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Principles on Open Access Publisher Services

Date:07 April 2016
Jules van Rooij
Jules van Rooij

Principles on Open Access Publisher Services

Not only negotiation with publishers and an active involvement of researchers shape the transition towards open access. Also research funders play their part in setting clear principles for open access services.The principles on Open Access Publisher Services relate to:

  1. Indexing
  2. Copyright and re-use
  3. Sustainable archiving
  4. Machine readability

We asked our local expert Jules van Rooij how he thinks about these principles. Science Europe, the association of European research funders, is committed to ensuring that publicly-funded research and innovation in Europe has maximum impact. In 2015 it adopted four new common principles on what is required from publishers to allow a transition towards Open Access. Increasingly more service providers are required to change their business models. Setting minimum standards for publishing services will help to ensure the scholarly and technical quality of open access-related services. Jules van Rooij is best known throughout the university for his involvement in international rankings. He is also a member of the Dutch SURF special interest group on Research Information. This is why we asked him to comment on the recently updated principles in the complex transition towards open access publishing.

Why are these principles important?
The main idea behind open access publications is that all publicly funded research findings are freely (no charge ~ principle 2) and permanently (~ principle 3) available for anyone with internet access. The only requirement for re-using an open access publication is that the authors are credited by citing their publication correctly. Citation impact is an important quality indicator in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and Medical disciplines, for which the Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus provide reliable tools. However, providing access to green open access publications (self-archiving, e.g. of peer reviewed postprints in institutional repositories) will result in multiple online versions of the same publication. If these are not indexed and cited (~ principle 1) correctly, citations may become diluted, rendering the current tools unreliable. In addition, machine readability (~ principle 4) will allow the development of new, clever citation tools that will also be applicable to books and journals not covered by WoS or Scopus. Eventually this will lead to the development of reliable impact indicators for other than STEM and Medical disciplines, including the Humanities, which are currently lacking.

Why is it important to include the open access status of publications in our own research information system (PURE)?
The Dutch universities have agreed to monitor the proportion of open access publications as of 2015, at request of Sander Dekker, State Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). His ambition is that 60% of all publications should be open access in 2018 and 100% in 2024. Although the gold route (publish in open access journals) is preferred by Dekker, the ambition will only be feasible by allowing the green route for non-open access journals. Therefore, the VSNU definitions make a distinction between several forms of open access versus non-open access publications, requiring correct registration in PURE.

How do you see the relation between open access and valorization?
Although our university has not included the % open access publications in its set of valorization indicators, our strategic plan does include an ambition to increase this proportion. Valorization is defined broadly, not limited to commercial but also including public utilization of research results. Dutch universities are expected to optimize their efforts to render research outcomes available for re-use by external parties. An obvious way to do so is by open access publications. However, one might question to what extent a lay audience can be expected to understand academic literature. A recent advice of the AWTI, Durven Delen , stresses the importance of also translating research results for a broader audience, so the merits of open access can be fully harvested. Yet, will the government pay the universities for this? Or will it remain a task for science journalists, like Govert Schilling‘s recent attempt to explain the significance of the actual proof for Einstein’s prediction of gravitational waves? In my view, the most direct and obvious contribution of universities to society is by educating students, the larger part of which will find job outside academia where they will play a crucial role in the absorption and translation of academic knowledge. 

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