Open access scholarly publishing: a call to action

Published On: November 2019Categories: CSPC 2019 Panels & Speakers, EditorialsTags:


Suzanne Kettley

Canadian Science Publishing

Executive Director

Several Authors

Canadian Science Publishing


Suzanne Kettley


Internationally, the drive to make scholarly research available to all (Open Access – OA), is gathering momentum, spurred in large part by recent international developments such as Plan S. Canada must not be left behind in the system transformation to OA, but we need to do it right.  Plan S calls for scholarly research that is funded by certain European funding agencies to be published immediately as full OA. However, if the funding agency does not pay for the cost of OA publishing, the burden of the cost is, in most cases, pushed back to the researchers themselves who must find funds to pay an Article Processing Charge (APC) to have their work published in an OA journal. This is simply not a viable or sustainable approach to ensuring OA and delivering on the vision of Canadian Science Publishing (CSP):

“A world where everyone is empowered with scientific knowledge”

For centuries, publishers have played an essential role in the dissemination of scholarly works. The role of the publisher has changed dramatically from the early incarnations of scholarly journals, and with new technologies, publishers add increasing value to the research community in a number of ways, including:

  1. Coordinating peer-review and editorial processes 
  2. Providing professional, expert copyediting and formatting
  3. Protecting content by ensuring the use of persistent and unique identifiers, providing standard XML metadata tagging, and facilitating article preservation
  4. Ensuring professional standards are adhered to with respect to ethics and publishing best practices
  5. Amplifying research by facilitating discovery, usage, and sharing
  6. Disseminating research to broad audiences through journal web sites, marketing, and communication activities
  7. Providing services and tools to enhance research articles (e.g., Publons, Altmetric)

In addition, Not-For-Profit (NFP) publishers like CSP reinvest in their journals and communities by supporting researchers, scholarly societies, and other partners through collaborations, sponsorships, and awards.

Through these actions, publishers add relevance, integrity, quality, permanence, trust, and reach to published works. However, there are costs associated with providing these services, which have traditionally been covered through subscription-based models funded by research institutions and libraries.

The transition to OA has marked a fundamental shift in how publishing costs are covered, where authors themselves typically pay APCs to cover publishing costs. There is also a cost to publishers to process submitted papers that are ultimately rejected; meaning that APCs paid by researchers who have their papers accepted also cover the cost of rejected papers that were submitted by others. We argue that the author-pays model is in an ineffective and unsustainable practice. APCs place additional burden on research budgets that remain relatively static or are shrinking. Authors would need to pay thousands or tens of thousands of dollars from their research grants to publish all their work open access. Such costs are clearly prohibitive for researchers, particularly those in developing nations, and they diminish the overall investment in the direct costs of research.  We need to identify effective and sustainable alternatives.

NFP publishers are mission-driven rather than profit-driven. CSP is Canada’s largest independent and NFP publisher with a commitment to the health of the research ecosystem, not profit maximization. As such, they are well-positioned to lead a Canadian initiative to develop sustainable and scalable models to fund OA publishing without having to rely on author-paid APCs.

As Editors-in-Chief of CSP journals and as researchers ourselves, we support CSP’s desire to identify alternatives to the APC. For this to work best, researchers, research administrators, librarians, funders, and publishers, should come together to ensure that their needs are met. 

This is a call to action to all stakeholders in the scholarly community to unite on this important issue for scholarly research. On behalf of CSP, we invite you to join us on this journey and welcome your feedback, ideas, and partnership opportunities (

Together, we can find an effective and sustainable solution to funding open access which is critical to ensuring that research can be made freely available to anyone in the world who wishes to access it.



Ian Townend (Anthropocene Coasts); Terry Graham (Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism); Wendy Ward (Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism); Greg Henry (Arctic Science); Chris Nelson (Biochemistry and Cell Biology); Jim Davie (Biochemistry and Cell Biology); Christian Lacroix (Botany); Craig Lake (Canadian Geotechnical Journal); Daichao Sheng (Canadian Geotechnical Journal); Stacey Wetmore (Canadian Journal of Chemistry); Ali Polat (Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences); Keith Tierney (Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences); Yong Chen (Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences); Ellen Macdonald (Canadian Journal of Forest Research); Phil Burton (Canadian Journal of Forest Research); Chris Yost (Canadian Journal of Microbiology); Michael Steinitz (Canadian Journal of Physics); Shohini Ghose (Canadian Journal of Physics); Ghassan Bkaily (Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology); Brian Beres (Canadian Journal of Plant Science); Helga Guderley (Canadian Journal of Zoology); Mark Brigham (Canadian Journal of Zoology); Nihar Biswas (Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering); Jules Blais (FACETS); Lewis Lukens (Genome); Melania Cristescu (Genome); David Bird (Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems); Dominique Chabot  (Journal of Unmanned Vehicle Systems); Marius Paraschivoiu (Transactions of the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering); Brock Fenton (Deputy Executive Editor-in-Chief, Canadian Science Publishing); Jim Germida (Executive Editor-in-Chief, Canadian Science Publishing).