The SCOOP: Who Knows the Way to Get to OA?

Submitted by Christine Fruin, ATLA Member Programs and Scholarly Communication Manager

When open access was first introduced as a concept nearly twenty years ago, there were two common “roads” offered to open access: Gold and Green. Gold OA was defined then and still known now as open access that is available directly from publishers and free for readers but commonly published at a cost for authors, known as Article Processing Charges or APCs. Green OA has been understood to mean open access through the action of authors, most commonly through author deposit in an open access repository. Variations on these two original modes of open access have emerged over the years; however, the growing concern among proponents and advocates has been not only the slow growth but also the sustainability of the current models. In recent months, two new roadways to open access have been proposed: the 2.5% Commitment and OA2020.

The 2.5% Commitment

Proposed by former IUPUI University Library Dean (and 2018 ATLA Conference closing keynote speaker) David Lewis, the 2.5% Commitment requests libraries to commit 2.5% of their total library budget to establish an “open scholarly commons that will be digital and distributed with colleges, universities, cultural heritage organizations, scholarly societies, foundations, and governments hosting the content created, funded, or of interest to them in repositories that would make the content openly available to the world.” The “open scholarly commons” or common infrastructure is not a single instance but rather a network of interoperative and ideally community-owned solutions represented by open source software projects such as OJS and Hyku; open repositories such as ArXIV, Humanities Commons and HathiTrust; tools for discovering open access content; preservation organization; OER content developers and providers; and advocacy groups such as SPARC and the Library Publishing Coalition.

The proposition prompted numerous responses from the library community, both supportive and critical (see open access proponent Cameron Neylon’s thoughtful but critical look at the 2.5% Commitment in this blog post). The immediate action was a crowdsourced list of the available investment opportunities for libraries to consider. This list of opportunities was used to develop a tool to allow institutions to measure their investments in the various components of the common infrastructure. This tool and other information on the 2.5% Commitment can be found on the initiative’s website “Towards a Scholarly Commons.” In a follow-up article, David Lewis and others outline the next steps for the initiative and renew the call to libraries consider building contributions to the development of the common infrastructure into their budgets.


Initially conceived in 2015, the European initiative OA2020 calls for a global collaboration “to transform the current publishing system, replacing the subscription business model with new models that ensure that outputs are open and re-usable and that the costs behind their dissemination are transparent and economically sustainable.”  As with the 2.5% Commitment, the suggestion of a complete discontinuance of the subscription system and reinvestment of subscription dollars in open access publishing services prompted both signatory support as well as vocal opposition. Notably, the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) and UNESCO issued a joint statement in 2016 denouncing any “one size fits all” solution to open access and criticizing the proposal to redirect subscription funds to APCs for bias against institutions with smaller budgets and developing countries, among other things. In the U.S., the criticism zeroed in on the suggestion that OA202 solely called for the flipping of subscription dollars to the payment of APCs. However, as University of California-Berkeley’s scholarly communication officer Rachael Samberg explains, the goal of OA2020 can be realized through a multitude of strategies that may or may not rely upon redirection of subscription dollars to the payment of APCs. As proposed by the 2.5% Commitment, this may instead mean a reinvestment of subscription dollars into the development of infrastructures such as repositories or OA publishing mechanisms.

Making Sense of the Map: Pathways to OA

As a signatory to the OA202 initiative and to aid libraries in their consideration of the various proposed routes to transform the scholarly communication system, the University of California system released “Pathways to OA” earlier this year. In this document, the authors consider the traditional Green and Gold approaches to OA as well as the universal strategies represented by initiatives like the 2.5% Commitment and OA2020. The report considers the challenges and opportunities posed by these approaches and strategies and recommends next steps for libraries to consider. For example, for libraries committed to the promotion of Green OA, the authors encourage libraries to engage in licensing negotiations to secure reuse and deposit rights for authors. Libraries seeking to engage further with Gold OA publishers should explore memberships that offset APC costs as well as identify and engage with journals that may consider flipping from a subscription to a Gold OA model. Finally, for libraries wanting to support universal strategies, investment in infrastructure and support of national and international initiatives are encouraged. As part of the report, the authors put together a useful chart that succinctly and clearly lays out the full report.

Further Reading

The SCOOP, Scholarly COmmunication and Open Publishing, is a monthly column published to inform ATLA members of recent developments, new resources, or interesting stories from the realm of scholarly communication and open access publishing.

Christine Fruin is the ATLA Member Programs and Scholarly Communication Manager. As an attorney and a librarian, she has worked for over a decade promoting access to and use of diverse collections through utilization of fair use, open access, and responsible licensing.

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