Open access to research

In the future we will publish research openly

Svenska 2016-04-20

The global scientific community shall also become a communication society without paywalls and technical barriers. This is the vision of Brian Hole, researcher and founder of the open access publishing company Ubiquity Press.

There were several factors that led to the founding of Ubiquity Press. To begin with, Brian Hole himself worked at one of the big publishing companies, Elsevier, before he began a PhD in archaeology at University College of London (UCL).

As a doctoral student, he discovered that it was difficult for researchers within smaller fields of research, such as his own, to distribute their articles. Nor was it always easy to gain access to the research of others; not even his own university had subscriptions to all the relevant journals within the field.

During his field studies in India, he noticed that very few researchers have access to scientific literature and that it is difficult to publish their results.

“My research is, in a way, also about access. I’m investigating, among other things, how the local population in India interacts with and is influenced by world heritage, and I have concluded that the local population is often left out of the planning.”

Open access publishing by the big publishers can cost a lot, several thousand dollars. Ubiquity Press must be profitable as a company but have adopted the philosophy that they would rather enrich the researchers and the general public than their own wallets. Therefore, the fees for publication are low, only a tenth or even less compared with those charged by, for example, Elsevier or Springer.

“We only charge for the actual publication instead of taking over the rights and then charging for the distribution. We see this as a long term investment and are confident that open access is the future of scientific publishing.”

A catalyst for others

Ubiquity Press publishes numerous scientific journals within the humanities, social sciences and medicine, but also scientific books. The interest in the publication of books in particular has increased enormously, according to Brian Hole.

An important part of the business is to offer other publishers a platform and tools for open access publishing, for example, Stockholm University Press and several other university publishers around the world. This particular type of cooperation may be a way to build a global communication society within academia, says Brian Hole.

“We see ourselves as a catalyst, we want to make other publishers as successful as possible. In this way we can reach our goal of contributing to the transition to open publishing.”

Brian Hole says that some journals are breaking away from their current publishers and switching to Ubiquity. Researchers in the so-called new research countries in Asia and Latin America are also looking for new ways to publish. In order to cater to the demand across the Atlantic, Ubiquity Press will open an office in California later this year.

Share everything

Open access is closely related to concepts such as open data and open science, which means that you also share research data and different methods and tools.

“These are important principles for being able to repeat experiments and build on them, and for metastudies. But also, for example, to enable policy makers, journalists and teachers to use data in their professions,” explains Brian Hole.

Ubiquity Press has launched several papers for metastudies that encourage researchers to share everything – data, software and methods.

“As it is now, many people are shut out from accessing scientific results; it prevents the communication of research, both within academia and in society. Publishers should not represent an obstacle; in the end, it is a matter of democracy and justice.”

Ability to collaborate becomes a merit

In the appointment of academic positions and allocation of research grants, it is currently not only important that the researcher is published, but also in which journal. Brian Hole believes that this will change.

“Publication in open access journals could eventually lead to more citations, as more people have access to and can share the results.”

He also believes that characteristics such as being able to collaborate and share will be seen as a merit in future applications.

“You build up a network by being open and sharing, not by hiding your research. A large, international network is more important than a citation index.”

Own thesis under lock and key

Brian Hole himself only publishes according to the guidelines for open access and frequently turns down offers to write for scientific journals if they are behind a paywall. He says that he would lose his credibility, especially since Brian Hole is often asked to write about open access.

His own thesis, which will be completed later this year, is a concern however. In the UK, it is not customary to publish theses through a publishing company, and they therefore do not receive a so-called DOI (Digital Object Identifier). This makes it impossible to monitor how the thesis is cited.

“I’ve started to talk to the British Library about this. These type of problems crop up all the time. Unfortunately, it seems that my thesis will be unavailable to most researchers.”

Change for the better

But things have already changed, he reminds us. In the 1990s, when Brian Hole began his university studies, his scientific reading was confined to what was on the shelves of the library. Now it is much easier to access information and it will only get better.

“The younger generation has a different approach to sharing, and for them it will be easier to adapt to open access.”
Pressure from governments and research financiers is also increasing, and it is obvious that there is going to be a system and paradigm shift, says Brian Hole.

“The research community is changing, and if the big publishers do not take into account the researchers’ wishes, the publishers will lose ground.”

Text: Natalie von der Lehr
Photo: Thinkstock