In 2019, the voices for free-content, stronger than ever, emanated from academic institutions as well as funding agencies. But does the much sought after open access in publishing unify all? The year 2020 will surely clear the picture.
The global publishing community over the years has pushed for an environment where the knowledge is openly accessible and free to build upon. Up until now, the world has seen an unprecedented outreach of open access. Through the ever-increasing penetration of the internet, the demand for an all-encompassing open access ecosystem is increasing.
Open access in publishing
The standard Wikipedia definition of OS, “Open access is a set of principles and a range of practices through which research outputs are distributed online, free of cost or other access barriers.“, essentially advocates pulling down the barriers that keep the masses away from the very knowledge that they help fund in the first place.
The growing demand
From the rumoured plan of the US government on passing an executive order to make all federally funded research papers openly accessible, immediately upon publication(abolishing the paywall) to the rising tide of the Plan S from European Funding Agencies, the noise against the hegemony of a few publication journals is surely to reach new heights in 2020.
While the much-anticipated move on the US government’s part has been opposed by the established publishing houses and sceince societies with some legit concerns regarding the intellectual property of the institutions, the advocates of open access in publishing has many backers like cOAlition S of some European funding agencies that launches Plan S.
Effects on the education sector
Open access in publishing demands the grantees to publish their research papers in the open access journals. And pay to publish their work. Hence, open access in publishing counterpoints the ”pay-to-read’ model. Which in turn makes the knowledge otherwise hidden behind high, unaffordable paywalls freely accessible.
By allowing the free access to research knowledge, you increase the affordability of the masses to build upon it.
Having said that the policymakers have to find a delicate balance between the existing business models and the new demands of the times to make the current system more robust which is able to self-heal when required. In a country like India, when the onus of systemic failure is often placed at the feet of the education system, and rightly so, it is the right time to test out the newer models like Open Access. Provided there are variations to it according to the demography etc.
India’s take on open access…
…so far has been lukewarm. It’s more like testing the waters. As explained by Naveen Choudhary of Oxford University Press, “We are being increasingly asked to put titles in the public domain. When the research funds by the government, other agencies or even the author are made available to us publishers, the resulting product is freely available for public consumption. Open access is quickly becoming a global phenomenon.”
Open access curbs piracy
One of the biggest impediments to the growth of publishing industry is the practice of piracy of the content. Open access in publishing not just eliminates such illicit practices but also spares unnecessary losses to the entire industry.
Free content can only be countered by free content.
Open access in publishing would usher the world in a new era of public intellectuals and experts who are actually going to add to the knowledge base of the masses. But the way to go about that has to be sketched out by the institutions and more importantly the states, as their different standards demand somewhat different solutions in the realm of open access.