11 June 2008

The True Costs and Benefits of Open Access

One issue that has been repeatedly (and heatedly) debated since 1994 — when Open Access (OA) advocate Stevan Harnad first posted his "Subversive Proposal" — is a question that some might consider to be the most fundamental question of all for the research community in the digital age. That is, what are the essential costs of publishing a scholarly paper? To date, however, no one appears to have come up with an adequate answer.

So says Richard Poynder, who then reviews the situation with his usual thoroughness. However, he concludes:

One thing is for sure: If OA ends up simply shifting the cost of scholarly communication from journal subscriptions to article processing charges (APCs) without any reduction in overall expenditure, and inflation continues unabated, many OA advocates will be sorely disappointed. And if that were to happen, then we can surely expect to see calls for a more radical reengineering of the scholarly communication system.

Well, maybe, but this omits an important point: even if the transition to open access produced absolutely zero savings, it would still achieve something invaluable: making scholarly communications available to all, not just the lucky few at institutions with subscriptions. That alone would make the exercise worthwhile.

No comments: