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What drives us: Changing the landscape to make Open Access more affordable

In our new interview series, we asked leaders at PLOS to share what motivates them to push the boundaries of science communication and support research and researchers. In today’s post, Sara Rouhi, Director of Strategic Partnerships, discusses how sustainability and inclusivity in Open Access publishing go hand-in-hand as well as working to reduce the barriers for more authors to publish open access.

Please tell us a little bit about what you do at PLOS.

I work on finding financially sustainable ways to enable more authors to engage in Open Access publishing and Open Science practices. 

As Director of Strategic Partnerships, I work closely with libraries and consortia all over the world to figure out the best ways we can collaborate to support research and researchers.

During your time at PLOS, what initiative/s have you been involved with that aim to create lasting change in the ways science is communicated?

In my time at PLOS, I’ve had the privilege of launching several new business models — Flat Fees, Community Action Publishing, and Global Equity — that enable more authors to publish open access and engage with open science best practice without paying fees. These models reduce the “barrier to entry” for researchers from many different backgrounds who do not have the funds to pay APCs. And essentially prove that there is more than one way to cover the cost of Open Access publishing.

To  echo what George and Emily have mentioned in their post, I think we create more/better science when as many voices as possible can participate — at the level and the moment that’s appropriate for them. Open Access created more opportunities for more people to interact with science when and how it’s most meaningful to them. A secondary school teacher interested in new methodologies to support students with special needs in the classroom has a very different level of expertise/accessibility to research than a PhD student. Open Access levels that playing field. But we still need more creative solutions to ensure every author can make their work open if they choose, which is what these models aim to do.

Why do you think this is important for science?

It’s important because science is a global, interdisciplinary enterprise. We risk losing vital voices when structural barriers — like cost — prevent a researcher from participating in that enterprise. Though we still have a lot of work ahead of us–much more to improve and to learn about how we can create solutions that work for all authors–this is a first step in thinking about Open Access differently. These models are leading the way in opening our own PLOS journals to all authors, as well as pushing other publishers — and academic institutions more broadly– to think more expansively about what it means to further inclusion in scholarly communication.

What does it mean to you personally to be involved in work like this?

Researchers dedicate their lives and livelihood to doing important work in their communities. If our work to make Open Access publishing more inclusive makes it possible for even one more voice to be heard, amplified, and shared, our work is a success. But we can and mustdo better than just one. PLOS is a global publisher, with a growing portfolio of journals that reach all areas of science and medicine. We have the capacity to make bold changes that reverberate across the scholarly community and lead by example. To be at the forefront of this work and see the pressure it puts on our peers across the industry to make lasting change is extremely gratifying. I’m very lucky to part of it.

By the end of your career, what do you hope people will think about your contribution?

In short, that it changed the way scholarly communication looked at the economics of authorship and participation.

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