Thursday, 11 April 2013

Open Access introduces new challenges to authors, institutions and publishers - do intermediaries have a role to play?

Maxim Van Gisbergen from Swets, believes the short answer is “yes” but he isn’t exactly sure what that role is yet. I certainly agree it is a “hard nut to crack”.

He’s not the only one asking this question either, as he quotes the Research Information Network study for discussion points. This study, however, concluded there was “no consensus on the potential value of intermediaries” in OA article-processing charges. 

So, what role can intermediaries play?

Maxim wants to ensure intermediaries are “a part of the Open Access workflow”. He sees this as a possibility to exploit their administrative expertise by offering payment services in the “tricky” world of APCs, Gold and hybrid OA, waivers and more. Especially as now the researchers are burdened with the additional responsibility of navigating reuse licences, embargo periods and funder mandates which they don’t really want. In his discussions with researchers, (unsurprisingly) they preferred to do the research rather than work out how to publish it.

Potentially intermediaries could collate and disseminate data providing a map from funding to publication, to help quantify an institutions research output. This kind of transparency could provide more accountability for funders who can then see which articles have been published where and by whom.

His research also highlighted a need for an “integrated view on Research Information” where intermediaries could streamline some of the laborious and manual librarians’ activities through some smarter tagging and metadata. 

A lively discussion followed. Some felt that adding an intermediary could result in delays in publication speed, and impact upon the author experience. However it was remarked that Wellcome funded projects insist on a 3rd Party and there are companies offering similar services, such as OAK and CCC. One interesting question was whether the intermediaries could pay upfront for publication fees and invoice at a later date, although currency conversions could upset this idea.  One point most agreed on, was that it should be the library to hold the budget for APCs rather than the individual researchers.  However, how much would they be prepared to pay for these services?

Maxim wrapped up by saying they were “not at the end” and wanted to look at the OA publishing process holistically, that if you “support the researcher in their workflow, those of publishers and librarians will follow”. As organisations with strong branding, familiarity within the industry and the ears of gatekeepers at publishers and libraries, I’m confident the intermediaries will find their niche, even if they need to carve it out themselves.

Michael Hallworth, Senior Marketing Manager, BioMed Central

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