26 August 2009

Another Reason for Open Access

Yet again, Cameron Neylon is daring to ask the unasked questions that *should* be asked:

Many of us have one or two papers in journals that are essentially inaccessible, local society journals or just journals that were never online, and never widely enough distributed for anyone to find. I have a paper in Complex Systems (volume 17, issue 4 since you ask) that is not indexed in Pubmed, only available in a preprint archive and has effectively no citations. Probably because it isn’t in an index and no-one has ever found it. But it describes a nice piece of work that we went through hell to publish because we hoped someone might find it useful.

Now everyone agreed, and this is what the PLoS ONE submission policy says quite clearly, that such a paper cannot be submitted for publication. This is essentially a restatement of the Ingelfinger Rule. But being the contrary person I am I started wondering why. For a commercial publisher with a subscripton business model it is clear that you don’t want to take on content that you can’t exert a copyright over, but for a non-profit with a mission to bring science to wider audience does this really make sense? If the science is currently unaccessible and is of appropriate quality for a given journal and the authors are willing to pay the costs to bring it to a wider public, why is this not allowed?

Why not, indeed? For as Neylon points out:

If an author feels strongly enough that a paper will get to a wider audience in a new journal, if they feel strongly enough that it will benefit from that journal’s peer review process, and they are prepared to pay a fee for that publication, why should they be prevented from doing so? If that publication does bring that science to a wider audience, is not a public service publisher discharging their mission through that publication?

Which is only possible, of course, in open access journals adopting a funder pays approach, since traditional publishers need to be able to point to the uniqueness of their content if they are trying to sell it - after all, why would you want to buy it twice? Open access journals have no such imperative, since they are giving it away, so readers have no expectations that the stuff is unique and never seen before.

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9 comments:

Crosbie Fitch said...

I read the following invitation recently:

Paper Submission
Authors are invited to submit an electronic version of original, unpublished manuscripts, not to exceed 8 double-columned, single-spaced pages, to web site http://acnlab.csie.ncu.edu.tw/P2PNVE2009/submission.


'unpublished'?

Well, that rules me out. I won't bother submitting these then:
Consensus: A Scalable Interactive Entertainment System
Strategies for Scaling Interactive Entertainment

In the world of academic conferences it is more important to continually re-invent the wheel than to develop the pneumatic tyre.

Another example of how crazy things are is that Jacob Tummon had to go to extreme lengths to unpublish a paper of his in order that it could appear in some obscure journal never to be seen again...

Infringing Promotion.

glyn moody said...

Yes, it's totally insane. I like the idea of "unpublishing"....

Ann said...

I have some concerns about paying to publish models, however. Will that ensure that only people from rich institutions will be able to publish? Not that there isn't a lot wrong with the current model, but I am not sure that's the right solution either.

glyn moody said...

No, because almost all (maybe all?) open access titles waive fees for scientists from developing countries, or from institutions that don't have big budgets. Otherwise you're right, it would be a big problem.

Anonymous said...

What about articles from those without an education ratified by an educational establishment. Those strange people who teach themselves and might have ideas that don't occur to those who are properly schooled? Do they have to pay?

glyn moody said...

I imagine there case would be considered synmpathetically - depends whether they are billionaires or not...

glyn moody said...

Sorry, "their" not "there"

guy said...

Glyn --- can you not edit your comments on your own blog to fix your (very rare, first one I've ever seen) typos? I'm sure your readers will waive their standards of openness for this. ;-)

glyn moody said...

@gu: once a pedantic journo, always a pedantic journo