Open access full-fledged

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?

Report of the panel discussion

Video recording (external link)

Open access full-fledged: future roles of the stakeholders - 24 October 2019, 9.30 - 11.30

On 24 October 2019, stakeholders of the scientific community will discuss their roles after the open access transformation.

ETH Library will host the panel discussion in cooperation with PLOS and the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). The event is open to the public and aimed at researchers, alumni, research industry employees, publishers and libraries as well as anyone with an interest in open access or research funding.

Schedule for Thursday, 24 October 2019

TimeProgramme item
9.30Welcoming address (Dr Rafael Ball, ETH Library)
9.40Introduction of participants (Dr Sven Fund, Knowledge Unlatched)
9.45Input presentation (Dr Niamh O’Connor, PLOS and Sybille Geisenheyner, RSC)
10.00Moderated panel discussion
11.00Questions by the audience
11.20Summary (Dr Sven Fund, Knowledge Unlatched)
11.25Closing address (Dr Rafael Ball, ETH Library)


ETH Zurich
LEE, room E 101 (external link)
Leonhardstrasse 21
8092 Zurich

Input presentation – abstract

The increasing pace of transition to open access publication and further to a fully open research culture challenges us to think differently about the role of each participant in the research sharing and discovery ecosystem.

Until recently, transition to open access was largely equated with a transition from ‘pay to read’ to ‘pay to publish’, with the cost of sharing research covered through Article Publishing Charges (APCs). This ‘author/funder pays’ open access model has brought many benefits in increasing access to research findings but has also led to a number of unintended consequences. These include:

  • increasing costs for funders and research-intensive institutions;
  • creating potential barriers to participation in sharing research for those with limited funds for publication – particularly early career researchers and those in developing countries;
  • decreasing the contribution from industry to the costs of publication since researchers in industry read more than they publish.

With a growing need for a diversity of approaches to enabling open access, we believe that it is the right time to consider the question of the contribution of corporations, such as pharmaceutical companies, to the costs of sharing research. Working collaboratively with industry partners, we aim to explore the opportunities and challenges in securing industrial involvement in support of an open research future.


Rafael Ball has been Director of ETH Library Zurich, Switzerland, since 1 March 2015. He holds doctorates in biology and science history and studied biology, Slavonic studies and philosophy at the Universities of Mainz, Warsaw and Moscow. He complete a two-year postgraduate qualification as a scientific librarian in 1996 and was head of Central Library in the Research Center Jülich, Germany from 1996 to 2008. Ball was Director of the University Library of Regensburg from 2008 to 2015. He has written and edited numerous publications, and is a dedicated speaker and a lecturer at various universities. His main work and research interests are the library of the future, science communication and the role of the printed book in the digital age.


Sven Fund is the managing director of Knowledge Unlatched (external link) and founder of fullstopp (external link), the digital consulting agency serving publishers, libraries, and intermediaries. He holds a degree in European Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and a PhD in Political Science from Muenster University.

From 2008 to 2015, Sven was the CEO of Berlin-based publisher De Gruyter. Prior to that, he served in different functions from MD to Executive Board member at what is now SpringerNature. He is a lecturer at Humboldt University in Berlin.


Robert Finger is Professor of Agricultural Economics and Policy at ETH Zurich. The Agricultural Economics and Policy Group (external link) is a member of two Departments at ETH Zurich: i) the Department of Management, Technology and Economics as well as ii) the Department of Environmental Systems Science.

Robert Finger holds a Diploma in Economics and received a PhD in Agricultural Economics from ETH Zurich in 2009. Before being appointed as Associate Professor at ETH Zurich in 2016, he was Assistant Professor at Wageningen University (The Netherlands) and Professor of Production Economics Group at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität of Bonn (Germany).

The research of Robert Finger and his team is at the interface of agricultural sciences and economics. Research foci are i) risks, risk management and insurance solutions in agriculture, ii) the evaluation and design of agricultural policies, with special emphasis on economics and policy of agricultural pollutants, iii) climate change and climate risks in agriculture and iv) the adoption and diffusion of new technologies.


Sybille oversees Europe, Middle East, Africa and India in her role as Sales Manager for the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). During her twenty years in the industry, Sybille has worked for organisations such as SilverPlatter, Walter de Gruyter, Thomson Reuters and WoltersKluwer. She is involved in open access discussions with stakeholders globally and was part of RSC’s negotiation with MIT Boston for the first Read & Publish deal outside of Europe. Sybille is also a member of the RSC’s Open Access Strategy group.

Santosh Mysore completed Ph.D in NeuroSciences from K.U.Leuven, Belgium. After pursuing post-doctoral work, Santosh Mysore joined as Publications Manager working for GSK in 2011. He currently works as Senior publications lead for pediatric vaccines portfolios and Emerging Market region at GSK and is based in Belgium.


Niamh O’Connor holds a PhD in chemistry and is Director of Global Journals Development at PLOS where she is responsible for PLOS’s selective and community-focussed journals, and for developing new opportunities for the global scientific and scholarly community to share and discover research findings. Previously, she was the Director of Publishing at the Biochemical Society/Portland Press, leading strategy development to widen engagement and support the molecular bioscience community in the transition to an open science culture. Prior to joining the Biochemical Society, she spent nine years at the Royal Society of Chemistry in a variety of publishing roles including Publisher and Editor, where she co-created and implemented journal strategies with Editorial Boards to meet the needs of the evolving global scientific community.


Tobias Philipp studied sociology with an emphasis on methods of social science research in Bamberg, Germany. Since 2011, he was engaged as scientific assistant at the University of Lucerne. He received his PhD for a thesis dealing with theory and application of social network analysis in the scientific system. Since 2017, he is scientific officer at SNSF and among other tasks coordinating the implementation of SNSF's open access strategy.


Please note, that during or in conjunction with the event, video recordings or photos will be taken in which you may appear. You agree neither to demand financial compensation nor to restrict the use of such media and also accept the privacy policy (external link).

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