October 28, 2015
The conventional wisdom among experts is that open access (OA) publication is better in all respects: Publications are not hidden behind paywalls, authors get more citations for their work, and results of publicly funded research are available to the public. This has been widely known for over 12 years, but not much has been happening. Some actors are frustrated, such as Ralf Schimmer, vice-director of the Max Planck Society’s MPDL: He notes that despite all the pro-OA activities at universities and science organizations, the open access movement is stagnating. While one sixth of all publications is open access by open access, the clear majority for subscription seems to be stable.
What explains this strange stability, which defies the politicians’ hopes and the experts’ recommendations? The OA experts do not seem to be interested in finding out.
But the explanation is easy: The main actors are not suffering, so they have no particular incentive to change it. Publishers make good profits with their subscription model, and scientists depend on the publishers for their careers, because the publishers own the prestigious labels. The scientists know that open access is better in principle, but their careers (and funding prospects) are more important, and they manage to access the most relevant research via para-publication channels (personal connections, Academia.edu, etc.). Read more…