Indian researchers outpace global spending on open access, face funding challenge

MUMBAI: Indian researchers shelled out US $17 million in 2020 to publish their work and keep it as open access. Cumulatively, around $30 million was spent by researchers globally, reflecting that India’s spend was more than half in that year.
Termed as Article Processing Charges(APCs), this fee ensures the financial viability of open access (OA) scholarly journals.A research paper by Raj Kishor Kampa from the Department of Library and Information Science, Berhampur University; Manoj Kumar Sa from the Indian Maritime University, Kolkata and Mallikarjun Dora from the Vikram Sarabhai Library, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, found that Indian researchers published 26,127 gold OA articles across all subjects in WoS (Web of Science)-indexed journals in 2020.
Researchers in the field of health and medical sciences paid the highest APC, amounting to $7 million, followed by life and earth sciences ($6.9 million), multidisciplinary ($4.9 million), and chemistry and materials science ($4.8 million). In all, 81% of APCs went to commercial publishers such as MDPI, Springer–Nature, Elsevier and Frontier Media. MDPI was the top publisher where Indian researchers published their articles. It published around 2,360 articles in its 143 flagship journals. The total APC of these 2,360 articles was about half-a-million US dollars.
According to an analysis of APCs across fields, it was found that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) journals had a higher APC than those in social science and humanities. Particularly, high APC is found in subjects like biology, chemistry and medicine.
“The primary issue for Indian researchers is that there is no dedicated system for funding OA publications and no nationwide OA mandate like in many other countries,” the authors said in their study published in the recent issue of Current Science. They suggested the formulation of national-level OA policies since OA is “inevitable for equity and access to scholarly communications”.
Private publishers charge a subscription fee or place articles behind a paywall, which makes research work inaccessible to many. However, OA literature is largely freely accessible online, for anyone to read, download, copy, distribute, print and search for articles, among other things.
The suggestion was made after examining the rise of the OA method adopted by Indian researchers.
Picture this: In 2011, there were 14,850 OA publications, with 5,864 being gold OA. By 2020, the total number of OA publications had increased to 50,662, with 30,604 being gold OA and 20,058 other OA publications (see box). Also, the number of journals levying APCs has grown consistently: it was 1,825 in 2011 and 5,661 in 2022. The authors felt that with the growing number of OA publications from India, a central and state-level single-window option for funding in OA journals would help researchers.
All About OA
What is Open Access
• Open access (OA) keeps research work open to all
• Gold OA removes all restrictions and permission barriers
• Green OA places a version of research work in a repository chosen by the publisher with certain terms and conditions to access the article
The APC model
• The Article Processing Charges (APC) has changed the underlying strategies of the journal business model, shifting from demand-side to supply-side economics
• Instead of charging readers and librarians for subscription or license of scholarly work, the OA model supports the production cost of an article by the author paying the APC
• APC per document varied from journal to journal with the minimum APC being $8 for chemistry and materials sciences and the maximum $6,000 for health and medical sciences journals
• In the area of business, economics and management, the highest APC was between $1,001 and $1,500

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