Moving Forwards on Open Access—Interview with Drs. Saskia de Vries

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Drs. Saskia de Vries. She is the co-founder and first director of both Amsterdam University Press and Leiden University Press, founder of Sampan–academia & publishing and a notable open access (OA) advocate. Currently involved in several projects, such as the Fair Open Access Alliance including LingOA and MathOA, the Open Library of Humanities (OLH), OpenAIRE, Quality Open Access Market (QOAM) and working closely with various academic institutions and publishers, her main focus is to ensure a competitive OA publication environment.

Through our interview, we were able to find out more about her vision for OA, as well as her ongoing projects.

MDPI: When did you first realize the importance of OA and how did you start to get involved in OA projects?

SdV: In 1999, I lived in the US with my family for half a year, and I realized then that new digital possibilities and the internet would change academic publishing profoundly. Robert Darnton’s article ‘The New Age of the Book’ in the New York Review of Books in March of that year was quite an eye-opener for me. As a university press director, I believed that it should be possible to enhance scholarly communication through OA rather early. Therefore, at Amsterdam University Press we started thinking about and experimenting with OA in the early years of this century.

In 2008, Amsterdam University Press became the coordinator of the EU project Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN). The goal of OAPEN was to achieve a sustainable publication model for academic books in humanities and social sciences and to improve the visibility and usability of high-quality academic research in Europe. So basically, I was first more involved in OA for books than for journals.

In 2012, Leo Waaijers and I started up the Quality Open Access Market. QOAM is a marketplace for scientific and scholarly journals which publish articles in open access. Quality scoring of the journals in QOAM is based on academic crowdsourcing; price information includes institutional licensed pricing.

MDPI: You are currently involved in several projects empowering open-science and long-term sustainability for fair OA journals. Could you please tell us more about those projects and their long-term goals?

SdV: The most important project I am involved in right now is the Fair Open Access Alliance and its sister organizations Linguistics in Open Access (LingOA), Mathematics in Open Access (MathOA) and Psychology in Open Access (PsyOA). We promote and apply the so-called Fair Open Access principles, that are the following:

1. The journal has a transparent ownership structure, and is controlled by and responsive to the scholarly community.
2. Authors of articles in the journal retain copyright.
3. All articles are published open access and an explicit open access licence is used.
4. Submission and publication is not conditional in any way on the payment of a fee from the author or his/her employing institution, or on membership of an institution or society.
5. Any fees paid on behalf of the journal to publishers are low, transparent, and in proportion to the work carried out.

We started with LingOA, and have now ‘flipped’ four existing linguistic journals and one maths journal to fair OA. The most complicated and internationally noted flip was that of the Elsevier journal Lingua to Glossa. Led by its Editor-in-Chief, Prof. Johan Rooryck, all editors and the full editorial board of Lingua resigned on the same day to start Glossa at Ubiquity Press to achieve the Fair OA principles they wanted for their journal. And now, only two years later, we can see that the linguistics community has embraced Glossa as their most important journal of general linguistics—Glossa even receives more and better submissions, according to Prof. Rooryck.

MDPI: In the ‘Vision from a number of Dutch Stakeholders on the future of academic publishing ‘, written at the invitation of the EU, you described your approach to preventing an escalation of academic publishing costs during the transition towards the ‘golden’ OA model. Could you share with our readers some of the key aspects?

SdV: We have unfortunately still seen a rise of costs of publication in the last years, partly due to the transition of many subscription publishers to the ‘hybrid’ publishing model, allowing them to keep collecting subscription fees from the libraries, and simultaneously asking authors to pay article processing charges (APCs) for the Open Access version of the articles. I don’t think we will get rid of this undesirable double dipping situation through the so-called ‘APC offsetting Big Deals’ such as the Netherlands have with the traditional big publishers. Furthermore, these new deals also disadvantage the full OA publishers like MDPI, PLOS and Frontiers.

Apart from involving these full OA publishers in our strive for fair OA, I think we also need to involve academics themselves in the transition to Fair OA—especially editors, editorial boards and peer reviewers of prestigious journals have a key part to play, so it should also become a ‘bottom up’ movement. We need to make the costs of publishing much more transparent, which is also one of the criteria of our Fair Open Access movement. It looks like the European Commission has understood this wish for transparency, looking at the criteria for their intended Open Research Europe Publication Platform. Of course, the funders of research can also exert pressure on publishers to comply with fair OA principles.

MDPI: What, in your opinion, will the future of Open Access look like?

SdV: First of all, I am sure that OA publishing is there to stay. However, I also think that it will take at least 10 more years before most/all scientific communication will be in OA and in the meantime a lot can change—we will absolutely need to also address the current evaluation system that is driven far too much by Impact Factors for journals. I think we are already moving towards a more article-based system, and the emphasis on open data will also change the way Open Science will evolve. One way or another, these are very interesting times to be involved in academic publishing!

Drs. Saskia de Vries, a notable OA advocate.

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