The Pathways blog series highlights CDL’s efforts on various pathways to open access and illustrates how diverse approaches can complement and reinforce each other–and how they can raise productive tensions that push us to think more critically about the work we do. We believe this kind of approach can move us toward true and comprehensive transformation of the scholarly communications landscape.

What is the strategy described in this post?

This post discusses the California Digital Library’s eScholarship Publishing and Repository Services as core pathways to open access at the University of California. Ellen Finnie’s prior post in this series focused on the role of transformative agreements in effecting large-scale change in open access to journal articles published by commercial and non-profit publishers. This piece will focus on how the eScholarship program complements these efforts by leveraging a 20-year UC investment in library publishing and repository-based open access to help build toward the open future we all seek. 

How does this pathway advance us on the overall transition to open access?

Launched by the California Digital Library in 2002, eScholarship represented, from the beginning, a new vision for the role of the academic institution in ensuring open and broad distribution of its research and  scholarship. In a sense, eScholarship started the conversation about open access at UC, taken up over the ensuing years by comprehensive UC open access policies, countless systemwide investments in national and international open publishing initiatives, and, most recently, UC’s ambitious transformative agreements licensing program. (Underpinning much of this work is a core commitment to open infrastructure, which will be discussed by John Chodacki and Maria Gould in the next post in this series.) Amidst all this institutional momentum toward OA, demand for eScholarship’s services has grown dramatically in the past decade, resulting in a robust library publishing and repository program that contributes substantially to UC’s broad open access strategy.

Unlike commercial publishers, whose publishing decisions are often dictated by subscription targets and accountability to shareholders, eScholarship Publishing inhabits a scholar-led, values-driven economy. This economy may be comparatively small in scale, but it is neither subordinate nor insignificant. 

Many academic disciplines have been poorly served by the commercial scholarly communication marketplace because they simply aren’t profitable: they are too specialized or too new to have a broad audience; they seek to reach communities, beyond other scholars, who cannot afford subscriptions; they want to create with (not merely speak to) global colleagues; and they desire to publish in a fully OA environment without fees for authors. eScholarship, by virtue of its embeddedness within the University of California, its deep commitment to OA, and its market-agnostic stance, is often better positioned than its commercial or even its university press counterparts to support these kinds of under-served scholarly communication use cases.  

eScholarship Publishing is, in fact, designed to provide equitable open access publishing solutions by virtue of the program’s emphasis on supporting new voices, new models, and new perspectives, regardless of their market value or their alignment with particular disciplinary fields. And the program achieves these goals by providing unfettered access not only to published research, but also to the means of publishing that research. Most of eScholarship’s 90+ journals are Diamond OA and, as such, don’t require authors to help fund their publications through APCs or other fees. (Those few that do charge fees keep them FAIR and voluntary.) 

Needs and values, rather than scale and profit, drive this work and, as a result, eScholarship and fellow library publishers help fill a substantial gap within the scholarly record by increasing the representation of diverse fields of research and scholarship within the corpus of open access journals. 

But the eScholarship program also doesn’t limit itself to formal publication genres. eScholarship Repository Services offer less formal pathways to open access, including UC faculty’s self-deposit of 100K+ publications under the auspices of the institution’s comprehensive open access policies (with that number likely to jump significantly as UC implements the systemwide all-staff policy), as well as the open access distribution of 200K+ additional working papers, reports, studies, open educational resources, theses and dissertations. Academic departments and research units across the ten UC campuses use the eScholarship Repository to aggregate all forms of research, and demand is high for these services and the publications they make available. 

And finally, the eScholarship program experiments with new open access publishing models, launching in 2020 both a preprint server program (EarthArXiv for the earth sciences community, more to follow) and a media-rich publishing solution for publications like this multi-authored, multilingual book, focused on diagnostic ultrasound in tropical medicine and resource-limited environments. Like eScholarship itself, both of these efforts leverage open source publishing platforms (Janeway and Manifold, respectively) designed to help shift scholarly publishing toward an open infrastructure environment that supports the open distribution of knowledge from the ground up.

What are the productive tensions underlying the effort?

Just as transformative licensing agreements with publishers cannot provide a complete solution to the challenge of transitioning scholarly communication to open access, library publishing and repository services programs can also offer only a partial, albeit complementary, intervention in this space. For scholars who wish to continue to publish in long-established, prestige journals, and who have the funding either through their own grants or their institutional library to pay for any APC fees, transformative agreements offer a frictionless and familiar path to open access. And these agreements operate at an impressive scale: approximately 50% of UC-authored articles are now eligible for full or partial financial support for open access publishing.     

Clearly, eScholarship operates within a much narrower scope–still important, but certainly not effecting change at the same scale as transformative agreements. It can be difficult to make a case internally for increased resourcing to grow an OA publishing program that scales small comparatively, even though the demand for these publishing services already far outstrips our ability to provide them. It is also challenging work to continue, year after year, to educate faculty and staff on the intricacies of UC’s open access policies and to try to develop increasingly frictionless ways for them to participate. 

That said, all of these pathways, however imperfect, resonate together to amplify the message (more strongly than any one of them could alone) that UC prioritizes open access to research and will invest in a whole range of models to get us there. 

Transformative agreements enable open access publishing within well-known and respected journals, helping to move UC researchers forward in trusting and validating this new business model. UC’s OA policies enable open access to articles in journals not yet covered by transformative agreements, keeping the door to OA open for anyone at UC who wishes to deposit their article in the eScholarship Repository. And eScholarship Publishing offers an onramp to OA for scholars and disciplines that don’t fit or don’t want to operate within the commercial publishing marketplace, enabling an open path forward for those publications that the commercial publishers would likely leave behind. 

All three of these pathways (and more) are manifestations of UC’s commitment to ensuring the open distribution of the knowledge it produces and the scholarly engagement it generates through its research and scholarship.

Why is it worthy of library investment?

The eScholarship program is itself a diversified portfolio of investments in open access, supporting Diamond OA journal publication, Green OA self-archiving of published materials, upstream/downstream research outputs, and new modes of publishing. This range of open access activities represents UC’s longstanding commitment to the notion that academic institutions, especially public land-grant institutions, have a duty to provide mechanisms for the open distribution of the research produced by their communities and opportunities for the editorial management, by their scholars, of open access venues like journals, books, and preprint servers that seek to reimagine the way knowledge gets shared in our world. In this scholarly communication strategy, the distribution of knowledge is not outsourced to publishing corporations; rather, it is managed by academia itself.

Together with UC’s transformative agreements and open infrastructure initiatives, eScholarship’s suite of services rounds out UC’s broad approach to transforming scholarly communication from a gated and proprietary space to a landscape of open and shared knowledge. The eScholarship program provides a space for the kinds of new models and new voices that are necessary to propel this evolution in scholarly communication and are often better situated within the academy. Both library publishing and repository services have crucial roles to play here for a great many scholars and disciplines, and no transition to open access can be complete without them.


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