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The future of open access: ideas for change

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Existing open access (OA) models allow published research to be made readily available to all, with authors either covering the cost of publication in a journal (Gold OA) or self-archiving their papers in online repositories (Green OA). Both models have their drawbacks, for example Gold OA has inherent benefits for publishers and Green OA can be completed without peer review. In a recent opinion piece in EMBO Reports, Ignacio Amigo and Alberto Pascual-García propose a new publishing system that would remove these conflicts, allow key players within the system to make best use of their respective skills, and would ultimately separate economic interests from scientific research.

The new model would see research papers published in one of a number of open repositories, and peer-reviewed using a centralised and self-organised platform in which a scientist’s activity as an author, reviewer, etc., could be tracked and evaluated by other scientists. With peer review no longer the responsibility of journals, the authors suggest that this would allow journals to focus on increasing accessibility to research and to collaborate with scientists to produce reviews and other outputs. As the repositories and peer review platform would be publicly funded, the authors foresee public institutions leading the change toward their vision of a fairer and more transparent publishing model.

The opinion that change is needed is shared by Toby Green from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, who questions why, despite the Gold and Green OA models being available for many years, more hasn’t been achieved. Green suggests that it comes down to two things: 1) several stakeholders will need to change their practices simultaneously for either model to fully achieve its potential and 2) scientific publishing comprises many different services that are currently bundled together and paid for by one stakeholder i.e., the author in the case of Gold OA. On the latter point, the author suggests that publishers should provide different levels of service starting with a basic, free, read-only service for readers, with other relevant services being offered to authors, librarians, funders etc. Green concludes that this would also solve the issue of pirate ‘black OA’ sites, such as Sci-Hub, who would become redundant as a result.


Summary by Alice Wareham, PhD from Aspire Scientific

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