Arguments for Open Access to Research Results
This text was first published on 15 March 2013 in Le Monde by sixty professionals belonging to the community of higher education and research: university presidents, directors of several Maisons des Sciences de l’Homme, publishers, representatives of journals, representatives of university libraries, professors and researchers. The call is open to everyone: engineers, scholars, students, information professionals, librarians, journalists, etc.
In July 2012, the European Commission issued a recommendation on Open Access (i.e. free for the readers) publication of the results of publicly funded scientific research. The Commission believes that such a measure is necessary to increase the visibility of European research before 2020, by gradually suppressing the barriers between readers and scientific papers, after a possible embargo period from six to twelve months. Latin America has been benefiting from this approach for ten years after the development of powerful platforms for Open Access journals. Scielo and Redalyc, which together host almost 2000 journals, have considerably increased their visibility thanks to their Open Access policy: the Brazilian portalScielo now has more traffic than the US-based JSTOR. Such examples show that Open Access changes the balance of power in a world dominated by groups which hold thousands of (mostly English-language) journals: it paves the way to what could be called a real “bibliodiversity”, since it enables the emergence of a plurality of viewpoints, modes of publication, scientific paradigms, and languages.
Some French editors of journals in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) have expressed their concern with regard to this recommendation, which they saw as a threat to a vulnerable business model. However, a thorough assessment of the sector would be required to provide a true cost-benefit analysis: one should shed light on its funding sources and modes, both direct and indirect, public and private, and determine the roles the various actors play in this field, pinpointing the added value brought about by each of them.