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.

KU Libraries, Open Access Network, SPARC and Allen Press jointly sponsoring OA symposium


The University of Kansas Libraries, Open Access Network, Allen Press and SPARC are jointly sponsoring an international symposium, “Envisioning a World Beyond APCs/BPCs,” in Lawrence, Kan., on Thursday and Friday, November 17-18. The symposium will consider current models available for achieving an expansive, inclusive and balanced worldwide open publishing ecosystem.

The symposium will provide a live-streamed session during which internationally respected scholars, publishers, university librarians and executives from foundations and organizations will address advanced questions and problems in the open access movement. Additional symposium meetings will explore the future of “openness” in scholarly publishing, as well as responding to and furthering discussions from last December’s Berlin 12 Open Access invitational conference, which focused on “flipping” the current subscription model of scholarly publishing to one that provides free access to readers paid for by article-processing charges from authors or their institutions.

Kevin L. Smith, dean of KU Libraries, will moderate the live-streamed conversation on Thursday, November 17 from 10 a.m.-12 noon CST. By streaming part of the symposium, the organizers hope to engage a broad international audience in a lively discussion. During the broadcast, panelists will describe their vision for an open access future. Panelists, local respondents and the global viewing audience will engage together in thought-provoking dialogue to address one of the most fundamental questions in the open access movement: To what extent can a global academic community create an open access publishing system that is without costs to readers or authors?

“KU Libraries are honored to host such a distinguished group of cutting-edge thinkers,” said Smith. “We expect the dialogue that takes place here as a result of this meeting to have transformational impact on scholarly communications, moving us toward a more global and inclusive vision of the ecosystem of scholarship.”

Bob Kieft, chair of the board of directors of K|N Consultants, an organization that partners with institutions to support open access, added, “I couldn’t be happier that a casual conversation last winter with colleagues at KU has led to this symposium. Given our Open Access Network’s initial emphasis on large-scale funding models for humanistic and social science disciplines and KU’s distinguished institutional commitment to open access, we look forward to working with our cosponsors Allen Press and SPARC and our eminent group of participants on better ways for making scholarship available to all.”

The following international group of participants will be joining the symposium at KU: Juan Pablo Alperin, Simon Fraser University; Ivy Anderson, California Digital Library; Arianna Becerril García , Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México; Raym Crow, SPARC; Martin Eve, University of London / Open Library of the Humanities; Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Modern Language Association of America; Jean-Claude Guédon, Université de Montréal; Lorraine Haricombe, University of Texas – Austin Libraries; Neil Jacobs, JISC; Heather Joseph, SPARC; Rebecca Kennison, K|N Consultants / Open Access Network; Mary Rose Muccie, Temple University Press; Williams Nwagwu, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa; Charlotte Roh, University of San Francisco; Michael Roy, Middlebury College; Ralf Schimmer, Max Planck Institute; Kathleen Shearer, COAR (Confederation of Open Access Repositories); Dave Shulenburger, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities; and John Willinsky, Stanford University.

Participants from KU will include faculty members Marc L. Greenberg, director of the School of Language, Literatures, & Cultures and professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Town Peterson, distinguished professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Representing the libraries will be Kevin L. Smith, dean of Libraries; Ada Emmett, librarian and director of the Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright; Brian Rosenblum, scholarly digital initiatives librarian; Josh Bolick, scholarly communication librarian; and Musa Olaka, associate librarian for African, global, and international studies.

Please follow updates on the symposium website and mark your calendars to participate via Twitter during the livestream on November 17 using #KUOASymp16. If you have questions or comments, please contact the symposium planners Emmett, Kennison and Kieft at