Open Access: Updated national strategy seeks further improvements for researchers

© Adobe Stock | Maksim Kabakou

Switzerland’s Open Access Strategy, which has been in place since 2017, concludes this year. swissuniversities and the SNSF have now updated it in order to jointly and sustainably promote open access to scientific knowledge.

Research results financed by public money are a public good. All interested parties must be able to view them and make use of them without restriction. This principle was the basis of the National Open Access Strategy developed by swissuniversities and the SNSF in 2017. Seven years later, the strategy was due for an update. “We are convinced that the strategy has been an important tool for promoting open access to scientific knowledge, and that such a strategy is still needed,” says Matthias Egger, President of the SNSF’s Research Council.

A support group consisting of representatives from swissuniversities, the ETH domain, the Academies of Arts and Sciences and the SNSF started work on updating the strategy in 2023. The revision process has now been successfully completed.

Status of Open Access in Switzerland

Swiss universities and the SNSF have set themselves the ambitious goal of ensuring that 100 percent of the publications supported by public funding are made freely accessible. In 2021, the figure for the SNSF was 77 percent, compared to 48 percent in the period 2014-2018. The Swiss Open Access Monitor also recorded positive developments nationally. This clearly shows that open access has become the standard.

Updating the strategy presented a number of challenges. Among other things, the publication landscape has become more complex since 2017, costs have risen and alternative forms of publication are playing an increasing role.

Key points of the updated strategy

The central element of the strategy is its vision: digital publications are Open Access (OA) if they are available immediately without an embargo period, have an open licence and are in a machine-readable format. As before, publications can meet these criteria in various ways: if they are published in an OA journal, as an OA book or an OA anthology (Gold, Diamond); if the final manuscript is archived in a repository (Green); or if articles are immediately made freely accessible in a hybrid journal by way of a read & publish agreement.

Among other things, the objectives of the updated Open Access Strategy focus on further improving conditions for researchers in Switzerland. Matthias Egger stresses that, “as institutions, we want to ensure that researchers have the necessary infrastructures and services at their disposal so that they can publish under Open Access with as little additional effort as possible.” He feels that “they should have the unrestricted right to make their content freely accessible.”

Ultimately, the evaluation procedures in research funding institutions and at the universities must also contribute to a diverse publication landscape and, for example, allow researchers to opt for alternative forms of publication – in keeping with the notion of “bringing Open Access to researchers” rather than just “taking researchers to Open Access.”