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International Open Access Week 2020: Get to know the team

To celebrate International Open Access Week 2020, we spoke to some of the Open Access (OA) Publishing team at OUP to find out all about this dynamic area of publishing. Publishing Director for Open Access Rhodri Jackson, Senior Publishers Rhiannon Meaden, Lucy Oates, and Nikul Patel, Publisher James Neenan, and Assistant Publisher Jude Roberts reveal all.

Why work in OA publishing?

Rhodri Jackson: OA has been a consistent theme running through my whole career. My first role in OUP’s journals team was as an Editorial Assistant, and I was lucky to enough to work on our new OA activities. In 2006, one of our biggest journals, Nucleic Acids Research, had just “flipped” to OA, and we had just started experimenting with “hybrid” OA. I was completely new to journals publishing and I was immediately interested in OA—it was novel, appealing, a place for innovation, simple in conception but complicated in application, and engendered highly varying and emotive responses. I’ve worked in OA ever since, and it continues to be all those things, making it a really interesting area in which to work.

Jude Roberts: I switched careers about 18 months ago from lecturing in FE and HE to academic publishing, working in the Journals Production department. I am currently on a year-long secondment in the OA Editorial team. As an academic researcher, I had some sense of the transformation to research funding and accessibility that may come from OA publishing. The chance to be involved in facilitating that is incredibly exciting.

Rhiannon Meaden: What I particularly enjoy about working in OA is the pace of change we have been experiencing. Opening up research, removing barriers, and facilitating greater discussion within the research community are all important aims of OA publishing, and make it an area I’m proud to contribute to. There have been so many challenges over the last almost 10 years I’ve been in this industry, but this is what makes it such an interesting and exciting field to work in.

Nikul Patel: My attraction towards working in OA is that scholarly communications for the last few decades have been going through perhaps the largest change since the advent of the internet. OA does not just represent a business model, but actually it’s also a socio-political movement that seeks to change the paradigm of how and to whom scholarship and research is available, especially when it is funded publicly.

Lucy Oates: I’ve been working in OA publishing at OUP for almost seven years—prior to that I studied French and Italian, and taught English as a foreign language. When applying for my first role in OA publishing, it was clear that open access was a developing area of academic publishing, and the opportunity to work in a varied role which supported the wide dissemination of research appealed to me.

James Neenan: My background is as an academic—until recently I was a palaeontologist at the University of Oxford working on dinosaur and marine reptile fossils. However, I wanted to move into OA publishing because I’m passionate about the free exchange of knowledge between researchers and the rest of world. Academic literature is for everyone and should not be locked away behind a pay wall where only the privileged can access it. In short, dinosaurs are extinct, but OA publishing is evolving and thriving!

What’s it like working in OA publishing?

Rhiannon: A key part of my role is on the growth and development of our new Oxford Open series, which we launched earlier in the year, so I spend a lot of time running market research, holding discussions with external subject experts and working with our editors.

There are constantly new questions being asked of journals, and of publishers, which we work to answer, so there is a huge amount of problem solving and creative thinking needed to try to resolve some of the wider issues the industry faces.

Lucy: I moved from our Oxford headquarters to our New York office earlier this year. OA is growing, not just at OUP but across scholarly communications, and as researchers and authors move towards publishing open access at different rates and with different priorities, part of my role is to support OUP to ensure we can respond to the changing landscape, which makes it a really exciting area to work in!

As part of this I work with our sales teams to deliver Read and Publish agreements for our institutional customers—a sales model which has been developed to meet the changing needs of our customers. These agreements facilitate OA publishing for authors as the OA charges are combined with the institution’s journal subscription.

James: The main part of my role is to assist in the creation of new OA journals, which I feel is a real privilege. The OA world is growing fast, especially considering that lots of funding bodies (like the UKRI) are starting to require researchers funded by them to publish in gold OA journals. This means the demand for gold OA is exploding, and we at OUP need to keep up.

How can open research transform the world?

Rhodri: It’s stating the obvious somewhat to say that the world faces many challenges—from global issues such as the coronavirus pandemic and the climate emergency, to the local and personal crises engendered by disease, ill-health, poverty, and war. Open research will not fix these problems alone, but making rigorous, well-reviewed research as widely available as possible is a logical step and will allow scientists, researchers, academics, politicians, policy-makers, and the wider public access to all the good work already being done in these areas, enabling them to use and build upon that work.

Nikul: Essentially the more people that have access to and can use research, the larger the pool of people that can help us examine and tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues, such as climate change or gender inequality.

Rhiannon: Furthering science requires us to build on the knowledge, theories, and evidence built up before us—standing on the shoulders of giants. If we cannot do this, then we cannot continue to expand our knowledge, or make new discoveries to benefit us and the world we live in. Opening up research facilitates a greater sharing—and importantly re-use—of research. It allows new knowledge to be disseminated more quickly and more easily across a wider community. In order to learn and understand more quickly we need research to be more open, accessible, and usable.

James: In this world of “fake news” and misinformation, free access to the primary literature is worth its weight in gold. Furthermore, researchers in less-affluent countries cannot always access the literature they need for their own work unless it is OA. I can attest to this first hand, as I was once a post-doc in South Africa and I had huge problems accessing the scientific literature I needed.

Jude: Making research freely available to anyone who wants to access it is a crucial step in achieving equity of opportunity and is absolutely transformative in terms of enabling collaboration and future research worldwide. Taken to its logical conclusion, open access publishing is nothing short of a complete revolution in the funding and distribution of academic research.

What’s next for OA publishing?

Rhodri: We can confidently predict that more and more research will be published OA in the next few years. We can expect the focus on open research considered more broadly (open data, open peer review, open methods, etc.) to accelerate further.

The impact of the pandemic will be interesting to see. The pandemic has the potential to greatly accelerate moves to OA, as it has shone a light on the need for open access to research. In some ways though it has the potential to be a brake on change, simply because all the other disruption caused by the pandemic places so many other constraints on the time and priorities of organizations. Taken as a whole though, I think the pandemic is likely to lead to faster moves towards OA.

Lucy: In the next couple of years, in the US in particular, I think we will see more changes in open access policy from funders—just this year we have already seen US funders such as Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation update their OA policies.

I also expect we will see increased interest from institutions in combining OA publishing for their researchers and subscriptions to journals, known as Read and Publish or transformative agreements. Globally, we predict that more and more authors will choose to publish their research outputs under the OA model, continuing the trend that we have seen over recent years. Similarly, I’d expect an increasing number of journals to adopt policies on data availability and open data, therefore helping researchers to not only access the article, but also the underlying data.

Nikul: I think in the near future we’ll see more journals being able to sustainably transition towards a fully OA model and will also see even more funding bodies create more stringent OA policies as a condition of their funding grants.

Rhiannon: OA has rapidly become an important and significant business model within publishing, and I would expect the further development of open research initiatives over the next couple of years. We are at an exciting phase in research publishing with so many different experiments in the OA and open research world, many of which OUP is participating in. OA publishing has always had a culture of innovation, so I would expect this to continue.

Find out more about our OA team’s work and the future of OA publishing at OUP in our first blog post of International Open Access Week 2020: What can a university press do to drive open access?

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