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Jeff Pooley has the goods on the OSTP announcement: it's a great step, but not without significant downside risk for equity in publishing.
Published onSep 01, 2022

I’m a week behind posting about this, but the White House Office of Science & Tech Policy basically lit up the open academic publishing world with its new memo mandating, among other things, immediate, open publication of all federally-funded research, without exclusions for humanities funders or smaller agencies.

That’s good news, but as Jeff Pooley so astutely points out on his blog, the current guidance could lead to a lot of unintended consequences and ultimately have the effect of increasing extant inequities in publishing. Here’s how:

Here’s the basic problem. As a growing number of studies document, most of the world’s academic authors (including most humanities and social science authors in the U.S.) can’t afford the often-usurious fees. The APC model, with its tolled access to authorship, is the subscription model seen through a camera obscura: author paywalls in place of reading paywalls. Thus the prevailing APC regime fixes one barrier to access, for readers, by erecting another, for authors.

His whole analysis is worth reading for its careful parsing of both the announcement and some of the community responses to it.

My own spin is the same thing I have been saying, to little response, at every meeting with just about every funder, partner, RoR researcher, and anyone else who will listen since 2020: we need a funded, community-driven campaign, similar to the news industry’s Membership Puzzle Project, to research, document, and support the adoption of the types alternative funding models that Pooley mentions.

If anyone out there wants to work with us on that, please get in touch.1 We’ve got the plans, partners, and infrastructure to do it. We just need the resources.

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