Gold mining


Gold pan saloon

I’ve just had a look (be it brief) at the recent report “Heading for the open road: Costs and benefits of transitions in scholarly communications“, commissioned by the Research Information Network (RIN), JISC, Research Libraries UK (RLUK), the Publishing Research Consortium (PRC) and the Wellcome Trust, with contributions from many other (including publishers).

Although I was very much looking forward to this report, I was a bit disappointed that “Gold” ended up being the model that came out on top. I haven’t read the full report, so I can’t actually attempt to poke holes in the analysis, and I will have to take a look at the numbers they present in more detail when I have time. I was a bit concerned about comments that were made about not undermining the publication system – isn’t this to some extent part of the whole point of open access? I thought we were unhappy with the current publication system? Maybe not?

It is fantastic that OA is gaining momentum, and publishers are realising the role they can play (and money they can make), but following the “gold” route will likely leave the scholarly communication system in the hands of for-profit publishers. Isn’t that why the system is currebtly not working for us, and libraries are struggling to pay the bills? Do we really want publishers to have all the power?

I still would like to see some additional modelling on possible outcomes, say :

  • If some percentage (20%, 50%?) of libraries cancelled all subscriptions next week – what  would happen to publishers, how would they change?
  • If 50% of article were put into repositories next week – how would the scholarly communication system change?
  • What would collapse of the system actually mean?

Perhaps these ideas (and the modelling) are unrealistic, but it would at least be interesting to actually model some potential outcomes. I am fairly confident we would find a way to continue distributing and sharing research outputs, even if publishers disappeared (and I am sure they wouldn’t, they would just have to figure out a new business model).

Image credit: Close to Spectacular

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About Willow Fuchs
Willow is based at the Centre for Research Communications at the University of Nottingham, where she works as an Open Access Adviser on the NECOBELAC and OpenAIRE projects. She has previously worked on the JISC funded Repositories Support Project and JISC funded Research Communications Strategy project.

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