The discrepancy between the standard narrative of open access (OA) as a solution for freeing knowledge for the benefit of all and the realities of academic publishing is the focus of a review by Professor Michael Hagner, published last month in Swiss Medical Weekly.
The author describes how there has been a push from various stakeholders, including scientific organisations, funding bodies and governments, for OA to be the new publishing standard, as it represents a way of removing barriers in the global exchange of ideas. However, OA may also be considered as a way of circulating knowledge as a commodity for economic benefit, and the author proposes the willingness of some academic publishers to adopt OA as a business model as evidence for this. The author suggests that rather than freeing scientific publishing from the constraints of traditional academic publishers and their “extortionate pricing policies”, OA has done little to break the monopoly of these publishers.
Professor Hagner goes on to discuss the impact of the co-development of science and economic policy and the distinction between ‘innovation-relevant research’ and that deemed less legitimate based on its commercial and societal value. The author also describes some unforeseen consequences of OA, such as the growing prevalence of predatory journals and publishers and the introduction of mega-journals, and their potential impacts on the credibility of scientific publishing.
The author proposes that scientific organisations, funding bodies and scientists should collaborate in order to find a way to compete with commercial publishers to return academic publishing to the stewardship of the sciences. Professor Hagner concludes the article by discussing the advantages and disadvantages of such potential non-commercial publishing avenues.