Open access switch picks up pace in Australia and New Zealand

Springer pact follows agreement with Cambridge University Press, as other big publishers prepare to follow suit

October 20, 2021
Melbourne, Victoria  Australia - January 9th 2020 Interior of La Trobe reading hall from second level in Victoria State Library
Source: iStock

Australian and New Zealand universities have notched up open access deals with two major academic publishers inside a week after Springer Nature unveiled a “transformative agreement” with the Council of Australian University Librarians (Caul).

The three-year “read and publish” arrangement covers the article processing charges that authors normally pay to move their work in front of paywalls. Researchers will be able to make their articles freely accessible if they are accepted for publication in more than 2,000 journals, provided that their universities subscribe to those journals.

The deal is available on an opt-in basis to 39 universities in Australia and eight in New Zealand. With institutions able to wrap open access publishing rights into their existing subscriptions at no extra cost, the opportunity has proven unsurprisingly popular.

Bob Gerrity, a Caul board member and director of the council’s procurement committee, indicated that all 47 institutions had signed on. “The uptake of this agreement by all Australian and New Zealand universities, as well as many research and government libraries, shows the strong desire to make locally produced research openly accessible to a global audience,” he said.

Like similar deals signed with the University of California system last year and with UK universities in 2019, the flagship Nature-branded journals are not included in the agreement. But Mr Gerrity said the partnership was a “significant milestone” in Caul’s drive to boost access to university research.

“The breadth of titles across many Springer Nature imprints and subject areas will greatly increase the volume of articles published open access,” he said.

A one-year transformative agreement with Cambridge University Press, announced on 14 October, will enable Caul member institutions to publish open access in another 380 journals at little or no extra cost. Times Higher Education understands that three-year deals with two other major publishing houses are imminent.

Caul already has read and publish agreements with seven smaller publishers, including the Royal Society, the Geological Society and Portland Press. More deals of a similar scale are expected as Australasian universities embrace an open access model that until now has been confined largely to Europe and North America.

The approach has been touted as a transitional pathway to other forms of open access such as the “gold” model – where research is published in fully open access journals, often subsidised through article-processing charges paid by institutions, authors or funding agencies – and the “green” model, where copies of journal articles are placed in openly accessible repositories.

Advocates credit transformative agreements for accelerating open access, with some 60 per cent of UK-funded articles now freely available – a figure tipped to increase to about 90 per cent by the end of next year. This speeds up research and benefits institutions and academics, with some studies suggesting that open access articles are cited 50 per cent more often and downloaded much more frequently than pay-to-view papers.

But sceptics say transformative agreements have helped to entrench an expensive and inefficient publication model where vast amounts of public funding are siphoned off by giant publishers. Critics say publication processes that should cost no more than $1,000 (£734) in even the most prestigious journals end up costing many times as much once profit margins are factored in.

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