OA in the Nordic countries - status August 2008

For the past one and a half years, and without pretending to be exhaustive, our News from the Nordic Horizon column has reported how Open Access is making inroads in the Nordic countries. This will be our final update. In future, we shall instead use this space on our website to share current information about the research we publish. Thank you for all comments and input. It has been a pleasure to share Nordic OA advances with the rest of the world.

How far have we come in this northern region of Europe? As of September 1st 2008, the Nordic research councils still do not require OA to the results of the research they are funding although a policy to that extent is anticipated in the near future in Norway (see previous news) and Sweden where the issue has been much debated. In one of the Swedish Research Councils’ own Newsletters, Tentaklen, Helena Stjernbjerg from Lund University Library Direction and Erik Svensson, Professor of Zoology at Lund University, ask what the RC is waiting for now that the NIH mandate is in place. “Could it be because the RC thinks that OA is a passing trend that will soon disappear …?”

In Denmark, especially the Research Council for the Humanities has eagerly recommended Open Access. The 2008:2 issue of the RC’s magazine Humaniora was dedicated to research communication, in particular OA. Earlier this year, the RC for the Humanities decided that for scholarly journals to continue to receive financial support they must make all articles freely accessible on the internet within a year after publication. This caused uproar in some circles - though not in all - and 38 editors wrote a formal letter of protest (only six of them actually receive support from the RC). Kirsten Drotner, head of the RC, stood firm: “Today electronic communication is an inevitable part of research dissemination. Those who publish electronically gain wider dissemination, are more visible and are cited more often … It is our objective to support research in Denmark, which also means to guarantee that the research results are widely communicated and shared with others”.

But if the Nordic RCs are hesitant, the universities seem to have understood that Open Access is inevitable and are therefore taking a pragmatic approach. Many of the university libraries inform about Open Access on their websites, and this autumn some of the universities offer courses on Open Access publishing, as for instance Umeå University where post-graduate medical and odontological students can learn “how the medical publication system works, both through ordinary journals and through Open Access”; or Malmö University where a seminar called Scientific publishing and Open Access – Make your research accessible will introduce OA to researchers and editors of journals emanating from that university.

As late as in May this year, Helsinki University decided on an OA mandate, requiring that “researchers working at the University deposit copies of their research articles published in academic research journals in the open repository of the University”, and recommending that “when publishing articles, researchers working at the University favour publication channels with open access policies such as the open access journals in each discipline and open access serials.” Also, it was specifically stated that “all costs of a research project must be incorporated in the research funding, including publication costs such as author fees for open access journals.”

In a week’s time Oslo will host the 2nd European Conference on Scientific Publishing in Biomedicine and Medicine. The theme of the conference is “Researchers and Open Access – the new scientific publishing environment” and addresses several intertwined issues: What are the tangible benefits and disadvantages of Open Access publishing? Do researchers have to pay for Open Access and should they? Is Open Access publishing to the universal good or are there negative repercussions down the line? And where do digital repositories fit into all this?

The Swedish Royal Library continues to actively support Open Access initiatives through the OpenAccess.se program and through providing financial and other support to projects in Sweden. On October 1st -2nd it will be hosting a meeting for those active in the Open Access arena in Sweden to exchange information and updates on various projects that have received funding.

Co-Action Publishing remains the only professional publishing house established in the Nordic region, but Museum Tusculanum in Denmark has shown an interest in investigating OA possibilities and, like Co-Action Publishing, is involved in Nordic-funded projects to investigate the advantages and challenges of Open Access.

Clearly, the Nordic region is moving towards Open Access, as the many activities above and our news archive attest to. Lund University Library, as host to the DOAJ, and the bi-annual Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communications, with its emphasis on Open Access themes, will continue to strengthen the Nordic presence in Open Access debates and developments globally. Co-Action Publishing will continue to contribute to and support all efforts that pave the way for Open Access.