Ethical challenges of open-access publishing | University Affairs
"As the executive editors of an open-access journal called BioéthiqueOnline (launched in 2012), we enthusiastically support the initiatives of the federal (e.g., CIHR) and provincial (e.g., Quebec) funding agencies to encourage open-access publication of academic research findings. We subscribe to the view that research funded by Canadian taxpayers should be made publicly available with the briefest delay, and not locked up in pay-to-access journals with high subscription fees. We think that advocating in favour of accessibility of research findings is about ensuring the free flow of ideas and knowledge among the scientific community, being publicly accountable and making the best out of limited resources. But, we also think that bona fide OA publishing needs a little bit of financial support from these same agencies. The creation of OA public repositories – such as PubMedCentral Canada and university and institution based systems – is a good, if incomplete, first step in the right direction. Due to copyright constraints, it is often unformatted or pre-print versions of manuscripts that are deposited. In some contexts, this reduces usability; for instance, when page numbering is missing, it makes it difficult to use citations. The move of major publishing houses – that now control the majority of high-impact journals – towards offering OA as an option that authors can choose could arguably be considered another positive step. The advantages are obvious: research can be published online much more quickly than in print and can reach a vastly wider audience. However, the large publishers tend to shift editorial and publishing costs to authors (exceptions exist, for example, for authors in developing countries), who are usually required to pay up to thousands of dollars to have their article made OA. Although pay-to-publish may have become a norm in health sciences, for many other sectors of academia the idea of paying to publish is considered peculiar. In fact, many still see the practice as ethically suspicious, given the apparent conflict of interest. And, in a context of increased competition for fewer grants, with the inevitable cut to budgets, the idea of spending $3,000 to make one paper OA – as compared to paying a research assistant or graduate student – may be considered a poor use of funds. Even more concerning, young scholars and students will be hard-pressed to find the required funds to publish their research results using OA, a fact that can have negative implications for their academic careers ... "