machine for publishers.

Elsevier, for example, has a huge foundation that supports all sorts of work that is important to me as a scientist, for example in the areas of gender equality. I ask myself where the money for that foundation comes from. To my mind, it’s tens of millions of Euros a year that come from one place, namely the profit they make on journals. Publishers are going to continue to make profits with Open Access journals. Actually, we need to radically change our conception of the appropriate vehicle for distribution, and – I could go on …

What’s essential advice for other champions?

I believe we need strong policy-maker leadership to enable the necessary change, i.e. to counteract the power given to prestigious traditional journals by professors. That is a very strong force to be reckoned with. What we need to do is to motivate policy makers who have a deep understanding of the issue to not only suggest or recommend Open Access, but require it.


Copyright: Tanja Strøm, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. Creative Commons CC-BY Licence.

Tags: CRIS, CRISTIN, OA journals, OA mandates, OA policy, OA policy development, Open Access, accessibility, advocacy, blogging, business models, commercial publishers, commercial publishing, costs, courage, dissemination, economics, implementation, incentives, international, journals, leadership, monopoly, national, national policy, policymaking, prestige, profits, quality, reproducibility, scholarly communication, traditional publishers, traditional publishing, visibility

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