The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing open access forwards

The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing open access forwards

on October 30, 2020

This year’s Open Access Week is a very special occasion. 2020 has shown – for all the good and bad reasons during a global pandemic that continues to affect us all – the power of open access. But, while the unprecedented growth of open access papers and preprints has been a crisis mode reaction, it is now time to make open access a permanent feature of the research system.

Twenty years after the Budapest Open Access Initiative, we are at a crucial moment: 2021 has all it needs for open access to become the norm for researchers in Europe.

First and foremost, Horizon Europe will require immediate and irrevocable open access to publications resulting from research projects funded by the programme, alongside a set of other elements mainstreaming ‘open science’. According to the European Commission, costs for hybrid publishing will no longer be eligible and researchers will retain the rights to share their results.

In parallel, the Open Research Europe publishing platform is a prime example of a research funder supporting a publishing ecosystem that is innovative, equitable and open. The European University Association (EUA), as a supporter of sustainable and open scholarly publishing, welcomes these changes in Horizon Europe.

Of course, this does not mean that the work is over. Horizon Europe will have to step up its backing for universities managing this transition and enable them to support all the scientific communities so that they can reach this objective.

Furthermore, the long-awaited and, at times, hotly debated ‘Plan S’ will finally come into action on 1st January 2021. While the plan itself and its conditions have evolved – also due to constructive input from universities and other stakeholders – its core is as relevant as it was at its launch in September 2018.

Open licences, sustainable business models and copyright retention must be ensured. A welcome development has been the more strident work on rights retention to ensure Green Open Access and the growing attention to non-commercial publishing venues – Diamond Open Access – in the quest to create a publishing system that is less dependent on a few commercial publishers and more diverse, community-driven and scholar-led.

Plan S is a crucial piece in a transition to open access driven by stakeholders in the academic community, and we at EUA look forward to continuing our engagement with Coalition S in the coming year.

Career assessment reforms

Likewise, at the core of the transition to open science is a re-thinking of the ways in which we assess researchers and academic careers.

EUA has been at the forefront of discussions on career assessment reforms and will continue this work. Based on this, we, in a partnership with the Declaration on Research Assessment and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition Europe, will soon release materials and case studies that will support and inspire universities to reform their internal assessment mechanisms and requirements.

Going global

Finally, we need to look beyond Europe. Science, scholarly publishing and the means of assessment are issues with global implications. There are understandable and legitimate concerns about Europe moving ahead without due consideration of what it means for others – an often-heard concern is pay-to-publish business models being hurdles for countries with lower incomes or disciplines which are not supported by external funding agencies.

This is why we need a diverse and equitable publishing landscape. EUA supports such a vision of an open and inclusive system for the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, which is scheduled to be adopted in late 2021. This UNESCO recommendation, which already appears very promising in its draft version, has the potential to enshrine a global commitment to sustainable open access – and will, it is hoped, make 2021 the year that open access and open science go global.