Foto: Teska Overbeeke (UvA)

Rector magnificus Maex criticizes paywall of scientific publishing

Dirk Wolthekker,
10 januari 2019 - 16:37

During the celebration of the UvA’s 378th dies natalis, rector magnificus Karen Maex called scientific publishing paywalls as ‘bizarre’. She also expressed concerns about the European Open Science Cloud. ‘Who manages this?’

In her speech (read the full speech), Maex adressed the social importance of open access and open science, talking points that have been keeping the university world busy for years. Open access is about public accessibility and availability of completed scientific research. The European Open Science Cloud initiaive wants to make all scientific data accessible, including datasets and research methods.


Open access is generally granted by scientific publishers, which Maex criticised in her speech because of the ‘bizarre amount of money’ they ask from scientists who want to publish their research while allowing other scientists to review their work for free. ‘It’s a great model of revenu—but for publishers, not universities.’

‘It’s a great model of revenu—but for publishers, not universities’

Maex: ‘I often feel that research is not driven purely by curiosity but influenced by a drive to be published in a high-impact, high-ranking journal. The current system not only determines a scientist’s career, but influences our way of thinking.’


It’s time for a change. ‘Many actors’ have joined forces to do things differently, according to Maex, who spoke of the ‘crowbar approach’ of the European Union and big research financiers. A few months ago some of these actors signed a paper called Plan-Slees in which they demanded that research funded by them should be open access in ‘no time’.



Maex said this was a good initiative in itself, but pointed out that open access must meet two important preconditions. For access to scientific papers to be considered truly ‘open’, everyone—and every country—must participate. ‘This is about creating a level playing field on a global scale. It won’t work if some of the world doesn’t participate.’ According to Maex, the answer lies in a much broader interplay between research, education, leadership and teamwork.


Maex also wondered whether open science could lead to new threats. ‘We are talking about uploading information to data clouds on a national and European level, accessible to all. But who manages these clouds? Who determines who has access? Open science must first be well organised if the university is to guarantee its mission of research, education and innovation.’