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Poynder, Richard, 2019. Open access: Could defeat be snatched from the jaws of victory? 18th November 2019.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License


When news broke early in 2019 that the University of California had walked away from licensing negotiations with the world’s largest scholarly publisher (Elsevier), a wave of triumphalism spread through the OA Twittersphere. The talks had collapsed because of Elsevier’s failure to offer UC what it demanded: a new-style Big Deal in which the university got access to all of Elsevier’s paywalled content plus OA publishing rights for all UC authors – what UC refers to as a “Read and Publish” agreement. In addition, UC wanted Elsevier to provide this at a reduced cost.1 Given its size and influence, UC’s decision was hailed as “a shot heard around the academic world”.2 The news had added piquancy coming as it did in the wake of a radical new European OA initiative called Plan S. Proposed in 2018 by a group of European funders calling themselves cOAlition S, the aim of Plan S is to make all publicly funded research open access by 2021.3 Buoyed up by these two developments open access advocates concluded that – 17 years after the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) – the goal of universal (or near-universal) open access is finally within reach. Or as the Berkeley librarian who led the UC negotiations put it, “a tipping point” has been reached.4 But could defeat be snatched from the jaws of success?

Contents: In the way of background • Pushback/ counterrevolution? • Populism and nationalism • Trade protectionism, tariffs, sanctions and suspicion • Level of naïveté • Growing gulf • Homogeneity vs heterogeneity • Wrong footed • Imbalance of values • Pandora’s Box • What is to be done? • Reaching for legal remedies • Collateral damage • Splinternet? • Overstating the situation? • Understating the situation? • What then of open access? • Open China? • Challenge for the Global South • Open access split? • East or West? • We can but hope

82 pp.