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Briefly on Open Access and Commercial Scholarly Publishers

Open Access (OA) is free, immediate, permanent online access to the full text of research articles for anyone, webwide.

Working definitions for Gold OA (journal publishing) and Green OA (self archiving)

  1. the “golden road” of OA journal-publishing, where journals provide OA to their articles (either by charging the author-institution for refereeing/publishing outgoing articles instead of charging the user-institution for accessing incoming articles, or by simply making their online edition free for all);
  2. the “green road” of OA self-archiving, where authors provide OA to their own published articles, by making their own eprints free for all.

Source: What is Open Access?

The OA movement, where Stevan Harnad is one of the leading voices, reasons for Open Access as follows:

  1. Authors hand their articles over to journals for free; journals do not pay them, they are funded by government research grants and/or by salaries from their employers (mostly universities).
  2. Journals get peer reviews on those articles for free: The peers’ reviewing work and time are funded by salaries from their employers (mostly universities).
  3. Publisher revenues come mostly from selling subscriptions to these institutions that submit these articles and peer reviews for free in the first place.
  4. If institutional costs are ever canceled, the funding for peer reviews by publishers will be taken over by the institutions themselves. All access and archiving would then be provided by the network of institutional OA repositories instead of the publisher, who would only provide the peer review. This is called “OA publishing” or “Gold OA.”

Source: Open Access Archivangelism by Stevan Harnad

Six things that researchers need to know about open access
SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #94 (in short, go to site for a more elaborate explanation!)

(1) What OA journals exist in your field?
Go to the Directory of open access journals (DOAJ) and browse by discipline.

(2) OA journals are not the whole story of OA. There are also OA archives or repositories.
The best places to look for OA repositories are the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) and OpenDOAR (Directory of Open Access Repositories).

(3) OA archiving only takes a few minutes.

(4) Most non-OA journals allow authors to deposit their postprints in an OA repository.

(5) Journals using the Ingelfinger Rule are a shrinking minority.

Some authors are afraid that depositing a preprint in an OA repository will disqualify it for subsequent publication. It’s true that some journals refuse to publish papers that have previously circulated as preprints or whose results have been publicized. This is called the Ingelfinger Rule, named after a former editor at the New England Journal of Medicine. The rule is rare outside the field of medicine and in decline.

(6) OA enlarges your audience and citation impact.

This is the chief reason for authors to provide OA to their own work. OA increases the audience for a work far beyond the audience of any priced journal, even the most prestigious or popular journal. Studies in many fields show a correlation between OA and citation-count increases from 50% to 250%.

Additional Information
‘Only 5% of journals are gold, but over 90% are already green (i.e., they have given their authors the green light to self-archive); yet only about 10-20% of articles have been self-archived. To reach 100% OA, self-archiving needs to be mandated by researchers’ employers and funders, as the United Kingdom and the United States have recently recommended, and universities need to implement that mandate.’ (Harnad et al. 2004)

Journals, while serving the all important tasks of mediating the peer review process as objectively as possible and thus becoming a credible quality filter and thus a credible quality indicator of scientific literature, are not as efficient (nor really “fair”, depending on how one would look at it, given the “free labor” of authors and peer reviewers perspective) enough in terms of making said scientific literature accessible due to their commercial nature. In response, the OA movement is trying to improve the scientific literature accessibility by pushing mandates that give authors the right to immediately deposit their, for publication accepted, papers in their institutional repositories. Which will then use certain protocols, such as the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting to make them searchable in search engines, and therefore making them widely accessible while efficiently storing them (no dupes etc, simply using standardized protocols to link to their repositories and such).

While a common (mis)perception is that OA will change many of the crucial processes of scientific literature, such as the peer review process, that doesn’t seem to be accurate at all. It does not in fact touch the peer review process at all. OA does not improve, nor worsen the quality of the peer review process, nor the articles undergoing that process. OA repositories/journals are NOT substitutes for peer reviewed articles. Journals can and likely will exist even with 100% OA. Their role could and will still be mediating authors and referees through the peer review process, and being a credible quality indicator for scientific literature.

As I understand it, OA is essentially shifting the funding from publishers (who get their revenue from scientific parties) to authors-institutions (the scientific parties) and opening up access to them. So there IS funding available for Open Access, but it’s simply being used in the not so efficient way in terms of science distribution. Once libraries stop paying for subscriptions, they can pay for funding the journals instead and have them go OA. The effect would be the same, only that more people can access the literature, and publishers will have to find a different source of revenue.

More regarding the OA movement’s progress:

I reckon this should get you started on Open Access. It’s an interesting subject for everybody really, given the importance of scientific knowledge in our current society.

References:
Harnad, S, Brody, T, Vallieres, F, Carr, L, Hitchcock, S, Gingras, Y, Oppenheim, C, Stamerjohanns, H, Hilf, E 2004, ‘The Access/Impact Problem and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access.’ Serials Review vol. 30, no. 4. (Online available here)

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