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Open Access for European Scientists has consequences

06 September 2018

Disenfranchising Scientists from Middle-Income Countries


We are all quick and ready to agree that Open Access is the best way forward for all scientific results. The aims and objectives of Science Europe are laudable and will lead to a far better publishing environment for European scientists. Scientists from other high-income countries will also benefit from this decision, having a far greater number of journals in which to publish Open Access.

If current trends continue, scientists from low-income countries will be granted full fee waivers. Many journals use the Hinari Eligibility list of countries to separate Group A (free access) and Group B (low cost access – normally billed at a 50% reduction in fees). The lists are made up from five global economic and development criteria.

Middle-income countries are missing from these lists, and receive no support for fee waivers. Their governments provide scientists with no means of paying fees. Scientists who pay fees often do so from their own research budgets. The increasing number of journals that charge unjustifiably high publishing costs are forcing middle-income scientists away from Open Access journals. In my own lab, publication fees are regularly more than the cost of conducting ecological research.

Looking forward to 2020, it is possible to see that even though fees may be capped on the new and existing European Open Access publications, as long as there are still fees, scientists from middle-income countries will be excluded from publishing. Worse, we will be forced to send our manuscripts to second-rate journals that retain pay walls, or start our own low-cost productions.

Science Europe must recognise that science is a global responsibility, and by moving their own members forwards they risk disenfranchising scientists in middle-income countries that are already struggling to fund and publish their work in an increasingly costly publishing climate.

There is still time to amend the announcement, and ensure that it will not risk the publishing of science from any scientist anywhere in the world.

This email was sent to Marc Schiltz but went without reply.

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