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Open access and the academic community: a librarian’s view

The Bibsam Consortium is an association of Swedish universities which negotiates licence agreements for electronic information resources. Headed by the National Library of Sweden, it currently has 95 member organizations. Oxford University Press has had a Read and Publish agreement with the Consortium since 2019.

We asked Henrik Schmidt, Licence Manager from the Research Collaboration Unit at the National Library of Sweden, for his views on open access and the transformation of the research environment.

How has the transition to open access changed the nature of your role as a consortium manager?

The movement towards open access has changed the focus from reading use to publishing activities. This also means that the target group for the consortium’s work has partly changed. The publishing researcher has become an important and fully “visible” target group. In addition, the institutions’ (universities, university colleges, as well as public agencies and research institutes) management and research departments are more involved compared to the past when the university libraries (or equivalent) were alone in dealing with these issues.

How has open access changed what your consortium does as a service provider within its community?

As a Licence Manager at a consortium, my job is to present to participating institutions, and take care of administration relating to any agreements which the consortium concludes with publishers and producers. The services requested have changed as a result of open access. Publication analyses are becoming increasingly important. This also means discussions are needed over how the costs of an agreement should be distributed within the consortium, where a distribution model based on publication is now being implemented.

What are the wider benefits, from your perspective, of a more open research environment?

Open access is important for all of society. When research results quickly become available, more people can validate and build on previous results. Research is not only conducted at universities, but also in business, industry, and the public sector, where there is also a great need for open access.

The National Library of Sweden and all the universities and university colleges in Sweden have a mandate from the Government that we should work towards 100% open access. Currently, we have around 80% open access to Swedish research articles. For Swedish researchers, open access is becoming standard. For them, it is obvious that all publications should be open access. It is part of their academic life.

What challenges has open access presented to you as a consortium manager?

As an administrator for a consortium, the challenge is partly to keep up with rapid changes and partly to seek new ways to conclude and finance agreements. New pricing models and legal principles need to be implemented in the next generation of contracts.

What would you like to see happen in the future, as open access transforms the way research is communicated, accessed, digested, and used?

Alongside transformative agreements we need to consider other paths towards open access, both in terms of constructing new agreements based on publishing as a service (to replace the transformative agreements) and other alternative ways of publishing academic results, for example on platforms like ORE (Open Research Europe).

It is also of vital importance that publishers significantly increase the pace of converting journals to fully open access journals, known as “journal flipping.” There are indications which show that flipped journals have higher visitor numbers, that their acceptance and impact remain the same, and that their publication output increases.

How do you perceive your future role in that transformation?

Try to keep up! Try to contribute to the national goal which states that scholarly publications resulting from research financed with public funds must be published with immediate open access. And by 2026 (at the latest), this will also include research data.

Featured image by geralt on Pixabay (public domain)

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