A movement for open-access in academic publishing is gaining ground rapidly in Europe. Nature reports that libraries and university consortia in the continent are not only brokering new contracts that make more published academic work paywall-free or offset some of its effects but also are collaborating widely to achieve this.
Nature, perhaps not ironically in the present instance, is itself part of the publishing group that has been challenged by open-access activists—over 3,000 computer science academics have promised not to submit, review, or edit articles for Nature Machine Intelligence that is set to get published from January 2019. Many argue that public-funded research needs to be accessible to the public at large. However, the dominant academic publishing model continues to be paywalls-and-subscription based.
In 2014, the VSNU, a consortium from the Netherlands, became the first such group that negotiated a subscription deal that included rights for its scholars to publish all of their work openly. Groups in the UK, Sweden, Austria, and Finland have struck similar deals.
The movement is now spreading beyond Europe. Negotiating groups have representatives of various universities, including those in South Korea and the US. A global alliance, managed from Germany, is expected to head the movement in the coming days, and it will likely reach India sooner rather than later.
With varsities, where knowledge contained in the websites/pages of publications is produced, spearheading a movement against such publishing, publishers would have to rethink their revenue models drastically. Against such a backdrop, open access journals are mushrooming, as are pre-prints of research reports.
Some of these hosting websites may not be in a strictly legal activity, but their soaring popularity has created a “too big to fail” scenario. Amidst all this, the need is for both publishers and subscribing institutions to find a balance. Given sustainable open access also means paying for labour and infrastructure that props it, it is likely that paying to access research may not entirely go away.