Drexel’s Open Access Agreements Expand Equitable Access to Research | The Triangle

Drexel’s Open Access Agreements Expand Equitable Access to Research

On Jan. 29, Drexel University negotiated transformative agreements with six major publishers: Elsevier, The Royal Society of Chemistry, Springer Nature, Company of Biologists, Association of Computing Machinery and the Institute of Physics. Following these agreements, Drexel researchers have the option to publish their work “open access” for free or for a reduced charge in more than four thousand select journals. 

These agreements are expected to increase the number of Drexel researchers able to publish open access and, consequently, the accessibility of Drexel research worldwide. 

According to Hannah Purtymun, a discovery librarian at Hagerty Library, 18 researchers have already taken advantage of these agreements and have saved a total of over $50,000 in article processing charges. 

Drexel is an R1 research university, meaning many of our faculty and students publish research in scientific or nature journals controlled by publishers who often dominate entire fields of research. Most articles are published closed access, meaning that they can only be accessed through a library that pays annual subscription fees to their publisher. This blocks access to many scientists, policy makers and members of the public who would benefit from the published information. 

This is a system largely left over from an age of physical publications, when libraries necessarily acted as liaisons between scientific publishers and the general public, and publishing fees covered the cost of physically printing articles. As these publications moved online, researchers recognized the transformative impact on the industry and held several international conferences to discuss the aims of an online publishing space, which culminated in the Berlin Declaration in 2003. The Berlin Declaration, which has been signed by over 300 research institutions, libraries, archives, museums, funding agencies and governments from around the world, called for open access of all scientific information. Now more than 20 years later, this has still not been realized. 

Since the Berlin Declaration, all journals are required to allow researchers to publish their work with open access. However, they charge article processing charges for this option, which range from $3,000 to over $10,000. These fees are intended to cover editing costs, but it is generally understood that they are unnecessary

According to Shelby Rinehart, an assistant professor in the Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science, “The fees can get pretty astronomical and unless you’ve got some sort of system with your university, it falls on the faculty to pay that out of grant money.” 

$10,000 is a financial burden to almost all labs, but it is especially prohibitive in labs with smaller grants. 

“A lot of people end up forced to publish in closed journals because they don’t have the money,” said Rinehart. 

While there are still many journals that are not a part of these new agreements, Drexel “hopes to continue to find ways to remove barriers to making research freely available,” according to Purtymun.