"Open Access is a matter of democracy and global solidarity"

For Erik Agrell, professor of Electrical engineering and recipient of the 2020 Chalmers Open Access Award, Open Access publishing is an obvious matter for several reasons.

Publishing Open Access is very important today, what are your thoughts about it since you have so many Open Access published articles?

"But isn't it obvious? To publish OA brings at least three big advantages, which each one in itself would be a sufficient reason for me.
First, it is a matter of democracy and global solidarity. We in the rich world have large literature databases at our fingertips, freely available via Chalmers and other well-equipped libraries. It is easy to forget that many of our colleagues around the world are not as fortunate. Even in Sweden, researchers at small and medium-sized enterprises often lack subscriptions. The global OA movement plays an important role here, opening up vast literature resources to all researchers regardless of their geographic and financial status.
Second, it is our obligation as Chalmers employees and tax-funded researchers. Chalmers has an Open Access Policy since 2010, and most of the major research agencies, both in Sweden and EU, require OA output from the projects they fund. So the decision has already been made—it is not up to us as individuals.
Third, it is good for our personal and institutional bibliometrics, since OA articles get more citations."

Do you have any advices for other researchers who do not have the same impressive Open Access resume as you do?

"If we have OA in mind from the beginning, it brings very little extra effort. I have a folder on my computer desktop where I drop a PDF copy of every paper I submit for publication. At regular intervals, I empty the folder by dragging each file to its corresponding entry in research.chalmers.se.

Before I developed this habit, it could take me hours to locate a single PDF file, because each paper had so many versions, scattered all overmy computer, and sometimes I didn't even have the final version if it was submitted by a coauthor.

Another advice is to ask about OA immediately if you receive an invitation to write a paper or book chapter. We are in better positions to negotiate before accepting than after publication. And if many of us ask the same question, then we send a strong message to the publishers."

Are there any situations when things did not go as planned?

"When I started to pursue OA about ten years ago, the legal conditions were not so clear, and the support from the library was not as mature as now. I may have made some legal mistakes, although in good faith, but let's not elaborate on that on this happy day..."

Do you have any OA anecdotes?

"I recently wanted to upload under green OA a book chapter that I wrote 17 years ago. As usual in those days, when OA was not on the agenda, I had given away the copyright to the publisher. Thus, I had no position to negotiate; I could only appeal to their goodwill. I wrote a letter to the publisher, and got a response from their legal department that they would consider my request and determine the royalty fee and terms.
Five weeks later, I received a long and complicated legal agreement to sign, together with an invoice. Discouraged, I realized that I probably couldn't afford it, but I opened the documents anyway. At the end, after some tax details and billing information, came the price tag: 'Total 0.00 EUR'


Erik Agrell
  • Full Professor, Communication, Antennas and Optical Networks, Electrical Engineering


Mikael Weiss