Open access and its hurdles
Report of the panel discussion of 24 October 2019
Both researchers and society as a whole benefit from freely accessible research findings. Yet open access also has unforeseen consequences, as a panel discussion held at ETH Library last week in cooperation with PLOS and RSC demonstrated. Thus, researchers and institutions lacking funds – e.g. those in developing countries – are placed at a disadvantage. Moreover, an involuntary beneficiary of this systemic change exists: industry. While private companies formerly made significant contributions to the cost of scientific publications via subscription fees, open access is increasingly eradicating this practice. Nowadays, authors, research institutions and research sponsors are withstanding the worst of the financial burden, rather than readers and subscribers.
Although no concrete solutions to these problems were presented during the panel discussion, at least the neglected aspect of the industry's role in the open-access debate was addressed with representatives of pharmaceutical companies and all the relevant questions that should not be forgotten despite all the euphoria about open access were raised: how would a “mixed economy” model look, in which scientific publications are funded by both the state and private-sector companies? Is the independence of research endangered if it is funded by industry? Moreover, how can companies provide financial support to research without being suspected of placing their own economic interests above those of society?
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