International Symposium on Open Access Publishing Reveals Both Challenges and Opportunities

international open access symposium

On November 17 and 18, the University of Kansas was host to an international symposium, “Envisioning a World Beyond APCs/BPCs.” The event, which was co-sponsored by the University of Kansas Libraries, Open Access Network, Allen Press and SPARC, brought together open access advocates from North America, South America, Africa and Europe. The theme of the symposium points to the fact that Article Processing Charges (APCs) move the access barrier from the reader to the author, which prompted participants to discuss the power structures that are inherent in scholarly publishing today. Through these discussions, participants recognized that access is not just about the ability to read and write, but also the ability to contribute to the global research agenda.

Panelists discussed several factors that contribute to inequality in scholarly publishing, but one of the most significant issues centers around the way scholarship is evaluated. Tenure and promotion practices that overvalue publication in prestigious English-language journals discourage local scholarship and signal a distrust in the quality of research published outside of the Global North. These journals typically expect authors to cite relevant works from other high-impact journals, perpetuating an environment where research activity is rewarded based on visibility in the Global North, but research conducted and published elsewhere is frequently overlooked. This is a problem not only because individual scholars don’t receive adequate recognition for their work, but because the subject of their work is driven not by local concerns or even pure research interests, but by the need to conduct research that will be accepted for publication by a prominent English-language journal. While these issues may seem tangential to the topic of open access publishing, it was clear that attendees considered open access to be a social justice issue and wanted to be sure that any solutions for funding open access initiatives do not propagate inequality.

Symposium participants also acknowledged that there are already working models for open access publishing that do not rely on APCs for funding. In Latin America, for example open access publishing is the norm. The publishing enterprise is supported largely by institutions and government funding. Multiple funding sources help maintain balance as government funds do tend to shift as policy changes are enacted. Additionally, there are always a variety of projects competing for university funds. It is important to note that historically, large commercial publishers have not had a strong presence in Latin America. This may not be the case for long, however. Recently Elsevier has begun hosting journals for the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. In coming years, Latin America’s challenge may be to avoid a shift away from open access.

Much of the symposium conversation was broadcast over a livestream feed, and viewers from around the world were encouraged to engage in the discussion and pose questions for the panelists via Twitter using #KUOASymp16. A recording of the livestream is available in two parts. Part one comprises a series of two minute talks in which panelists were invited to address problems and pose questions related to the progress of open access publishing. Part two is a directed dialogue between the panelists and respondents. After the broadcast, the symposium continued with further discussion and activities in which participants were encouraged to imagine new solutions for funding open access publishing. Many participants are engaged in open access initiatives and projects of their own and proposed solutions were varied. Following the symposium, many participants agreed to continue the conversation as part of a group on Humanities Commons, an open-access, open-source, not-for-profit academic network created by the Modern Language Association that will launch this year.

As a company, Allen Press is committed to educating its customers and providing the services that societies need to support their chosen publishing model. Though it may not work for every publication, open access is widely accepted in the scholarly community and Allen Press was pleased to be able to participate in this important conversation.

joanna gillette     Joanna Gillette is Product Education Manager at Allen Press.