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Move It Forward: UC Davis Library advances plan for open access scholarly publishing

The UC Davis Library is advancing Move It Forward, a project that promises to make big strides for open access scholarly publishing.

Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Move it Forward is investigating how publishers and research universities might economically and expeditiously switch to open access scholarly publishing models where the public can freely access journal articles.

“The UC Davis Library and leaders from many other public universities around the country are committed to increasing open access. Providing equitable access to information, including research results, is a core value of libraries. Open access to research makes for better research and more benefits to the public of that research, ” said MacKenzie Smith, university librarian and vice provost of digital scholarship, and co-investigator of the Move It Forward project.

“But how the transition will occur from existing publishing models is one of the major obstacles to reforming scholarly communications. The UC Davis Library has taken a leadership role in leading this discussion and finding an answer to this really big question.”

Transitioning to a new publishing model

Move It Forward is the successor project to Pay It Forward — a 2015-16 study that investigated the institutional costs of converting scholarly journals to a business model supported by article processing charges, or APCs, a common method of funding open access publication.

In the hypothetical world imagined by Pay It Forward, the existing scholarly publishing model would flip from one where the public pays to access an article through a journal subscription to a system where the investigator, research organization or publisher would pay the costs associated with publishing the article.

While this model is promising in many respects, the potential cost increases could be significant for major research universities that publish hundreds or thousands of scholarly articles a year. Pay It Forward concluded that a flipped model should work economically for most North American research institutions, but it did not chart a path forward to realizing the change. Move it Forward is focused on developing that path forward.

“We realize that making this transition is not a trivial thing,” said Michael Wolfe, scholarly communications officer for the UC Davis Library and co-investigator on the Move It Forward project. “It’s a complete change of the business model. We are optimistic about the project, but also realistic. We hope to demonstrate that a completely open access model is realizable within the realities of scholarly publishing. Move It Forward looks to better understand how publishers might most effectively move toward the flipped model.”

Accepting applications for publisher participants

The UC Davis Library recently began seeking applications from publishers who are interested in transitioning their scholarly journals to open access models, but face challenges preventing them from doing so. Following a competitive review process, the library anticipates hosting up to 25 interested representatives from publishers of scholarly journals for a one-and-a-half day workshop and discussion to take place June 21-22 in Oakland, California. (Click here to apply.)

“We want to learn from publishers and find out what is missing in order for them to more easily make the transition to this new model. From there, we can work to develop a plan to help them make the change,” Wolfe said.

Seeking a variety of challenges

According to Wolfe, the goal is to engage with publishers facing a variety of challenges in order to create a more holistic and robust final report. This, he said, will help ensure the project will produce a more comprehensive plan for publishers to use going forward when making the transition to an open access model.

“We are seeking perspectives from a diversity of publishers occupying different niches in the system,” Wolfe said. “We think that having a collaborative approach will help us move toward the best solutions and will show us that building a truly open access scholarly publishing environment is possible.”


Open Access and Scholarly Publishing