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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Roadmap for CERN's SCOAP3 project

Salvatore Mele, Open Access Publishing in High-Energy Physics, a presentation at ElPub 2007, Openness in Digital Publishing: Awareness, Discovery and Access (Vienna, June 13-15, 2007).

Abstract:   The goal of Open Access (OA) is to grant anyone, anywhere and anytime free access to the results of scientific research. The High-Energy Physics (HEP) community has pioneered OA with its “pre-print culture”: the mass mailing, first, and the online posting, later, of preliminary versions of its articles. After almost half a century of widespread dissemination of pre-prints, the time is ripe for the HEP community to explore OA publishing. Among other possible models, a sponsoring consortium appears as the most viable option for a transition of HEP peer-reviewed literature to OA. A Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (SCOAP3) is proposed as a central body which would remunerate publishers for the peer-review service, effectively replacing the “reader-pays” model of traditional subscriptions with an “author-side” funding. Funding to SCOAP3 would come from HEP funding agencies and library consortia through a re-direction of subscriptions. This model is discussed in details together with a quantitative description of the HEP publishing landscape leading to a practical proposal for a seamless transition of HEP peer-reviewed literature to OA publishing.

From the conclusion:

The fundamental pillar of the SCOAP3 model is the federation of HEP funding agencies and library consortia worldwide. HEP is the most global of the scientific enterprises and the conversion to OA of its literature, with all the ethical, scientific and financial benefits it implies can only be achieved in a global co-ordinated process....

Once sufficient funds will have been pledged towards the establishment and the operation of SCOAP3, a tendering process involving publishers of high-quality HEP journals will take place. Provided that the SCOAP3 funding partners are ready to engage into long-term commitments, most publishers are expected to be ready to enter into negotiations along the lines presented in this article.

The outcome of the tendering process will allow the complete SCOAP3 budget envelope to be precisely known and therefore the precise contribution expected from each country. A Memorandum of Understanding for the governance of SCOAP3 will then be signed by funding agencies and leading national and international library consortia. Contracts with publishers will be established in order to make Open Access publishing in High Energy Physics a reality at the beginning of 2008, when the first experimental and theoretical publications of the CERN LHC [Large Hadron Collider] program will appear.

The conversion of the HEP scientific publishing to the OA paradigm, along the lines presented in this article, will be an important milestone in the history of scientific publishing. The SCOAP3 model could be rapidly generalized to other disciplines and, in particular, to related fields such as Nuclear Physics or Astroparticle Physics.