Open Access in Perspective

stephenpinfield_300wThe “Open Access in Action” series has explored many but certainly not all the facets of this highly disruptive publishing trend. To put the issues in perspective, and to focus on the resulting changes to the role of academic and research librarians, we interviewed Dr. Stephen Pinfield, Professor of Information Services Management at The University of Sheffield.

Professor Pinfield joined Sheffield in 2012. Before that, he was a self-described practitioner of academic information science, serving as CIO for the University of Nottingham. In 2001, he helped set up the U.K.’s first open access institutional repository, followed by the SHERPA project in 2002. In 2006 he set up at Nottingham the first UK institutional central fund for paying APCs, and has authored open access policy papers for The Russell Group. Commenting on his role as an academic with a technical background, he described his research as “at the interface of practice and theory.”


This feature article is part of our Open Access in Action series, sponsored by Dove Press, which tracks the evolution of important open access (OA) issues through a library lens by presenting regular original articles, video interviews, news, and perspectives. To learn more about how librarians like you are driving practice across the lifestyle of open access, be sure to visit our Open Access in Action hub page.

Library Journal: What are the important differences between those who implement and support open access systems and the faculty members and researchers who use them?

Professor Pinfield: Faculty shouldn’t have to be experts in the mechanics of scholarly communication. They should be carrying out their research—communicating it in ways that are appropriate for their scholarly community and beyond. However, those who provide support, like libraries and IT services, have to understand the research cycle—the processes that researchers go through. Twenty or thirty years ago, librarians had to understand a narrow aspect of scholarly communications: negotiating subscriptions with publishers, storing and preserving collections, and making them available to researchers. Now, librarians need to understand and engage with a much wider range of activities in the research process, in order to provide credible services.

LJ: What are some examples?

Pinfield: Librarians can intervene earlier, encouraging researchers to deposit at the preprint stage, for example. They need to have a clear understanding of the publishing process, and how it may vary from discipline to discipline. They can design workflows that fit the way faculty works—not assume that all faculty have the same requirements and motivations for publishing their research.

Many repositories are designed in isolation from what faculty actually do or care about, creating an unnecessary burden. Librarians have to understand their users, so they can incentivize faculty [by emphasizing] the importance of a deposit [to] increasing usage and citations, for example. Then they can design services to demonstrate that.

LJ: In the article series, we discussed various open access funding models, APCs, Green versus Gold, and the prospect of “flipping” subscription journals to open access. Can you comment on where we are now—and where we’re likely to go?

Pinfield: This is a challenge. If you look system-wide, there’s enough money to pay for APCs—if you look at the whole universe of research funding. The key challenge, of course, is how that happens, and how it affects individual players. The European focus has been on system-wide shifts, mainly because negotiations with publishers happens more at a national level. The U.S. is a very different environment. It’s far larger and more fragmented, so there’s a tendency for large institutions to resist the increased cost implications of APCs. I think that changes will come as we start thinking of the bigger picture for research as a whole. The recent Pay It Forward study points to the possibility of research funders shouldering more of the cost. The benefit of an APC model is that it scales with the funding.

LJ: What is the main resistance to this type of change?

Pinfield: I think the resistance to open access is more on an operational level than it is on principle. When I first became involved in the open access movement, I naively thought we just had to persuade academics it was a good idea and they’d just start doing it. What we didn’t understand then was the level of inertia and vested interests there are in the system. So, we started adding conversations with policy makers and funding entities, who in turn began encouraging more open access behaviors in institutions.

LJ: To what extent is open access adoption driven by differences in academic discipline—such as STEM or the humanities?

Pinfield: Differences in disciplines should not be underestimated. Even within STEM, some disciplines gravitate towards the Green model, while others—like health sciences—tend to be Gold. (That’s not to say that Green and Gold aren’t both valuable. I see them as complementary and interactive in many cases.) In the humanities, there are new models for monographs and open access, so what we’re seeing in STEM may not apply. Martin Eve’s recent book, Open Access and the Humanities, is a good place to start there.

LJ: Let’s get back to librarians. How would you advise them when it comes to open access?

Pinfield: I think these are exciting times for information professionals. It’s an opportunity to be engaged to a much greater degree. As other opportunities for librarians diminish—like the importance of managing large print collections—this is an opportunity to stake out new territory. With open access, we’re now at the stage of how we deliver it, not whether we do so. This puts the focus on the library community.

We’re also thinking about it in a much broader way—in terms of open science and open data, not just open access journal publishing. Becoming more conversant with that sort of strategic vision is becoming increasingly important. Having a professional confidence in these skills will revitalize the library profession. It’s not a narrow, diminishing path, but a wide one.

LJ: Could this be seen as a bulwark against library funding cuts?

Pinfield: Potentially, yes. Collections are still important, but there’s also more emphasis now on delivering services. You can see this now in how libraries are designed—not just as a place to house collections but also as spaces for collaboration, use of technology, and creative activity. That’s all to the good, but it will require agility on the part of the library profession.

Originally posted at

Call for Members: Open Access India Working Group

oai-wgThe Open Access India is looking for new members to join its Working Group to plan and work for ‘Open Access the Default by 2020‘ in India. The Open Access India community of practice is formed to advocate Open Access, Open Data and Open Education among the students, researchers, teachers, professors, scientists and policy makers.

Therefore, the working group members are expected to actively participate in the group communications and discussions about Open Access, Open Data and Open Education. The members would engage with the research and academic community by conducting talks or seminars at their respective work/study places. They would also support and guide the Open Access India Ambassadors and write blog posts on the issues related to Open Access, Open Data and Open Education in India and the World. The working group would participate in weekly/monthly calls and share/discuss the work plan.The Open Access India is a voluntary community of practice and the participation in the working group or for that matter any role is voluntary. Any member of a working group may step down at any time. Upon constitution of the new working group, the members may elect/select the working group chair and co-chairs.

To submit an expression of interest, please fill-out the form here by mentioning a short motivation paragraph outlining work, experience and interest on Open Access, Open Data and Open Education. The current working group members may also express the interest. The deadline for submissions is 10th October, 2016. A week before the Open Access Week 2016, the new working group would be in place.

Please note that participation in the Open Access India is voluntary. Feel free to get in touch with sridhar[at]openaccessindia[dot]org if you have any questions. For the current working group constitution, please visit About Us on Open Access India website.

Adopted from Call for Members: FOC Working Group “An Internet Free and Secure” (February 2016). Accessed on 20 September 2016.

This OA Week “Open in Action “, become a ScienceOpen Activist!

Become a ScienceOpen Activist and change the world of scientific publishing! Apply to become part of our think-tank and our voice in the community.

Scholarly Publishing and science are frustratingly slow when it comes to change. Newton’s lab-books from 300 years ago probably look similar to what PhD-students still scribble in today!

Old habits die hard in research. Other than social media, scholarly communication is still largely focused on publication in journals where anonymous peer review delays the liberation of newly gained knowledge by months, if not even years.

We are still using systems that have operated for decades and centuries. But do they really still work? Research studies can be irreproducible; billions of public funding lock up knowledge behind pay walls and embargos became a bargaining chip between authors and their publishers.

Many people know this. The Open Access movement has provided a practical way forwards and has moved way beyond simply portraying an idealist view of the world to demonstrating it. But why isn’t Open Science our reality right now?

The ScienceOpen answer: we need more activists!

We need your help: Apply now to become a ScienceOpen Activist:

World famous ScienceOPENer
World famous ScienceOPENer
  • You know best what needs to be done: tell us about Open Science discussions at your institution.
  • Give us your ideas on how to improve ScienceOpen: be the first to test implemented features on ScienceOpen
  • Join a community of doers: through frequent Webinars and an Activist camp in Berlin in December you will get to know like-minded people
  • We will give you the right tools: activists receive items such as stickers and some ScienceOPENers (inspired by this viral video!)
  • Create a bigger network: ScienceOpen has been around for over a year, so join the platform and get to know the network

Regardless of whether you are an early career researcher or a senior scientist, have a background in natural sciences or study languages, work as a librarian or for a funding agency, you can apply here. Please also share why you are enthusiastic about Open Science.

Let’s take it to the next level. And make change happen.

Viva La Revolucion!


Originally posted at