Open Access and the role of institutions

Since the widely known Budapest Open Access Initiative declaration, published at the beginning of 2002, open access has become increasingly relevant and more and more present in academic debates, as well as in political decision-making spaces. The ideal that advocates for open access research not only attracts the support of researchers, but is also starting to be promoted by several administrative institutions. In this regard, the particularly well-known cOAlition Plan S was launched by the European Research Council along with national research funding agencies in twelve European countries. The main objective of said plan is to implement open access in all publicly funded research and publications.

The debate on open access has largely focused on one central aspect: its financing model. More specifically, the difficulty of delimitating the cost or finding a way for the information to reach the reader free of cost. The classic model of the publishing business has consisted of the reader subscribing to the journal to have access to scientific research. With open access, diverse and plural models are now emerging, and some of them propose to move from a model based on ‘publish-for-free and pay-to-read’ to one based on ‘pay-to-publish and read-for free’. That is, by paying for what is known as an article processing charge (APC). However, this is a model that can also be subject to difficulties such as differences in researchers’ resources or the difficulty of managing high APCs. Pay-to-publish (golden route) is not the only open access model, with others favouring alternative routes promoted by public funding of journals (diamond route) or making use of the self-archiving opportunities.

The debate regarding the models and possibilities of promoting open access is a complex one, but what remains clear is the central role that universities and research centres play in helping to make it a reality in the near future. They have a central responsibility to promote an understanding of its meaning and relevance and to inform the public of its various models. They can promote and encourage the use of institutional repositories to help disseminate their research and as well as provide recognition to those researchers who are sensitive to this issue. This is once again a matter where institutions – through a system of governance and an open access-friendly policy – and individuals can make a difference and can contribute to help the open access movement move forward.

Ramón Feenstra, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Sociology at the Universitat Jaume I of Castellón (Spain)