Free Access to Science: It’s Getting Expensive

Free Access to Science: It’s Getting Expensive

There is a golden path to a bright future, and Sander Decker pointed it out nine years ago. Then the Minister of State for Education, Culture and Science decided that in 2024 All scholarly publications of Dutch universities are open to access It must be. 100 percent. For all, free to read online. This is good, because articles that can be accessed for free are often read and quoted† That’s fair. Scientific research is paid for with taxpayer money, and strangely enough, a taxpayer who did not have a university job is forced to transfer thirty euros to read one scientific article.

The Minister of State expressed his preference for golden roadJournal publications that make all their articles freely available on the Internet. The expenses are then covered by the authors who Material processing cost (APC) Payment.

A good goal, but one that could be more ambitious, according to the Dutch scientific community. Not in 2024, but in 2020, all science should be freely available. That was the urgent message from National Open Science Scheme It was signed by universities, research funder NWO, University Libraries, Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB) and KNAW in 2017.

It does not work. to me Cooperating Universities and the Rathenau . Institute The meter reached more than 70 percent in 2020. According to what was published last year Research Report It may be years before 100% is on the horizon.

“Maybe we were too ambitious,” says Darko Jansen, director of open access and open science at the umbrella organization Universities of the Netherlands (UNL, former VSNU). “But it’s getting faster and faster, in 2021 we may already be at 80 percent.”

We should see that 100 percent as a point on the horizon, they say in college circles. A goal he strives for, disruptive negotiations with scientific publishers. And the Netherlands leads the way, and percentages in other countries are usually lower.

less happy

However, in all this optimism there are some points that make it less cheerful.

First of all, 70 percent open access in 2020 sounds like a lot, but it’s only about articles written by Dutch authors from that year. A teacher, journalist, technician, or other interested person searching for an older article often faces a ban on payment. This article was then published before open access was urged – or the authors come from a country where free access is not promoted.

A wrapper has been installed for this problem. In 2015 it was by a Amendment of copyright law Dutch researchers were allowed to deposit their published article in a public digital archive six months later – the so-called Store† Publishers have expressed concerns about the amendment but have not opposed it.

Make it public in such an archive becomes green road call. It is not a perfect solution, because the repositories are not complete and the content is diverse. It also contains articles that have been accepted by a journal, but not yet finalized.

Digitization leads to an increase in scale. This rarely means in the publishing sector that it will get cheaper

Hubert Cricket Collaborating university libraries

Then there is another sore point: the cost. Even before the advent of the Internet, in the early 1990s, university libraries Elsevier, Wiley, Springer and other academic publishers paid huge subscription fees. A few thousand guilders for an annual subscription was normal. Rates began to rise sharply over that decade, often at 5 percent annually. At the beginning of this century, this amount rose to ten thousand euros for some magazines.

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This sparked another aspect of the discussion. Why pay so much for something that has already been paid for? What do publishers actually do? They receive the articles for free, they do not have to pay for peer review of the articles (peer review) and the internet has eliminated most of the printing costs. Why should publishers generate revenue? From 30, 40 per cent?

hand by hand

Many envisioned a future in which scholars would unite and start their own journals. It is online and available to everyone to read. These magazines have already appeared, but they are less than originally thought and did not replace the existing ones, they just appeared.

In 2007 university libraries transferred 33 million euros to publishers, and in 2020 this amount increased to 52 million euros. If you add to that the ten million that NWO and non-university institutions contribute, this roughly doubles: More than 62 million euros of public money in 2020

How did this happen? Because more and more are being published, this is an important factor. in the Netherlands, Over 45,000 scientific articles in 2019 published, and that number is increasing at 4 percent annually, in part due to the growing number of journals. “Digitization means an increase in scale,” says Hubert Krekels, Head of Collaborating University Libraries and KB (UKB). “And that rarely means in the publishing sector that it will get cheaper.”

But the main reason is that seasoned publishers are constantly outselling the university world. For example, they developed the “hybrid” form of their titles. In doing so, they leave the choice to the authors: closed or Opens† Closed is the traditional form: the article is only available to clients of university libraries. Opening is also possible: then everyone can read it. But in this case, the writer must compensate the publisher for the organization of peer review, publishing, archiving and indexing. He has to pay the APC, just like the magazines going the golden way.

These APCs differ slightly, from 500 euros for a magazine in a peripheral area to the same amount 9500 euros for the article in temper nature† The settlement of these APCs is largely beyond the scope of researchers. This is called “lifting the burden”. The amounts that universities pay to publishers each year include both subscriptions and APC.

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Not very frank

Publishers like Elsevier obviously gain from these publishers, because in the hybrid model they also collect subscription fees in addition to the APCs: double dip This is called. Universities in the negotiations are trying to put an end to this, especially since the bulk of Dutch researchers’ articles appear in those mixed journals.

One problem with these conversations is that publishers aren’t very forthcoming about their costs. There is research indicating that the actual costs are much lower than the required armored personnel carriers, but this does not seem to make a great impression in the negotiations. The average will be around $400, according to the calculation of two publishing experts at F1000 Search

New problems also appeared with armored personnel carriers. For example, predatory magazines that collect armored personnel carriers have appeared, but do not bother with editing and peer review. This does not contribute to the popularity of open access. “The bad practices of those predatory journals are reflected in the high-quality, open-access gold journals,” Krickels says.

Getting a few thousand euros to make publishing possible is a big expense

Jeroen Bosman Utrecht University Library

Recently, it was also announced that armored personnel carriers are an obstacle for researchers from poor countries. They appear to be underrepresented in open access publications. Jeroen Bosman, open flag Expert at Utrecht University Library: “This problem also applies to Dutch researchers who are not affiliated or no longer affiliated with a university. A doctoral student who has not yet finished his thesis for example. Then a few thousand euros to make publication possible is a big cost.”

The hybrid variant is expensive and opaque, on the Golden Road APCs create new barriers, and the Green Road is essentially an emergency lane. These objections do not apply to a publication method that is gaining increasing support: DiamondDiamond Road. This variant is completely free to access, and the authors do not have to pay any armored personnel carriers. In this case, the costs are borne by the external financiers. Example SciPost, a portal that brings articles in the fields of physics, astronomy, mathematics, chemistry and political science. It is a Dutch initiative and to International Sponsors It includes the NWO, the German Max Planck Society, the French Ministry of Science, CERN, and about twenty beneficiaries. NWO is a strong supporter of this model, and has been on Based on some diamond initiatives

Netherlands universities also support such a system. “We want to go into gold and diamonds,” UNL’s Darko Jansen says. In the long term, he wants to move towards an “integrated picture”, a financing model that includes all variables and covers the costs of all universities and all institutes. “We want to get rid of the subscription model and the mixed variants. I think you can arrange everything with 80 to 90 million. We are discussing this with the ministry and knowledge institutions.”

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Free access to science – it turns out that it costs a lot of money.

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