Alan Colín Arce is a Graduate Research Assistant with the ETCL and was able to attend the Global Equity in Open Access Publishing workshop as part of his ongoing work with the lab.
On October 10th, 2023, librarians, scholars, and representatives of funding agencies and publishing platforms from across the Americas came together for the online workshop Global Equity in Open Access Publishing. This event was organized by CAPES, the Coordination of Superior Level Staff Improvement of the Brazilian Ministry of Education. The goal of the workshop was to bring policy organizations together to create a better understanding among the actors in scholarly publishing in the Americas, as well as reflecting on the current inequities in OA publishing, and proposing ideas for practical steps to foster inclusion.
This workshop was the third in a series of regional workshops developing practical mechanisms and action plans to remove barriers for readers and authors. The previous events aimed to gather the voices of participants in Africa and Europe, and the Asia Pacific region.
The event began with introductory remarks by Colleen Campbell from the Open Access 2020 initiative, followed by a viewing of extracts of 9 videos submitted by scholars and librarians from Canada, the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. The videos identified as shared challenges the increasing costs of Article Processing Charges (APCs), the scarcity of resources in Global South countries to pay for APCs, and the lack of transparency among commercial publishers to disclose how these charges are spent.
Despite the challenges, the videos also touched upon solutions and opportunities, such as the creation of library consortia to support diamond open access, the calls for supporting community-owned scholarly infrastructure, and the pressure employed by funding agencies demanding that data and publications are openly available.
In a panel discussion on the commonalities and differences of scholarly communication in the Americas, Craig Olsvik from the Canadian Research Knowledge Network discussed how substantial change is needed in research culture and assessment to ensure the long-term viability of open access and community-owned scholarly infrastructure. The other panel participant, Abel Packer from Scielo, explained that national open access policies may cause inequity because they are unevenly implemented. He also warned that diamond OA journals focused on topics such as democracy or equity may not be funded by governments or universities because of their political nature even if they are low-cost.
Throughout the event, the organizers launched polls to gather the perspectives of the participants. When asked what their main concern regarding open access publishing and global equity was, 41% of the over 80 participants listed the lack of institutional funds to support authors in publishing their work in open access.
In another poll, the attendees were asked to select the three most pressing issues in relation to equity in open access publishing to discuss in breakout rooms how to collaboratively remove the barriers to Open Access. The discussion, carried out in Spanish, English, and Portuguese, centered on the prohibitive pricing of OA publishing services, the lack of institutional funds to support authors publishing OA, and the research assessment criteria that favors Anglo-American, commercially owned journals.
The English breakout groups agreed that consortia and collaborations between institutions could strengthen open access and increase the pressure on commercial publishers to lower publishing and readership costs, pointing to the Higher Education Leadership Initiative for Open Scholarship (HELIOS) as an example.
The Spanish breakout group addressed the lack of criteria to define a fair cost of scholarly publishing and article processing charges. They also proposed the creation of national regulatory bodies that balanced the prohibitive costs charged by commercial publishers, and adjusting tenure and promotion policies so that they take into consideration the cultural context of each country.
Finally, the Portuguese breakout groups recognized that metrics and tenure and promotion requirements influenced the journals and the language where researchers publish. They also mentioned that multilingual publishing has larger costs that are a barrier to uptake. Regarding the fair pricing of publishing fees, they proposed considering the GDP and the purchase power of each country when determining how much authors pay for APCs.
The nine videos showed in the conference can be viewed at the conference website. The organizers of these events (which include Plan S and UNESCO) intend to share the outcomes with additional stakeholders in late 2023. In this dialogue, they intend to include commercial scholarly publishers.