Kaiser, J. (2010). Free journals grow amid ongoing debate. Science, 329(5994), 896-898.
Kaiser points to different studies that peg the number of articles available for free at somewhere between 7 and 20%. She seems to conclude that large official mandates are most influential way to broaden OA offerings. She focuses on PLoS and NIH as strong evidence that policy changes can support OA and cites various studies that show how OA can save money for the government and universities.
Kaiser points out that PLoS ONE was set to publish 7500 papers in 2010 (about 69% of submissions) and uses a publishing model based on ensuring the scientific rigor instead of the importance of the papers submitted for publications. While ONE's financial stability helps support the OA mission of the other PLoS publications, it is hard to argue that a journal publishing that many articles and openly admitting to less rigorous peer review is making a strong contribution to science. ONE's offer to publish articles regardless of their importance to the scientific enterprise would seem to support science that is basic, replicative, or otherwise not exciting, but those articles are still considered important to scholarly communication, so I have to ask whether these articles are being published despite their lack of “flashiness” or if ONE is actually publishing unnecessary papers as Kaiser seems to suggest.
Among Kaiser’s other strong points are:
- Science and Nature report a per-article cost of $10,000
- Only 25% of the visits to PubMed Central were from University computers (maybe indicating that the public is accessing the work)
- A study by Philip Davis found that after 2 years of randomly assigned open access in traditional journals, citations were not significantly affected
This last point speaks to Kaiser’s argument that high citation rates for open access content actually reflects authors’ willingness to paying OA fees for their best work.
Ultimately, Kaiser offers a realistic look at OA and shows that systemic change with broad support can cause shifts in scholarly communication but that the solutions we’ve found so far are all problematic. Should we publish mediocre work in order to fund quality OA publications? Should we strong-arm publishers into submission until traditional publishing models are no longer viable (thus putting many professional societies out of business)?
Reblogged in full because it’s something that’s been on my mind, particular what Kaiser points out. Open access publications are still not prestigious— which may very well be what publishers want, because researchers are still shelling out for articles in paid journals, at least when they’re off the presses.
Nonprofit group Knowledge Unlatched pioneers an open-access model:
- Participating libraries pick a list of scholarly books & collectively pay publishers an agreed upon fee for each book.
- Publishers make Creative Commons-licensed, DRM-free PDFs of the selected books available for download through the OAPEN digital platform (Open Access Publishing in European Networks)
- Pilot collection contains 28 books from 13 academic presses with publishers averaging $12,000 per book (authors ok’d access, receive royalties)
- 300 libraries included in the pilot
- Libraries Vote on books to release: some in academic libraries concerned that “esoteric scholarship” is the least likely to win votes and therefore the most likely to remain locked up, even if it’s urgently needed”