Richard Poynder has long been one of the most respected and insightful commentators on the scholarly communication ecosystem, and in particular on the development and progress of the open access (OA) movement – to which he has always been a friend, but one admirably willing to speak truth even when the truth was uncomfortable or inconvenient. Recently he announced that he has decided the OA movement has failed, and that he is turning his attention to other topics and issues. I invited him to sit for an email interview to discuss his thinking and conclusions.

Exhausted man, head in hands, at work desk of laptop and papers

You’ve expressed frustration with various aspects and manifestations of the OA movement over the years. What was the final straw that led you to decide it was no longer worthwhile to keep engaging?

I made the decision halfway through writing an update to a document that I posted online in 2020. It occurred to me that if I continued writing about open access, I would likely end up repeating myself. I also decided that I did not want to spend any more time chronicling a movement that had promised a great deal but has failed to deliver on its promise and seems unlikely to do so.

In one of your recent posts on X (formerly known as Twitter), you said that the OA movement “has failed and is being rebranded in order to obscure the failure.” What would you say has been the essence of its failure, and how do you see it being rebranded?

Open access was intended to solve three problems that have long blighted scholarly communication – the problems of accessibility, affordability, and equity. 20+ years after the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) we can see that the movement has signally failed to solve the latter two problems. And with the geopolitical situation deteriorating solving the accessibility problem now also looks to be at risk. The OA dream of “universal open access” remains a dream and seems likely to remain one.

What has been the essence of the OA movement’s failure?

The fundamental problem was that OA advocates did not take ownership of their own movement. They failed, for instance, to establish a central organization (an OA foundation, if you like) in order to organize and better manage the movement; and they failed to publish a single, canonical definition of open access. This is in contrast to the open source movement, and is an omission I drew attention to in 2006

This failure to take ownership saw responsibility for OA pass to organizations whose interests are not necessarily in sync with the objectives of the movement.

It did not help that the BOAI definition failed to specify that to be classified as open access, scholarly works needed to be made freely available immediately on publication and that they should remain freely available in perpetuity. Nor did it give sufficient thought to how OA would be funded (and OA advocates still fail to do that).

This allowed publishers to co-opt OA for their own purposes, most notably by introducing embargoes and developing the pay-to-publish gold OA model, with its now infamous article processing charge (APC).

Pay-to-publish OA is now the dominant form of open access and looks set to increase the cost of scholarly publishing and so worsen the affordability problem. Amongst other things, this has disenfranchised unfunded researchers and those based in the global south (notwithstanding APC waiver promises).

What also did not help is that OA advocates passed responsibility for open access over to universities and funders. This was contradictory, because OA was conceived as something that researchers would opt into. The assumption was that once the benefits of open access were explained to them, researchers would voluntarily embrace it – primarily by self-archiving their research in institutional or preprint repositories. But while many researchers were willing to sign petitions in support of open access, few (outside disciplines like physics) proved willing to practice it voluntarily.

In response to this lack of engagement, OA advocates began to petition universities, funders, and governments to introduce OA policies recommending that researchers make their papers open access. When these policies also failed to have the desired effect, OA advocates demanded their colleagues be forced to make their work OA by means of mandates requiring them to do so.

Most universities and funders (certainly in the global north) responded positively to these calls, in the belief that open access would increase the pace of scientific development and allow them to present themselves as forward-thinking, future-embracing organizations. Essentially, they saw it as a way of improving productivity and ROI while enhancing their public image.

While many researchers were willing to sign petitions in support of open access, few proved willing to practice it voluntarily.

But in light of researchers’ continued reluctance to make their works open access, universities and funders began to introduce increasingly bureaucratic rules, sanctions, and reporting tools to ensure compliance, and to manage the more complex billing arrangements that OA has introduced.

So, what had been conceived as a bottom-up movement founded on principles of voluntarism morphed into a top-down system of command and control, and open access evolved into an oppressive bureaucratic process that has failed to address either the affordability or equity problems. And as the process, and the rules around that process, have become ever more complex and oppressive, researchers have tended to become alienated from open access.

As a side benefit for universities and funders OA has allowed them to better micromanage their faculty and fundees, and to monitor their publishing activities in ways not previously possible. This has served to further proletarianize researchers and today they are becoming the academic equivalent of workers on an assembly line. Philip Mirowski has predicted that open access will lead to the deskilling of academic labor. The arrival of generative AI might seem to make that outcome the more likely.

This is most noticeable in Europe today, but other countries have been following Europe’s lead, and in the US, we are seeing increasing pressure on federal funders to take a similar road. In addition, I suspect most (if not all) US universities now have OA mandates in place. [Note from Rick: Interestingly, this is not actually the case in the US. Although many universities have adopted OA policies and many of those include mandatory-sounding language, all of them also include ironclad waivers that allow any researcher to opt out of OA publication for any reason s/he wishes. I discussed this phenomenon, and some reasons for it, in Learned Publishing a few years ago. I also previously discussed the ROARMAP database’s systematic misrepresentation of US campus OA policies in two Scholarly Kitchen posts, here and here.]

Can these failures be remedied by means of an OA reset? With this aim in mind (and aware of the failures of the movement), OA advocates are now devoting much of their energy to trying to persuade universities, funders, and philanthropists to invest in a network of alternative nonprofit open infrastructures. They envisage these being publicly owned and focused on facilitating a flowering of new diamond OA journals, preprint servers, and Publish, Review, Curate (PRC) initiatives. In the process, they expect commercial publishers will be marginalized and eventually dislodged.

But it is highly unlikely that the large sums of money that would be needed to create these alternative infrastructures will be forthcoming, certainly not at sufficient levels or on anything other than a temporary basis.

While it is true that more papers and preprints are being published open access each year, I am not convinced this is taking us down the road to universal open access, or that there is a global commitment to open access.

Consequently, I do not believe that a meaningful reset is possible: open access has reached an impasse and there is no obvious way forward that could see the objectives of the OA movement fulfilled.

Partly for this reason, we are seeing attempts to rebrand, reinterpret, and/or reimagine open access and its objectives.

Of course, the first rebranding occurred some years ago, when publishers convinced funders that the only realistic way to transition to open access was to embrace pay-to-publish OA, demoting green OA to an also ran.

And while many claim that the movement is already a success, on the grounds that more and more papers and preprints are being published OA each year, arguing this requires reimagining the movement as one that was only ever focused on improving accessibility, and obscures the fact that it has failed to address the affordability problem. And unless the affordability problem is solved it will not be possible to solve the equity problem.

On the same note, I have seen claims that OA was in fact never about costs, which is simply not true. Indeed, the affordability problem was one of the primary drivers of the OA movement, which emerged at a time when there was huge concern about what was then called the serials crisis.

I think the same rebranding process is evident in funders’ attempts to present their ever more burdensome mandates as tools of liberation.

Both you (Rick) and I have commented on the contradiction inherent in telling researchers that by introducing a “rights retention” policy, universities and funders are enabling researchers to retain control of their intellectual property while in the next breath saying that a CC BY license must be attached to all research papers.

What this does not acknowledge is that using a CC BY license requires researchers to waive all the rights in their work bar the right of attribution. Consequently anyone in the world is free to reuse their work, even for commercial purposes.

They are also told that a CC BY license ensures that their moral rights are protected. However, the legal text of the CC BY license might seem to imply otherwise – although I am not a lawyer.

More recently, cOAlition S has launched a new initiative –Towards Responsible Publishing – that proposes moving to a system based around “scholar-led publishing services”. This seems to be a response to OA advocates’ concerns about the continuing dominance of commercial publishers.

As part of this initiative, cOAlition S has launched a consultation process designed to give the impression that researchers are being put back into the driving seat. It is also implied that they will be able to decide when, where, and how to publish – which might suggest that OA is again becoming a bottom-up voluntarist movement.

But (as you have pointed out) “Scholar-Led” is a misnomer here, not least because cOAlition S has already published a set of pre-established principles, and we can be confident that whatever emerges from the consultation researchers will need to sign up to the new vision, and abide by the principles, if they want to be funded. This is top-down by any other name.

However, as I say, there must be serious doubts as to whether universities, funders and philanthropists are able or willing to underwrite what would amount to a significant (and very expensive) change of direction. It does not help that OA has helped commercial publishers embed themselves so deeply into the research infrastructure that dislodging them might seem all but impossible.

Here’s a thought experiment: 20 years post-BOAI, what would a successful OA movement have looked like?

A successful OA movement would by now have made significant inroads into the three problems it was founded to solve, those of accessibility, affordability, and equity. As I say, I see little sign that the affordability and equity problems are anywhere near being resolved.

And while it is true that more papers and preprints are being published open access each year, I am not convinced this is taking us down the road to universal open access, or that there is a global commitment to open access. In fact, the deteriorating geopolitical environment suggests that at some point we are likely to see an ebb tide. Perhaps peak OA is a more likely outcome than universal OA?

Consider, for instance, the two most populous countries in the world (both deeply committed to investing in research and development) – China and India. China now publishes more papers each year than any other country, but it has no national OA mandate and appears to have serious concerns about what it would cost to transition to a fully open access environment.

Meanwhile, after flirting with joining Plan S, India – which in 2022 was in third position in terms of paper output (ahead of the UK), and whose scientific prowess was demonstrated earlier this year when it put a spacecraft on the moon – is in the process of trying to persuade publishers to sign up to what it calls a “One Nation One Subscription” model.

The other factor to consider is that, as we enter the age of generative AI and Large Language Models, there is going to be a pressing need to distinguish between science fact and science fiction, and to separate the peer reviewed literature from all the junk science and conspiracy theories out there, along with random AI hallucinations.

AI companies have come to realize that mining the web inevitably brings back a lot of erroneous, biased and downright dangerous data. As a result, they are more aware of the need to have access to trustworthy, curated data. I think this will draw attention to the need for some form of membrane between scientific research and the chaotic mess of false and arbitrary information that swirls around the web. This might cause open access papers to lose some of their appeal.

I anticipate that we will require more, not less, gatekeeping in the future, and we could see the return of paywalls. And as concern grows that AI companies could profit massively from exploiting freely available information, perhaps we will see a return to an all-rights environment. Funders and universities might end up regretting that they ever mandated the use of CC BY.

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson is University Librarian at Brigham Young University. He has worked previously as a bibliographer for YBP, Inc., as Head Acquisitions Librarian for the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, as Director of Resource Acquisition at the University of Nevada, Reno, and as Associate Dean for Collections & Scholarly Communication at the University of Utah.


87 Thoughts on "Where Did the Open Access Movement Go Wrong?: An Interview with Richard Poynder"

While I take Richard’s points about the failure of OA in US/UK/EU contexts, it’s a very “Global North” focused take. The fact is that in regions where resources have been scarce and opening/networking information was vital to just being able to “do science,” (see Latin America), one could argue the OA movement has been established and extremely successful for decades.

It’s also important to remember that walking away from OA and declaring it a failure is a luxury only available to the extremely privileged. Researchers/funders who don’t care about this can continue to work as they always have and it’s business as usual for them because they’re shielded from the financial costs.

LATAM has developed a deeply entrenched and successful OA regime BECAUSE necessity led to invention. I would urge Richard — whose work I have closely followed and respect — not to give up on the OA movement just bc it’s gone sideways in wealthier regions. The recent meeting in Toluca, MX — driven by established OA entities in the region — is leading the way on elaborating on BOAI 20 years later. Their manifesto speaks to what the next iterations of OA will look like (in my opinion). I urge Richard to dive more into the work of this region before deciding the movement as a whole is over. His voice is vital to raising up this important work and his walking away from it is a loss to everyone who is working toward better outcomes in this area.

We’ve seen arguments that the impact of EU/UK/US actions is undoing the LATAM trailblazing. I won’t put words in Richard’s mouth but that seems like another failure? How long will those programs survive the encroachment of the global north impacts?

100% but I don’t think failures of parts of the movement = wholesale systemic failure (especially in an analysis that failure to mention LATAM successes at all). That said, the Global
north once again undermining transitioning economies’ successes is symptomatic of the paternalistic approach GN gatekeepers (particularly funders) bring to their own researchers w/o a ton of consideration for downstream impacts to regions that could argue their “transitioning status” is due to those same countries.

I just left the monthly call of the Subscribe to Open Community of Practice. We had about 50 folks on today. As always, good mix of publishers, librarians, funders, and aggregators. The S2O Community of Practice is another example of a grassroots, bottom-up part of the OA movement. The last comment on the call mentioned parts of the world that have gained from our progress to date and that stand to gain more if we can keep it up. I left the call feeling pretty motivated and inspired by our collective efforts.

Librarian at a small public university here. Thinking about whether accessibility failed, I decided to see if I could get a count of the number of OA articles in our discovery service (EBSCO).
Counting only published sources (removing preprint databases from the results) and only a handful of major databases so I’m likely missing a lot – consider this a floor count – I got just shy of 87 million OA items, 11 million of which are from academic journals and about 10 million are pubdate 2000-2024. There are no doubts lots of duplicates, a hazard of a multi-database discovery service, but even if you cut these figures in half, this still looks to me like some success at least.

But how many of those were pay-to-publish? In which case they may be accessible to readers, but publishing like that is not accessible to all authors. The accessibility problem has simply been shifted, not solved.

There are apparently two different definitions of “accessibility” – for readers and for authors. We WEIRD librarians were concerned from the outset about reader accessibility. I feel like the horse is being switched mid-stream to suddenly start criticizing OA for not being author-accessible. Someone has to pay for all this publishing effort – none of it is going to be free. Either subscribers pay OR authors pay. We have a few tiny examples of “Diamond OA” where the cost is coming from generous grants (including govts) but I have seen NO economic model of this sector that demonstrates that that’s financially sustainable in the long term. If wishes were horses…

By using ebsco to find these oa papers, you are essentially confirming that oa needs the tools of conventional publishers to be useful. Oa is not a replacement, more of a parasite.

“Accessibility” also means that studies are written and data are presented in a way that many readers can understand. Many societies and publishers no longer meaningfully provide or support editing of texts and figures and tables because of the relentless pressure to cut costs (and time to publication). I suspect that very few of the most ardent supporters of OA have made the effort to read (and make sense of) an average journal paper published in a scientific peer-reviewed OA journal. If they did so with a sufficiently critical eye (including towards nuts-and-bolts things, like consistency in what’s reported in different parts of a paper and whether the data even check out–details that very busy peer reviewers aren’t always adept at catching), it probably would give them much pause.

This may be naive but I always felt that how academic researchers publish, how they get promoted and tenure and that entire process (and the funding of their work, etc., etc.) was never or has never been fully appreciated in much of this. If a university has one spot and two people up for it and one is first author on a NEJM paper and one is first author on a paper in a journal with an IF of 4, the spot, all else being equal, will likely go to the person with the NEJM paper correct? The many, many ramifications of OA, both sort of the ideal and the way it is now (APCs, the volume game, etc.) go against that don’t they? I always felt like if you addressed that then much of what the OA movement wants would be more likely to succeed. All of this is a natural result of competition is it not and it is hard to go against that. That and the fact (and I harp on this) that the many thousands of people who make a living in this field whose jobs and incomes were/are threatened are just completely taken for granted. Left and right societies are looking at a future where their journals are worth less which has huge professional and personal ramifications. Lofty policies and goals cannot just sweep that under the rug. When someone’s perfect world means a whole lot of people are looking at layoffs or pay cuts it doesn’t seem so perfect. So if you don’t have the people who literally work in the field day in, day out, that’s tough to advance the agenda isn’t it?

Richard Poynder accepts being interviewed by the Scholarly Kitchen to express his diappointmen with OA. Why am I not surprised by this? Furthermore, the number of problems in this interview is large, and the boundaries of a blog commentary make a serious critique difficult. I will, therefore, focus on a very small number of points to show that, perhaps, Poynder writes a bit too fast.

At the very beginning of the interview, he bemoans the absence of something like an OA foundation, and he contrasts this situation with the “open source movement”. His 2006 piece did draw attention to deep tensions within the Open Source Movement, but he fails to mention the enduring difficulties between the “open source” movement and the “free software” movement. And he fails to note that the presence of such deep fault lines in the software area has not prevented open source and free software from gaining much ground in the computer world.

Similar difficulties have beset the Budapest meeting, and that is normal. They transpire in the two ways to achieve OA goals: journals and self-archiving in suitable repositories. This tension may have created some difficulties in the OA movement, but it has not prevented to movement from pushing on and growing. In fact, the two OA strategies have proved very useful, and, as I tried to predict around 2006, they are converging.

Richard Poynder does not seem to understand that OA triggered a movement that is sufficiently profound and complex to require more than twenty years to succeed. The passage from OA to Open Science reflects the growing consciousness of this complexity, and the rise of AI is going to make matters even more complex. If Poynder were more of a historian, he would meditate on the fact that it took over 150 years to move from Gutenberg to the creation of gazettes: this shift entailed an entirely new perspective on the functions of document duplication- a shift from memory preservation to tracking news.

Shifts of this magnitude are in the offing, and OA has helped gain some insight about the possibilities that have been opening up in the last twenty years. One of them is that publishing (i.e. the publishing functions) are not wedded to institutionalized publishers. However, some early OA advocates used to argue that OA had nothing to do with publishing reform (while contradicting themselves by claiming that self-archiving would reveal the house-of-card nature of publishing). Such perspectives are now very marginal at best, but their presence was unavoidable. History evolves through internal, as well as external, debates, and centralization is not always possible.

Regarding the three large objectives Poynder links with OA -accessibility, affordability and equity – he should remember that the researchers, at first, were concerned with accessibility only. The affordability issue was an objective pursued by librarians. However, their idea that OA could become a potent tool to bend the profit-seeking objectives of the publishing oligopoly was mistaken, and it created some degrees of confusion among OA advocates. Equity came even later when the plight of the so-called “Global South” reached visibility in the “Global North”. However, I remember well how few people paid attention to this issue when I would mention SciELO around 2005 and after. And Beall’s attack against SciELO was not without ulterior motives.

If researchers have not been as engaged as many of us would wish, the answer, again, is simple: researchers have careers to manage, especially young, vulnerable researchers. Their careers depend on evaluations, and the role of journals – journals, not the content of their own articles – has become present at every corner of their activities. Guess who has pushed for journal rankings…

Which leads me to my final point: Poynder entirely misses one crucial detail: the tactics used by the oligopolistic publishers. Stressing journal rankings is one of their favoured tactics (as Springer revealed in its failed IPO in 2018). Much could also be said about the lobbying efforts deployed by the likes of Elsevier in Washington and Brussels.

To cut to the chase, yes OA has failed to deliver on a number of points, but this is just the result of individual battles, and the war is yet to be won. At the same time, the complexity of what is unfolding right now with the ever-growing digital context (including AI) is becoming more apparent, and it will take generations to settle down. Some people, like Poynder, will drop out of the movement, but that is to be expected. Meanwhile, the ranks of people pushing for Open Access (and Open Science) nowadays are growing, and growing all over the world. And the world of scientific publishing is bound to change radically in the coming century.

Can you comment on the economic upheaval OA will cause and has caused to societies who rely on journal income and to the thousands of employees who face layoffs and pay cuts but are expected to do the same or more work? The publishers employ a lot of people who just want to do their job and have bills to pay, the journal managers, editorial assistants, copy editors and so on. An OA world has a greatly reduced revenue stream that cannot support all of this (which personally I think will lead to a great reduction in quality and services that are being taken for granted now). When you want to get rid of coal it helps if you make plans for what happens to the coal miners. Perhaps that is part of the reason for the hostility from some quarters – we are not all evil multibillion dollar publishing companies, some of us just want to know how we are going to pay the bills if our journal flips and makes 30% of what it used to make.

“some of us just want to know how we are going to pay the bills if our journal flips and makes 30% of what it used to make.”

Yes, precisely. The problem is that many (both in- and outside the OA “movement”) see social responsibility entirely outside of companies’ and organisations’ remit (or they don’t think much about social responsibility at all) and that “the market” will set things right. The consequences of this sort of (short-term) thinking are becoming more and more obvious (increasing immiseration of many, including those who have spent years in higher education, to ensure staggering wealth and power of a few). As with externalising costs of, say, environmental damage, the bill for this “move fast and break things” approach will become due at one point.

I’m not sure the problem is that they don’t think about social responsibility. I think the problem is that they consider providing free access to scholarship to be a social responsibility, and are unwilling to consider the possibility that OA might involve meaningful tradeoffs of social good.

“they consider providing free access to scholarship to be a social responsibility”

That’s indeed a very laudable (and important) goal, but I think it’s fast becoming a very distant one. (And I suspect social responsibility has never been a major goal in this particular case, though I’d be happy to be contradicted and see a committed and sustainable return to that guiding principle.) The motive for (high) profit (and market share) seems to be the main driver now (and possibly even then–winner-takes-all thinking has ruled the roost for a long time now).

But for nuance (and as note also to self), “they” probably needs to be better defined/delineated–OA advocates/actors are not a monolith.

Rick’s first sentence is correct. The second is wrong because it lumps all forms of OA (including the awful APC-Gold business model promoted by many publishers) as one. Of course, each solution has some trade-offs; they just have to be analyzed carefully.

Jean-Claude’s third sentence agrees with my second sentence, so I’m not sure why his second sentence says that my second sentence is incorrect. 🙂

Speaking of bills – I have two kids in university, the kind that tend to publish a lot of research year in and year out. Want to impact the social good? Want to “open” science to more people? Don’t make it $80K per year to attend but then balk at an OA fee of $3500 for a paper. I know this is a sort of what about statement but it has always been tough in my mind to reconcile these two things stemming ultimately from the same place because in my daily life I interact with these institutions in two very different ways. One the one hand someone with an email will email me saying they have no funds, no support, can I get a waiver and on the other hand I get an email from here is your bill which is more than my cars costs when I bought them brand new. And that’s for one semester. All other talk is meaningless if you don’t figure out the money.

These worries are quite legitimate. However, do not confuse OA with APC-Gold OA, the solution favoured by publishers for obvious profit-seeking reasons.

Quite the contrary. The market cannot satisfy the requirements of scientific publishing functions, and it can even pervert the whole system, as is the case right now. The point is that publishing functions are part of the scientific infrastructure, exactly like labs and large research instruments such as telescopes. Once publishing functions are clearly viewed as infrastructure, the debate shifts in a fruitful way.

To respond, I would hjave to examine specific cases. The apocalyptic vision is not a good starting point. Consider, however, the following idea: if publishers were to disappear – a gradual and uncertain prediction at best, as publishers work in many fields, most of which are not concerned by OA or OS – publishing functions (attribution, certification, preservation and dissemination) remain and will need people and money to be carried on.

The whole issue is not about whether money is needed or not. Money is needed. The whole issue is whether a publishing system based on market rules is compatible with the production of reliable and innovative knowledge. In other words, a commercial approach to scientific publishing is problematic at best, unacceptable at worst.

This discussion could be fruitful if the real resources and investment needed would finally be discussed (instead of assuming Elsevier profit margins for all scientific publishers, including societes and smaller ones). Colleagues and myself have left the library field because important infrastructure topics like “public publishing” (until now) end up underfunded and with temporary contracts. And publishing one or two journals as an institution is a great start, but in no way a replacement for what publishing provides. We shouldn’t forget that researchers don’t care as much about business models as effectiveness and impact.

For the “backward” people like myself who have never been able to get the math to square on this, it’s just nice to be able to have this debate once more. The “simple” act of moving from charging 100 institutions for subscriptions to charging individual authors fees they often have scarce ability to pay, involves 1000x more resources, reduces author incentive to contribute to the peer review process, and introduces dozens of brand new problems. Subscriptions aren’t evil. Especially when they are paired with free access policies and when everyone gets to publish for free. It’s not perfect, but it’s not the papermill, pay-to-publish, get your paper reviewed and accepted in 12-hours or less monster we face now. Plus, what have we lost in the way of editorial and scientific independence? I’d say we’ve lost something tangible there.

Very spot on. I’m old enough to remember that one major impetus of OA was to relieve university libraries from the price gouging of mega-publishers in the form of exorbitant subscriptions. What’s now happened is that those same publishers are largely cornering the OA market and are looking to wield enormous power over scientists and their societies.

But OA is not limited to APC-Gold. Other solutions exist. See above my comments about infrastructures.

It seems to me that the OA movement is based on the economic premise that there is a free lunch! There is no free lunch! In short, the consumer is forcing the creator to pay for their consumption! The law of unintended consequences seems to be prevailing.

I have been coming to the conclusion recently that the almost complete digitalisation of the main journals and restricting them to current university and institutional library members has made them less accessible than when they were available in print. A lot of libraries, even university ones, have been open to anyone who ventures in to browse and those readers used to be able to check the aisles of new journal issues and the bound volumes of the older issues without restriction. The print copies were quite frankly, open access.

Richard Poynder’s analysis of the open access movement clarified important problems like equality and affordability. The changing environment, particularly with the emergence of AI, calls for a reassessment of academic communication. His warning about possible changes in license complicates the conversation as we work through these difficulties.

You must be at one of those nasty institutions that doesn’t provide any on-site network or computer access. I work at a public university, where anyone physically walking in can access any of our digital resources, either with their own device (we have a guest wifi password) or one of our many public workstations. Since print required coming into the building anyway, there is no loss of public access, and now if they bring their own device or even usb stick, they can walk home with PDFs for free instead of having to spend money at the copier. Blame your institution’s policy choices, not digital, for your perceived loss of public access.

This is correct, but it has to do with digitization, not OA. When digital journals began to appeart, publishers decided not to sell them, but rather to licence them. Libraries, as a result, could no longer own these documents, and they had to accept licensing conditions that were far more restrictive than copyright limitations.

Re: Coalition S…I edit a journal that has been diamond open access since it went online in the early 2000s, with the explicit aim (among other aims) of encouraging publications from Africa-based scholars. But when I use the Coalition S “Journal Checker Tool”, it says “There are no publishing options aligned with your funder’s OA policy.” We have tried to register the journal with Coalition S, but it’s proved extremely hard since we’re not affiliated with a major publishing house. I have hopes we will still get there, but we haven’t managed yet.

Also, our funding situation is one of continual precarity, since we rely on external grants to cover our (tiny!) costs — and the granting organization that has provided most of our funding for thirty years is now no longer funding journals. Alternative schemes in our (European) country require buy-in from authors’ libraries within the country, but those won’t work for us because such a large percentage of our authors are from other European countries, Africa, and America. We remain convinced of the value of what we are doing — offering quality and cost-free publication with legitimate peer-review, regardless of authors’ ability to pay — but it is getting increasingly difficult.

The Journal Checker Tool uses publicly available data sources to determine if a journal offers publishing routes compliant with Plan S. See:

For fully OA journals, we use the DOAJ as the definitive data source.

Is your journal indexed here? If not, register it with DOAJ and then the JCT will report that your title offers a compliant publishing option,

Here are the criteria for inclusion in DOAJ: . if you get stuck, let me know and I may be able to advise (for free) as we have registered about 100 journals at DOAJ – I should declare a potential conflict of interest as I work at another OA publisher (Ubiquity Press), but want to help you out as a fellow community member – my email is: tom.mowlam[at] – good luck!

Write directly to Johan Rooryck and he will attend to your problem. If you cannot reach him, write to me and I will forward. We know each other.

Dear all,
thanks so much for your comments and your great willingness to help. We are indexed by DOAJ and have been for some time (we even have the DOAJ seal)! When I look at the more detailed explanations, I think that the JCT has out-of-date information about our license (we recently switched to CC-BY from our inherited CC-BY-NC licenses). I will see if I can rectify this. I really appreciate your ideas.

What always strikes me about Open Access is that a library used to calculate how much it cost to have a book on the shelf, It worked out for a medium size university to be something like $35 per year (this was sometime ago so I’m sure that figure has changed). Yet with OA there’s an assumption that one fee will cover that cost in perpetuity. That doesn’t make any sense as a long term viable business model unless the assumption is that a lot of consolidation is going to occur at some point, either by governments or by large publishing firms (and that’s clearly the direction we’re going in).

Hopefully discussions like this will help modify the OA model, or highlight the long term consequences of too much reliance on it (i.e. Instead of paying for a subscription to a journal publisher you’ll be paying a subscription to a database company instead that will contain copies you can find).

You point highlights one of the key structural issues I have always had with OA arguments -that academic resources are (and should be) archival. The maintenance costs of content existing, for decades, so that people can use it is pretty critical to the practice of how we interact with it. Asking to front load and predict the costs of a piece of content is *impossible* and without having some predictive model for sustainability, we risk the very goal of the OA movement… access.

Watching the very interesting exchange of comments here, I’m getting the feeling that this post has emboldened some people to speak out who might not have felt able to do so before. And this leads me to wonder: who might be interested in the creation of a forum for multi-perspective, real-time discussion of OA and related issues? I’m imagining a forum for which the foundational assumption would be that OA is not revealed religion, but is a publishing model with pros and cons like any other — and that open-minded and critical/analytical discussion of both is needed. My first thought is a listserv where discussion can be dynamic and ongoing, but maybe some other platform or format would be better. Or maybe this idea doesn’t have legs at all – maybe it’s a solution in search of a problem. After all, there are lots of places where discussion of OA is happening (including the Kitchen, of course). But I’m not aware of any public forum dedicated specifically to discussion of OA, where there is an explicit expectation of tolerance for multiple viewpoints.

If you think this sounds interesting, please contact me at rick_anderson [at] and let’s explore.

RickyPo has done good work that I appreciate, but this post is crankery (with some unsupported empirical statements I do not believe are true). You don’t need to declare it has failed to give up on a movement – just move on. It’s fine. The problems he notes are widely appreciated and lots of people are trying to find solutions. We’ve made a lot of progress against steep odds and powerful actors, and have a lot more to do.

No thanks. A digital room full of white Americans channeling their inner Gordon Gekko? A chance for librarians with huge budgets to complain about having no money but putting million dollar checks down for Elsevier? I think the world has had enough of this privileged smug complicity in colonial control of resources. Go get a room. The rest of the world is not following.

Philip — Can you share an example or two of an empirical statement Richard makes that you believe is untrue?

Judith — Gosh. “A digital room full of white Americans channeling their inner Gordon Gekko”? That doesn’t… sound like what I proposed…

As a WOC (woman of color) working at a non-profit, I didn’t hear that either, Rick, and would be eager to participate in such a convening.
Count me in!

I agree with Ricky Poynder’s analysis and that there is little prospect of the fragmentation (at all levels) changing. Stephen Buranyi analysed scholarly publishing critically in 2017 [1] and little has changed since.

I’ve been active in several aspects of Open (e.g. the Open Knowledge Foundation, software, maps, publishing, data) and seen the flourishing of innovation that the digital revolution has brought. Software (F/OSS) has been dramatic and many of the other domains (e.g. OpenStreetMap) have fed off it and emulated its principles and practices. Compared with most of the “Open” developments, however, scholarly publishing has been in stasis for 20+ years. It has not embraced the technology or societal developments of the digital revolution. There has been no technical innovation in scholarly publishing this century. In general Academia only publishes for other Academia, (so why change?), and publishers survive on hugely inefficient fragmentation of infrastructure.

The fundamental question (what and who is publishing for?) is hardly asked. There is virtually no measurement of the actual use and value of publications to readers/users – the lazy approach is to use citation proxies. The implicit answer to why publish? is that it’s for the reputation of universities and the careers of those who work in them, fuelled by government funding. I’ve called this the Publisher-Academic Complex (cf. Military-Industrial-Academic) and it’s out of control.

Initially electronic publishing was simply a method for publishers to avoid printing bills, shifting the burden onto readers. More recently it has added surveillance capitalism including technical and social control of the scholarly community. The current Northern system does not concern itself with accessibility (in the most general sense), affordability and equity, and we should look to SciELO , and Arianna Bec’s Redalyc/AmelicA for the true approaches. The inequity is highlighted by GN publishers (Elsevier, Am. Chem Soc.) who are suing SciHub in India (publishers have decided India is a rich nation and should pay the exorbitant amounts to publish).

The current system prevents innovation, so publisher PDFs are among the most outdated digital products. They are static in time, place, format and concept. A common practice in scientific publishing is to take machine-readable data from an instrument or program and force it into an unreadable PDF. This is unnecessary data destruction on a huge scale .

Instead we, including the GS, should be contributing to a global knowledgebase with equitable access to contribute and reuse. Software, and Biomedical data (among several domains) do this. Ideally textual discourse and data should be integrated and this has been urged for 30 years. But scholarly textual discourse is antiquated, inaccessible (multidirectionally), unaffordable and inequitable. That will remain for decades.

[1] (

Hear. Hear.
Incidentally, Buranyi interviewed me at length for his long read in the Guardian.

Hi Peter

I agree that with most PDFs, there is little data included in the file, and the PDF is essentially an electronic version of the print version. In my opinion, PDFs should not be the definitive version of an article, but one of several formats. The content should first be created in highly structured XML with any relevant semantics or metadata. A PDF or any other format can then be created automatically. There can even be multiple styles of PDF automatically generated, e.g. with large or dyslexic-friendly typeface, etc. PDFs should not be “reverse engineered” but should always be effectively the “toothpaste out of a tube”.

Peter noted, “There is virtually no measurement of the actual use and value of publications to readers/users – the lazy approach is to use citation proxies.”

I would recommend that you checkout these two books.

Tenopir, Carol., and D. W. King, 2004, Communication patterns of engineers: Piscataway, NJ, IEEE Press.

Case, Donald O., Looking for information : a survey of research on information seeking, needs, and behavior, Bingley, UK : Emerald, 2016.

Now Concerning the supposed failure of open access, I think it is still too early to call. We are only 400 years into scholarly publishing, and OA has been around, what, 35 years? Let’s wait another 35 to 100 years and see where we stand then. Academic culture changes one funeral at a time, and it will take a while for the conservative scholarly publishing practices of people and academic departments to change.

There are too many journals. Yet, there seems to be no end to the glut, and OA has exacerbated the problem. Oversupply like this is only possible because scholars do not bear the cost of journals. They are playing with other people’s money: libraries, universities, funding agencies,… Balance between supply, cost, and quality is dealt with effectively in a non-distorted free market. Take the intermediaries out to get there.

And me. Stephen Burany spent a morning in Cambridge interviewing me.
I would make his report required reading for all OA stakeholders..

The pressure on peer reviewers has never been greater. More OA articles = more money for the publishers and more invitations/ pressure to review submitted papers in faster and faster time. Editors are trying to maintain quality in some journals but are pressured to sacrifice it for quantity as the publishers demand more and more articles published more and more quickly. The model cannot be sustained.

At some point, someone is going to say you know what, OA is a good idea but it is only that, an idea. It is an idea that milks the creators of content and stresses the providers of content. Reduces quality in the name of quantity. Now we are discovering that the consumers of the content don’t understand what they are consuming and are demanding that someone explain what they are reading.

Many of the comments above continue to reflect a basic confusion between Open Access and APC-based Open Access. I belong to the set of OA advocates that start from a very simple premise: how do we organize the optimal system of distributed intelligence – human beings in this instance – to produce the best tested forms of knowledge and expose them to further criticism. The diamond solution – gratis and free to both readers and authors – moves in what I would consider the right direction. It implies a number of fundamental changes in the “objects” of science publishing and communication: publishing functions replace publishers as institutions, journals reflect communities rather than seek a reading market, journals do not own their articles, but they guarantee provenance, etc. These changes will probably emerge sooner or later, and it will take time. But that is all right: human history proceeds at a pace that has little to do with the pace of human life.

I don’t think it’s “confusion.” What many of the comments above recognize is the inevitability of APC-funded OA as a consequence of the push towards universal OA that has been undertaken by so many advocates, funders, and (outside of the US) government agencies. It’s all well and good to say that the Diamond solution is “better” — the problem is, assuming all the costs of OA publishing doesn’t seem better to those who are offering the publishing service and would assume those costs, let alone to organizations that have not historically been publishers at all (or haven’t typically published at anything like the necessary scale). What works much better for them is simply shifting the costs from readers to authors. The failure to anticipate and provide for this likelihood has, I think, been one of the fundamental errors of the OA movement and has led to what Richard characterizes as systemic failure.

“Inevitability of of APC-funded OA? Wow! I did not know you had such talents for the deciphering of the future.
I can’t make heads or tails of your second sentence.
That the APC business model should work for “them” is certainly what you hear from Springer, and other oligopolistic publishers. Redalyc does not agree with that statement. Neither does Épisciences, and countless other organizations that are finding ways to support the diamond model. Erudit, in Canada, is moving in that direction as well.
When APCs emerged in the original OA groups, it was greeted by a wait-and-see attitude, as well as a degree of hesitation/skepticism. Do not forget that one of the framers of the APC business model, Jan Velterop, was also one of the original signatories of the BOAI. Do I need to say more?

“Deciphering the future”? No, I’m simply observing what has already happened. The APC model has become the predominant funding mechanism for OA, accounting for the great majority of open articles. There are indeed also lots of Diamond-funded publishing initiatives out there, and who knows, maybe someday that model will overtake the APC. In terms of article output, though, at the moment that model seems to be pretty marginal . I’m not saying this is a good thing, mind you — I’ve been warning about the downsides of the APC model for over 20 years.

If “inevitable” is about the past, how do I avoid the past?

What you say about the diamond model is inaccurate; the diamond model is not “pretty marginal”. Just consider the figures from the OADiamond Journals Study (
✔ 356,000 articles per year in 10,449 OA diamond journals
✔ 453,000 articles per year in 3,919 APC-based journals

As for the downsides of APCs, I am glad that you have been warning the world about it for over 20 years, although I have not heard all that much about that side of your public statements. Meanwhile, may I refer you to a recent text that came out of MIT last month: Access to science and scholarship. Like so many other people and texts, it confused OA with APC-Gold and it spends some time criticizing OA on the basis of this confusion. However, if you keep in mind that the text rerally addresses APC-Gold most of the time, you will find wonderfully effective statements to destroy the APC-Gold model.

✔ 356,000 articles per year in 10,449 OA diamond journals
✔ 453,000 articles per year in 3,919 APC-based journals

Dimensions lists over 4.4M articles published in 2022. If the 365,000 number is accurate, that accounts for around 8% of the literature. I’m not sure where that study got the 453K number for APC articles published, but Dimensions shows 2.3M Gold and Hybrid OA articles published in 2022 (which would presumably include all the Diamond articles). By those figures, Diamond accounts for about 16% of total OA.

I was not involved in this study even though I know many of its authors and I respect them highly. I suspect you should query them yourself. Hybrid articles are probably left out, but you can also check this out with them.

Context is important in understanding the OADiamond Journals Study data that Jean-Claude cites. 453,000 articles per year in 3,919 APC-based journals is not an assertion of the number of articles published via an APC in either a hybrid or a fully OA journal. Rather 453,000 articles per year in 3,919 *DOAJ-indexed fully OA* APC-based journals.

Ah, that explains it — it was a shockingly low number. Looking at the source, it covers 2017 to 2019, before the really big expansion of MDPI and Frontiers, so I would suspect that Diamond OA articles are an even smaller proportion of overall OA than is indicated here.

Consider verb tense, Jean-Claude. I’m saying the predominance of the APC model was inevitable “as a consequence of the push towards universal OA that has been undertaken by so many advocates, funders, and (outside of the US) government agencies.” As you well know, having been part of it from the very beginning, this push began more than 20 years ago. The push began in the past; the inevitable consequences are being felt in the present.

As for whether Diamond OA articles represent a marginal or a significant proportion of the article landscape: David C beat me to the comment I was going to make, but I’ll add another statistic: the study I cited in my previous comment found that in a sample of 636,000 OA articles from “twelve major publishers,” only 3% were published in Diamond journals. Now, of course, this is a limited sample from a group of publishers not known for publishing lots of Diamond content — so the larger small number David cites is the more representative one for the scholarly world writ large.

I will let you explain the subtleties of verb tenses in English to me some day, but another day. The reason is that your explanation still makes little sense to me. So, you are arguing now that APCs are inevitable in the present? 🙂 Perhaps, you mean “unavoidable”.

What were these twelve major publishers to which you refer? Obviously, diamond journals are rare in the journal stables of the oligopoly. It is difficult to make a profit when there is no revenue, only expenses.

Proportionately rare perhaps but more in number than people realize. Elsevier publishes 58 no-fee open access journals, Springer 25, Wiley 3, Sage 32, and Taylor & Francis 20. I doubt these are published pro bono/at a loss.

* All numbers from DOAJ listings for each publisher – here’s the link to Elsevier for convenience if one wants to then swap out Elsevier for the commercial publisher of one’s interest:

The twelve publishers are listed in Table 1 in the article — for your convenience, I’ll link to it again here. As I said, it’s unsurprising that Diamond journals are rare within that publisher population — perhaps more surprising is that Diamond journals exist within that population at all. What’s unsurprising is the relatively small number of Diamond articles in the universe of scholarly publishing. As David points out, the Dimensions data suggests they comprise roughly 16% of total OA, or 8% of total scholarly articles. (And if you go by Web of Science rather than Dimensions data, the percentage is much lower, as this recent PLOS One study shows.)

As for verb tense, there are no subtleties at play here. The difference is that between past and present, which I’m confident you understand, even in English. As I think any reasonably attentive reader will comprehend, I’ve been saying that the actions of the past have led to a result that was inevitable, and which we are currently experiencing.

@Lisa — Yes, in contexts like this it’s always important to think about both the raw numbers and the percentages. In the real world, both matter.

Your statement other funding models other than APC undermines your argument. Someone is funding for publishing something. Be it a benefactor, institution, or whoever, and those funding sources are reliant on beneficence or volunteers which at best cannot be counted upon because they are reliant on budgets that are reliant upon some kind of income. But, publishing the article is but a small part of getting an article to an audience. Ah, the audience. Just how do you suppose one finds an article? Just who is going to index? Then there is the cost of achieving, proofreading, reviewing, etc. So many steps and each has a cost if not in dollars then in time and time is money!
In short, I urge you to study the concept of “there is no free lunch”!

Indeed, there is no free lunch. And someone must pay. However, when libraries or funding agencies pay for APCs, we are not talking about beneficence or volunteers; we are talking about good government money going to the wrong place. Funding agencies or libraries have no income to speak of, but they themselves have subsidies from either their institution (which, very often, is a public institution), or directly from the government. When NSF pays for APCs, NSF, in effect, contributes to subsidies reaching commercial publishers.

There really is only one system that has any track record of balancing cost, quantity, and quality of products: a free market. Publishers exploit a distorted market created by having libraries and institutions rent content on behalf of users. The scholarly-communication market would have to adopt a Netflix model, but the chances of that happening are close to nil.

Again the problem with your argument is funding agencies! The funding agency has decided to take money from Paul to pay Peter who happens to be the author who in turn pays someone to publish the article. Now if, and I am not saying that we should go to the subscription model, Paul is not paying Peter but rather is paying for making the article available in a library to whomever wants to read it. That person most likely being someone who can understand it which in turn eliminates the need for a new journal of what a journal article says. I know it is inconvenient to have to go all the way to a library, but then again on a campus, one can access via a computer and indeed even in one’s home.
If OA is so desirable as a business model or for that matter any kind of model to get information from here to there why isn’t Microsoft or other programs free?
I think the answer is because there is no free lunch!
In short, someone is paying even in Diamond OA! In the Diamond Open Access model, the entire publishing process, from peer review to publication, is funded by non-profit organizations, research institutions, or government agencies rather than by charging fees to authors or readers. All the sources mentioned get money one way or the other except the government which gets it from us via taxes.
I should add that Netflix is a subscription model! Also, anyone can subscribe to any journal by filling out the form and in so doing avoiding the library. The library subscribes to journals as a service to the community so that others do not have to subscribe.

I found reading your text very difficult to follow, particularly the first part.

OA is not a business model, and it takes more than the presence of financing to end up with a business model. The interstate highways, in most states in your country are free, yet they cost a pretty penny. That is because they are treated as an infrastructure, not a business. They are financed by the government from its various sources of revenue, including taxes.

Your comparison with Microsoft and gratis software was amusing. I am responding to you with a Linux system and Libre Office. All these tools are gratis, and many are even free. And there is no free lunch indeed.

Regarding peer review, most of the cost is carried by the volunteer work of researchers who accept to give time and expertise to carry out the evaluation of submissions. Editors or publishers, at most, pay only for administering the tasks and selecting which submissions will be published or not.

In conclusion, no one denies that diamond OA costs something. That does not make it a business, and it is not a business plan.

I largely agree with your arguments, but I think you underestimate the radicalism of my suggestion.

I think OA has been a failure. Abandoning the subscription model was a mistake, as subscriptions are the only proven method of limiting quantity and encouraging quality. The problem with subscriptions was that the subscription market is distorted by the presence of libraries, which are spending other people’s money on behalf of other people.

So, I suggested to return to a subscription model, to cut out libraries as a middleman, to distribute funds to scholars, and to make scholars responsible to acquire the digital library they need. They are already subscribing to digital libraries they need or want for music, video, and games. Adding scholarly communication to this would not be a great burden.

Why should every university have to develop similar library web sites? Worse, library web sites are sufficiently different in irrelevant details to make inter-institutional work difficult. Of course, forcing libraries out of the digital-lending business would more than decimate them. While bad for librarians, it would reduce the cost of education.

I find it an astonishing view that the only people who need scholarly materials are “scholars” … unless this term expansively includes college students, academic staff, campus administration, alumni, high school teachers and students, policy makers, etc. I also wonder who exactly is going to do the distribution … much less to do it in a way to make it equitable … and then all the accounting work to track the spend as required by financial controls and auditing.

Scholars are pretty much the only people who need high-volume frequent access to scholarly materials. And yes, most of us count college students as scholars, and academic staff and admins have the same access to their campus library licensed resources as the “scholars”. People who aren’t affiliated with a higher ed institution generally need only occasional access to the full text of an occasional specific article or book. They can get what they need by using the interlibrary loan service at their local public library. Most public libraries offer this service although I concede that most members of the public don’t know this, but that’s on the public library staff to solve that communication issue, not the entire scholarly publishing community to change its business model to accommodate those users.

I strongly disagree. The main reason that governments fund research is to drive economic development, largely jobs and tax revenues, that result from that research (as well as the societal benefits that citizens gain from the products that are developed — think the NSF grants that led us to Google). This recent study shows the efficacy of the Holdren Memo providing free access to papers that were used in patents, particularly patents from small companies that likely couldn’t afford broad subscription access to the literature:
These sorts of tangible benefits are what policymakers are looking for from these efforts.

And thus you agree Melissa that institutions should just give all of these folks their own publications budget and eliminate the campus library’s role in licensing content bc you agree that’d be cheaper? If so I guess I get to be astonished two days in a row!

I used scholars as an all-inclusive term.

About accounting work: By making subscriptions the responsibility of the individual, institutional accounting is removed, completely. Take all of the savings by no longer offering digital lending, distribute it to students by reducing tuition and to faculty by raising their salary with the understanding that, going forward, they are responsible for putting together their own digital library.

About equity: Scholarly publishers are the only publishers who thrived throughout the switch to digital. All other publishers were disrupted and forced into new business models. Scholarly publishers could count on libraries continuing their subscriptions and continue to oversubscribe to too many journals (under pressure from faculty) regardless of cost. Yes, every few years, every library goes through some performative cost cutting of their subscriptions, but that merely sets the stage for several years of growth. Merely by being present in the market, libraries increase the cost.

About access: Access is overemphasized at the expense of quality control. The main purpose of scholarly journals is to attach credibility to papers. This credibility disappears when journals can be created and survive on the coattails of existing journals through bundling. By making the survival of journals dependent on subscription decisions of professional researchers (the main users), credibility can be restored. All other potential users of the scholarly literature benefit from reduced clutter and better quality control.

I didn’t understand that by “distribute funds to scholars” you meant just stop funding the library and tell employees that they have to pay things on their own out of their salary (presumed to increase) or the difference between what they would have paid and what they do pay in tuition (for students). You are right, I definitely did not understand how radical a proposal you are making. Not that I think there is any chance of returning to the subscription model at this point but do you have a view on how your approach would fund preservation of/long-term access to the scholarly record?

Lisa, I can’t imagine what you read in my response that leads you to that conclusion – I keep re-reading it and I can’t see it at all. Which “all these folks”? Scholars and everyone else affiliated with higher ed institutions DO use the scholarly literature heavily and it does make sense for libraries to handle the broad licensing there, of course, for both convenience and cost reasons. I have no idea how you could conclude that I said anything that contradicts that. I was referring to your long list of non-academic people who may want to read the occasional published materials that was intended for the scholarly audience. They do have free (or close to free if their local public library has a modest ILL service fee) access to what they need, if our culture can get past this “I deserve to get what I want always, immediately with no waiting and for free” mentality.

Ah, I see the disconnect. My long list is not made of of non-academic groups. In fact, ppl in these groups are all part of my university and served by one or more of our licenses or content services. Thanks for replying to clarify!

One of the greatest liberating forces is the library. To think that universal access to a library’s holdings is the realm of those few who have specific knowledge in a narrow field of endeavor and that the general public is not worthy of access to knowledge is a sign of the worst display of elitism. To think,
the self-taught Guglielmo Marconi, Nobel laureate (physics) did not have a degree.
Indeed, today one finds those who are curious and skeptical visiting libraries. One finds butchers, bakers, trash haulers, carpenters, housewives, etc in libraries because librarians can lead them to sources. Perhaps the “experts” should visit too!
As for each professor being given a budget to subscribe to journals is beyond the pale and a complete waste of money. I wonder if one has ever seen a professor retire and attempt to offload a career of collections be they books, journals, or butterflies!

You seem to reside in the paper world. Everyone rents digital journals on an as-needed basis. The only question is whether you need a library as an intermediary to negotiate that rent.
As to the value of librarians: you are absolutely correct. In the paper-based world, you need collection development so the shelves are stacked with content appropriate to the community. In the process of collection development, librarians acquired valuable expertise. Whether this can survive in the digital world remains to be seen.

You seem to live in your study! Librarians are well-versed in the realm of databases, their content, and how to access them. Just as many are steeped in the knowledge of printed material just as many are steeped in the knowledge databases. Try going to a large university such as Purdue or U of Illinois and you will be amazed and your bubble popped!

I spent almost 20 years as a researcher and lecturer in applied mathematics and computer science (NYU and Caltech). I was a director of library information technology at Caltech for 11 years. My bubble popped many years ago. You can see my evolution of OA advocate to skeptic in my blog at

You seem to live in a siloed world! I guess there is no cross-discipline need in your world. Or are you suggesting that each recreates the library that exists!

I wonder have you ever founded a journal and published an issue? If memory serves there are over 100 steps to publish an article. I do not think those steps include making the article known to the market. Who is going to proof, cross-check, review for grammar style and usage, is the author going to set the article in a format expected by the audience? Who is going to achieve and where will it be achieved and maintained? There are always accountants. They make themselves visible either in the accounting for costs or time. Say you found a journal just how would someone discover it? Even the lord Google relies on someone else making something known. Lets say you have a cadre who becomes the journal’s backbone and volunteers their time. As the journal becomes more and more famous the work grows exponentially. Will the cadre hold? Even Cell after about three years said this is too much and sold itself to Elsevier.
You present the publishing process as easy.
Perhaps you should try to self-publish something like the Journal of Library Informatics

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