Open Access is winning ground

Published on
July 14, 2008

Resource, the weekly newspaper for Wageningen UR, has recently reported on Open Access, the new publication model that is gradually winning ground. Wageningen UR is one of the signatories of the Berlin Declaration for Open Access and with that endorses the importance of Open Access.

First and foremost, Open Access is important because of the free access to scientific information. In a Resource article from 13 March, malaria researcher Bart Knols articulated this aspect quite well. "The accessibility barriers to relevant research results for researches in developing countries are no longer technological but are the result of licenses and screening." Open Access in its pure form, in which publications without any limitations are accessible everywhere and for everyone, is the solution. Perhaps, this is especially good for—but not limited to—countries that do not have large library budgets at their disposal.

In a Resource article from 3 April, a stand was taken against the 'classic' publishers in the framework of Open Access. However, the discussions about Open Access and about (exorbitant) profit should not be confused with one another. It is also our position that science is not helped by seriously hindered access –caused by high costs--to publications. However, given the added value of publishers in the scientific publication process, specifically branding, quality control and the like—we collaboratively have to search –as much as possible—for a new publication model.

It is often assumed that Open Access means free and, as such, qualitatively poor journals with a lower impact. Of course, it is simpler to begin one's own journal and put it on the internet than to try to produce it through a publisher. In principle, there is no difference; the wheat always has to be separated from the chaff. An increasing number of organisations and publishers use the Open Access model and in doing so give just as much attention to quality control and peer review as the classic model. Therefore, it is also a mistake that Open Access journals have a lower impact factor. Certainly they should have a lower impact because they are new, not as a result of the publication model. Journals from the Public Library of Science (PLOS) and Biomed Central, among other open access publications, prove how well and how quickly Open Access journals have received a respectable status and impact. It is also not true that Open Access is free. In fact, there has been a shift in funding. With every publication model, journals have high costs connected to the publication process. The publication costs in Open Access are sometimes covered by the publishing institution but often also by the authors who have to pay an 'author fee'. At Wageningen UR, the 'author fees' have until now been paid from a fund that has been formed from part of the collection budget.

The Wageningen UR Library will soon start a discussion about all aspects of Open Access with library committees and researchers. In this exchange, the Library will make clear which aspects make up 'new publishing'. The author interests are always the first matter of importance, but an attempt will be made to make the authors aware of the fact that they have to look for a new balance between "reputation" and "being read and as such being cited". The Wageningen UR Library is taking the initiative in the development of a Wageningen UR-wide supported Open Access publication policy in which the involvement of the interested parties is guaranteed as much as possible.

(newsletter 2-2008)