The transition toward a more “open” future in publishing is real – but challenges remain when it comes to accessing content and paying for OA publications.
On June 15, we hosted an educational webinar and invited a strong expert panel of guest speakers to share their experiences and viewpoints when it comes to accessibility, affordability, and discoverability of scholarly content. The panel consisted of Dr. Varun Varma, researcher at Ecosystems Ecologist, Kamran Robert Kardan, founder and CEO at Knowledge E and Zendy, and Sara Rouhi, Director of Strategic Partnerships at PLOS.
Dr. Varun Varma shared how researchers are still dealing with challenges and limitations when it comes to the accessibility of content across the globe. As a researcher having studied both in the UK and India, he shared how he’s faced limitations with accessing content in both regions – while, in his experience, accessing scholarly information in the UK is, undoubtedly, less problematic than in India, poor accessibility remains a general impediment throughout the research and the submission process for researchers. Evidently, regional limitations are by far an inhibiting factor that affects both the time and work for researchers and can leave research papers incomplete because of a lack of references.
To this, Kamran Robert Kardan added that those pain points from the researcher’s perspective brought forward by Dr. Varun Varma were, in fact, the main drivers of the start of Zendy, an Open Access library. With all these different dimensions in accessibility across regions and universities around the world, it’s Zendy’s mission to help include all the stakeholders by addressing the current landscape within academic content accessibility. Open Access is there, but information remains scattered as different publishers have different policies, and also OA policies are often more focused on newer content. When we talk about Open Access, there needs to be an income from somewhere, whether it’s subscribers, the authors, etc. Zendy’s solution was a model to democratize unlimited access to content based on a monthly or annual subscription fee that’s less costly compared to the price of a single article that you pay for based on a pay-per-view model – this way you’ll get access to millions of articles. So, there’s no need to worry about not being able to access or having to go behind the paywalls.
In short, the vision is to ensure greater inclusion and the opportunity for life-long learning for individuals within any industry. At the same time, publishers get the information, and the usage of the content rightly. Currently, for Zendy, there’s a big journey ahead with more and more publishers coming on board, agreeing to more countries to be part of the process, Kamran Robert Kardan added.
One of the heavy concerns within the scope of OA publishing for researchers is the publisher’s role. With such heavy publishing costs such as article processing charges (APCs) that can sometimes amount to 9,000 dollars or more, it’s not always clear to researchers what that money is for, Dr. Varun Varma pointed out. “What is publisher value?”, he asked.
Sara Rouhi from PLOS was happy to dive into that and highlight this from the perspective of an Open Access publisher with no subscription base.
The fundamentals of the cost can be divided into different areas. A huge cost lies with the technical infrastructure. Now that all content is digitally based, content is being handled by extremely expensive IT infrastructures that require developers, servers, and expensive contracts with providers to support the end-to-end submission processes. The other cost is the network of peer reviewers and editors who are vital to ensuring that the community gets their papers through in a timely manner. Put differently, a community of people within various subject areas who are able to engage in the processes. The third perspective is the marketing dimension invested to make the content discoverable. It’s more than publishing, it's infrastructures that are built to push the research out – via social media, author engagement, news, and press releases, all of which impact searches, citations, and general engagement.
Throughout the webinar, Sara went more into detail with the concept of equity, the prominent value drivers of publishers, and how PLOS works toward making the business OA equitable.
Overall, our speaker panel looked into a variety of perspectives in connection with content accessibility – from OA agreements, content barriers, publisher value, solutions to support accessibility, and a look into what’s next for our three speakers.
If you want to hear all key aspects from the webinar, take a look at the full recording below. You can also keep yourself updated on our upcoming events and webinars under Events.