Open access for scholarly publications, part 2 – Peer reviewers/experts

The National Library of Sweden has held the appropriation directive from the Swedish Government to produce recommendations for the change to an open access scholarly publication system. These recommendations are presented by Henrik Schmidt, librarian here at KIB, in a series of blog posts.

The discussions on open access to scholarly publications started more than 20 years ago. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, a public statement called Budapest Open Access Initiative was launched and soon after that came the Berlin Declaration on Open Access. These statements described the benefits of open access and the goal for a future publication system. Many stakeholders – governments, research funders, research organisations and universities, learned societies, authorities, libraries, museums etc. – have endorsed these declarations. Karolinska Institutet (KI) has signed the Berlin Declaration through the Association of Higher Swedish Education Institutions (SUHF). This is stated in the current open access policy for KI, where it also says that “KI encourages its researchers to make their publications to the greatest possible extent freely available...”. In the current policy you can read more about how KI supports the promotion of open access. The Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions gave its endorsement as early as in December 2004.

In recent years, the discussion has tended to be more about the practical changes involved, namely the implementation of an open access scholarly publication system. The National Library of Sweden has held the appropriation directive from the Swedish Government to produce recommendations for implementation. The aim of the recommendations is to support the research community’s various stakeholders with the structural and cultural changes required in order to achieve the goal of open access.

The recommendations are, first and foremost, aimed at researchers, universities, research funders, as well as the government and authorities. Each stakeholder plays a specific role, with its own responsibilities, driving forces and dilemmas. The National Library emphasizes in particular the importance of everyone contributing to the fulfilment of the government's explicit goal of open access to research results. We at KI are therefore an important part of this transition.

The second recommendation, as well as the first, involves research merit ratings. This recommendation targets the role played by peer reviewers and experts in examining applications. Here at KI, as well as at other national and international universities there are experts appointed to examine and assess applications for hiring, tenure, and promotion as well as make decisions for funding distribution. The importance of the applicant having made his or her publications openly available should be emphasized and rewarded in future guidelines and training for peer reviewers and experts.

It is also necessary for all stakeholders to follow up on actual compliance with the guidelines on open access publication. The National Library’s report shows a problematic discrepancy between guidelines and policies on the one hand and the scientific community’s practice on the other. More active work with those appointed as peer reviewers and expert examiners is therefore encouraged, both before and after an application.

Recommendation 2 reads as follows: The universities and funders' policies for quality-controlled open access should be included and explained in the guidelines for and training of peer reviewers and experts.

Find out more about the description of and argument in favour of this recommendation in the report: Meriterings- och medelstilldelningssystemen i relation till incitament för öppen tillgång (only in Swedish).

All blog posts in this series

Henrik Schmidt (on leave)

Librarian engaged in research support in various forms. Teaches doctoral students and researchers in areas related to literature search, publishing strategies and publication analysis.