International Open Access Week 2022: Open for Climate Justice

An official International Open Access Week graphic. On the left are four images of pollution, with the open access padlock symbol superimposed over them: top left, a beach covered in rubbish, with the padlock showing a clean beach; bottom left, smoke billowing from a factory chimney, with the padlock showing a protest sign reading 'Climate Justice Now!'; top right, a city obscured by smog, with the padlock showing the same city but with clear air; bottom right, a body of water filled with rubbish, the padlock show a turtle swimming in clear water. On the right of the image text reads: 'International Open Access Week, Open for Climate Justice, October 24-30, 2022, #OpenForClimateJustice

This week is International Open Access week, an annual event about raising awareness and taking action on open access. This year’s theme is “Open for Climate Justice”, considering how open access and open research can help in tackling the climate crisis.

Sharing knowledge is a human right, and tackling the climate crisis requires the rapid exchange of knowledge across geographic, economic, and disciplinary boundaries.

What is climate justice, and where does open access fit in?

As Earth Overshoot Day gets earlier each year, it’s clear that the climate crisis is a global emergency which needs global action to tackle it. Open access can help ensure that work on climate change isn’t locked away behind paywalls where it can only be accessed by people working at institutions that can afford expensive journal subscriptions.

The term “climate justice” acknowledges that the effects of climate change are not being felt equally and that the impact is hitting marginalised populations harder – exactly the people who are also less likely to be able to access academic work and research on climate change. Opening up access to this work can be beneficial both directly and indirectly, because as well as making the work itself more accessible, it can enable people working on these issues to find others working in the same field, as well as raising the profile of their own research, helping to create opportunities for global collaboration.

What does open access look like in our corner of the world?

Here at SGUL we enable open access through our repository, SORA, where SGUL academic staff with a profile in our CRIS can have their full text manuscripts made available for articles that would otherwise only be available with a subscription to the published journal article (as well as those that are published open access).

We also maintain a Research Data Repository that can host a wide variety of outputs as well as data, making them freely available where possible whilst also allowing for access controls where appropriate (eg for sensitive medical data).

As well as these, we also have a number of Read and Publish deals with various publishers to allow SGUL corresponding authors to publish open access in some or all of their journals at either a reduced cost or at no direct cost. New deals for this year include those with Elsevier and Wolters Kluwer, which join existing deals from publishers such as OUP and Wiley. Full details on our deals, including eligibility requirements and lists of included journals, are on our webpages.

What about the rest of the global community?

There are however questions round the equitability of these Read and Publish deals and whether they are shifting the inaccessibility burden from readers to researchers: instead of readers being unable to access published research due to the cost barrier, are marginalised researchers being shut out of the publishing process due to the cost of open access fees? Are these deals just concentrating all the money for open access on the same publishers that were already making the most money from subscriptions?

The open access landscape is shifting rapidly as questions around fairness and access lead to new publication models, which lead to new questions and new discussions on how to move towards a world where everyone is able to participate in the academic community without barriers due to cost.

What might help?

Image by 🆓 Use at your Ease 👌🏼 from Pixabay

Initiatives such as PLOS Community Action Publishing aims to ‘make selective publishing more equitable’ and has capped margins so the more institutions who join, the lower costs become. Not for profit journal publishing as undertaken by the Microbiology Society, uses income generated to reinvest in their community. Both these publishers’ journals are covered by SGUL publishing agreements.

Many charitable funders and institutions are increasingly advocating that authors include a rights retention statement in their manuscripts on submission to subscription journals, to ensure the accepted manuscript can be made openly available even if the published version is not.

As well as traditional journal publishing, other OA publishing models such as preprinting may not require OA fees at all – for instance there are no open access fees for publishing on medRxiv or bioRxiv. ASAPBio, a not for profit scientist community, has produced FAQs on public preprint feedback, including How can preprint review contribute to equity?.

Diamond open access publishing (in which journals and platforms do not charge fees to either authors or readers) is being advanced as another initiative, as this recent conference demonstrates.

Find out more

Want to join the conversation but don’t know your AAM from your RRS? Curious about Creative Commons licences? Take a look at our new Open Access Glossary – and drop us a line if you run across something we don’t have a definition for yet!

Any questions? Get in touch with us:

  • (for questions about the CRIS and making your research publications available via SORA)
  • (for questions about publishing open access)
  • (for questions about research data and other types of research output)

We look forward to hearing from you.

Michelle Harricharan, Research Data Support Manager

Jenni Hughes, Research Publications Assistant

Carly Lightfoot, Library Research Services Manager

Jennifer Smith, Research Publications Librarian