Open Access News

News from the open access movement


Monday, December 01, 2008

Gold OA in physics

Michael Banks, The Price of Free Papers, Physics World, December 2008.  Not even an abstract is free online, at least so far.  The journal provides no deep link to the article, so I'm linking to the TOC.  Excerpt:

...But to cover the costs of producing, peer reviewing and maintaining a digital archive of papers, publishers [of OA journals] charge authors a fee....

[A]t least in some cases, [OA] be a viable alternative to subscriptions (see box opposite). Perhaps the most notable OA journal in physics is New Journal of Physics (NJP), which was launched 10 years ago this month by the German Physical Society and the Institute of Physics (IOP), which also publishes Physics World....

Although there is an argument that OA journals are more likely to accept poor-quality submissions why, after all, would a journal turn away a paper when publishing it would net several hundred pounds that does not seem to have been the case for NJP....Although NJP has broken even this year, it has been subsidized by the IOP for all of its 10 years....

Comments

  • With one exception, this is a good survey of gold OA in physics.  The exception is that Banks believes that all OA journals charge publication fees when in fact most do not.  He even uses the erroneous premise to ground a tired objection ("OA journals are more likely to accept poor-quality submissions why, after all, would a journal turn away a paper when publishing it would net several hundred pounds"), apparently unaware that a higher percentage of TA journals than OA journals charge author-side publication fees.  As I argued in a June 2006 article,

    Now we know that insofar as charging fees for accepted papers is an incentive to lower standards, many more subscription journals are guilty than OA journals.  We know this even before we take into account that OA journals with many excellent submissions can...accept more papers without lowering standards (because they have no size limits) and OA journals with a dearth of excellent submissions can accept fewer papers without shortchanging subscribers (because they have no subscribers).  We know it before we take into account that OA journal fees are much closer to "subsistence-level" compensation than typical subscription fees.  We know it before we take into account that subscription journals justify price increases by pointing to the growing volume of published articles.  We know it before we take into account that fee-charging OA journals have firewalls between their financial and editorial sides.  We know it before we take into account that subscription journals with lower standards and lower rejection rates have higher profit margins (because they perform peer review fewer times per published paper).

    For other arguments that the business models of OA journals are less likely to decrease quality than to increase it, see my article from October 2006.

  • Note the important disclosure which I haven't seen elsewhere:  the OA New Journal of Physics broke even this year.
  • The same issue of Physics World contains the published edition of John Harnad's article, Free For All, which differs somewhat from the OA preprint we blogged last month.