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Global open access and library publishing, and regional perspectives from Australia

Published onApr 16, 2024
Global open access and library publishing, and regional perspectives from Australia


Open access and new opportunities for library publishing have accelerated with access to connectivity and the internet. This paper provides a brief overview of IFLA’s work on open access and recent regional developments in Australia.

The open access movement emerged from an opportunity and a problem: firstly, the opportunity to use new ways to disseminate research via the internet, and the problem of the ‘serials crisis’ in libraries as high pricing was carried over into the transition to digital. Two decades on, new opportunities and challenges have emerged. These include sustainability, fair and transparent pricing, equity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. The visibility of regional research, bibliodiversity, and diversity of publishing models and approaches are also essential. Developments in the open access movement have been underpinned by numerous policies, declarations, and statements. Alongside policy, experiments in new ways to disseminate research have included open monographs, preprints, open peer review, and data publishing. All of these initiatives have helped to drive forward an even broader movement, open science. Regional, national, and institutional infrastructures including repositories and expert staff underpin an international ecosystem that connects all these initiatives together. One of these important infrastructures is library publishing. While some library publishing is derived from journals and university presses, many library publishers have been created or redeveloped at parliamentary, research, and state libraries. Open access has broadened focus from journal articles to the communication, policy, and funding challenges associated with monographs, and library publishing programs are also growing.

IFLA’s activities have contributed to advancing open access and library publishing, and connecting these activities under the banner of open science. Open science is also called open research or open scholarship in some regions. IFLA’s work on open access progressed under Ellen Tise’s presidential theme on Access to Knowledge, and a 2011 statement in support of the Budapest Open Access Initiative definition of open access (IFLA, 2011; Verheul, Bradley, & Hamilton, 2011). Advocacy for open access as part of the UN SDGs and for intergovernmental organisations to adopt open access followed (IFLA, 2014a; 2014b), but more effort across the Federation was required reflecting the impact of open access across the profession. At the 2018 General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur a resolution was successfully carried that asked IFLA to focus on open access in its strategy and advocacy as a matter of urgency. This was implemented through the IFLA strategy, and by forming an ad-hoc working party to take the work forward. Led by Fiona Bradley and Susan Reilly, the IFLA Open Access Working Party engaged volunteers from across the Federation, collaborated with Headquarters on advocacy opportunities, made continued progress towards IFLA’s own publishing open access, and launched a vocabulary of key terms in 2023. Published in 2022, the IFLA statement reaffirmed a commitment to open access and recognised the role of open access within broader agendas including open science (IFLA, 2022b). It highlighted issues of equity, inclusion, language and regional diversity in scholarly communication, and intersections with intellectual freedom and the UN SDGs. The statement also committed IFLA to complete the transition of its own publishing program for journals and books to open access (IFLA, 2022a).

IFLA and its members are key stakeholders in access to information, open access, and the broader open science/research/scholarship landscape. The role of libraries within each of these movements has been recognised by the UN SDGs, UNESCO Open Science Recommendation, and IFLA’s own statements (UNESCO, 2021). Within IFLA, several projects, working groups and task forces have been created, and open access has been part of IFLA’s policy and advocacy. There had not been, however, a formalised structure for coordination across the Federation and engagement with global partners and external stakeholders. Access to information, open access, and publishing will continue to have a significant impact on the role, standing, and funding of libraries. While these issues have a particular impact on academic and research libraries, other library types also have a stake in these issues and can be producers as well as beneficiaries of broader public access to research and other types of information. Consequently, in August 2023 the Governing Board approved a new Advisory Committee with responsibility for Open Science and Scholarship. The naming and scope of the new advisory committee reflects that Open Access is part of broader agendas. The Advisory Committee provides advice to the Governing Board and Secretary General on the strategic directions of IFLA’s engagement with Open Science and Scholarship, including Open Access and related issues. The Committee works in consultation with other relevant IFLA research, policy and advocacy, and publishing activities as well as relevant IFLA Sections and Regional Divisions.

Recent developments in library publishing in Australia

Turning from the global level to a regional example of the intersections between open access and library publishing in Australia, several institutions and membership organisations are making progress (Bradley, 2019). ANU Press, established in the early 2000s is one of the earliest examples of library-based open access publishing. Many other programs have since been established. With the support of the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL), a new Open Educational Resources program established in 2021 has fostered communities of practice and new publications across a range of subject areas (CAUL, n.d.).

Open Access Australasia, a membership-based organisation with over 30 members across university, national and state libraries and affiliations with associations and cultural organisations has also advocated for open access policies, coordination, and infrastructure that can also support open publishing. In 2023, these included establishment of a cross-sector National Open Science network with CAUL and other partners, a regional workshop on equity in open access with OA2020 and the International Science Council, and a satellite event during the global Diamond Open Access summit (Open Access Australasia, 2023). In Australia, many efforts are underway to highlight the need for global visibility of regional research, and incorporation of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property and data sovereignty principles throughout the publishing process (Catterall & Barbour, 2023). Cross sectoral coordination on policy, support for underpinning infrastructures such as repositories and publishing platforms, and changes in author behaviour are all needed to make progress. In a mid-sized country such as Australia, closer collaboration is needed to support infrastructures that can effectively create, promote, and steward unique and valuable Australian content.

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