The promotion of unhindered access to scientific and scholarly information is a strategic task for university managers – in the interests of their members as readers, researchers, and authors of published works. Open Access (OA) improves access to vital information and increases the visibility of the university’s scholarly output.

Probably the most important task of university managers in relation to OA is to clearly endorse it. Various instruments are available for this purpose, for example the adoption of an OA policy or mandate, and the appointment of a contact person for OA-related matters (open access officer). However, measures that go beyond a clear commitment to OA are also called for.

Challenges lie, for example, in the following areas:

  • Establishing the visibility of the scholarly output of the university
  • Developing OA advisory services
  • Promoting and calling for OA at the university
  • Creating funding opportunities for OA
  • Impact of OA on the literature supply (see libraries)

Dealing with the serials crisis and structural changes

Due to the exorbitant skimming off of excess profits by some publishers, classical licensing and cost models for scholarly journals work only to a limited extent nowadays. This has negative consequences for the visibility of the research results published in journals. In cooperation with their libraries, university managers can centrally press for the sustainable use of available resources and promote necessary redeployments.

Expansion of service offerings

Open Access reveals new advisory and service needs on the part of scholars and scientists. University managers can promote the development of offerings that advance Open Access (e.g., the establishment of publication funds and repositories and the founding of scholarly journals run with the open source software Open Journal Systems, OJS).

Cooperation and competition

Because individual universities have limited possibilities of achieving a fundamental improvement in the supply of scientific and scholarly information, these problems can be tackled and solutions implemented only on a cooperative basis. This entails individual universities’ incurring costs in advance by sustainably deploying personnel and material resources to promote OA in order to reap the collective benefits later. However, OA also makes sense against the background of the pressure of competition between universities because it enhances the visibility of the institution’s research output.

Financing Open Access

Within the framework of the German Research Foundation’s (DFG) Open Access Publishing Programme, university managers can apply for funding to establish an OA publication fund. With this funding instrument, the DFG wishes to give universities an incentive to develop reliable and sustainable financing and advisory structures for OA journal publications. 

Creating incentives

As a complement to the corresponding instruments of research funders, universities can create their own incentive systems for OA. Counting and statistically analysing publications, and taking the criterion of OA into account when assessing performance (for example within the framework of performance-related resource allocation) plays an important role in this regard.

Many funding instruments relate to OA journals and focus on the natural and life sciences. University managers therefore have an important balancing role to play in ensuring that members of all disciplines benefit from the transformation to OA and that, where necessary, complementary measures are developed and implemented. Financing and advisory services should be directed at all university members.

With the means at their disposal, university managers should contribute to promoting an awareness of OA not only among the institution’s researchers but also among its students and administrative staff. This also applies in particular to staff in those administrative areas that deal with the requirements of research funders and the measurement of scholarly output.

To a certain extent, technical measures are needed for which the university management can clarify the prerequisites and commission the implementation. They include building repositories, platforms for the publication of journals and other media, and (networked) information systems that list publications. Data centres and libraries, in particular, are important contact partners in this regard. However, it is also important to solicit the input of the university’s own researchers .

In a brochure entitled “Open Access Strategies for Academic Institutions” (available in German only), the Open Access working group of the Alliance of German Science Organisation’s priority initiative Digital Information outlines central components of an institutional OA strategy.