Where the inertia lies with OA.

Note: this is an opinion, and I’d be glad of research that proves me wrong. Or right. That would be nice too.

In talking with researchers about OA for the last five or six years, I’ve noticed a pattern. Old silverback academics, safe in their positions, published by their undergraduate buddies who are now editors, and are editors themselves, think OA works, and want to encourage it. The logic, as I’ve heard them say, is impeccable. Young ambitious early career researchers like the values represented by OA; democratic, free/libre, progressive.

The inertia against OA are those in the middle. Those that are still very much in the rat race, watching their colleagues burn out and change career (school teaching is still an option, and a good one!). For them, the trophy Nature article is still achievable, the big grant is being applied for, and the corporate promotion tick boxes are haunting their every move. They need to move tactically. The pressure is on. It might be cynical to say so, but for this bunch, pragmatism is key. And for them, publishing in the right journal is key. So what if it belongs to a profiteering company – its the place they need to be.

I’m absolutely not saying this is wrong, or bad behaviour. I’m just trying to understand it, so as we develop programmes like Plan S, we can encourage them to do the thing that benefits everyone, not just themselves. Its always best to approach behaviour change from a position of enlightened self interest.

I’d be interested in some research that looks at publishing outlets based on career stage to see if this is borne out, as if I’m right, this should be becoming more pronounced.

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