Current Open Access models don’t work: a two-step publishing process might.
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What is it about?
Progress to open access (OA) has stalled, with perhaps 20% of new papers ‘born‐free’. After two decades trying to flip to open access, one has to ask the question: why is it taking so long? In this paper, I review what happened in 2017-2018: librarians showing muscle in negotiations, publishers’ Read and Publish deals, and funders determined to force change with initiatives like Plan S. I conclude that these efforts will not work. I argue that the focus on OA makes us miss the bigger problem: today’s scholarly communications is too expensive for today’s budgets. So, OA is not the problem, the publishing process is the problem. To solve it, I propose using the principles of digital transformation to reinvent publishing as a two‐step process where articles are published first as preprints, and then journal editors invite authors to submit only those papers that ‘succeed’ to peer review. This would reduce costs significantly, opening a sustainable pathway for scholarly publishing and OA. The catalyst for this change is for the reputation economy to accept preprints as it does articles in minor journals today.
Why is it important?
There has been, and continues to be, much heat and light expended on trying to pivot scholarly publishing to an open access model. The trouble is, after two decades' effort, we've only got 20% of the way there and, understandably, many are getting frustrated. Frustration brings risk that poor policy or management decisions will be made which could damage scholarly publishing. In stepping back and trying to look at the problem in a holistic way, I've come to the conclusion that the real problem is that there's not enough money in the system to afford the ever-growing cost of publishing research. If this problem isn't solved, then solving the open access problem can't be done. I hope this article will help inform and broaden the debate about future models for scholarly publishing.
The following have contributed to this page: Toby Green