Open access is a case study for promoting research

Rajesh Day

On August 25, the United States announced an open access policy to ensure free, immediate and equitable access to federally funded research. Americans now have free access to scholarly work, and by 2025, all federal agencies must implement open access policies to ensure free access to taxpayer-funded research for all citizens. India can take this path, which could change the higher education landscape in the country and could be an important tool in achieving the SDGs.

The US announcement is significant because it will end a 50-year “serial chain of crises”. The Open Access (OA) movement started around 1990 in response to the “serial crisis”, a term used to explain the long-term growth in subscription costs, publishing of continuous scholarly content, much faster than the consumer price index or the rate of inflation; rightfully so Funding for academic libraries has not kept pace with growth. Scholarly content is a unique commodity that cannot be replaced with a lower-cost title or journal subscription.

Thus, the price inflexibility of this monopoly market has been exploited by selected commercial companies (publishers) who do not produce or finance research, but use it as a commercial feedstock. Serial crises have also spawned shadow libraries such as Library Genesis, Z-Library, and Sci-Hub.

Countries have responded to the series of crises in two ways: one known as the “big deal” and another known as “open access (OA)”. The Big Deal is a centralized subscription to a large number of scholarly publications for a country or a network of institutions; OA is free access to research works published in journal articles or books. OA goes beyond simply making research results freely accessible and includes the right for others to reuse the research. Since most research is funded by the government with taxpayer money — meaning citizens are indirectly funding it — citizens are entitled to research results. OA can improve the verifiability and credibility of research results, and taxpayers can see the impact of the research they fund.

During Covid-19, policymakers around the world have seen how open medical research can make a big difference in saving lives. “The American people fund tens of billions of dollars of cutting-edge research every year. There should be no delays or barriers between the American public and the return on their research investment,” said Alondra Nelson, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). “It can save lives, give policymakers the tools to make critical decisions, and drive fairer outcomes across all sectors of society.”

The early development of the OA movement took place in European countries; the Budapest Initiative in 2002 and the Bethesda Statement in 2003 were important milestones. All major German research institutions signed the Berlin Declaration in 2003, making OA mandatory. In 2018, with the support of the European Commission and the European Research Council, key funding agencies decided to follow OA. The Australian government’s two main research funding agencies have followed the same path. Some countries, such as Uruguay, follow the “big deal” model. Recently, India pledged to implement the “One Nation, One Subscription” (ONOS) policy to subscribe all citizens to major research work published globally, an improvement over the existing subscription policy through the Central Library Consortium e-ShodhSindhu. ONOS can be a prolific policy, but the question of whether it can solve serial crises remains a question.

The OA dialogue started in India in 2004. The Indian government has taken steps to open up research, educational resources and data. Institutions starting with BIT-Rourkela, CSIR and ICAR have adopted OA. The two top ministries of the Ministry of Science and Technology, DBT and DST, supported the OA policy in 2014. More recently, “Science, Technology and Innovation Policy: 2020” advocates open science and makes research available through a central repository. OA happens in two ways, either by archiving the work in an open online repository or by publishing the work in an OA journal or book. India has 128 OA repositories and reservoirs, including Shodhganga, the world’s largest repository of Indian dissertations. OA repositories have some limitations as they do not follow standards for research publications, including the lack of numerical identifiers (ISBN, ISSN, DOI) for global indexing.

India has taken many steps to join the global OA initiative and in 2017 developed a draft national open access policy but has not yet implemented it. In the context of the rapid expansion of higher education in India, the national open access policy could be quite an important step. In addition to providing students from rural or semi-rural areas with a fighting chance in a competitive world, OA increases public participation in research and promotes research by providing equal opportunities for all citizens, regardless of their social and economic status. unequal. OA has a balancing effect, which is much needed in developing countries like India with young aspiring populations.

Authors are independent researchers and publishing professionals. Opinions are personal.

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