Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Overlooking green OA in The Guardian

Andrew Brown, Digital Britain needs access to science journals, not YouTube, The Guardian, February 5, 2009.  Excerpt:

Scientific journals are a notorious racket: because they are essential tools for the professions that use them, they can charge pretty much what they like....The effect of that the government pays universities to conduct research for the public benefit; the measure of this research is publication in peer-reviewed specialist journals; the peer review is done for free, by academics employed and paid by universities. The results are then sold back to the universities who paid for the research in the first place.  This is bad value for governments....

One answer to all this is to promote the growth of free scientific publishing, and also, increasingly, of free access to the immense quantities of data that lie behind most published papers. For those who just want to know what is going on, open access is unsatisfactory for two reasons. The first is that it is not yet widespread enough. There is no guarantee at all that the interesting work will emerge in open-access journals, which tend to be extremely specialised. The second is more philosophical, and deeper. It may never become as useful a resource as the paid-for generalised magazines, precisely because the open-access journals are written to be enjoyed within particular fields of expertise....

Comment.  Brown is right that OA is a solution to this problem.  Unfortunately, he seems to think that OA can only be delivered by OA journals.  Both of his objections to OA are answered by green OA, or the practice of depositing peer-reviewed postprints in OA repositories.  The best-kept secret of OA is that it's compatible with publishing in a non-OA journal.  (If this is news to you, see #2 and #4 in my list of Six things that researchers need to know about open access.)

Update (2/6/09).  Also see Stevan Harnad's comments:

Open Access (OA) does not mean only, or mainly, open-access journals ("Gold OA"). The other, more widespread way to provide OA is for the authors of articles published in non-OA journals to make them OA by depositing an electronic version in an OA Repository ("Green OA"), thereby making them free for all (including those whose libraries cannot afford a subscription) -- as 34 research funding councils worldwide (including all the UK Research Councils, the European Research Council and the US National Institutes of Health) as well as 31 Universities and Faculties (including Southampton, Glasgow and Stirling in the UK, and Harvard and Stanford in the US) have already adopted mandates requiring the authors they fund and employ to do.