Bottlenecks in the Open-Access System: Voices from Around the Globe

A level playing field is key for global participation in science and scholarship, particularly with regard to how scientific publications are financed and subsequently accessed. However, there are potential pitfalls of the so-called "Gold" open-access (OA) route, in which author-paid publication charges cover the costs of production and publication. Gold OA plans in which author charges are required may not solve the access problem, but rather may shift the access barrier from reader to writer. Under such plans, everyone may be free to read papers, but it may still be prohibitively expensive to publish them. In a scholarly community that is increasingly global, spread over more and more regions and countries of the world, these publication access barriers may be quite significant. In the present paper, a global suite of colleagues in academe joins this debate. The group of colleagues, a network of researchers active in scholarly publishing, spans four continents and multiple disciplines in the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences, as well as diverse political and economic situations. We believe that this global sampling of researchers can provide the nuance and perspective necessary to grasp this complex problem. The group was assembled without an attempt to achieve global coverage through random sampling. This contribution differs from other approaches to the open-access problem in several fundamental ways. (A) It is scholar-driven, and thus can represent the ‘other side of the coin' of scholarly communication. (B) It focuses on narrative report, where scholars were free to orient their responses as they saw fit, rather than being confined to binary or scalar choices. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, (C) it distinguishes among institutions and countries and situations, highlighting inequalities of access among wealthy and economically-challenged nations, and also within countries depending on the size and location of particular institutions.