French scholars say ‘oui’ to open access

Senior humanities and social science academics come out in support of move to ‘take knowledge out of silos’

Sixty senior figures from the humanities and social sciences in France have published a statement in national newspaper Le Monde in support of open access.

The signatories, who include university presidents, librarians and journal editors, warn that if the humanities and social sciences were to opt out of wider moves towards open access they “would become isolated and ultimately extinct”. The statement, titled “Who Is Afraid of Open Access?”, was published on 15 March and has received more than 2,000 endorsements on a dedicated website, I love open access.

Its publication follows a statement in February by representatives of more than 120 journals and 50 publishers - specialising in French humanities and social sciences - which expressed concern that the European Commission’s open-access policy for its Horizon 2020 funding period would stifle subscription income, leading to “the disappearance of the vast majority of journals published in French”.

The journals’ statement added that the French government had given assurances that it did not feel in “any way bound” to adopt the maximum 12-month “green” embargo length advocated by the Commission.

The academics’ riposte in Le Monde describes the publishers’ fears as “largely groundless”, noting that a “thorough assessment of the sector would be required to provide a true cost-benefit analysis” of open access.

It says open access has the potential to “take knowledge out of silos” and allow it to play its “pivotal role” in the “collective growth” of society.

The statement also highlights the success of open access in Latin America, which it says demonstrates its potential to break the dominance of English-language journals, enabling a “plurality of viewpoints, modes of publication, scientific paradigms, and languages”.

To fear open access is “to commit oneself to a narrow - and, in fact, erroneous - vision of the future”, it says. “The humanities and social sciences can be at the forefront of this opening movement precisely because there is an increasing social demand for their research results.”

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