Working to create equity in open access

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The world of open access (OA) academic publishing is not a fair or inclusive space as recent conversations and older conversations show. OASPA recognises that OA at any cost is not acceptable, and is mindful of inequities introduced by the current (fully-OA and transitioning) publishing landscape; in removing the paywall to read we should not be building new walls that create inequitable barriers to publishing. APCs (Article Processing Charges) and TAs (Transformative Agreements aka Read & Publish or Publish & Read) are inequitable because they open articles only from a select set of authors. Similar problems arise with pure-publish agreements that provide access to OA publishing to authors at select institutions. At the same time, there are real costs to publishing, and these approaches are steps forward on the journey towards an OA future. 

The inclusion of all scholars is essential for advancing human knowledge and also for a successful transition to OA. OASPA has recently committed to making open access more equitable, and this post announces our workshop series on equity in OA.

Image by WOKANDAPIX via Pixabay

Equity is a word that packs quite a punch. It goes further than equality, includes inclusivity and assures diversity. As we strive for a world where publishing is predominantly OA, we realise this can only be achieved through dissolving barriers, welcoming all and facilitating participation on equitable terms. Without the development of new and more equitable approaches to OA we will not benefit from its full potential. There is a need to bring stakeholders together around the question of how we can deliver OA more equitably. 


Equity in OA workshops 

OASPA is convening three workshops which will cover equity in pricing models for all forms of OA business model – to help dismantle the financial barriers authors face to participation. As part of this work, we will also consider equity in discounts, subsidies, and waivers. But equity in OA is about more than being able to afford to publish or to read. It is also about being a stakeholder with influence. The topic of engagement equity will also be covered because, without the development of new and more equitable engagement models for all forms of publishing, authors will continue to face barriers to participation.

These are challenging issues and no single stakeholder group, country, or region in isolation can resolve them. Everyone has a part to play and changes to make.

There is no consensus about whether publishers should be the first movers in formulating solutions to try and solve these problems, and just last week Plan S called for a study tackling very similar issues. Yet publishers are the stakeholders best placed to move first on pricing models because they are the stakeholder most likely to have a global overview and customer base. Library leadership may be particularly powerful on engagement models, and around the world libraries are exercising more influence on publishing policies and practices. Both libraries and publishers offer scholars an array of publishing options. Together, libraries and publishers could be a very powerful force for increasing equity.

OASPA’s equity in OA workshops bringing libraries and publishers together will be held between March and May 2023. These will help participants and OASPA better understand the issues, examine existing solutions, develop new thinking, and lead to a place of pragmatic fixes. OASPA is delighted that Alicia Wise and Lorraine Estelle of Information Power will be facilitating this workshop series for us, acting as neutral conveners and expert coordinators for these discussions. 

Participants are being selected from across a range of disciplines, regions, publishing business models and library types. Logistics and practicality restrict the number of participants we are able to include in the workshops themselves, but our ongoing and open communication will help engage a far wider network of stakeholders than we can physically convene in a Zoom format. 

This briefing document forms the basis and provides background reading for the workshops, and is being issued to participants as preparation and a focus for the discussions. We will synthesise feedback and publish further reports and outputs as each workshop takes wing. 

Comments and input are most welcome as we progress and continue to learn. Feel free to use the comment function below or to write to with any thoughts. We would love to hear from you. And please opt in here if you wish to be kept updated on OASPA’s work on increasing equity in open access publishing. 

Additional resources as at August 2023

Four workshops on increasing equity in open access have now been convened, and OASPA’s reflections arising from each have been released –

Topics of prestige and perceptions were additionally covered workshop #4 and OASPA’s reflections on these will follow.

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