Richard Poynder Interview with UCLA University Librarian Ginny Steel on Open Access

A couple of weeks ago, Richard Poynder interviewed Virginia (“Ginny”) Steel, Norman and Armena Powell University Librarian at UCLA on open access. Ginny Steel is also the past chair of ARL’s Advocacy and Policy Committee and chair of the SPARC Steering Committee. She is, of course, deeply knowledgeable and thoughtful about open access—Poynder notes in the introduction to the interview, “In contrast to many OA advocates in Europe, Steel’s views on open access are nuanced and undogmatic”—and the entire interview (the PDF of which runs 24 pages, including Poynder’s intro) is well worth reading. The interview covers a range of OA topics from goals, current challenges, specifics related to University of California actions, publishers and more.

While I do recommend reading the full interview, here are a few highlights:

Ginny notes that while there are numerous OA models, including ones currently under development, it is important to evaluate these models and determine how they serve the ultimate goals of OA:

What’s really important and needs to be carefully evaluated . . . is 1) who controls the copyright of the content, 2) to whom is reading access provided, and 3) is there equity in the opportunities to publish for researchers in institutions or parts of the world that are not able to provide the level of financial support available in Europe and North America.

The ultimate goal of OA is to allow open sharing of research results in a way that offers equal opportunities for researchers around the world to publish, reserves effective peer review, allows authors to retain control over their work, allows worldwide reading access, and provides a sustainable financial model that covers the costs of publishing . . . It’s still very much a work in progress, and there are competing interests that make these conversations difficult.

Ginny’s statement points to the important issue of copyright because it is the copyright owner who chooses to make a work OA. Additionally, while a publisher with copyright ownership over an article might consent to open access so that a reader can read the text itself, it could try and limit other uses (such as text-and-data mining) particularly for licensed, born digital content.

Thus, the importance of academy controlled, rather than publisher controlled, content in ensuring meaningful open access. Ginny points out that new business models need to be developed and that these models will vary based on disciplinary needs. In addition to referencing the UC’s “Pathways to OA” document, she points to “a small group of members of the Association of Research Libraries is working on ‘Academy-owned OA’ (AO-OA) and is partnering with a handful of professional societies and disciplinary repositories to explore new models to move away from subscription-based models dominated by commercial publishers.”

In the final question, Poynder asks about preprint servers and Ginny responds with an “optimistic” view, while again emphasizing the importance of academy retaining control:

Actually I’m optimistic about the potential of preprint servers becoming full-scale platforms that provide access to preprints, peer-reviewed content, and underlying datasets.

If the academy builds open tools that result in a ‘Sustainable Knowledge Commons’ and there is widespread collaboration with professional societies, I would hope that governance models would ensure that control is retained by the academy and the content creators.

But there will have to be a deep institutional commitment to not cede control.