Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

If institutions really want to make research dissemination more effective...

Colin Steele, Alternatives to bonuses, The Australian Higher Education, October 31, 2007.  A letter to the editor in response to an October 24 article by Bernard Lane in which Michael Good suggested that medical research institutions should pay faculty a bonus for publishing in high-impact journals.  Excerpt:

The search for higher citation rankings plays into the hands of increasingly dominant multinational publishers, whose main loyalty is to shareholders rather than to academe....

[Rejection rates at high-impact journals are already high.]  More researchers chasing high-impact journals for research assessment and league table purposes will lead to increasing rejection rates. In 2006, the British Medical Journal accepted only 7 per cent of 7000 submissions; the Journal of the American Medical Association and The New England Journal of Medicine published 6 per cent; Science accepted 8 per cent of 12,000 submissions while Nature in 2005 published 2000 of 25,000 papers received. The Economic Journal had a 91.5 per cent rejection rate in 2006. And so it goes on.

Manuscripts will cascade down until they find a home in lower-ranking journals. This will have consequent effects on editorial costs for publishers and more particularly for academics, as almost all of them carry out peer review and other editorial processes without recompense.

Lokman Meho, of Indiana University, wrote in Physics World earlier this year that about 90 per cent of papers published in academic journals are never cited.  Indeed, he claims from his bibliometric analyses that as many as 50 per cent of papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, referees and journal editors.

If research institutes have spare money and wish for more effective global dissemination of Australian research, and for more complex metrics to be used for assessment, there are better things to do than bonus schemes.

They could support the commonwealth's accessibility framework, a project aimed at improving access to Australian research. They could ensure open access outputs through depositing in repositories. They could fund publication in so-called gold OA journals. They could promote the use of Creative Commons copyright licences for their researchers.