New initiative to boost Open Access

Research organizations declare support for an OA transformation of scholarly journals

March 21, 2016

A growing number of research organizations want to establish an international initiative which aims to convert the majority of today’s scholarly journals from subscription to Open Access (OA) publishing. This is the result of the 12th Berlin Open Access Conference  hosted by the Max Planck Society in December 2015. An Expression of Interest, published today and already adopted by thirty signatories, invites all parties involved in scholarly publishing to collaborate on a swift and efficient transition for the benefit of scholarship and society at large.

The list of first signatories include among others the Austrian Science Fund, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, and the Spanish National Research Council, as well as the European University Association, the representative organization of more than 800 universities and 36 national rectors’ conferences in 47 European countries. Signatories from Germany include the German Research Foundation, the German Rectors’ Conference, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association and the Max Planck Society.

The scholarly organizations share a common interest in “the large-scale implementation of free online access to, and largely unrestricted use and re-use of scholarly research articles“. According to the Expression of Interest (EoI), the aim is “to transform a majority of today’s scholarly journals from subscription to OA publishing”. This transition will be pursued by “converting resources currently spent on journal subscriptions into funds to support sustainable OA business models”. At the same time, the signatories agree “to continue to support new and improved forms of OA publishing”.

“In the digital age, immediate access to journal articles is crucial for scientific progress. It is time to make Open Access the standard model of publishing. Only if we all join forces and coordinate our activities across organizations, disciplines and countries, we will manage to reach this important goal,” says Martin Stratmann, president of the Max Planck Society.

The 12th Berlin Open Access Conference brought together delegates from international research and scholarly organizations. In preparation of the EoI, they discussed recent developments and studies indicating that the transformation of journal publishing to OA can be realized within the framework of currently available resources. “As specified in the EoI, a ’smooth, swift and scholarly oriented transition‘ is the central aim of this initiative which originates from and is driven by researchers and scholarly organizations. To reach our goal, it is also important to collaborate with publishers,” explains Ulrich Pöschl, director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, who chaired the Berlin Conference and serves as scientific coordinator for the Open Access activities of the Max Planck Society.

Further institutions from around the world are expected to announce their official endorsement of the EoI in the course of the next months. Similar to the “Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities” that was released in 2003 and has been signed by more than 500 scholarly organizations worldwide, the EoI will remain open to further signatories.

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“OA 2020” website launched today

The participants of the 12th Berlin Open Access Conference welcomed the commitment by the Max Planck Society to further advance the OA transformation initiative. Today, a dedicated website was launched by the Max Planck Digital Library in order to facilitate collaboration and exchange between all parties involved in scholarly publishing, including universities, research institutions, funders, libraries, and publishers.

“Specific steps and milestones for the transformation process are outlined in a roadmap that will be further developed as we progress and iteratively adjusted in exchange with all involved parties,” explains Ralf Schimmer who coordinates “OA2020” with a team from the Max Planck Digital Library. A network of “National Points of Contact” will be established across Europe as well as in the Americas, Africa and the Asia Pacific region.

Current state of Open Access

Over the past decade, open access has gained momentum and grown successfully in many ways, including the development of new Open Access publishing platforms, archives and repositories. In scholarly journal publishing, Open Access has achieved a substantial and steadily increasing volume (approx. 15% of peer-reviewed journal publications). But most scholarly journals are still based on the traditional subscription business model “with its inherent deficiencies in terms of access, cost-efficiency, transparency, and restrictions of use”, as stated in the EoI.

The Max Planck Society is well-known for advancing the discourse on Open Access ever since the “Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities” was adopted in 2003. The Berlin Declaration continues to receive fresh support and has been signed by almost 550 institutions and organizations from around the world by now.

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