Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wanted - input on topics for "open access" publishing discussion at #scio10

To all

I am posting this because I will be chairing a session this up coming weekend at Science Online 2010 on "Open Access" publishing.

And I would love input from everyone/anyone out there on what might be worth discussion at this session.  Possible topics include

  • why open and free are not the same thing
  • open access mandates
  • financial aspects of OA
  • educational uses of OA literature 
  • things that are slowing the inevitable spread of OA publishing

I am perhaps most interested these days in the last two on that list.  For example - it seems that OA publishing would spread even faster if we did not have some very conservative styles of tenure, promotion, hiring and grant review processes.

If anyone has some pressing topics that you think are worth bringing up in a discussion of OA publishing, please post them here.


  1. This would be a good forum to discuss ideas for changing the current incentives for tenure, promotion, and grant awards, which are based on *where* you publish rather than *what* you publish. I hope it gets on the agenda.

  2. Regarding financial aspects, I've long wondered whether an endowment for a Journal might cover most of its production costs (in place of publication charges). What sort of endowment would a given PLoS journal need to do that?

  3. Could journals not be more like newspapers? Everything is printed online for free, but paper copies still exists for those who want to buy them?

  4. Ideas for changing current incentives are great and should be discussed, but I hope the discussion also includes ways of using/leveraging OA for those currently on the tenure track and writing grants.

    I'm also interested in the interdependence of OA and other forms of open science. If a researcher can only do a limited amount of open science (which I think is the case for many people), what aspects of OA can they hope to achieve?

    Contemplating Lab Rat's comment for a moment, I wonder if journals have considered a "value added" approach to access, i.e., make the paper available online for free, but use a subscription model for additional features such as early edition access, access to supplemental data, etc.

  5. Waivers for international institutions and unfunded research is a problem in many cases. While PLoS (I believe) are very good with granting waivers, I personally had to appeal to BMC to get a waiver for a paper that was initially denied full waiver. Egypt gets waivers from some journals but is considered high-income in others (this has to do to the criteria used: whether its total GDP or GDP-per capita). On the other hand, publishing in Elsevier journals, for example, is always free for the authors.

    Among other concerns are that some institutions in Europe, Africa, and Asia impose Impact Factor-related evaluation processes for grants and promotion (i.e. they multiply your articles by the IF of their journals and tell you whether your good enough to be a professor or not).

    I personally have one more minor concern that seems to be associated with OA journals: copyediting. I still believe that copyediting enhances articles a lot (e.g., Molecular Microbiology and SGM Microbiology). PLoS and BMC let the authors address this issue. While the issue is minor, there is still a propagation of error going on in research articles.

  6. Ramy

    I do not think copyediting is an issue related to OA. Some OA journals do copyediting and some do not. Some non OA journals do copyediting and some do not. It seems uncorrelated to me.

  7. One major retardant to the growth of OA today, as has been noted, is the continuing use of outdated methods for evaluating and rewarding researchers. But I suspect that this is an issue that needs to be discussed in a much broader context than OA alone if any progress is to be made.

    Another major retardant is the extraordinarily slow progress being made in introducing OA mandates. And of those mandates that have been introduced (139 to date) many lack teeth, and so are unlikely to achieve the desired end.

    One useful contribution the OA movement could make right now perhaps is to try and shift the debate beyond a discussion of the traditional journal. Amongst other things, this might help focus minds on the issue of evaluation. PLoS ONE seems to be moving in the right direction here.

    As to whether copyediting is an issue related to OA: I guess that depends on whether one believes that OA articles are more prone to copyediting problems. Certainly I have seen some appalling examples in PLoS ONE. But is this a problem peculiar to OA or could one find similar examples in any scholarly journal?

  8. All excellent points so far - regarding the issue of copyediting again. I have seen plenty of non OA publications with horrible "editing" including for example many conference proceedings from CS as well as some more standard biology publications. The issue is really whether time/money is put into the copy editing and there are as I said examples of non OA and OA publicatinos that for a variety of reasons do not do much editing.

  9. Hum, maybe, but I noticed the lack of any editing and the spread of erroneous words and grammar first in OA journals such as BMC. Then it spread to the non-open journals. But it is still quite bad on open access. I delayed my first submission to OA journals because I saw one of those first publications using the word "then" when "than" should have been used, plain "non-native speaker" errors in another. With time the bad language spread all over the place, but I think open access had a huge role in this tendency.

    It might be that I subconsciously like good "educated" language rather than its evolution. The problem with its evolution being that it won't necessarily evolve in a nice way. Horrible things will creep into everything, and I will have to swallow it. Just like the objections of journals to passive language have made teleological arguments creep into the discussion of scientific results ... maybe I am just an atavism. :)



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