Missionary of the open-access message
She is blunt when it comes to her colleagues’ awareness of the issue of open access: what awareness? According to Lisa Brüggen, professor of Financial Services at the School of Business and Economics (SBE), there is much work to do. “Open access has many advantages and makes academia more honest. It gives more people access to your articles, and means you can have more impact.” To promote awareness of open access, the week starting 23 October has been declared International Open Access Week.
Brüggen became interested in the issue only recently, when she was asked to collaborate on the open-access campaign of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU). She has since become a keen advocate. “I’m convinced that there are many colleagues at my faculty who, like me until recently, have just never thought about it. When people think of open access they tend to think of obscure online journals of lesser quality. I’ve often had to explain that a whole range of quality journals now offer an online, open-access version. You do then need to pay €1500 in author processing charges, but there are ways of compensating for this.”
Economics is lagging behind the medical sciences when it comes to open access, Brüggen says. “Many more medical journals than economics journals have open-access options, and medical researchers make use of those options much more often. I definitely intend to make my next publication open access, for two important reasons. It makes academia better and more transparent: everyone can read open-access publications, including people in less prosperous countries where the licences for academic databases are far too costly. And there are benefits for the author, too, because you increase your own visibility. There’s a higher chance that your article will be read and cited, and because all articles are available to everyone, you get a clearer picture of which ones are cited often and thus have real impact. It’s a bigger group that determines the importance of an article, which can only be a good thing. That’s not to say they’re also the best-quality articles – some researchers are just very good at generating interest, but that’s something that already happens now and won’t change with open access.”
Brüggen is an editor at the Journal of Service Research, a leading business journal with a high impact score of 6.847. “I review around four articles per year for them and four articles for other journals. The Journal of Service Research is part of the package from SAGE publishers. The Dutch universities have a collective open-access agreement with SAGE, so if you as an author indicate that you work at Maastricht University, you receive a 100% discount on the APC. Our faculty has a ranking scheme, not so much for the quantity but rather the quality of publications. You only get a permanent contract if you have an ‘A’ publication – an article in one of the top journals – in addition to teaching performance and other skills, of course. The main factor in choosing a journal is its quality; but choosing quality and open access would be even better.”
She is critical of the current practices of academic publishing houses. “It’s completely crazy that we as researchers work so hard on the publication, bear all the costs, then have to relinquish all our rights and ultimately pay an arm and a leg just to get access to our own articles. That’s a damn smart business model, but it makes no sense at all. And that’s another advantage of open access: you keep your rights. Because without those rights you can’t even use a figure from your own article somewhere else. But for the publishers open access is tough to swallow, of course, so the negotiations are quite intense. Oxford University Press isn’t cooperating, but thankfully Elsevier is. It will take some time before everyone is on board.”
Roll up the sleeves
The campaign to date has mainly focused on raising awareness. In Brüggen’s view, it is now time to put it into practice. “I think many colleagues want to in principle, but are insecure. They need support. How does it work? Who do I need to see to get my €1500 back?” Her work seems to be paying off, because all this information is now available through the open-access portal at http://library.maastrichtuniversity.nl/open-science/open-access/.
As a professor in the marketing department, she naturally has another tip for increasing awareness of open access at SBE. “Through the awareness campaign a number of colleagues reached out to me and I’ve been spreading the word like a missionary, but it’s still not paid a great deal of attention. That’s why a flyer with practical information would be very useful. And you should think carefully about how to get it to the researchers at each faculty – don’t just put it down somewhere. At SBE we have seven new research themes and most researchers are linked to one of these themes. You could invite the leaders of the research themes to an information session and ask them to distribute the flyers among their researchers. You really have to roll your sleeves up and get to work if you want to get the message out. By just sending it from on high, you’ll achieve nothing.”