CoNOSC European National Open Science Policymakers Discuss Open Access

CoNOSC European National Open Science Policymakers Discuss Open Access

24th July 2023 news 0

On 22 and 23 June, Ireland’s National Open Research Forum (NORF) hosted a face-to-face meeting of the Council of National Open Science Coordinators (CoNOSC) at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, Ireland. Discussion over the two days revolved around the topic of open access. The event was attended by national policymakers from twelve countries, as well as representatives from the European Commission, the European University Association, Science Europe and SPARC Europe. The meeting also included presentations by representatives of cOAlition S and Knowledge Rights 21.

Day one of the meeting focused on both the current state and future vision for open access publishing. Following the opening presentation by Johan Rooryck, Executive Director of cOAlition S, titled “The Current State and Future Outlook of OA Publishing”, attendees were asked to consider where open access is heading in the next five years, and how best to engage with the impacted communities. The following presents a summary of the discussion.

Multiple replies expressed a desire to see fewer publications in the future, agreeing that the current scale of scholarly publishing puts the open access system under pressure. Respondents recognised that changes to publishing models would necessarily entail moving away from ‘publish or perish’ or metrics based methods of assessment of research and researchers to more holistic approaches that recognise and reward a diversity of contributions and contributors. 

Tied to this is the question of what it means to publish in 2023 and differentiating between the processes of publication and the final output or published paper. There was broad consensus throughout the meeting that researchers, and representatives thereof, need to be directly involved in addressing questions such as these as well as proposing solutions to the current challenges in scholarly publishing.

Participants agreed that Transformative Agreements alone could not lead to 100% open access (only covering the corresponding authors of an institution, sometimes only circa 40% of all articles, only local or national agreements and do not include all regions or organisations of a particular country). For that to happen, there needs to be a more balanced distribution of funding between “legacy” publishers and “alternative” open access scholarly publishing models. Such arrangements would require significant centralised monitoring and negotiation. Questions were raised about how that might work in practice.

One alternative model that received extensive attention during the afternoon’s discussion was funder publishing platforms. Some policymakers raised concerns that a national platform approach may not be the most efficient. Whilst infrastructure may be national, journals are international and they are generally not categorised based on national frontiers. From this perspective, there is considerable scope for international collaboration. 

Questions were asked about how best to align and develop such publishing platforms to ensure that they progress most effectively. For example, a coordinated approach could focus on the services that national open access journals offer with a view to ensuring quality standards that are both equitable and diverse. With regard to the structure of a common infrastructure for open access publishing, some policymakers said that a distributed structure would be best, whereas others disagreed. 

Equity and diversity were important themes of the discussions throughout the two days. Policymakers raised concerns that diamond open access journals from smaller countries would be unable to compete with larger, more visible counterparts in an aggregated model. Therefore, a common open access publishing infrastructure would need to serve a redistributive function to ensure that bibliodiversity becomes much more visible and smaller journals and platforms are supported in levelling up.

On the morning of day two of the event, attendees were presented with national updates from France, Slovenia, Romania and the United Kingdom.

On day two of the event, focus shifted to rights retention (RR). Following an opening presentation on the copyright legal and policy framework for open access given by Iva Melinščak Zlodi, Scholarly communication and e-resources librarian, University of Zagreb, on behalf of Knowledge Rights 21, national policymakers discussed the direction of travel of secondary publishing rights (SPR) and institutional RR policies in their countries, as well as the appropriateness of supporting EU legislation. The following are some highlights from the conversation.

Once again, the importance of monitoring was raised. It was observed that where secondary publishing rights exist, they are far from being achieved in the absence of an effective monitoring mechanism. 

The importance of institutional RR policies came to the fore. The policymaker should influence institutions to introduce RR policies and to monitor their implementation. In this regard, such policies are most effective when they are collectively implemented. Institutions in some countries, such as the United Kingdom, have been successful in making a movement of Institutional RR policies. 

In addition to RR policies, institutions need clear and complementary open access policies. Authors should also feel empowered and protected by their institutions in asserting their rights. The Netherland’s “You share, we take care!” scheme was called out as a noteworthy example of supporting authors regardless of publisher’s guidelines.

Another topic of debate was the appropriateness of CC-BY licences. Some policymakers expressed a preference for NC (non-commercial) licences, with others stating that NC licences would not be suitable in their national context preferring CC BY, which in some eyes stimulated more innovation. One solution offered was to raise awareness around the various Creative Commons licence types.

Divergent Secondary Publishing Rights (SPR) legislation in EU member states creates challenges when it comes to international collaborative research projects. Thus, it is necessary to align the approaches of the member states. The highest aim is an EU SPR legislation with zero embargos and open licences implemented in national laws with as much ambition as possible. There are intense debates concerning this question.

A key takeaway from the event was that whether it is the diamond open access ecosystem, national SPR legislation, institutional RR policies, achieving 100% open access to research outputs requires collective action.  

We would like to thank the presenters, the chair, observers and national policymakers for attending and contributing to the meeting. We would also like to thank our hosts at Ireland’s National Open Research Forum for their hospitality.