Conclusions and Further Research

Faculty of Law, Ruhr University of Bochum, Bochum, Germany


In conclusion, there are several arguments to believe that the future of academic publishing should be open access. While Shavell (2010) finds that OA may strictly increase researcher’s incentives due to higher readership, our analysis also points to some countervailing effects of OA, especially when reconsidering Shavell’s assumption that most universities will cover the publication costs under an “author pays” model. We show that primarily due to rent seeking motives in the publishing game the incentives to exceed higher efforts may decrease. Nevertheless, we have stressed that this may just correct another distortion that the “publish or perish” environment in academia has enforced: namely the fact that “too many” papers are produced that are hardly ever read. Meho (2007) finds evidence for the fact that 90 % of all published papers are never cited and as many as 50 % of all papers are never read by anybody but the reviewer and the authors themselves. Moreover, we have pointed to the possible benefits but also the costs of OA publishing at the international level, especially when considering the position of developing countries.

The problem that the academic publishing market (but also other copyright industries) is facing is somewhat twofold: While digitalization has provided the means for a maximal access to information goods, it also offers with the technological means to maximize control over its content (Peukert 2013b, p. 15). In our historical reflection on the development of copyright we have seen that most recent reforms were primarily directed at serving the latter aspect. Accordingly, the introduction of so-called DRM technologies may have unilaterally improved the position of publishing houses (Hilty 2007). Nevertheless, we find many arguments why an abolishment of copyright—which lays the basis for an exclusive right on information goods—for academic works (Shavell 2010) is neither a feasible nor a reasonable solution. In this regard, we want to stress seven recommendations and provide an agenda for the steps ahead in shaping the future of academic publishing:


OA Mandate by Funding Agencies and Universities. As it is not only the government but also nonprofit funding agencies who largely fund scientific research, a contractual commitment of authors to provide OA to their publicly funded research results (OA mandate) seems to offer a reasonable starting point.1 We have seen several different forms of OA mandates. Obviously, to require authors of publicly funded research to submit to OA journals only (gold mandate) seems neither fair nor reasonable. In fact, the still low impact and hence reputation of OA journals as well as legal concerns originating in the “freedom to publish” principle of scientific research offer comprehensible arguments against such a gold mandate. Nevertheless, the “green road” of OA provides a feasible and reasonable alternative. Accordingly, funding agencies but also universities should condition their funding or employment contracts on the deposit of a copy of the final version2 of the publicly funded work in an online repository after an embargo period of 6–12 months after first publication.3 To ensure that all publicly funded research results are accessible in an online repository after the embargo period, only a rights-retention mandate—i.e. a mandate that allows to retain the nonexclusive right to authorize OA throughout online repositories (Suber 2012, p. 80)—seems appropriate.



Monitoring of OA Mandates. Extending on the first recommendation, only a monitoring of OA mandates will assure that authors actually self-archive their works. In this context, Stodden (2009) proposes the “Reproducible Research Standard” (RSS) as a possible solution. Similarly, other approaches revert to the option to require a deposit of an electronic version of each publicly funded paper at the national library. However, already Friedrich August von Hayek pointed to the several problems associated with the centralisation of knowledge.4 Accordingly, a decentralized solution seems more appropriate for monitoring OA mandates. Especially universities and research institutions constitute entities that do not only have the information needed but also the organizational means to monitor that their employees provide OA to their publicly funded research results as soon as possible and in an adequate format (post-print version). One could even argue that it should be the task of the faculties to monitor. A possible means to ease the monitoring process would be the implementation of an institutional repository for each university. Affiliated authors should then be required to deposit a copy of their final paper version on the university platform.5



Inalienable Right of Secondary Publication. The introduction of an “inalienable right of secondary publication” as a general limitation of copyright constitutes a reasonable means to complement the functioning of OA mandates. In particular, such an “inalienable right of secondary publication” would give the author more bargaining weight in her contractual relationships with publishers and constitutes a sufficient means for a retention of the non-exclusive right by the author (rights retention mandate). Of course, the majority of publishers has already realized the “spirit of the information age” and allow for some form of self-archiving.6 Nevertheless, it is left to the publisher whether an author may or may not self-archive a pre- and/or post-print version of her published paper. An “inalienable right of secondary publication” would ensure a more balanced relationship between publishers and authors. However, only in combination with an OA mandate such a policy would ensure the ability to achieve the actual goal of OA—immediate and unrestricted access to scientific knowledge.



International Copyright Law and the Reconceptualization of the Berne Three-Step Test. For achieving collective action in the legislative action of different national states and to avoid possible distortions between authors of different origin, a reform in the context of international law seems inevitable. We have seen that the rigidity of the current international copyright framework would necessarily impede the options for limiting the scope of copyright (e.g. by introducing an inalienable right of secondary publication)7 at the international level. In this regard, both a recodification of the international three-step test (in accordance to the US fair-use principle) in combination with a reform process that incorporates the needs of developing countries (by incorporating users’ rights provisions at the international level) is decisive for adjusting the international copyright framework to accommodate the needs of science.



Transnational Funding Agency. Our research has also pointed to possible distortions when shifting towards an OA regime. In particular, we have seen that researchers from developing countries may be restricted in their ability to bear the publication costs in an OA world.8 Many OA publishers have realized the dilemma of authors from developing countries and offer discounts or waivers to authors suffering from financial hardship. In the evolutionary process towards an OA regime as the future of academic publishing these basic insights should be taken into account. The implementation of a transnational funding agency as an entity for the coordination and redistribution of funds is an unavoidable consequence in this process. However, we do not see any argument for the funding of hybrid OA publications which do not follow the actual intention of OA but rather provide with an additional means for price discrimination. As a consequence, receipt of funding should be restricted to pure or true OA publications.



Reconsidering the Reward Structure in Science. We have also pointed to the prevailing “OA dilemma” in a world of two co-existing regimes (CA versus OA), where especially young researchers may be locked-in to the CA model due to the reputation advantage of established CA publishers. As a matter of fact, the dilemma that OA journals may be restricted in their ability to accumulate a sufficient level of reputation (chicken-egg problem) originates in the prevailing reward structure of science, i.e. the ways scholars receive credit for their performance. That is, the problem may somewhat be self-made. As a result, it should be in the interest of every scholar to induce a debate on a possible reconceptualization of the reward system, also to countervail against the negative effects that the “publish or perish” environment has caused. In particular, the debate should find ways to remunerate OA publications for the career concerns of researchers.



Create Awareness. Obviously, awareness about the general principles of OA will be needed to foster its evolution. Eger et al. (2013) show that the awareness about OA publishing differs considerably between disciplines and has explanatory power to explain its acceptance in particular fields. Consequently, more initiatives—like the OA weeks9—will be necessary to not only create awareness about OA but also to overcome prevalent prejudices against OA publishing.


Obviously, the transition towards a greater role of OA in the future of academic publishing will need time and thorough investigations of the various (unresolved) problems ahead. We have pointed to several open questions not only in the “copyright versus open access” debate, but especially in the international context and related topics involving aspects such as OA to data and digital libraries (e.g. Google Books).10 All of this leaves us with a promising road for further research and intriguing questions on our very own future.


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