Open for Climate Justice: The Impact of Open Access Transformative Agreements

By: Guest contributor, Tue Oct 25 2022

Author: Guest contributor

Tackling the climate crisis requires rapidly exchanging knowledge across geographic, economic, and disciplinary boundaries – something that open access has the power to facilitate. This year, the theme for Open Access Week is ‘Open for climate justice’ and to mark this, we spoke to researchers who’ve published open access climate research under Springer Nature’s Transformative Agreements. In this post, we explore their views on open access and look more closely at the power of Transformative Agreements to make open access more accessible.

Across the globe and across scientific disciplines urgent research is being undertaken to study, understand, and mitigate the impact of climate change. This cross-disciplinary effort bridges subjects from climate policy, social impact and meteorology to food production, physics, chemistry, and more.

As well as highlighting this work through a curated collection of research, for Open Access (OA) Week 2022, we’ve been speaking to researchers across different disciplines and countries about their research and how OA publishing can make a difference.

Reaching marginalized groups

A subject touched on by many of the researchers we spoke to was the fact that climate change disproportionately affects countries in the Global South, and often those with fewer resources. Here, OA has a vital role to play in ensuring research reaches the people who need its insights most. 

“The regions of focus in my research would have limited access to the results and recommendations without open access publication…”

“My work focuses on regions of the world that are highly marginalized and face extreme changes in the current climate crisis,” says Johann Stiepani, a PhD candidate at Uppsala University in Sweden who is studying the sustainability of tropical coastal ecosystems. “The articles I produce focus on regional solutions to environmental policy, management, and governance. The regions of focus in my research would have limited access to these results and recommendations without open access publication. I believe the ability to get research to society and to people should be one of the highest priorities for researchers, universities, and publishers.”

“OA publishing is a core element of climate justice”

“For me, OA publishing is a core element of climate justice,” adds Dr Daniel Balting, a doctoral researcher at the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, part of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. “In order for us all to assess how the climate is changing, we need findings from science. Science, in turn, is obliged to provide barrier-free access to precisely this knowledge. Knowledge must be available to all in order to enable a fair and balanced discourse.”

“Considering climate change is a global responsibility, investing in open access – both by institutions and publishers – in the Global North is one way in which we can make sure those most affected still benefit from the research,” agrees Professor David FJ Campbell, researcher and lecturer at the University for Continuing Education Krems (UWK) and Associate Professor in Political Science at the University of Vienna.

Minimising the risk of repetition and enhancing reproducibility

Another theme that emerged from our interviews was ensuring that work on such a vital topic as the climate crisis isn’t repeated unnecessarily due to researchers being unable to access published research. The researchers also felt that having research published OA ensured greater reproducibility.

“It minimizes the risk of repetition of similar work and therefore misuse of resources”

“Climate justice is directly impacting the general public,” says Professor Mihri Ozkan, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Riverside. “Getting access to work related to climate justice not only educates people but also means the most up-to-date research results can be shared with others in the field. It minimizes the risk of repetition of similar work and therefore misuse of resources.”

“By making our work more freely available to other researchers, including those from low-income countries, as well as journalists and interested readers, we are making the research process more inclusive,” adds Oliver Hauser, an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Exeter Business School in the UK. “It also enables reproducibility and encourages discussion with a wider, more diverse audience that can dive into, learn from, and constructively critique our research.”

Boosting the impact of research

All the researchers we spoke to were in agreement that publishing OA had increased the impact of their research, both within the academic community and wider society.

“I know that my research will have reached more people by publishing open access,” says Dr Macarena Larrea Basterra, a researcher in the Energy and Environmental Lab at the University of Deusto in Spain. “Researchers can more easily locate and read my articles and that encourages new research in the field. I believe publishing open access has also increased the social impact of my research.”

“OA is advantageous for researchers as it allows them to advance and progress both in their research and professionally”

“I was very positively surprised by the impact of our open access publication,” adds Dr Daniel Balting. “Especially for me as a young scientist, the interest was overwhelming on many levels: on the main page of the journal alone, the publication was accessed over 6,000 times within the last few months. On top of that, there is also the number of views of shared versions, which is made possible by OA. And the article has already been cited seven times since its publication in December 2021. What makes me particularly happy, however, is that we were even contacted by private individuals who wanted to know more details or had questions. This shows how successful an OA publication can be.”

“To maximize the societal impact of research, it is important to have quick access to the results of published work to facilitate timely discussions and feedback,” says Professor Mihri Ozkan. “In this regard, OA is advantageous for researchers as it allows them to advance and progress both in their research and professionally.”

The power of Transformative Agreements

l the researchers we spoke to had published their research under one of Springer Nature’s Transformative Agreements (TAs), meaning all or part of their publication costs were covered by their institution. These agreements enable participating institutions to combine journal subscription access along with OA publication costs. In addition to managing the cost and administration of OA, TAs offer authors an easy way to comply with funders’ OA requirements.

“I've personally benefited a lot from the Austrian Transformative Agreement,” says Professor David FJ Campbell. “So I would hope that this agreement will continue and that other researchers will have access to similar agreements. And I think that higher education institutions should be taking open access fees into account in budget calculations.”

“Administrative procedures are reduced to a minimum and at the same time, there are no complicated payment procedures”

“The Projekt DEAL agreement makes OA publications much easier and less complicated for us scientists,” adds Dr Daniel Balting. “Administrative procedures, which are necessary for every publication, are reduced to a minimum and at the same time, there are no complicated payment procedures.”

“As Springer Nature is one of the most influential publishers in the world, especially with their flagship Nature journal and many major book titles, it is of particular significance that they have signed on to the Jisc Transformative Agreement,” says Professor Oliver Hauser. “It is thanks to such agreements that it is possible for me to publish my work via OA in Springer Nature journals, and I’m grateful to have been able to take advantage of this OA option."

Find out more about Springer Nature’s Transformative Agreements. And read about how we’re advancing open access publishing.

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Author: Guest contributor

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