Policy ForumScientific Publishing

In pursuit of open science, open access is not enough

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Science  08 May 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6491, pp. 574-577
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba3763

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Summary

After decades of debate on the feasibility of open access (OA) to scientific publications, we may be nearing a tipping point. A number of recent developments, such as Plan S, suggest that OA upon publication could become the default in the sciences within the next several years. Despite uncertainty about the long-term sustainability of OA models, many publishers who had been reluctant to abandon the subscription business model are showing openness to OA (1). Although more OA can mean more immediate, global access to scholarship, there remains a need for practical, sustainable models, for careful analysis of the consequences of business model choices, and for “caution in responding to passionate calls for a ‘default to open’” (2). Of particular concern for the academic community, as subscription revenues decline in the transition to OA and some publishers prioritize other sources of revenue, is the growing ownership of data analytics, hosting, and portal services by large scholarly publishers. This may enhance publishers' ability to lock in institutional customers through combined offerings that condition open access to journals upon purchase of other services. Even if such “bundled” arrangements have a near-term benefit of increasing openly licensed scholarship, they may run counter to long-term interests of the academic community by reducing competition and the diversity of service offerings. The healthy functioning of the academic community, including fair terms and conditions from commercial partners, requires that the global marketplace for data analytics and knowledge infrastructure be kept open to real competition.

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