Make Open Access publishing fair and transparent!

By Franz Essl

The scientific publication landscape has dramatically changed in environmental sciences (and beyond) since the onset of this millennium by two closely interconnected trends: the widespread emergence of online-only journals that drastically reduced the costs for scientific publishers, and the increasing success of Open Access publishing journals, i.e. journals that have reversed the revenue generation from a reader-pays to an author-pays approach. Ongoing developments (e.g. Plan S supported by the European Union) will possibly lead to a major transition towards Open Access publishing in the near future.

While Open Access publishing undoubtedly has brought substantial gains compared to classical pay-wall publishing, it also entails substantial risks that are not fully appreciated. In a new publication in the influential scientific journal BioScience, the authors argue that current initiatives do not adequately address current deficiencies of Open Access publishing.

This study is the result of an international collaboration including C·I·B Research associate Franz Essl (University Vienna). The authors identify negative developments - particularly from an academic perspective - associated with Open Access publishing and present solutions that address these deficiencies and which should ensure that Open Access publishing can live up to its great potential.

The publication suggests an avenue for making Open Access truly fair - i.e. inclusive, affordable, transparent and the role model of scientific publishing for the future. The authors consider five key issues particularly relevant, that are discussed in detail and which shall ensure that Open Access publishing lives up to the high expectations that are widely held.

“We believe that agreeing upon and establishing standards for Open Access publishing that appropriately reflect the legitimate interests of all actors - including those of scientists - is necessary to ensure that OA publishing can live up to widely held expectations”, says Franz Essl, the lead author of the study.

Read the paper

Essl F, Courchamp F, Dullinger S, Jeschke MJ, Schindler S (2020) Make Open Access publishing fair and transparent! BioScience, Volume 70, Issue 3, March 2020, Pages 201–204.

For more information, contact Franz Essl at