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[BOAI] Alexander Grossmann on the state of Open Access: Where are we, what still needs to be done?

From: "Richard Poynder" <richard.poynder AT>
Date: Tue, 27 Aug 2013 09:36:16 +0100

A new Q&A in a series exploring the current state of Open Access has been
published. This one is with Alexander Grossmann, who earlier this year  took
up a post as Professor of Publishing Management at the Leipzig University of
Applied Sciences. To do so Grossmann gave up a job as Vice President at the
scholarly publisher De Gruyter, returning to research after ten years in the
publishing industry. In that time he also served as Managing Director at
Springer-Verlag GmbH in Vienna and as Director of physics publishing at


Grossmann has also recently co-founded an OA venture called ScienceOpen. 


*Some excerpts from the Q&A*:


"I have the impression that there is no publishing house which is either
able or willing to consider the rigorous change in their business models
which would be required to actively pursue an open access publishing
concept. However, the publishers are certainly aware of the PR value of Open
Access and many are taking steps in this direction by founding new gold Open
Access journals, offering hybrid models or acquiring OA companies. All
attractive trimmings as long as the profit margins from subscription-based
journals are not threatened. Active lobbying against OA takes place in
parallel to these cosmetic offerings. 


"I have been involved in many internal meetings with publishers since the
early 2000s in which copyright issues, embargo periods, or self-archiving
were heavily discussed. The Science/ Technology/Medicine (STM) sector has
always been particularly demanding, and even within a publishing house one
always remains an advocate for one's authors - physicists were early
proponents of open access with the ArXiv preprint database for example. I
always tried to sensitize my colleagues to these demands - only a fair and
transparent handling of access issues would result in a positive and
persistent settlement between authors and publishers.  But at complete
variance to my earlier expectations, publishers continue to tighten their
rules, for instance for self-archiving and embargoing. The yearly drop in
subscription numbers has everyone on edge and the occasional experiments in
Open Access are not designed to save the bottom line."




"The introduction of 'Green OA' should be considered simply as the first
response of the publishing industry to the new legal requirements or
regulations introduced by funding agencies such as the National Institutions
of Health (NIH) in the US. When it was first introduced I expected Green OA
to be an intermediate concept to be replaced by a new business and
publishing concept in general. At variance to this expectation, the concept
has become established as something which shall exist forever. Certainly
Green OA cannot be considered as meeting researchers' demand for an easy way
to immediately make their research freely available to everybody who is
interested in accessing the results."




"[I]t is not sufficient to continue to launch single new OA journals in
individual scientific disciplines. Rather, both the visibility and
acceptance of OA concepts among the scholarly community worldwide needs to
be increased. The development of a platform concept similar to ScienceOpen
for many scholarly disciplines may be one approach, and that is one of the
reasons why I launched the project."




"The OA movement should uniformly focus on supporting libraries to develop
strategies to modify their budget policies. This should result in having
more money available to be spent on OA at their institutions. At least it
should be possible to reallocate a part of the present budget which is spent
on big deals for subscription journals towards OA in order to meet the costs
of Gold OA publications. As long as libraries are caught in the big deals
and traditional subscription models, we all have less chance to move forward
with OA. Although this task sounds of a technical nature, it seems to me to
be the prerequisite to providing the necessary budget for more OA publishing
today and in the future."




"The present business models of subscription based publishing forces
librarians to spend most of their budget or all of their budget on package
deals with the major publishers. Just to illustrate the situation: For some
libraries, in particular smaller libraries which cannot afford all the
journals they need, publishers offer to take their whole budget to get
access to the complete list of that publisher. As a result, no money is left
to buy the publications of other publishing houses, or other content
resources. However, those libraries accept that situation as the lesser


"It is apparent that such a situation and such a business practice is
totally unacceptable in terms of providing researchers and their
institutions with the freedom and flexibility to access the information they
need for their work, and to make the outcome of that research available for
everybody worldwide working on the same problem. I am confident that it
simply requires one or a few key scholarly institutions to make a
significant change in how their libraries acquire and fund their research


The Q&A with Alexander Grossmann can be read here:


Richard Poynder



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