Nordbib and NOP-HS host policy making workshops on Open Access in Elsinore, Denmark, 23-24 April 2007

The meeting took its point of departure from the recently released “Open Access in the Nordic Countries- A State of the Art Report”, written by Turid Hedlund and Ingegerd Rabow, which summarizes activities to date that have been carried out by researchers, libraries and library electronic presses to support Open Access. The meeting was attended by librarians, funding agencies, some researchers from across the five Nordic countries and just two publishers. SPARC Europe Director David Prosser was also a participant, as was his fellow countrywoman Astrid Wissenburg, who shared some interesting insight into how research is funded through the research councils in the UK.

Generally Open Access discussions related to journals have focused on STM. This was not true of the Nordbib meeting; a great deal of attention was given to journals in the Social Sciences and Humanities as well as Nordic language journals and how these will be affected by Open Access. This is a critical question for the Nordic research councils and the Nordic Board for Periodicals in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOP-HS), who are currently redefining their grant programs to meet the new challenges. Many of the journals supported by grants in the region are published in local languages and are empirically focused on Nordic cases and data. The crux of the matter for these journals is whether an Open Access model would destroy the small but critical revenue generated by subscription sales and thereby lead to their demise. Counter arguments contend that Open Access would give these journals an added momentum by extending their reach to a global audience of researchers with an interest in Nordic-specific research. Open Access might even fuel low-priced subscriptions and generate a better income.

Funding agencies expressed concerns that during a transitional period, two different models would need to be pursued meaning that publication fees would likely be a cost added to the support they are already providing. An alternative model would be to replace the current system of providing grants to journals, with a system that makes funding for publication fees available to researchers publishing Nordic materials. In this climate of debate, many of the working groups concluded that what is needed is further analysis of possible models and their pros and cons and financial consequences.

The meeting hosted structured sessions to encourage both networking and discussions that would lead to concrete actions for future co-operation across the region. Working groups included good cross sections of participants but unfortunately the aim of devising co-operative measures at a Nordic level was not entirely achieved. However, some common suggestions did seem to emerge from several groups:

1. Devise a common Nordic indexing of journals published in the region, as the current Impact Factor ranking is not meaningful to a number of Social Science and Humanities journals and does not fully capture the publishing practices of researchers in these fields (who tend to favor monographs and other publication types).

2. It is important to preserve Nordic language journals, but English summaries or translations might also be useful for an international audience, though this will mean an added cost within an already burdened financial system.

3. There are pros and cons of a Nordic portal to archives, journals and other materials, but most agree that this is not worth pursuing if researchers do not recognize its value.

4. Copyright is an important area, with many unclear areas at present. It should not be left up to individual researchers to sort out copyright issues. Rather universities should provide support services to the researchers they employ.

5. A future meeting to include the same cross section of participants should take place, and publishers should also be included among the presenters.

The Nordbib and NOP-HS staff did an excellent job of hosting and organizing this event and we look forward to their final report, including the complementary sections resulting from the workshop recommendations, which is due in early June. While a concrete plan for co-operative action might not have been achieved, the networking that was accomplished at this event will no doubt lead to various forms of Nordic co-operation nonetheless.

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