” Open access and open data have gained prominence just as library budgets are being squeezed. For university research funding a double impact is looming. Potential cuts in external research funding (from government, charities and industry) risk compounding the damage done by precipitous declines in other institutional income streams (including domestic and international student tuition fees, accommodation and conferences)….
Calls for open access have been strengthened by the crisis, as publishers made available COVID-related research that had a direct impact on health policy. But the digital infrastructure supporting the free exchange of research information and data is still not equipped for the scale-up required….
The case for open access and open data has been strengthened by the pandemic, but their adoption will require investment in supporting digital infrastructure and careful consideration of business models. This is all the more urgent given the added pressure library budgets will be under in a post-COVID world….
Librarians struggled to support blended learning alongside providing standard services. Interviewees noted that libraries continued to provide basic digital support for research including services relating to open access and institutional repositories, but the capacity to support research more broadly was severely constrained during the pandemic….
Interviewees from Australia indicated that COVID may provide an opportunity to move to a “pay to publish” model and to “break the control currently held by a small number of publishers”. Plan S, a European initiative to make publicly-funded scientific publications open access, is viewed favourably but some felt that it could increase costs for scholarly communication. Central budget allocations to pay for article publication charges (APCs), prevalent in some parts of Europe, are seen as an attractive option given the increased leverage it provides in budget negotiations. But the decentralised nature of library budgets in most Australian universities, where APCs are paid from a wide variety of sources (including departments, individual grants, researcher’s professional development funds etc.) reduces bargaining power. Interviewees were also concerned about universities’ ability to track APCs across the institution, which is seen as necessary to achieve better value for money….
There is strong consensus that the pandemic can be a catalyst for change to accelerate the transition to open access (OA). International actors including the European Commission, the World Health Organisation and UNESCO have all issued strong calls for greater and more equitable access to research results in recent months.59–61 Interviewees from all countries recognised that the pandemic has raised awareness of open science
among researchers that were previously unaware or not particularly sympathetic to it.62 At the same time, it has highlighted the importance of open research to decision-makers and the broader public….
As the dust settles, the expectation is that funders and open science advocates will use the pandemic as “the poster boy for open science”, providing new impetus towards change. This can in turn hasten the shift to open access in Europe and the UK. The European Commission, traditionally a strong proponent of open access and open data, notes that the achievement of a “Shared Research Knowledge System” by 2030 should
build on the collaborative efforts to tackle COVID-19 and considers these as “testament to the innovative power of opening up science, sharing knowledge and collaborating.” …
COVID-19 has exposed longstanding fault lines in the current system of scholarly communication. While the balance appears to have shifted decisively in favour of open science, tensions between rapid publication and robust quality assurance remain. Strategic thinking is needed to tackle a legacy of investment in digital infrastructure, redefine the roles of commercial and community actors, develop sustainable business models, and embed open science as the ‘new normal’ for research. …”