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The future of research is more open

The future of research is more open

28 September 2020

For more than 500 years, OUP has existed to disseminate information, ideas, and research. We create world-class academic and educational resources that inform and educate readers across the world. How we operate and what we publish has changed hugely during that period, but our mission and sense of purpose has not.

Earlier this week, the UN celebrated the International Day for Universal Access to Information. It highlights the importance of ‘the right to seek, receive, and impart information,’ and how this is ‘an integral part of the right to freedom of expression.’ This aligns to our purpose as a publisher, and our focus on driving progress by providing content and resources that help people to make sense of the world around them—a topic I explored in one of my previous articles. We know that fair and rapid access to scholarly materials is for the public good. That’s why back in January, we made OUP resources on our COVID-19 hub freely available, to support those who are working to address the pandemic. To date, it has received more than 12 million visits.

For many years now there has been a movement in the academic community towards open access; making research free to read, and easier to re-use and build upon. It’s something that we wholeheartedly support; it speaks to our mission, and we currently have 75 journals and more than 70 monographs that are fully open access. But what does the transition towards open access mean for publishers like us in the longer-term? If research content is no longer restricted by paywalls and subscriptions, is a publisher’s value in the dissemination of research diminished?

In short, no. We live in a world where trust in public institutions and scholarly research is increasingly called into question. We’re also more connected and digital; everyone can share their views and opinions through blogs and social media, making it hard to distinguish between what is and isn’t a trustworthy source. Meanwhile, the pandemic is putting scientists and researchers under pressure to deliver sound research at speed—much of which is being used to make critical public health and economic decisions.

Against this challenging backdrop, and as we move towards open access, the role of the publisher in pushing forward scholarly thought is fundamentally important. We provide the platforms and mechanisms to ensure that the research we publish is as widely available as possible, and we play a crucial role, working with research funders, scholarly societies, and other members of our community, to ensure rigour, quality, and editorial integrity continue to underpin the publishing process.

At OUP, all the research we publish in our journal portfolio is assessed by leading experts who make up our journals’ editorial teams. It then undergoes a rigorous peer review process where subject matter experts read and offer feedback on research methodology and findings, before offering an independent judgment on the quality of the work. This reflects the formal process that all our scholarly books undergo, with Delegates of the University ultimately determining whether a book is accepted for publication, after comprehensive review.

We are expanding our own high-quality open access publishing. Earlier this year we launched the first two titles in our flagship Oxford Open series—Oxford Open Materials Science and Oxford Open Immunology. These were joined earlier this month by Oxford Open Climate Change. The series collates important research across multiple disciplines, underpinned by shared principles of openness. We are also working with existing journal and society partners to ‘flip’ journals to open access, and partnering with our customers to publish more of their research open access through ‘read and publish’ agreements.  

This October, it’s International Open Access Week. This year’s theme is ‘taking action to build structural equity and inclusion’, reflecting the UN’s aim of ensuring that everyone has the right to access and utilize information. The future of research will undoubtedly be more open, but it’s a journey should be undertaken in close collaboration with all those that add value to the research publishing process. At OUP, we want to work with our colleagues in the scholarly community, so that the transition towards open access is successful—not just in increasing access to research, but in ensuring that the research we publish maintains the highest standards and drives progress through knowledge.

You can follow along as we celebrate International Open Access Week on the @OxfordJournals Twitter and on the OUP Blog.