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Open Access Week 2019: Getting the ECR perspective

Open for whom?

So this was this year’s Open Access Week. We hope you all enjoyed it and gave the development of open access (OA) a special thought. This time the theme for the week was “Open for Whom? Equity in Open Knowledge”, certainly a relevant question for ECRs around the world.  As a not yet established researcher with own funding and projects, the cost for publishing in respected OA journals can be quite high, while it’s for free (at least for the individual researcher) in a traditional subscription based  journal. Publishing in a renowned OA journal may cost over $5000 per paper. Some institution have publisher agreements with OA journals to publish for free, but otherwise it’s a high cost for the individual researchers to bear, especially in smaller research projects without majors grants. This has become even more problematic where OA publishing in many cases have become a mandate of taxpayer-funded research and in policies like Plan S. Of the about 3 million articles published every year around one third is now available through open access in over 33 000 peer reviewed English language journals. OA research has surged from as few as 523 articles in 2001 to as much as 45% of all new research publications.

Change is coming

Today, we have to navigate coexisting models of traditional publishing and OA, where universities not only pay for the license but also make the research available through fees for OA, known as an article processing charge (APC), which has spurred a rapid increase of costs for both reading and publishing. This has lead to national university consortiums and state universities in many countries have terminated their subscriptions with certain publishers because of an unsatisfying traditional subscription-based price model. This means that researchers no longer have access to the publishers’s journals, which could affect ECRs especially hard. While, boycotting traditional publishers could be a first step, this has to be followed by some real engagement to also support open infrastructure and systemic reforms.

What’s next?

There are however things to be done and things have been done. PLOS, starting as a nonprofit open access publisher in 2001 offer fee-assistance programs for authors who lack the funding, particularly for researchers in low and middle-income countries. But these programs don’t cover every researcher or every paper. At the same time we still have the problem of still emerging questionable “predatory” OA journals with lax, or even absence of, peer-reviewing in order to guarantee a fast track to a published paper. This need to be stopped. Today, respected journals move increasingly towards transparency. PLOS introduced their Data Availability policy in 2013, requiring all authors to make their data accessible upon acceptance, but also implemented tools to allow researchers to share additional elements of their research such as protocols and code. PLOS will also be starting a new blog series to demonstrate how to advance by making science more Open – to every demographic, every discipline, and every career stage. For more information on OA Week and PLOS, also check The Official PLOS Blog.

Now, we want to hear from you 

Finally, we would like to hear from you and therefore call on ECRs all over the world to share their stories and experiences with OA. Have you ever considered or published in an OA journal? What prompted you to do so or what hindered you? Are you encouraged by your university to prioritize OA journals or is it of you own choosing. Are funders stipulating where to publish? Please share your OA experiences with us by contacting us at

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