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The future of open access publishing looks quite promising. From bringing in a paradigm shift in scholarly publishing to widening the scope of scientific and social research beyond the academic boundaries, open access publishing has come a long way.
The breakthrough for OA publishing
In September 2018, an international coalition of funders announced the launch of cOAlition S, as follows:
With effect from 2021, all scholarly publications on the results from research funded by public or private grants provided by national, regional, and international research councils and funding bodies, must be published in Open Access Journals, on Open Access Platforms, or made immediately available through Open Access Repositories without embargo.
The S here represents the “shock” factor against traditional publishing, where scholars publish articles for free and publishers charge for subscriptions.
While many scientists (and publishers) are still absorbing the “shock,” many are gratified by the impact. Many visible and superior quality articles by prominent scientists are funded by a cOAlition S member. As a testimony to the overarching influence of the cOAlition, Nature and CellPress journals recently announced that they would allow authors to publish papers outside their paywalls, albeit with sizeable fees. Earlier in 2020, the cataclysmic shock of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many major publishers to remove paywalls around articles about the virus to enable knowledge dissemination about vaccine development and treatment.
The momentum then is clearly increasing toward OA publishing.
The ultimate breakthrough in this trend will be the diamond- or platinum-level OA publishing, where neither the author nor the institution would have to pay the journal. Publishers would receive funding from external sources ranging from advertisements to grants.
Why shift toward OA publishing?
Why open access? This hard-hitting preamble to Plan S says it all:
Universality is a fundamental principle of science (the term “science” as used here includes the humanities): only results that can be discussed, challenged, and, where appropriate, tested and reproduced by others qualify as scientific. As an institution of organized criticism, Science can only function properly if research results are made openly available to the community to be submitted to the test and scrutiny of other researchers. Furthermore, new research builds on established results from previous research. The chain, whereby new scientific discoveries are built on previously established results, can only work optimally if all research results are made openly available to the scientific community.
In the 21st century, science publishers should provide a service to help researchers disseminate their results. They may be paid fair value for the services they are providing, but no science should be locked behind paywalls!
For researchers and other faculty members, OA would allow them to read articles to which their institution may not subscribe. This would naturally accelerate their learning and research and facilitate quicker results and discoveries.
Open access is also fortuitous for authors if altmetric (a composite of an article’s mentions on social media and in news stories and policy documents) scores are measured, which point to a broader reach, as up to 48 percent of the consumers, from a November 2020 study, were from the noncore scientific community and included teachers, patients, lawyers, and others.
Data on the rise in OA publishing/journals
A study in fall 2019 showed the following trends:
● Thirty-one percent of all journal articles are available as OA.
● Fifty-two percent of article views are of OA articles.
The same study estimated that by 2025:
● Forty-four percent of all journal articles will be available as OA.
● Seventy percent of article views will be of OA articles.
A market update in 2019 shows that the OA market continues to grow faster than the underlying journals market and was worth USD 763 million, with a 13 percent increase over 2018. It was poised to touch USD 850 million in 2020.
The market includes more fully open access articles, with increasing revenues. Over half the output is open to read (not necessarily reuse), and current trends indicate a buoyant OA market that is set to grow significantly in the future.