Growing support for the large-scale transition to open access

Science organizations join forces to transform publishing market

March 20, 2017

One year after its launch, the global initiative OA2020 is seeing strong support as part of the Berlin Declaration. Further international scientific institutions have joined the cause for converting the majority of today’s scholarly journals from subscription to open access (OA) publishing. At the start of the 13th Berlin Conference, OA2020 received additional support from the USA.

At the 13th Berlin Conference taking place this Tuesday and Wednesday, some 220 experts from research and research funding organizations from 34 countries will meet to discuss their experiences with the envisioned transition in scientific publishing. “A year ago we formulated our shared goal of making open access the standard model of publication. In the digital age, immediate access to journal articles is crucial for scientific progress and innovation. First decisive key contracts with major publishers have been concluded. The conference will provide a platform for exchanging experiences and different perspectives. On the second day, the event is open to representatives from many important publishers, highlighting that fact that our goal is to shape change together. The political support in Europe also provides us with additional momentum”, says Max Planck President Martin Stratmann, with a reference to the EU science ministers' demand to achieve the transition to open access by the year 2020.

Ulrich Pöschl, Director of the Mainz-based Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and  scientific coordinator for the open access activities of the Max Planck Society explains: “The OA2020 initiative launched a new era in establishing open access worldwide. It shows that, and how, scientists and scientific organizations themselves can play the key role in achieving and shaping the transition to open access. In our endeavour, we are building on the foundations of the 2003 Berlin Declaration and the international conferences and collaborations that have followed, and whose origins and motivation come from the scientific community.“ 

One of the initiative's key elements is the Expression of Interest (EoI), in which the signatory academic organisations outline their shared objective “to transform a majority of today’s scholarly journals from subscription to OA publishing”. This transition is to be pursued by ”converting resources currently spent on journal subscriptions into funds to support sustainable OA business models”. At the same time, the signatories agree “to continue to support new and improved forms of OA publishing”.

OA2020 combines forces

'The concrete steps in the transformation process are synchronized in the OA2020 initiative', explains Ralf Schimmer who, together with a team from the Max Planck Digital Library, coordinates OA2020. An essential objective of the 13th Berlin Conference is to engage all parties involved in further developing the Roadmap for a large-scale transition to open access and expanding the network of national points of contacts to help drive the transition on all continents. The Expression of Interest, published as a result of the 12th Berlin Conference in March 2016, continues to receive endorsement from all over the world. It has already been signed by more than 70 academic organizations from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, including the European University Association representing more than 800 universities and 36 national rectors’ conferences in 47 European countries.

Signatories from Germany include the German Research Foundation, the German Rectors’ Conference, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association and the Max Planck Society as well as the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the Alexander von Humboldt Association. On Monday, the Californian universities Berkeley, Davis and San Francisco also signed the Expression of Interest.

Livestream on second conference day

Ulrich Pöschl, who oversees the conference management together with Gerard Meijer, Director at the Max Planck Society's Fritz Haber Institute, is delighted about the growing support, which he sees as an important factor of success: 'Transition to open access needs a joint international initiative. If the academic organizations cooperate in a coordinated manner, we will be able to achieve a smooth, fast, and scholarly-oriented transition.'

While the first day of the 13th Berlin Conference is reserved for the signatories of the Expression of Interest, the conference will be opened on the second day for a wider audience. Representatives of the publishing industry are explicitly invited. In addition, the presentations and discussions can be followed from 9:00 a.m. onwards (until 3:15 p.m.) via Livestream on the website of OA2020.


Current state of open access

Over the past decade, open access has gained momentum and grown successfully in many ways, including the development of new open access publishing platforms, archives and repositories. In scholarly journal publishing, open access has achieved a substantial and steadily increasing volume (approx. 15% of peer-reviewed journal publications). But most scholarly journals are still based on the traditional subscription business model “with its inherent deficiencies in terms of access, cost-efficiency, transparency, and restrictions of use”, as stated in the Expression of Interest.

The Max Planck Society is well-known for advancing the discourse on open access since the 'Berlin Declaration on open access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities' was adopted in 2003. The Berlin Declaration continues to receive fresh support and has been signed by almost 580 institutions and organizations from around the world to date.

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