England’s IOP: Researchers Cite Lack of Funds for Open Access

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The funding barrier to open-access publishing, in IOP Publishing’s survey, is unevenly shared in terms of geography and more.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Anghi

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

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Concern for Early Career Researchers and Others
As our readership will recall, IOP Publishing is based in Bristol, in the West Country of England, and describes itself as a society-owned scientific publisher. It takes its name from its parent company, the Institute of Physics, and it operates in a nonprofit format, any “financial surplus” going to the institute.

In its new study, released to the news media today (August 22), the company provides data points collected from a 3,000-respondent survey of internationally based physical-science researchers between December and January.

While it’s hardly the sort of conclusion that’s going to threaten your balance if you’re not sitting down, a majority of responding researchers, reportedly 62 percent, said that lack of adequate funding made it impossible for them to publish open-access, despite the fact that 53 percent said they’d like to publish open-access.

IOP Publishing produced the study in coordination with three other companies,  AIP Publishing, the American Physical Society, and Optica Publishing Group.

Among top-line assertions from the survey’s authors:

  • Fourteen percent of respondents said they’d never published open-access in five years; some might argue that they idea that 86 percent said they had is news in itself
  • In those five years, more than 50 percent of the respondents said they’d published only one open-access article
  • Some 80 percent of researchers most concerned with funding shortfalls and open access, the study indicates, are in Latin America, Indian, and Pakistani, respondents saying that a lack of funds needed to pay for open access is their main reason for not publishing that way
  • Around 47 percent of those reporting funding shortfalls for open access are in Africa and the Middle East
  • Among responding European researchers surveyed, 61 percent said that obtaining grants needed to pay for open access is a “significant barrier”
  • And overall, 30 percent of the respondents reported that they’d been unable to publish in a specific journal because they lacked access to the grant funding needed to pay for open access

This chart from the IOP Publishing study shows that roughly two-thirds of respondents report being unable to publish open-access because funding agencies didn’t adequately cover the costs. The graphic indicates geographical demographics among those respondents. Image: IOP Publishing

One interesting comment from an American respondent indicated that there could be an issue of optics, as well:

Image: IOP Publishing

The field of scholarly publishing and open access is choked with acronyms. “ECR” refers to early career researchers, and one of the concluding concerns highlighted in the study is that early career researchers believe that open access is more important than having the ability to choose where to publish, and they want to be able to reap the benefits of unrestricted access to research. In other words, they get it–but they can’t afford it.

“Supporters of open access or not, article publishing charges are a concern for early career researchers because of a lack of access to funds, or lack of awareness of the existence of funding sources.”

And other observation of note: “To make open access an easy option for researchers, funders need not only to provide access to funds, but also to increase researcher engagement. There remain pockets of doubt about the requirement for open access, and in many cases the burden is still on the individual to understand what is expected of them.”

You can read the white paper IOP Publishing has produced here.


More from Publishing Perspectives on scholarly and research publishing is here, more on open access is here, and more on industry statistics is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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