This conference session report was written for the September 2016 NASIG newsletter.
This excellent presentation by Sandra Cowan (University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada) and Chris Bulock (California State University Northridge) brought together issues faced when advocating for the creation of Open Access content, and the discovery and access issues posed by Open Access content in hybrid journals.
Cowan ran through a number of reminders on where we currently are with Open Access. She presented stark figures demonstrating just how unsustainable the current subscription model is for libraries. The increasing costs of commercially published journals are damaging monograph budgets, and even impacting on the ability to hire new staff. Cowan outlined how Canadian institutions are seeking to counter this current crisis. Assessing which journals are absolutely critical has served as useful leverage in negotiations, particularly in breaking down “big deal” packages. However, she asserted that the best solution is to diminish the power that commercial publishers have over libraries. Cowan gave a very useful overview of Open Access policies and initiatives in Canada, including the University of Lethbridge Journal Incubator. The obstacles and incentives for Open Access publishing were also discussed. Cowan called on librarians to lead by example, advocate for positive OA publishing and policies, and to demonstrate the many benefits of Open Access to our academic colleagues.
Bulock spoke more specifically about hybrid journals and the many reasons why they are problematic. A hybrid journal is one which has both a subscription fee, plus an additional fee if the author wants to make their article Open Access. Bulock identified reasons why these are a popular choice. Publishing in a hybrid meets many OA mandates, but still has the “prestige” element required for promotion and tenure. For the library, hybrid journals are a particular challenge to integrate with Link Resolvers and Discovery layers. Bulock explained that within a hybrid journal, it is difficult to define which articles the library has access to. If the library doesn’t index OA articles, the user is probably getting better results via a Google search. The use of NISO Access and License Indicators offer an article level indicator in the metadata, however Bulock revealed that this is not being used by many publishers of hybrid journals, or it is being implemented incorrectly. There is high volume of research published, particularly in the UK, in hybrid journals, creating a real need to index this content correctly. Bulock concluded with suggestions for what librarians faced with this challenge can do. These included discussing the issue with your discovery and content providers, and advocating for the proper use of the NISO indicators.
I highly recommend viewing the slides from this presentation, and the full Conference Proceedings, to gain an insight into the various models and why we should advocate for “true” Open Access publishing.