Open access for scholarly publications, part 4 – Follow up

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 Swedish Government has formulated a goal to make research results financed via public funds immediately accessible to everyone. This is stated in the latest research bill (only in Swedish). Open science promotes knowledge development as well as collaboration with society. It also facilitates for all organisations, companies and citizens to participate in the scientific progress. Yet it is seldom enough to formulate goals in government proposals. In order to ensure that the goals are reached, actions must be formulated and implemented and frequently followed-up on. Effective governance can only be ensured by follow-ups together with a structure of incentives (carrot and, eventually, stick). ”Follow-up and evaluation on a national level are important tools in the government’s management of research politics.” (quote from the research bill)

Many Swedish organisations, public as well as private ones, have supported recommendations around open access to scientific publications. The Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions (SUHF) has endorsed the Berlin Declaration, which as early as 2003 formulated goals for open access. Karolinska Institutet has signed the declaration through SUHF. However, progress does not occur at a desirable pace. The graph below is a compilation from the National Library of Sweden (KB) that shows that barely 40% of all articles published at Swedish universities and university colleges during 2017 are available through open access channels. 30% are in repositories, 17% published in fully open access journals (OA Gold), and 13% are publications in hybrid journals.



In order to increase the pace of transition, and get closer towards the stated goals, a more precise folllow-up strategy is needed. An official report from the Swedish Government, presented in February 2019, describes suggestions on how the steering of and resource allocation to universities and university colleges should be designed. In the report (only in Swedish), the importance of open access to scientific publications is emphasized. The report also suggests that indicators previously used at follow-up, such as number of scientific publications, citations or external grant funding, all have their limits and ought to be replaced. The report sees the need to develop indicators that take into account the political goals and the development of society and academia. As example of the latter, they point at the transition towards open access publishing. It is suggested that appointed authorities should be responsible for dialogue and follow-up.

Many research funders have tightened their routines in terms of follow-up. An example is the Wellcome Trust, which retains portions of promised funds if the recipient does not meet the conditions for open publication, the so-called "10 per cent retention policy". This is also an important principle for the funders who are part of Plan S. One of the portal principles is namely to follow-up on how well recipients meet the requirements for open publication and sanction non-compliant beneficiaries/grantees.

The reports, presented by KB in the spring of 2019, concerning the transition to an open access scholarly publication system, recommend that follow-up and quality assurance of the universities must be done with due regard to the implementation of open access. This may increase the incentive at the universities to follow the development and promote immediate open access publication. The recommendations are 16 in number. The fourth is thus about follow-up.

Recommendation 4 reads as follows: That the relevant authority is instructed by the government to assess the quality assurance of the universities' activities partly based on the implementation of open access and open science.

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.