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11 - Open access and open science – a debate

Edited by G. Chartron (CNAM) and J. Schöpfel (Lille 3)

Since the early 90s, scientific communication is under constant transformation in a digital context closely associated with a world increasingly open: open repositories for researchers, electronic journals without access barriers, progressive conversion of publishing offers. At that time, challenged by inflationary costs of STM journals, libraries played a major role for the development of scientific communication. The open access movement was consolidated by fundamental political statements in the early 2000s1. From 2012 on, this movement meets the economic and financial crisis; therefore, open access to research results from public funding is now strongly associated with innovation. Governments and funders come to consider open access as a way to control their investment in research (Chartron 2016)2. At the same time, the major publishers adjust their strategy with new business models including open access.

Today, the change seems irreversible. The challenge is to transform the academic publishing system to an open system without access barriers (Council of the European Union 2016) 3. This objective concerns also research data and the possibility of reuse. More generally, today the concept of open science (Royal Society 2012)4 appears to be the best response to societal challenges and international competitiveness. This political vision brings together libertarian open movements with liberal positions (Ibekwe & Paquienseguy 2015)5. Confronted with open science, learned societies, academic publishers, university presses and libraries have to “reinvent” their model. However, in spite of much enthusiasm, new business models are still uncertain, especially for smaller publishers. In the age of the new digital economy, some issues call for attention, such as the low survival rate of many start-ups, the rapid devaluation of a company such as Yahoo, or the omnipresence of Google... Even if it seems hard not to adhere to open science, it is time to take some critical stance and to ask if all these transformations are possible and desirable (Schöpfel 2015)6.

The objective of this special issue of the Revue Française des Sciences de l’Information et de la Communication (RFSIC) is to investigate the opportunities and risks of the transition of the academic publishing model and more globally, of open science. We solicit original contributions to inform and enrich the discussion on the following topics:

  • Business models: a major objective of open access is to recast the global funding of the system, i.e. transform the actual subscriptions into upstream subsidies for academic publishing. Article processing charges, global licenses, supporting public service providers... What can be said about the results of the current transformations? What is the role of national governments? On the international level, how to globalize costs and respond to the risks of inequity between contributing countries? How to interpret a site like Sci-Hub? Does one-size-fit-all scientific fields? Which relationship between the business models of scientific research and academic publishing? How to establish sustainable models?

  • Policies: public support is crucial for the success of open access (cf. European Commission, White House, British Government, Brazil’s public support of SCIelo…). However, are all these policies convergent? Do they share the same vision of universality of open access? Are the means employed similar? How will Brexit impact open access? Do negotiations with publishers accompany the transformation of the business model, and if so, how? Are there strategies of destabilization or substitution? How do the scientific communities conceive their partnership with the corporate sector? Does open access provide the opportunity to articulate the publication system with public research management? Which is the impact on research evaluation? Which connection between research information systems and open access infrastructures?

  • Editorial mediation: how does open access change the editorial mediation, in terms of added value and functions? How to appreciate the increasing accessibility of publications and its effects? Do academic social networks like ResearchGate or confer new forms of legitimacy to open access publications, thus replacing the peer review organized so far by the journals and their editorial boards? What about the future of reputation and notoriety, the scientists’ preferred values? Does the survival of many journals depends on the accelerated concentration of the publishing sector? Will the diversity and editorial independence survive in this digital environment? Which kind of new services should we offer in a transformed value chain?

  • Societal and economic mediation: the two major arguments for open science are improved transfers of research results to society and to economy and business. Can we already assess even partial achievements? Is open access as relevant and efficient as other vectors of scientific mediation (transfer journals, public debates, museums ...)? How is open access related to citizen science? Can we observe positive effects on economy and business, in terms of innovation? Is open science compliant with the inherent logics of competition, public-private partnerships and industrial property?

  • Innovation in scientific work: open science is also associated with new tools and methods to increase the efficiency of scientific work, e.g. text and data mining (TDM), shared open corpus reuse, promotion of interdisciplinary to address complex societal challenges... What is the impact of open access? What are the information behaviours and practices of researchers, especially in Information and Communication Sciences?

The submitted contributions (in French or English) should enhance the understanding of the actual transformation with empirical data, case studies, significant states of the art, historical perspectives, modelling or theoretical debates. A comparative approach will be particularly appreciated, of different scientific fields, countries or geopolitical regions.

Important dates:

  • 1th November: reception of proposals (abstracts)

  • 1th December: feedback to authors about acceptation

  • 30th March: reception of full papers

  • 30th March-15th June: evaluation of full papers and final decision

  • 30th August: reception of final versions for publication

Contacts: Ghislaine Chartron ( and Joachim Schöpfel (

Abstracts in french or in english are limited to 1200 words and must specify the issue, together with a brief overview of the literature, methodology and key findings. They will be sent in Word or .rtf format to the two editors of this issue.


1 The declarations are available at

2 Chartron, G. 2016. Stratégie, politique et reformulation de l’open access. Revue française des sciences de l’information et de la communication 8. Available at

3 Europe, 27 May 2016,

4 Royal Society, 2012. Science as an open enterprise. Available at

5 Ibekwe-Sanjuan, F., Paquienseguy, F. 2015. Open, Big, Collaboration: Trois utopies de l'innovation au XXIème siècle. In Broudoux, E., Chartron, G. (eds.). Big Data, Open Data: quelles valeurs, quels enjeux? Proceedings, Rabat, 4-5 May 2015. Brussels: Editions de Boeck, p.17-29.

6 Schöpfel, J., 2015. Open access – the rise and fall of a community-driven model of scientific communication. Learned Publishing 28 (4), 321-325. Available at

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