"Transformation: a dramatic change in form or appearance,
extreme radical change."
With the word “transformation” in open access and open scholarship, context is everything. What is transformative for a publisher may not be to the same degree for the academic research library, even when reaching for similar goals. This lack of clarity can be confusing without context. This also impacts expectations for how resources and budgets should be used to support open access and open scholarship. So, what’s in a word? Different visions of the future, or potential roles in advancing the goals of open scholarship. This article explores several examples of use and misuse of this word with the recommendation to use sparingly and appropriately and replace with more accurate terminology when available.
A Matter of Perspective
When the word “transformative” entered the scholarly publishing vocabulary, it was to encourage a switch to open access business models by publishers, especially large commercial publishers of scholarly research journals. Other players were seen as participants in their transformation. These differences of perspective seem baked into the first usages of the word by Open Access 2020 and later by cOAlition S. The focus was on eliminating or reducing behind-paywall subscriptions, especially by large publishers. This assumed library materials budgets could be repurposed to offset a transformative shift by publishers to open access.
To avoid confusion, Jisc prefers to call these “transition agreements.” It is more accurate to say funders, publishers, academic institutions, research libraries are all in transition towards new types of business models and infrastructure support for research and scholarship.
Perhaps the real transformation for large publishers is from publishing companies to publishing and platform companies offering software and services directly to funders, authors, and administrators in addition to libraries. While a great topic, the focus of this review is on the impact on libraries and their budgets since cOAlition S saw this as a major source of funding for open access publishing.
Transformation in the academic setting goes well beyond agreements with publishers and repurposing library subscription budgets. There is a far bigger “transformative” view of materials acquisition, researcher outputs and open scholarship to manage.
Creativity in content, in services, in business models and marketing when they align into new ways of engaging the user draw my attention. This blog explores the innovations, people and trends that intrigue or inspire, offering insights into the future of publishing and scholarly communications.