Why it’s essential to address the administrative barriers of publishing open access

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The Source
By: Roza Sakellaropoulou, Sun Oct 18 2020

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Roza Sakellaropoulou

Author: Roza Sakellaropoulou

We are celebrating this year’s open access (OA) week by talking to a number of researchers from Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden who have chosen to publish their work open access. We are discussing the reasons behind their choice, the benefits they have seen for their research and career, and the role that institutions as well as transformative agreements can have in assisting with funding. Here, Dr. Love Dalén, Professor in evolutionary genetics at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, shares his thoughts.

This year’s OA week theme is “Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion”. What is the role of OA in addressing equity and inclusion and what more can be done?

I’m not sure I know exactly what these terms mean, but when it comes to reading papers, OA is clearly important for the inclusion of scientists in institutions that cannot afford subscriptions to journals. Conversely, I think OA can also be a problem for such researchers when they themselves want to publish their own paper. Even though many journals offer to waive the OA fee for researchers from low-income countries, it is my understanding that this involves some administrative barriers. Also, since there is no guarantee beforehand that the journal will actually agree to waive the fee, I suspect that researchers that are unsure if they could pay for OA will hesitate to submit their manuscripts to OA journals.

Can you please tell us a bit more about your research and your published article?

In this paper, we used radiocarbon dating and genomics to investigate a remarkably well-preserved frozen bird carcass found in the Siberian permafrost. We could show that it belonged to a species called the horned lark, and that it was ca 46,000 years old. Interestingly, this specimen seems to have belonged to a population that was ancestral to two different subspecies that exist today, suggesting that these subspecies evolved as a consequence of the climatic changes that took place at the end of the last ice age.

Why did you choose to publish OA? What are the benefits? 

I think the main advantage of publishing OA is that the paper is immediately available to both scientists and the general public. In the longer term, publishing OA will also likely lead to papers being cited more (i.e. the findings will be used by other scientists to a larger extent).

What are some of the challenges you face as part of research promotion? What has been the impact of publishing OA on your research and career potentially?

When you publish a scientific paper, you want it to be read by as many as possible so that they can make use of the results. Promoting the paper is one way to achieve this, and if the paper is OA I think it is more likely to be accessed by others. Having an OA paper also makes it much easier to disseminate through social media and your own webpage.

Have you published OA before? What has been your experience so far with OA? How easy is it to publish OA? Were there any challenges?

Yes, we have published OA frequently in the past. I think it is a good experience overall, but in the past it has also been prohibitively expensive to do this for some papers.

How did you identify funds to publish OA? How easy is it to get funding?

In recent years, Stockholm University has ear-marked funding to cover OA fees. Also, the BIBSAM consortium has agreements with several publishers, meaning that for the majority of journals we now can publish OA without any cost for our specific research projects. This is very important, since research projects (e.g. funded by a research council) are quite limited. Making individual researchers pay for OA from their own budgets will only create an incentive to try and publish less papers, and that is not to the benefit of anyone. As it is right now, the system is working really well in Sweden.

Do you think OA is important in your subject area and if so why?

Yes, I think several of our papers are of broad enough interest that not only specialists (who typically work at institutions that have a subscription) are interested in reading them. For example, in the paper about the ancient bird carcass, I know that many ornithologists were interested in reading the paper. If the paper had not been OA, many of these ornithologists would have been unable to read it.

Why did you choose Springer Nature or the particular journal to publish OA?

The Springer Nature group has a very good reputation, and we considered Communications Biology to have both broad enough scope and a suitable format for this type of paper.

What would be your advice to others thinking of publishing OA?

I think that if you have the opportunity, publishing OA can only be a good thing.

How have you benefited from the agreement between BIBSAM and Springer Nature? What has been your experience with the publication process and ease of choosing OA?

Since the BIBSAM agreement was put in place, it has become much easier to publish OA. The BIBSAM agreement has definitely made us more prone to choose an OA journal.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

There has been a lot of discussion from the funding agencies in Sweden (as well as the EU) that they would like to force researchers to always publish OA (indeed, many funding agencies now have this as a requirement). I think this is the wrong way to go. Scientists should, under the principle of academic freedom, be allowed to choose where their results are published. 


Dr. Love Dalén’s article was published under the OA agreement between BIBSAM and Springer Nature. This agreement means that authors affiliated with participating institutions can publish OA with their fees covered, in more than 600 fully OA journals and 1,850 hybrid journals across the Springer Nature portfolio. 

Learn more about open access and open research and discover the options offered at Springer Nature.


About Dr. Love Dalén

Love Dalén is a Professor in evolutionary genetics at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. He leads a research group focused on the use of ancient DNA to investigate the ecology and evolution in wild animals. He is particularly interested in exploring the impact of past environmental change on the distribution and abundance of various animals, as well as understanding the genetic consequences of small population size as species approach the brink of extinction. His research group works on genomic data from a broad range of both extinct species such as woolly mammoths, cave lions and woolly rhinos, and species that have survived until present, for example wolves, lemmings and arctic foxes.

Roza Sakellaropoulou

Author: Roza Sakellaropoulou

Roza is a Brand Engagement and Marketing Manager in the Open Research team, and she is based in London. Letting the research community and especially researchers know about the benefits that open research has is her main focus.