As I’ve mentioned before, I was Managing Editor of the Faculty of Information Quarterly at school, but in my new capacity as an academic library, I serve on the York University Libraries’ Scholarly Communications Committee. All of a sudden, instead of just complaining about the inherent evil of journal vendors, I actually have to learn about tangible issues! Ah crap!
One of the movements sweeping the world of academic publishing is the Open Access movement. I didn’t realllly get it until I attended some sessions on the topic at the CLA Annual Conference. And then had to explain it to non-librarians (the true test of knowledge).
I had to sum up my job to parents, and in doing so, found myself explaining in the simplest terms possible, the whole “Open Access” movement. I told them this:
1) Professors make research. It is expensive! But important. So the government gives the universities money to do it.
2) Their research is brilliant! So they want to share it with others by publishing it in a journal. Also, if they don’t publish in some really prestigious journals, they don’t get tenure. Tenure is where you get some job security and a nice-sized paycheque.
3) They don’t get paid to put their work in those journals, though. It’s like getting paid to receive the Order of Canada – just being there is enough prestige.
4) Those journals have important information in them! And universities need that information so people can do research. They work with libraries to get those journals into the library collections.
5) These journals can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. It is expensive! But important. So the government gives the universities money to do it.
You’ll note that two of these stages are the same. Open Access just seeks to cut out the last stage, so that tax payers aren’t paying for that research twice (There are a lot of other really good reasons that OA is awesome, but that’s the explanation that resonates the most with my parents. No doubt they agree with concepts related to freedom of information and a narrowing of the global digital divide, but taxes – that really gets ‘em).
A big report just came out from the Knowledge Exchange in Europe, which discusses the economic savings of Open Access policies for research bodies. Among the most interesting points is the assertion that, “Open access or ‘author-pays’ publishing for journal articles… might bring net system savings of around EUR 70 million per annum nationally in Denmark, EUR 133 million in the Netherlands and EUR 480 million in the UK (at 2007 prices and levels of publishing activity…”.
So, beside the important ethical and technological merits of this movement, there’s an even more salient reason for institutions to pursue economic policies… And it is called the bottom line.