How Do We Fix Scholarly Publishing? Global leaders meet at Mason to lay out a plan

FAIRFAX, Va. (April 20, 2016) – Business and research leaders from around the world will meet this week on the campus of George Mason University to begin laying the groundwork for a preferred future of research publishing. For years, universities have expressed concern over the escalating costs of academic journals while publishers have struggled to keep pace with the rapidly expanding amount of research being produced. Meanwhile, open access advocates—people who want research to be freely available to everyone—have redoubled their efforts to popularize open access publishing solutions. The discord on this subject has brought the future of scholarly communication into question, including the policies that guide research funding guidelines and tenure decisions.

This week’s meeting at George Mason will be the first in a 10-year United Nations-backed effort to find common ground in this debate and improve how research information gets published, shared, and accessed. Dubbed the Open Scholarship Initiative (OSI), these meetings will mark the first time in the long history of this debate that such a large number of high-level leaders from such a broad stakeholder audience will meet to discuss this issue. “I’m surprised this hasn’t been tried before,” said Glenn Hampson, OSI’s program director. “For years, these groups have simply been talking past each other and the static has created a highly charged environment. This will be an opportunity to sit and talk and find a way forward, together.”

Over 200 leaders from every major stakeholder group in scholarly publishing will come together at this first meeting to discuss ideas for improving the current system. The United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) is the largest long-term partner in this effort. Funding has also been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and eleven other foundations and publishers.

“It’s an audacious experiment, for sure,” says T. Scott Plutchak, an expert on research data management, and member of the OSI organizing committee. “It’s definitely going to be interesting sailing.” Plutchak was a member of a previous effort to attempt a collaborative approach to the scholarly publishing puzzle – the Congressional and White House sanctioned Scholarly Publishing Roundtable of 2009 which has influenced subsequent US policy around access to the results of federally funded research.

In all, over 50 research universities will be represented, along with 35 publishers, 24 government policy organizations, 23 libraries, 23 non-university research institutions, 17 open-knowledge groups, and 22 others, including faculty groups and funders. At this first meeting, delegates will work together in small and diverse groups to work on key questions like peer review and impact factors, and then report out their recommendations to the full delegation. Papers will be published from these recommendations, and these will form the basis for broader and continuing conversations that tie into the next annual meeting.

Media wishing to attend the conference should contact Eric Olson at For more information about OSI, please visit or email OSI program director Glenn Hampson at


Follow OSI on Twitter, and watch a livestream of workgroup presentations on Friday morning.

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