The transformation of the publication system to open access

A new article in b.i.t. Online by ETH Library's director Rafael Ball presents selected aspects of the transformation of the publication system to open access and the consequences for libraries and academia

The transformation of academic publishing is in full swing and the switch in business models from licences and subscriptions to an author-funded model is running at full throttle. The actual causes of this process are firstly journal prices and their increase in the last 10 to 15 years, and secondly, the notion that academic results which are financed using public funds should also be freely accessible for the general public.

Libraries play a key role here. On the one hand, they are heavily affected by the journal crisis (ultimately, they were the ones who were no longer able to afford the high subscription fees) and are now noticeably active in the transformation process for the academic publication system; on the other hand, they are abandoning entire business areas now that they no longer mediate, index, provide and archive subscription information. There are even fears that they are thus cutting off a major branch of their own existence. As a result, the functions as mediators between supply and demand or the organisation and management of the paywall (value-for-money negotiations) have all but been lost irretrievably. At the end of this transformation, the information will be free and freely accessible for everyone online, a qualitative selection of literature according to the academic focus of the respective university will be redundant (holdings development) and cataloguing futile. At the same time, the entire information management of the scientific community is becoming so complex that it is virtually impossible to keep track of it. Fee-based information is available alongside freely accessible literature, printed information alongside electronic literature, licensed-based information alongside APC-funded literature.

The article provides a brief overview of selected, as yet largely disregarded and little discussed arguments, and urges a prudent approach, taking into account all the stakeholders in this process.

Read the article on b.i.t. Online (German only) (external link)