Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Letters on OA publishing

The February issue of Physics Today includes four letters to the editor in response to Paul Guinnessy, Stakeholders Weigh Costs of Open-Access Publishing, Physics Today, August 2007.  The article is TA, but the letters are OA.  (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)  Excerpts:

From Dana Roth:

I was surprised that Paul Guinnessy's story "Stakeholders Weigh Costs of Open-Access Publishing" (PHYSICS TODAY, August 2007, page 29) didn't mention page charges as an alternative to open-access author charges. A number of society-published journals, Physical Review Letters and the Journal of Chemical Physics among them, continue to balance reasonable page charges with reasonable subscription rates....

I share David Stern's concern about the possible loss of quality that may accompany widespread open access. Open access is primarily driven by the needs of the medical community and its patients. Shouldn't open-access experiments be conducted and refined there first, before we attempt to impose it on all of science and technology?

From Robert Bronsdon:

The discussion about stakeholders and open-access publishing is a great one, weighing points pro and con, but I believe that it misses the underlying problem with having organizations formed around the intent to profit from the publishing of scientific research. We, as scientists, must decide if a refereed paper that is locked in a vault is as valuable as one that is not refereed but is accessible to everyone on the internet. It is no wonder that authors who avoided the pay-for-play trap have found their citation numbers increasing dramatically. Search engines could locate the papers and present them to people with an interest, and those people could read them without having to pay. I find it difficult to see how it would go unnoticed that freely available papers would get read more frequently than ones that have to be paid for. But then people are making money on all the papers that are behind closed doors....

From Thomas E. Phipps Jr.:

As a footnote to the article on open-access publishing, let me point out that among the main beneficiaries of such publishing are people like me, trained and interested in physics but not directly involved or institutionally affiliated. Such "outsiders" are openly discriminated against by the preprint arXiv at Cornell University. We are denied the option to contribute unless vigorously endorsed by a member of the academic in-group....

Comments.  Two quick comments on Dana Roth's letter:

  • The case for OA in medicine is especially strong, but OA itself is not "primarily driven by the needs of the medical community and its patients."  Different fields are making progress toward OA at different rates, and medicine is near the front of the pack for both gold and green OA.  But OA has homegrown sources of demand and momentum in every field. I don't know anyone who wants OA in (say) mathematics, history, or literature on the ground that it's desirable in medicine.
  • If David Stern's concerns about "the possible loss of quality that may accompany widespread OA" were quoted in Guinnessy's article, I haven't been able to read them.  But there are good reasons to think that OA will not reduce the quality of research articles and will even increase it.