Open Access Fee Fund COPE Set to Conclude in Summer 2022

Post by Haley Walton, Librarian for Education and Open Scholarship

For over a decade, the Duke University Libraries have been invested in open access to scholarly literature: the sharing of research outputs freely on the internet with no paywalls. In 2010, the faculty adopted an Open Access Policy to enable Duke authors to share their research papers in an open repository, DukeSpace, maintained by the Libraries. At the same time, the university signed onto the Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity (COPE), a program that aimed to remove disincentives to publishing in open access journals by helping authors pay article processing charges (APCs).

Our COPE Fund’s founding mission was to support “pure” open access publishers operating entirely on APCs rather than subscriptions—this in order to promote equity among subscription-based publishers and APC-based open access, which was, at the time, an innovative publishing model. COPE was designed to encourage the overall creation and sustainability of fully open publishing, as well as lower the cost barrier of APCs for Duke authors. Our goal was to endorse the open exchange of scholarship produced at the university.

With funding from the Duke University Libraries, the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, and the Office of the Provost, COPE helped defray publication costs for our authors continuously for the subsequent 12 years. This included funding the publication of nearly 500 articles by 470 individual Duke authors (faculty, graduate students, postdocs, and undergraduates). However, in June 2022, the COPE program will be coming to an end as the Libraries pivot to open access initiatives that are more relevant in today’s publishing landscape. (See our list of Duke-supported open access initiatives for more information.) This does not mean we are less dedicated to supporting OA at the university, but that the Libraries are choosing to invest in more contemporary models of openness, and ones that will have broader benefit in the Duke community and beyond.

As administrator of the fund for the last 6 years, I have enjoyed thoughtful correspondence with authors whose concerns about the publishing ecosystem are considerable. Openness is encouraged as demands for citations and numerous publications grow for students and faculty. But in the time since COPE’s creation, APC-based open access has matured into a mainstream part of the scholarly publishing ecosystem (rather than being the innovative model it was in 2010). Market-dominant, for-profit publishers and university presses have seen the benefits and popularity of open access, subsequently making modifications to their own models to include OA options (e.g. pay-for-OA in closed-access journals and/or entirely open journals started by “traditional” publishing houses).

As a consequence, there is less delineation between “pure” OA and a hybrid model of open options and subscriptions. This has made it difficult for our COPE Fund to operate effectively using the principles upon which it was founded, namely that we had to restrict the journals and publishers we could fund, excluding any journals that had been purchased or launched by publishers such as Wiley, Nature, or Elsevier. This led to frustration for both authors and for the Libraries as the open access publishing landscape became more convoluted. The technicalities of balancing COPE’s mission with the changing norms in OA publishing necessitated long-form communication with applicants and limitations on the fund that were more problematic than helpful for the Duke community. The Libraries assessed the dwindling ability of the fund to cover more than 20-40 article APCs per year (and often not the entire fee, as costs have been going up) and concluded that we could reinvest the COPE funds in other publishing activities that would benefit a greater number of authors on campus (such as the read and publish deal with Cambridge University Press that started in January 2022).

In my time working with Duke authors who were utilizing the COPE Fund, I had the privilege of seeing the groundbreaking research happening at the university and of having in-depth discussions about our community’s needs as academia grows and changes into the 21st century. I worked with authors across disciplines, from medicine and psychology to the social sciences and math. These are people dedicated to their work and determined to share knowledge with their colleagues and the general public. While COPE’s footprint on campus grew smaller with each passing year—limited funding and rising APC costs—I was still glad to keep a finger on the pulse of publishing on campus through the program. The Libraries (myself included) fully intend to continue to advocate for openness in scholarly publishing and for the interests of Duke authors in an ever-evolving world of openness in research, albeit without the COPE Fund.

It’s a bittersweet farewell I say to the program, but encourage all Duke faculty, students, and other researchers to keep an open dialog with the Libraries about what you need when it comes to resources to publish openly in your discipline. We are determined to invest library resources in an open infrastructure that supports our authors and their scholarly endeavors into the future.

For questions and to offer feedback, please reach out to ScholarWorks, a Center for Scholarly Publishing at the Duke University Libraries: scholarworks@duke.edu.

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