Editorial: “Open Access is A Misnomer”

This month, GDC Director Osvaldo Sala has an editorial published in the ESA’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the EnvironmentThe piece problematizes the term “open access” and examines attitudes and outcomes of open access approaches thus far, asking important questions about the future of readers-paid and authors-paid scholarship.

“Open access (OA) is a term best used for published research that is free for everyone to read. In my opinion, in its current use this term is a misnomer because it does not refer to research that is truly free to use. The name, “open access”, suggests an a priori value. Who would be for closed access? I suggest that a better description of the status quo would be to distinguish between readers-paid versus authors-paid.

For most academic journals, historically libraries have paid subscriptions to publishers so readers can have access to articles in those journals. In this case, readers or their institutions pay through their library support. In the authors-paid model, commonly called “open access”, authors pay a publication cost that varies among journals but can be as high as $6000 per article. If the author cannot pay, no one has access. While the readers-paid model excludes some readers, OA clearly excludes many authors, and hence a substantial portion of potential readership. OA particularly excludes those without big grants or other institutional support that can pay for OA publication fees. This exclusion is especially felt among researchers and scholars in developing nations and at institutions where research may be secondary to teaching or outreach (eg conservation organizations, private liberal arts or community or Tribal colleges in the US).”

To read “Open access is a misnomer” in full, visit: https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2475