Academic Publishing must face the Inconvenient Truth

Green Books by Catherine Normandeau

Another thing I would like to draw your attention to is an excellent speech given by Michael Jensen at the Association of American University Presses’ (AAUP) annual meeting last June. Michael Jensen is the Director of Strategic Web Communications at the National Academies Press, one of the oldest Open Access publishers. As Wikipedia states: ‘The National Academy Press (as it was known in 1993) was the first self-sustaining publisher to make its material available on the Web, for free, in an open access model’.  Jensen combined in his plenary presentation the urge for an Open Access business model with the need for environmental changes in publishing. I met Michael Jensen last June as part of the external stakeholder group meeting of the OAPEN project, for which I am doing research, and found him a very passionate Open Access believer though at the same time a very pragmatic person, where he stated, amongst others, that our project should not try to solve all the problems facing Open Access at once but should rather focus on its main goal, on what it set out to achieve in the beginning and work from there. And this shows in my opinion how Jensen is at the same time a man who is not afraid to be both a practical problem solving guy as well as a man who reflects on broad strategic future visions, as set out for instance in his AAUP presentation. The Open Access movement should be proud to have him on its side. I also like the way he says in his presentation that he is not an Open Access zealot but a firm believer in Open Access as the only sustainable publishing model for academic publishing in the years to come: 

I believe that we must shift our business models — publicly, transparently, intentionally, thoughtfully, but radically — to a digital one, with open access as the backbone of scholarly publishing. We must do this to survive a tremendously turbulent next decade, and to ensure that our mission, and its survival, continues to be fulfilled.”

 His plea goes out to a model in which print is no longer the main course but rather a side-product of publishing, reducing the environmental strain that comes with the physical dissemination of books and journals: 

“Scholarly publishing is a vital part of a larger scholarly communications system, and must be preserved. University Presses also recognize that we have a societal responsibility. We recognize that the lifecycle energy and CO2 costs of printing, shipping, storing, and distributing physical books must be radically curtailed. […]Scholarly publishing’s role in the world must be de-linked from print publication. The print book must become the exception, not the rule, as soon as possible.” 

Underneath you will find his speech as given. You can find the full text here. Underneath the You Tube movies you can find some more inspiring lines from Jensen’s speech.

“To retain the qualities of scholarly communication, we’ll radically shift, if you’ll step up to the plate.

Does that mean giving up some control? Yes.
Does that mean collaborating more? Yes.
Does that mean innovating our way out of a failed system? Yes.
Does that mean embracing various forms of open access in exchange for institutional support? Yes.
Does that mean rethinking the economics, and the cost recovery systems, and the sustainability models of scholarly publishing, based on a collapsing physical world? Yes.

Within the context of a world in crisis, we *must* demonstrate that we’re radically rethinking our relationship to the future. We must demonstrate that we are part of the solution, not part of the problem. We must seize initiative now, and start making changes as fast as we can.

Open access + digital publishing will help get us to a sustainable world, and keep us in the mix.”


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