Open Access And The Direction Of Travel In Scholarly Publishing

Stephen Curry | The Guardian | December 9, 2014

What strange times we live in. As the world wide web has wrapped the globe in an ever-tighter network of connections, it has slowly transformed the look and feel of the place, unleashing torrents of data and changing our information culture in ways that we are still figuring out. In the world of research it is interesting to see how established publishers, who built successful businesses by selling journal subscriptions to readers, are bending themselves to fit into the new digital landscape.

The subscription model was founded on a great leap forward in technology – the printing press – and has served the research community well for over 300 years. The quid pro quo in which authors and reviewers worked for free while publishers took care of the technical side of production and distribution, and covered their costs by charging subscriptions, worked well – or well enough – for all that time. But the digitisation of words and images, the ease-of-use of modern software and the awesome dissemination power of the web has prompted a reassessment of research publishing and of the relationship between researchers and publishers. The web is also expanding the demand for research publications among special interest groups such as policymakers, small businesses, charities and the general public. These groups increasingly want access, either directly or mediated by news outlets or bloggers who have access to the literature and the ability to recast it into more digestible forms...