Open Access News

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

An exchange on OA journals

Stevan Harnad, An Exchange Regarding Open Access Journals, Open Access Archivangelism, May 3, 2007.  Excerpt:

This is a reply to an anonymized query:

Identity Deleted:"What do you know about this new journal? [Journal Name deleted]
Is it going to be less expensive than other open access journals with their rather hefty fees?"

(1) OA Journals are a good idea, though a bit premature right now, if the goal is OA: OA can be achieved right now through author self-archiving of articles published in conventional subscription-based journals.

(2) Nevertheless, it is a good idea to support and promote OA journals if one can.

(3) This particular journal will charge about $1000 to publish, which is within the current going rate for OA journal publication fees.

(4) It is specifically because of this publication charge that OA journals are still premature: Right now, most journals are not OA, and most of the potential institutional funds to pay for publication are currently tied up in paying for it via subscriptions.

(5) This means that for now OA publishing charges are over and above what is already being spent on subscriptions.

(6) $1000 per article is not much for some authors, but a lot for others.

(7) What all authors should be doing is self-archiving their articles, to make them OA.

(8) That will not only provide OA, but it will force subscription journals to cut costs and it may eventually force them to convert to OA publishing (at a much lower price).

(9) The existence of viable OA journals today, however, despite the extra costs (some) entail for authors, helps demonstrate that OA publishing is possible, and refutes the claim by some subscription journals that OA means the destruction of journals.

(10) This, in turn, helps encourage authors to self-archive, and encourages institutions and funders to mandate self-archiving, thereby accelerating the provision of OA (and the eventual transition to OA publishing).

So my advice would be this:

(a) If you would otherwise have agreed to serve on the editorial board of a journal like this, then the fact that it is an OA journal should be another point in its favour.
(b) If you were submitting an article to a new journal like this, then the fact that it is an OA journal should be another point in its favour -- if you can afford the publishing charges.
(c) Self-archive all articles you publish in any case, and make sure your institution mandates self-archiving.

Comment.  I agree with all of this except point #1.  OA journals are not premature. 

  • Most OA journals charge no publication fees.  When they do charge fees, authors can often get their funder or employer to pay them; and when they can't, most OA journals will waive the fees in cases of economic hardship.  Both the fee-based and no-fee OA journals will proliferate when the money now dedicated to journal subscriptions is freed up to pay for the OA alternative.  But that's not a reason to delay our support for OA journals or to let the existence of fees at some (nearly half) of OA journals count against them.  (More TA journals charge author-side fees than OA journals.)
  • We need to support OA journals and OA archiving simultaneously. The main reason is to cultivate a new, OA generation of peer review providers.  We need OA peer review providers whether they supplement the TA peer review providers or gradually take their place.  We need them whether the growth of OA archiving does or does not threaten TA journal subscriptions.  We need them whether the challenges to TA journals are from OA or from their own making (unrelenting, hyperinflationary price increases).  We need them because the subscription model doesn't scale with the skyrocketing growth of published peer-published research.
  • OA journals always provide immediate OA, not embargoed OA; always provide it to the published edition, not just the final version of the author's peer-reviewed manuscript; and almost always provide it under a CC license or equivalent, expressly removing permission barriers, not just price barriers.  We don't have to agree on the relative weight of these benefits to agree that they are real benefits.
  • Finally, though, I'd emphasize my agreement with Stevan's bottom-line advice.  If there's a good OA journal in your field, and if it's no-fee or you can afford its fee or find a sponsor to pay it, then go for it.  You'll help the journal and help yourself.  But if there's not a good OA journal in your field, or if you can't afford the fee or find a sponsor to pay it, then remember that OA archiving provides bona fide OA.  Publish in the best subscription journal that will accept your article and then deposit a copy of the postprint in an OA repository.