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# The academic, economic and societal impacts of Open Access: an evidence-based review

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### Summary

At an ‘Open Science Meetup‘ in Berlin, held in the basement bar of a local brewery, one of the attendees asked us all a simple hypothetical question: ‘If I was a research funder going through our budget and saw that we were spending millions on Open Access (OA), how would you justify that expense to me?’ You might think people attending an Open Science meetup would have all the answers to this. Heck, even I thought I should be able to answer that! But we actually failed. Each of us made our individual cases, and we failed. Our answers were incoherent and lacking in convincing evidence. I couldn’t even convince myself at the time, and would like to think Open Access is one of the things I know a bit about.

And when you think about it, it’s a very good question. I bet every one of you could give me an answer to this off the top of your heads. Something about OA increasing citations, or being good for copyright, or because access to knowledge is a human right, or how it saves money, or because your funder told you to, or whatever. But how do you make a convincing, comprehensive, evidence-informed answer to this question? It’s difficult.

So I took the same question to OpenCon in Brussels, an event for students and early career researchers to spearhead the ‘open movement’. Everyone I asked failed there too. I pretended to be an impartial funder, and asked the OA advocates present to justify OA to me. And we all failed. Small chunks of useful evidence, but overall incoherent, and underwhelming. This little experiment told me that there’s too much varied information, and too few of us who are well-informed enough, to have consistently reasonable, progressive, and evidence-based discussions around OA. I want people to be as well informed as possible about the issues, so that we can have reasonable policies, rational discussions, civil debate, and progressive decision making in the scholarly publishing ecosystem.

So how do you fix this? The world of ‘open’ is complex and multi-dimensional, with evidence mixing with anecdote, fear combating against data, and misinformation blending with reality. If OA was a simple issue, we’d have resolved it already. The fact remains that the global research community remains largely disorganised with respect to OA, as some like Richard Poynder have pointed out recently*. The reasons for this are likely as multi-faceted as the problem itself, but one point in this sticks out: OA ‘advocates’ need to take responsibility for the ‘open movement.’ I wrote a bit about this and accountability in a previous post here, and this is very much a related issue. But part of solving this issue entails equipping ourselves with sufficient knowledge to make the case for open.

So we wrote a paper. I started it after OpenCon, and put out a public call for contributors through my social channels. Anyone could join at any point. Initially it was just a Google Doc where people could contribute sources, but then I shifted it to Overleaf, a public collaboration platform that uses latex and a version control system to seamlessly integrate contributions from multiple authors at once. So it was an entirely open process, and a cadre of awesome people joined me. Mostly PhD students, but also a librarian! Each contributed their own perspectives, and watching the paper organically evolve was a magical experience.

I set out to ‘make the case for open’, and it ended up being a multi-dimensional critical review with contributions from around the world. We ended up discussing copyright law, issues with OA in the ‘Global South’, innovating beyond traditional publishing models, the cost of OA, and the need for OA in fueling society, the global economy, and research. People offered comments on Twitter, via email, and on annotations on PDF versions of the article as it was being written. The process was open and dynamic, and it totally rocked!

And we ended up with something I hope you all think is pretty awesome, and which I hope will become a valuable resource for all involved in OA discussions. It was published with F1000 Research, with the submission taking about all of 5 minutes with Overleaf’s integration. It was accepted after about 2 days with a light copy edit, and published after being typeset about 9 days after submission. And as part of the Future of Scholarly Publishing channel, it was free too! (Why isn’t this the normal process for publishing, again?)

At the moment it’s awaiting formal peer review (F1000 Research uses a post-publication system, designed for open and rapid research communication. Again, awesome.). In the mean time, commenting is strongly encouraged! We’ve already been ‘Mounced’ in the comments, and I’d love more feedback. There are 5 referees looking at it already formally (yikes..), but that’s no reason why we can’t have everyone’s opinion, thoughts, and expertise influencing this paper. I’ll have to save a breakdown of the key points for another post, as this one is already hella long, but in the mean time we would all love any feedback (positive or negative, irrespective of who you are or who you work for), and if you could share the article with your friends and colleagues that’d be just swell.

We are stronger as a community if we take the responsibility to equip ourselves with the knowledge required to advocate for change.

So the final question is, is there a case for Open? You’re damn right there is (citation needed).

*I don’t agree with Richard on all of this, but he makes some pretty insightful points.

(source)

### Most cited references101

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### The Protein Data Bank.

(2000)
The Protein Data Bank (PDB; http://www.rcsb.org/pdb/ ) is the single worldwide archive of structural data of biological macromolecules. This paper describes the goals of the PDB, the systems in place for data deposition and access, how to obtain further information, and near-term plans for the future development of the resource.
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• Record: found
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### Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

(2005)
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• Record: found
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Is Open Access

### Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger

On September 14, 2015 at 09:50:45 UTC the two detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory simultaneously observed a transient gravitational-wave signal. The signal sweeps upwards in frequency from 35 to 250 Hz with a peak gravitational-wave strain of $$1.0 \times 10^{-21}$$. It matches the waveform predicted by general relativity for the inspiral and merger of a pair of black holes and the ringdown of the resulting single black hole. The signal was observed with a matched-filter signal-to-noise ratio of 24 and a false alarm rate estimated to be less than 1 event per 203 000 years, equivalent to a significance greater than 5.1 {\sigma}. The source lies at a luminosity distance of $$410^{+160}_{-180}$$ Mpc corresponding to a redshift $$z = 0.09^{+0.03}_{-0.04}$$. In the source frame, the initial black hole masses are $$36^{+5}_{-4} M_\odot$$ and $$29^{+4}_{-4} M_\odot$$, and the final black hole mass is $$62^{+4}_{-4} M_\odot$$, with $$3.0^{+0.5}_{-0.5} M_\odot c^2$$ radiated in gravitational waves. All uncertainties define 90% credible intervals.These observations demonstrate the existence of binary stellar-mass black hole systems. This is the first direct detection of gravitational waves and the first observation of a binary black hole merger.
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### Author and article information

###### Affiliations
[1 ]Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK
[2 ]Earth and Life Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
[3 ]Medical Biotechnology Center, VIB, Ghent, Belgium
[4 ]Department of Biochemistry, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
[5 ]University Library System, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
[6 ]Department of Methodology and Statistics, Tilburg University, Tilburg, Netherlands
[1 ]School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
[1 ]Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement, Edinburgh Napier University, Edinburgh, UK
[1 ]Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
[1 ]Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
[1 ]Neurobiology of Language Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Netherlands
###### Author notes

All authors contributed equally to the writing of this manuscript using the Overleaf collaborative writing platform.

Competing interests: JPT currently blogs for the PLOS Paleo Community, and works for ScienceOpen. CHJH is a Center for Open Science ambassador. DCJ and FW are members of the Open Access Working Group of EURODOC. PM is a Research Data Alliance member. LBC works for the University of Pittsburgh, which has an Open Access library publishing department. All views presented here are strictly personal.

###### Journal
F1000Res
F1000Res
F1000Research
F1000Research
F1000Research (London, UK )
2046-1402
11 April 2016
2016
: 5
27158456
4837983
10.12688/f1000research.8460.1

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

###### Funding
Funded by: European Commission Horizon 2020 Programme
Award ID: 634107 (PHC32-2014) ‘MULTIMOT’
This research was partly funded by the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research through a FRIA grant. PM acknowledges support from the European Commission Horizon 2020 Programme under Grant Agreement 634107 (PHC32-2014) ‘MULTIMOT’.
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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