The latest report from the JISC-funded Research Communication Strategy project at the University of Nottingham claims that the intellectual battle for Open Access has been won and asks why, then, the widespread adoption of OA practice seems so distant? Too often, researchers seem to associate OA with concerns about copyright, peer review and questions about its potential effect on their academic reputation. There are answers to these concerns, of course, but that may be to miss an important point. Another approach, the report argues, is to offer researchers added value services on top of the benefits of OA. These might be the social networking of applications such as Mendeley, or more efficient management of information for the REF, or the subject-based PLoS ONE ‘hubs’. However, the report goes on to question whether commercial offerings such as systems like Mendeley or OA publishers like PLoS can impose unforeseen restrictions on academic research. Any infrastructure can impose such restrictions, of course, a phenomenon known as ‘path dependency’, and I recently argued that this is one of the barriers to the emergence of a global repositories network.
The Nottingham report concludes that “we have to recognise an overall strategic view of research as a process between funders, researchers and institutions, with other actors (publishers, Web2.0 systems, research support offices, libraries, repositories, search services) as service providers rather than process drivers”. This would be a challenge to all concerned, in terms of professional identities, business models and technologies. Open access is a long, slow change.