2023: The Year of Nonprofit, Diamond OA

From the Open Access Week announcement:

“Community over Commercialization” is the theme for this year’s International Open Access Week (October 23-29). This theme encourages a candid conversation about which approaches to open scholarship prioritize the best interests of the public and the academic community—and which do not. […] Adopted by its 193 Member States, the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science highlights the need to prioritize community over commercialization in its calls for the prevention of “inequitable extraction of profit from publicly funded scientific activities” and support for “non-commercial publishing models and collaborative publishing models with no article processing charges.”

The huge diamond OA gathering in Mexico is, of course, the same week—with Europe coming to Latin America. In more ways than one, as it turns out: Once the world’s center of APC activity, Europe is now (or so it seems) charting an open-authorship future. And it’s explicitly calling for nonprofit infrastructure, here again coming home to Latin America. Also in gestation: cOAlition S pulling the plug on transformative [sic] deals, and U.S. Nelson Memo implementation.

I’m heating up the popcorn.

‘Ivy Plus Libraries weigh in on OSTP guidance on access to federally funded research’

The Ivy Plus Libraries have come out swinging against APCs in their Nelson Memo statement:

It is in that spirit that we want to highlight the dangers of allowing the interests of commercial publishers to dictate the paths available to implementing this bold new guidance on open scholarship. We refer here to the pay-to-publish model of open access to research publications, as exemplified by individual APC (article processing charge) fees charged directly to authors, and/or institutional Read and Publish agreements where libraries pay bulk APCs on behalf of their scholars and unlock institutional access to read pay-walled content. […] Implementing the Nelson memo via an APC model is antithetical to the equity goals so clearly articulated in the guidance memo and the values of our institutions.

The institutions—which include MIT, Stanford, Chicago, and Duke, among others—cite the exclusion of authors:

Locking in a norm where an author, funder, and/or institution must pay an opaque and often costly fee for the right to publish an article risks locking out scholars from less resourced institutions and less well funded disciplines. The equity issue in the APC model extends globally for authors and researchers in lower-income countries who must navigate publishers’ convoluted and demeaning APC waiver procedures that may result in denial of the waiver or discounted APC fees that are still unaffordable. Equitable opportunity to contribute to scholarly literature is as important for the integrity and usefulness of scholarship globally as is the open accessibility to read.

The open-authorship movement continues to grow.

‘Performing Openness in Academic publishing’

Alex McLean, writing for on his blog about the treasure hunt required to find OA copies of his new book, despite a $15,000 subvention to MIT Press:

Although all copies of the book are openly licensed into the creative commons, some are nonetheless paywalled. Indeed, the ebook is has wide digitally distribution to the kindle, apple, google, kobo etc ebook stores where you can buy access to this creative commons license for $25.99. Unfortunately, the digital rights management (DRM) imposed by the store makes it difficult to benefit from the freedom to share and modify the text that the open license grants you. So really, you are paying $25.99 to lose benefits.


Worse, the MIT Press website steers you towards these digitally-rights-managed, $25.99 paywalls and away from the otherwise identical free-to-download ebook that we paid the subvention for. If you click the big ‘ebook’ button, which tantilisingly has no price next to it (screen shot below), you are directed to the Penguin Random House commercial distribution of it:

To track down a free ebook,

you have to instead click on the ‘resources’ tab, and find a link to the epub or mobi ebook download there. Of course, this isn’t a mere resource for the book, but the actual book, so that’s a bit like hiding the free download behind a door that says ‘beware of the leopard’.

The PDF version is on still another page, where it’s divided into 15 separate chapter downloads.

McLean considers this buried-OA a “kind of performance done to placate” funders—a fair read. MIT, which is rightly praised for its fee-free OA initiatives, cites the need to recoup costs and promises some minor fixes to their standard layout. Good. McLean’s point still holds: the full PDF (single download) and ebook versions should be at least as prominent as the paid options.

‘A free toolkit to foster open access agreements’

Alicia Wise and Lorraine Estelle, writing in Insights:

The realization of a transformative deal can be a complex and time-consuming process. Success is not only determined based on the results of the negotiation process, but also in the execution of the contract. To help all parties involved in this journey, this document describes the process in all its phases from initial contact to signing the agreement, and from the implementation of an approval process, to monitoring and evaluating the fulfilment of the contract. The Workflow task and finish group identified the roles and the key information needed during the process.

This is like handing out drug-dealer kits: Transformative [sic] agreements are locking in the author-excluding APC-model, displacing the only fair alternative—collective funding.

‘Public access is not equal access ‘

A good statement from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (publisher of Science):

Gold OA journals, for which authors pay publication charges, work for senior scientists who are well-funded, tenured, and overwhelmingly male and white, but not so much for early-career scientists who may be poorly funded, not yet tenured, and much more diverse. Also disadvantaged are scientists at smaller schools, including historically Black colleges and universities, and in underfunded disciplines like math and the social sciences.

But the AAAS statement implies that its (mostly) subscription model is the equitable alternative. But that’s willful ignorance: direct, collective funding removes the barriers for readers and authors.

‘Introducing Nature Research Intelligence solutions’

More surveillance publishing from Springer Nature:

Demonstrating research impact and setting a comprehensive strategy are critical tasks for any research organisation, but gathering trustworthy insights can be difficult and time-consuming. To support organisations in reaching their strategic goals, we are launching Nature Research Intelligence

The announcement has a bingo win: “solutions,” “holistic benchmark,” “AI powered,” and “forward-looking insights” all appear.

Jeff Pooley is professor of media & communication at Muhlenberg College and director of mediastudies.press, an open access scholarly publisher.

pooley@muhlenberg.edu | press@mediastudies.press

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