No more paywalls: Open Access as of 2020

President of the National Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), Matthias Egger reveals the organisation’s exciting new open access policy in this interview

Based on a decision by the National Research Council in 2017, all publications produced in SNSF-funded projects will be available in digital format without any charges as of 2020. Science, the economy and society at large stand to benefit.

It isn’t just the research that’s expensive, its findings are also far from free. Some university libraries pay hundreds of thousands of francs per year to prestigious publishers for their scientific journals. All in all, the Swiss higher education institutions paid 70 million francs for such licenses in 2017. This paywall hampers the spread and application of new knowledge.

Even though a significant share of scientific publications is government-funded, it is the private publishing companies that reap the commercial benefits. For the SNSF, an absurd state of affairs to say the least. “Research results funded with public money belongs to the public,” says Matthias Egger, the President of the National Research Council. All SNSF projects are therefore obliged to offer open access (OA) to the scientific articles and books produced in the scope of the project.

From 50% to 100%

Only 50% of publications currently meet the open access requirements of free, unrestricted availability in digital form. But, based on a decision by the National Research Council, the SNSF wants to change this to 100% of publications by 2020. Matthias Egger sees many advantages: “The researchers themselves stand to benefit the most from open access: their results will gain greater visibility. And they will be able to access their colleagues’ work without any restrictions. It will be a step forward for science.” What is more, thanks to open access, the private sector and society at large will be able to rapidly retrieve and utilise a wealth of scientific knowledge.

Gold and green road

How do researchers meet the open access requirements? Either they publish their results in OA journals or OA books that are immediately freely accessible. This is the gold road.

Or they publish their results in a journal with a paywall first, then place them in a public database after six months. Books are subject to an embargo period of 12 months. This is the green road.

In the case of gold road publications, the authors often contribute to the production costs. The SNSF has already been covering the costs of OA articles for some time. It has also covered the costs of OA books since April 2018 and will do so for book chapters as of October 2018.

The Swiss standard as of 2024

The SNSF’s new open access policy goes hand in hand with the national strategy pursued by the Swiss higher education institutions. In 2017, they decided that all publicly funded publications must be freely accessible by 2024. Open access will soon be the standard mode of publication, in Switzerland and the world over.

“Research findings funded with public money belongs to the public”, Matthias Egger concludes.

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