Scientific publishing: Brought to book | The Economist 2012-07-19


“IF THERE is any endeavour whose fruits should be freely available, that endeavour is surely publicly financed science. Morally, taxpayers who wish to should be able to read about it without further expense. And science advances through cross-fertilisation between projects. Barriers to that exchange slow it down. There is a widespread feeling that the journal publishers who have mediated this exchange for the past century or more are becoming an impediment to it. One of the latest converts is the British government. On July 16th it announced that, from 2013, the results of taxpayer-financed research would be available, free and online, for anyone to read and redistribute. Britain’s government is not alone. On July 17th the European Union followed suit. It proposes making research paid for by its next scientific-spending round—which runs from 2014 to 2020, and will hand out about €80 billion, or $100 billion, in grants—similarly easy to get hold of. In America, the ... NIH, the single-biggest source of civil research funds in the world ... has required open-access publishing since 2008. And the Wellcome Trust ... also insists that those who take its shilling make their work available free. Criticism of journal publishers usually boils down to two things. One is that their processes take months, when the internet could allow them to take days. The other is that because each paper is like a mini-monopoly, which workers in the field have to read if they are to advance their own research, there is no incentive to keep the price down. The publishers thus have scientists—or, more accurately, their universities, which pay the subscriptions—in an armlock... In 2011 Elsevier ... made a profit of £768m on revenues of £2.06 billion—a margin of 37%. Indeed, Elsevier’s profits are thought so egregious by many people that 12,000 researchers have signed up to a boycott of the company’s journals. Publishers do provide a service. They organise peer review... And they sort the scientific sheep from the goats, by deciding what gets published, and where. That gives the publishers huge power. Since researchers, administrators and grant-awarding bodies all take note of which work has got through this filtering mechanism, the competition to publish in the best journals is intense... But not, perhaps, for much longer... The British announcement followed the publication of a report by Dame Janet Finch... which recommends encouraging a business model adopted by one of the pioneers of open-access publishing, the Public Library of Science... The NIH’s approach is different. It lets researchers publish in traditional journals, but on condition that, within a year, they post their papers on a free ‘repository’ website called PubMed... Both gold and green models involve prepublication peer review. But a third does away with even that. Many scientists, physicists in particular, now upload drafts of their papers into public archives paid for by networks of universities for the general good...The most popular is known as arXiv ... Here, manuscripts are subject to a ruthless process of open peer review, rather than the secret sort traditional publishers employ... The success of PLoS, and the political shift towards open access, is encouraging other new ventures, too... the Wellcome Trust, the Max Planck Institute (which runs many of Germany’s leading laboratories) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will publish the first edition of eLife... Much remains to be worked out... But research just published in BMC Medicine ... suggests papers in open-access journals are as widely cited as those in traditional publications. A revolution, then, has begun. Technology permits it; researchers and politicians want it. If scientific publishers are not trembling in their boots, they should be.”



08/16/2012, 06:08

From feeds:

Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) »

Tags: oa.pubmed oa.business_models oa.publishers oa.government oa.mandates oa.usa oa.nih oa.advocacy oa.signatures oa.petitions oa.boycotts oa.elsevier oa.plos oa.peer_review oa.repositories.disciplinary oa.arxiv oa.quality oa.prestige oa.funders oa.wellcome oa.profits oa.elife oa.horizon2020 oa.editorial. oa.finch_report. oa.recommendations. oa.policies oa.recommendations oa.finch_report oa.europe oa.policies oa.journals oa.repositories oa.editorials



Date tagged:

07/19/2012, 15:37

Date published:

07/19/2012, 16:17