Stuart Shieber from Harvard recently posted about funding agencies and open access (http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/pamphlet/2011/11/16/how-should-funding-agencies-pay-open-access-fees/).
In principle I have nothing to disagree with in his post, but I would like to expand a bit on what he said, and maybe I’ll write more about this in future posts. To me there are at least two essential problems in scholarly publishing today.
1. Access – who should have access to scholarship?
2. Economics – how do we pay for all of this?
We often discuss with the first question, and many think (rightly or wrongly) that access to scholarship is a right of everyone regardless of institutional affiliation or ability to pay.
To me, however, that is not the most important question we face right now. The second question, about economics, is much more important.
COPE (Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity) is a great step in the right direction. The question is do we need to think a bit more broadly about the economics of scholarly publishing? Is underwriting open access journals enough to reform the current scholarly publishing system which everyone, publishers included, agree is in need of change?
In other words, COPE helps to solve the first problem of access, though I’m not sure if it really helps the second problem (economics) enough to make a difference.
I think a broader coalition of universities (perhaps based on COPE principles) is needed to utilize the money currently spent on subscriptions in order to create a more economically sustainable system. Such an organization could underwrite publishing of open access, non-open access, and, what I hope would be the most common type of resource, semi-open access (some things available online and some for purchase). What such an organization might look like, and how it creates new models is the question I struggle with the most.