Universiteit Leiden

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Open access: ‘You see that it works’

The Dutch universities are conducting a joint campaign to promote open access: free access to academic and scientific publications. Many Leiden researchers support open access. Given that it involves a shift in the financing from the reader to the author, they point out the need for effective agreements to be made.

Worldwide response to research

For years it has been the aim of the Leiden research group headed by economist Koen Caminada to have all articles published open access. 'If a particular publisher isn't willing to do that, we look for another one who is. It's important to remember that the research has already been funded by society. If you put your research under lock and key, it won't be widely read and your citation rate will suffer.' Caminada, Professor of Fiscal Economy, has already seen that open access works: 'We get a lot of reactions to our publications from all over the world, including from China. I'm convinced that that wouldn't be the case if our articles were locked up behind paywalls.' 

General public

Andrea Evers, Professor of Health Psychology, believes that academic and scientific publications should be available for everyone, including the general public. ‘TV programmes about science are enormously popular. Viewers who are interested in a particular topic should be able to consult the sources. I'd be really happy if people could read the facts behind the research for themselves.' 

Shifting the financial burden

Both researchers are aware that there are obstacles. Open access means a shift in the financial burden: it's no longer the reader who pays, but the author (see below).  This is why a lot of authors still opt for a closed article, because under this construction the author is sometimes paid, Caminada comments. Obviously, open access should not have the opposite effect, namely that individual authors become responsible for the costs of publication, Evers emphasises. It is the research group or the university that will have to finance open access articles, which means that firm agreements need to be made.  

PhD candidates

Two Leiden PhD candidates, Gareth O’Neill (Humanities) and Charlotte de Roon (Governance and Global Affairs), are active in the open access campaign being carried out by the participating universities. O’Neill has learned that many PhD candidates do not know that there are other ways to publish open access than in magazines and journals: you can make your research results available in repositories, for example. De Roon points out that this is an area where the Graduate Schools can support PhD candidates. She also calls on professors to encourage their PhD candidates to publish open access.   

Speed things up

Caminada and Evers hope that more of their colleagues will put their efforts into promoting open access. Evers points to the role of politics. 'State Secretary Dekker is a real supporter of open access. It's important that we organise this centrally, then things will start to speed up.' Caminada has a tip to share: ‘I learned a useful trick from a copyright professor. You can make the Word document that you submit to the publisher public and put it on your own website, for example. That way you can make it available for everyone.' 

The Dutch universities have an ambitious goal, namely that all publications should be available in open access by 2020. The Dutch cabinet is also in favour of open access. A distinction can be made between the so-called 'golden route' and the 'green route'. With the golden route the author pays the publisher, who arranges a free online publication. With the green route, there is still a paid subscription, but in addition there is also a digital archive.