Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Open access debate in The Lancet

The November 8 issue of The Lancet (an Elsevier journal) contains a three-article series on open access. The three articles themselves are openly accessible.
  • Pritpal S. Tamber, Fiona Godlee, Peter Newmark, Open access to peer-reviewed research: making it happen. After reviewing several approaches to OA and their business models, the authors conclude: "Scientific research should be freely accessible to all. Free access is a public good --much research is publicly funded and involves members of the public as participants. Authors and peer reviewers provide their their work free of charge. The cost of peer review and dissemination can, and should be, covered in ways that do not limit access to information and so do not hinder scientific communication. Funding agencies, academic institutions, promotion and tenure committees, and authors can all work to promote open access. Funding agencies and institutions can encourage their researchers to publish in open-access journals. They can also explore a range of ways of shifting budgets away from journal subscriptions, including allowing processing charges to be routinely payable from research grants. Promotion and tenure committees can encourage their members to judge each piece of work for what it is rather than where it is published, and can give credit for open-access publication. And authors? For the sake of equity and science, send your next paper to an open-access journal." Tamber and Newmark are employees of BioMed Central. Godlee is an editor at BMJ and the outgoing president of WAME.
  • Brian Crawford, Open-access publishing: where is the value? Excerpt: "In exchange for orchestrating the process of peer review and publication, the publisher derives sale value from the copyright or publishing rights transferred for the authored work. The typical author of a journal research paper willingly assigns such rights, to communicate the work to his or her peers, and to thereby achieve maximum use value for the author and the scientific community. Contrary to some rhetoric surrounding the merits of copyright transfer, this exchange is hardly a Faustian bargain. First, the publisher has no reason to limit the dissemination of information. On the contrary, the broadest possible distribution, if achieved at an acceptable cost, enhances publishing revenues and profits and, therefore, facilitates maximum sale value of the information. Second, when the researcher discloses information (via publication), this usually entails the transfer of publishing rights via the assignment of copyright, which imparts sale value to the publisher. But in electing voluntarily to do so, the researcher seeks to maximise further the use value of the information, and (importantly) continues to benefit from that added value postpublication through documentation of priority of the research discovery, prestige, and publicity, which all promote career advancement." Brian Crawford is the Vice President and Publishing Director of John Wiley and Sons.
  • Richard Horton, Commentary: 21st-century biomedical journals: failures and futures. Excerpt: "Open-access initiatives, especially non-profit organisations such as the Public Library of Science, are welcome because they will encourage traditional publishers of medical journals to re-evaluate their contribution to the medical research and clinical communities. The long-term goal for any editor of a primary research medical journal is to strengthen the culture of scientific inquiry and to improve human health. These are the ultimate yardsticks by which readers, authors, funding agencies, librarians, and publishers should judge the success of journals. In the sometimes divisive debate about open access, let us not lose sight of the fact that the publishing model is simply a means to a much greater end, an end that has far too long been neglected." Richard Horton is the editor of The Lancet.