Wikimedia and the “seismic shift” towards open-access research publication 2012-05-15


“After the issue of open-access research had simmered for years, Timothy Gowers, a mathematician at Cambridge University in the UK, finally spat the dummy in January and wrote a blog post explaining why he'd been boycotting research journals published byElsevier... He complained that the company massively overcharges for its research publications and forces libraries into unfair and wasteful ‘bundling’ deals on multiple subscriptions, many of which they do not want. Gowers’ move led to the launch of the webpage The Cost of Knowledge as a hub of protest against Elsevier... More than 11,000 academics have signed the pledge. Elsevier is one of the most powerful players in the academic world, publishing more than a quarter of a million research articles each year in its more than 2,000 journals. The Economist reports that ‘the firm is certainly in rude financial health. In 2010, it made a £724m ($1.16 billion) profit on revenues of £2 billion, a margin of 36%...’ Such is the company's reach that a substantial proportion of the citations in Wikipedia’s medical and scientific articles rest on its publications. As many editors know, a frustrating aspect of using Wikipedia as a serious tool for knowledge acquisition is that article references often link to sources that require a credit card. The charge can be as high as $50 to access a single article, and readers don't find out whether there's a paywall until they've clicked multiple times. To explore such problems and their solutions, The Signpost has trialled the orange open-access logo, designed by PLoS, against references in our monthlyRecent research, and a roll-out for wider usage on Wikimedia Foundation projects is under discussion. Wikimedia’s Jimmy Wales was widely reported in the press and electronic media earlier this month as having agreed to advise the UK government on how its plans to make taxpayer-funded research available gratis can promote collaboration and engagement. Wales told The Signpost that ‘traditional academic journals have had the same business model for decades—a model that made a lot of sense before the age of the Internet, just as the business model of the traditional hard-copy Britannica made a lot of sense before the age of the Internet.’ We asked him about the view that there's been a creeping privatisation of knowledge. He said that ‘it isn't 'the privatisation of knowledge' which has crept up on us, but the realization that there's a better way to fund academic publishing, a way that will allow for much broader distribution of results." The Economist reports that Elsevier "insists it is being misrepresented. ... It charges average industry prices for its products, according to Nick Fowler, its director of global academic relations, and its price rises have been lower than those imposed by other publishers over the past few years... Wales responded to Fowler's points about pricing and profits in a diplomatic tone... ‘What we should be interested in is the sharing of knowledge and the widespread dissemination of research results. We're in the midst of a major shift in business models in the research publication industry, and I'm sure that if Elsevier is an efficient operator, they'll do well under the new model.’ An op ed in The Boston Globe last week said that ‘it is the persistent unwillingness of universities to address the fundamental misalignment between the interests of their faculty and their libraries that has allowed the situation to fester. Had the leaders of major research universities attacked this issue head on at any point since the deep economic flaws in system became apparent in the 1990s, we would not be facing this problem today...’ Wales emphasises a different angle: ‘In large part, there's been a time lag due to the need for open-access journals to prove themselves and build a reputation of quality, a process which has already happened to a significant extent and which continues today...’ UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, who is behind the move to bring Wales on board, told The Guardian ‘we still need to pay for such functions, which is why one attractive model—the gold—has the funders of research covering the costs. Another approach—the green—includes a closed period before wider release during which journals can earn revenues.’ The BBC reported Willetts as saying ‘the challenge is how we get there without ruining the value added by academic publishers.’ Some US legislators have attempted to create a freer environment for the open-access publication of taxpayer-funded research, notably through the Federal Research Public Access Act, unsuccessfully proposed in 2008 and 2010, and reintroduced in 2012. But there is a strong countervailing push: many Wikimedians may not be aware that around the same time they were debating the SOPA blackout proposal, Congress was considering another bill for the Research Works Act(RWA) that would have forbidden open-access mandates for federally funded research. This bill, and two predecessors proposed in 2008 and 2009, move in the opposite direction to the current UK



08/16/2012, 06:08

From feeds:

Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) »

Tags: oa.business_models oa.publishers oa.licensing oa.comment oa.government oa.mandates oa.usa oa.frpaa oa.legislation oa.rwa oa.nih oa.advocacy oa.signatures oa.petitions oa.elsevier oa.copyright oa.plos oa.open_science oa.prices oa.wikimedia oa.profits oa.embargoes oa.citations oa.wikipedia oa.sopa boycotts oa.boycotts oa.repositories oa.libre oa.policies oa.journals



Date tagged:

05/15/2012, 16:32

Date published:

05/15/2012, 16:57