Basic sciences are a common good, and as such must be accessible to everybody.
Open science is one of the important themes of the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development. For basic sciences to be really useful for sustainable development, the knowledge produced by every scientist must be published with a high level of quality, and accessible to anybody else. Of course, it has a cost: good publishing is not an amateur’s business, and servers that host repositories and data bases do not come for free. The points of who should pay for what and, perhaps more important, how much all these services should cost, are highly debated.
The authors of the report The Future is Now dedicated a box to open access, that could be one of the basis for discussion.
The number of scientific journals, articles and the overall amount of knowledge generated have soared. Too often, however, access to that growing wealth of human knowledge remains restricted and in the hands of commercial publishers, even when the research has been funded by taxpayers and States through universities and other public institutions. For developing research and innovation capacities and fast-tracking innovations for sustainable development, more open sharing of scientific knowledge could play a significant role, especially in the Global South, where scientists typically experience even greater challenges to access the most recent pay-walled academic literature than their counterparts in the North. While traditional business models of scientific publishing are not conducive to this, there is now a growing momentum for alternative models based on principles of open access. Various open scientific repositories and initiatives enable greater access to scientific articles, setting different levels of use defined by authors.
We are happy also that they mention Creative Common licenses, as we chose to publish everything under the CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. We believe it will help to share contents, and we promote this toward our founding unions and partners, and all our supports alltogether.
For instance, Creative Commons licenses and institutional rights-retention open access policies may enable researchers to share their work widely while retaining rights over material and publications. Besides the benefits to knowledge users, scientists benefit from having their work shared more widely, as increased visibility can also increase citations.
And beyond the examples the authors mention in the report, what could be remembered is that univesities, research organizations and also States must establish coalitions in order to find new business models for open access publication.
The European Union and various national funding agencies now require open access for scientific publications they fund. Several philanthropic institutions also require the widest possible dissemination of publications resulting from their research funding.
Finally, libraries and universities in Germany and other countries are forming consortiums to negotiate fixed annual fees with major publishers to make their national scientists’ publications accessible worldwide.
That “publish and read” model could point the way forward if enough countries work together to unlock published scientific knowledge for the benefit of all. Other models exist, such as the Plan S, which encourage open-access publications.
To be continued.