Roles and responsibilities in guaranteeing permanent access to the records of science – at the Conference for Academic Publishers (APE) 2014

On Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 January the annual Conference for Academic Publishers Europe was held in Berlin. The title of the conference: Redefining the Scientific Record. – Report by Marcel Ras (NCDD) and Barbara Sierman (KB)

Dutch politics set on “golden road” to Open Access

During the fist day the focus was on Open Access, starting with a presentation by the Dutch State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science on Open Access. In his presentation called “Going for Gold” Sander Dekker outlined his policy with regards to the practice of providing open access to research publications and how that practice will continue to evolve. Open access is “a moral obligation” according to Sander Dekker. Access to scientific knowledge is for everyone. It promotes knowledge sharing and knowledge circulation and is essential for further development of society.

OA "gold road" supporter and State Secretary Sander Dekker (right) during a recent visit to the K

“Golden road” open access supporter and State Secretary Sander Dekker (right) during a recent visit to the KB – photo KB/Jacqueline van der Kort

Open access means having electronic access to research publications, articles and books (free of charge). This is an international issue. Every year, approximately two million articles appear in 25,000 journals that are published worldwide. The Netherlands account for some 33,000 articles annually. Having unrestricted access to research results can help disseminate knowledge, move science forward, promote innovation and solve the problems that society faces.

The first steps towards open access were taken twenty years ago, when researchers began sharing their publications with one another on the Internet. In the past ten years, various stakeholders in the Netherlands have been working towards creating an open access system. A wide variety of rules, agreements and options for open access publishing have emerged in the research community. The situation is confusing for authors, readers and publishers alike, and the stakeholders would like this confusion to be resolved as quickly as possible.

The Dutch Government will provide direction so that the stakeholders know what to expect and are able to make arrangements with one another. It will promote “golden” open access: publication in journals that make research articles available online free of charge. The State Secretary’s aim is fully implement the golden road to open access within ten years, in other words by 2024. In order to achieve this, at least 60 per cent of all articles will have to be available in open access journals in five years’ time. A fundamental changeover will only be possible if we cooperate and coordinate with other countries.

Further reading: or

Do researchers even want Open Access?

The two other keynote speakers, David Black and Wolfram Koch presented their concerns on the transition from the current publishing model to open access. Researchers are increasingly using subject repositories for sharing their knowledge. There is an urgent need for a higher level of organization and for standards in this field. But who will take the lead? Also, we must not forget the systems for quality assurance and peer review. These are under pressure as enormous quantities of articles are being published and peer review tends to take place more and more after publication. Open access should lower the barriers for access to research for the users, but what about the barriers for scholars publishing on their research? Koch stated that the traditional model worked fine for researchers. They don’t want to change. However, there do not seem to be any figures to support this assertion.

It is interesting to note that in almost all presentations on the first day of APE digital preservation was mentioned one way or the other. The vocabulary was different, but it is acknowledged as an important topic. Accessibility of scientific publications for the long term is a necessity, regardless of the publishing model.

KB and NCDD workshop on roles and responsibilities

The 2nd day of the conference the focus was on innovation (the future of the article, dotcoms) and on preservation!

The National Library of The Netherlands (KB) and the Dutch Coalition for Digital Preservation (NCDD) organized a session on preservation of scientific output: “Roles and responsibilities in guaranteeing permanent access to the scholarly record”. The session was chaired byMarcel Ras, program manager for the NCDD.

The trend towards e-only access for scholarly information is increasing at a rapid pace, as well as the volume of data which is ‘born digital’ and has no print counterpart. As for scholarly publications, half of all serial publications will be online-only by 2016. For researchers and students there is a huge benefit, as they now have online access to journal articles to read and download, anywhere, any time. And they are making use of it to an increasing extend. However, the downside is that there is an increasing dependency on access to digital information. Without permanent access to information scholarly activities are no longer possible. For libraries there are many benefits associated with publishing and accessing academic journals online. E-only access has the potential to save the academic sector a considerable amount of money. Library staff resources required to process printed materials can be reduced significantly. Libraries also potentially save money in terms of the management and storage of and end user access to print journals. While suppliers are willing to provide discounts for e-only access.

Publishers may not share post-cancellation and preservation concerns

However, there are concerns that what is now available in digital form may not always be available due to rapid technological developments or organisational developments within the publishing industry; these concerns and questions about post-cancellation access to paid-for content are key barriers to institutions making the move to e-only. There is a danger that e-journals become “ephemeral” unless we take active steps to preserve the bits and bytes that increasingly represent our collective knowledge. We are all familiar with examples of hardware becoming obsolete; 8 inch and 5.25 inch floppy discs, Betamax video tapes, and probably soon cd-roms. Also software is not immune to obsolescence.

In addition to this threat of technical obsolescence there is the changing role of libraries. Libraries have in the past assumed preservation responsibility for the resources they collect, while publishers have supplied the resources libraries need. This well-understood division of labour does not work in a digital environment and especially so when dealing with e-journals. Libraries buy licenses to enable their users to gain network access to a publisher’s server. The only original copy of an issue of an e-journal is not on the shelves of a library, but tends to be held by the publisher. But long-term preservation of that original copy is crucial for the library and research communities, and not so much for the publisher.

Can third-party solutions ensure safe custody?

So we may need new models and sometimes organizations to ensure safe custody of these objects for future generations. A number of initiatives have emerged in an effort to address these concerns. Research and development efforts in digital preservation issues have matured. Tools and services are being developed to help plan and perform digital preservation activities. Furthermore third-party organizations and archiving solutions are being established to help the academic community preserve publications and to advance research in sustainable ways. These trusted parties can be addressed by users when strict conditions (trigger events or post-cancellation) are met. In addition, publishers are adapting to changing library requirements, participating in the different archiving schemes and increasingly providing options for post-cancellation access.

In this session the problem was presented from the different viewpoints of the stakeholders in this game, focussing on the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders.

Neil Beagrie explained the problem in depth, both in a technical, organisational and financial sense. He highlighted the distinction between perpetual access and digital preservation. In the case of perpetual access, organisations have a license or subscription for an e-journal and either the publisher discontinues the journal or the organisation stops its subscription – keeping e-journals available in this case is called “post-cancellation” . This situation differs from long-term preservation, where the e-journal in general is preserved for users whether they ever subscribed or not. Several initiatives for the latter situation were mentioned as well as the benefits organisations like LOCKSS, CLOCKSS, Portico and the e-Depot of the KB bring to publishers.  More details about his vision can be read in the DPC Tech Watch report Preservation, Trust and Continuing Access to e-Journals . (Presentation: APE2014_Beagrie)

Susan Reilly of the Association of European Research Libraries  (LIBER) sketched the changing role of research libraries. It is essential that the scholarly record is preserved, which encompasses e-journal articles, research data, e-books, digitized cultural heritage and dynamic web content. Libraries are a major player in this field and can be seen as an intermediary between publishers and researchers. (Presentation: APE2014_Reilly)

Eefke Smit of the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) explained to the audience why digital preservation was especially important in the playing field of STM publishers. Many services are available but more collaboration is needed. The APARSEN project is focusing of some aspects like trust, persistent identifiers and cost models, but there are still a wide range of challenges to be solved as the traditional publication models will continually change, from text and documents to “multi-versioned, multi-sourced and multi-media”. (Presentation: APE2014_Smit)

As Peter Burnhill from EDINA, University of Edinburgh, explained, continued access to the scholarly record is under threat as libraries are no longer the custodians of the scholarly record in e-journals. As he phrased it nicely: libraries no longer have e-collections but only e-connections. His KEEPERS registry is a global registry of e-journal archiving and offers an overview of who is preserving what. Organisations like LOCKSS, CLOCKSS, the e-Depot, the Chinese National Science Library and, recently, the US Library of Congress submit their holding information to this KEEPERS Registry. However nice, it was also emphasized that the registry only contains a small percentage of existing e-journals (currently about 19% of the e-journals with an ISSN assigned). More support for the preserving libraries and more collaboration with publishers is needed to preserve the e-journals of smaller publishers and improve coverage. (Presentation: APE2014_Burnhill)

(Reblogged with slight changes from

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