Citing a recent research paper on PNAS, a short article from http://www.the-scientist.com talks about the lack of transparency in academic journal pricing and the high prices research libraries have to pay for journal access. Read full article here.
Economics of Publishing Category
Randy Schekman, a co-recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, participated in an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session on Reddit this weekend. Schekman, a Cell Biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, was jointly awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in understanding the transport mechanisms involved in the export of proteins from cells. Last week, he authored an editorial in the Guardian that accused the practices of journals like Cell, Nature, and Science of distorting science and has been the subject of both criticism and praise in the scholarly publishing world.
In his editorial, Schekman specifically calls out Cell, Nature, and Science (C/N/S) who are among the most prestigious journals in the biological and medical sciences.
“These journals aggressively curate their brands, in ways more conducive to selling subscriptions than to stimulating the most important research. Like fashion designers who create limited-edition handbags or suits, they know scarcity stokes demand, so they artificially restrict the number of papers they accept.” [Source]
From the Reddit AMA, the focus of Schekman’s criticism of C/N/S is the artificial restriction of publishing only the papers that fit in the print run of these journals. “Why should we have such a limitation in the 21st century?” he asks. Schekman marks this practice as a distinguishing characteristic of a “luxury” journal as well as the use of a professional editorial staff rather than working scientists in the field. This combination of management priorities, Schekman argues, distorts scientific discourse by emphasizing fashionable topics at the expense of good science.
Schekman is a supporter of the open access movement and is the Editor-in-Chief of eLife, an open access journal of life sciences papers. His boycott of C/N/S has drawn criticism for his eLife affiliation and his previous 46 publications in these journals. [Read the AMA here]
The Guardian’s Higher Education Network recently published a guest blog post by Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication and author of Open Access (MIT Press, 2012). The post debunks six common myths about open access for this year’s Open Access Week.
Here are the myths about open access, briefly noted:
- The only way to provide open access to peer-reviewed journal articles is to publish in open access journals.
- All or more open access journals charge publication fees.
- Most author-side fees are paid by the authors themselves.
- Publishing in a conventional journal closes the door on making the same work open access.
- Open access journals are intrinsically low in quality.
- Open access mandates infringe academic freedom.
As Suber notes in the post, the topic of open access is becoming a mainstream issue in higher education and public policy. Given the complexity of the issue, it is important to know that facts when considering if open access is the right model for sharing scholarship. Read the post here.
Cornell University Library has announced a major grant from the Simons Foundation to support the costs of operating arXiv. The grant will provide up to $300,000 per year to match contributions from institutions which have supported arXiv since 2010. From the announcement:
arXiv, the free repository that has revolutionized the way scientists share information, is adopting a new governance and business model that will allow it to grow and succeed in the future….As an open-access service, [arXiv] allows scientists to share “preprint” research before publication and boasts hundreds of thousands of contributors. In 2011 alone, arXiv saw close to 50 million downloads from all over the world and received more than 76,000 new submissions.
Iowa–through the University Libraries–has committed to providing annual support for arXiv since a call for support went out from Cornell. It is an especially important resource for researchers in physics, mathematics, and computer science, among others. It has been hosted at Cornell since 2001, when its founder, Paul Ginsparg, joined the faculty. See also the article by Jennifer Howard in the Chronicle.
In a long piece online at its web site, Simon Owens of US News and World Report offers an overview of academic (chiefly scientific) journal publishing and the rise of open access. See “Is the Academic Publishing Industry on the Verge of Disruption?” Starting with the recent Harvard letter on journal prices (see Transitions for April 23, 2012), the article reports on moves toward open access publishing, and resistance from commercial “closed access” publishers.
Through an international effort known as SCOAP3 (Sponsoring Consrotium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics) a number of key journals in high energy/particle physics are moving towards open access. Journals in this group include Physical Review C and D, Physics Letters B, Nuclear Physics B, and several others. CERN, which is overseeing the process, announced on July 17th that the tendering process was complete. The University of Iowa Libraries has supported SCOAP3 since its earliest days.
On July 16th the British government announced that it would require articles published on the basis of publicly funded research to be published in open access form. Portions of the announcement follow. An article in the Guardian describes the plan in more detail and reports some reactions.
“The government has announced that it will make publicly funded scientific research available for anyone to read for free, accepting recommendations in a report on open access by Dame Janet Finch.
This will likely see a major increase in the number of taxpayer-funded research papers freely available to the public.
Science Minister David Willetts said:
“Removing paywalls that surround taxpayer funded research will have real economic and social benefits. It will allow academics and businesses to develop and commercialise their research more easily and herald a new era of academic discovery.”
Among the recommendations that have been accepted by the Government are:
- Moving to deliver open access through a ‘gold’ model, where article processing-charges are paid upfront to cover the cost of publication.
- Walk-in rights for the general public, so they can have free access to global research publications owned by members of the UK Publishers’ Association, via public libraries.
- Extending the licensing of access enjoyed by universities to high technology businesses for a modest charge.”
Ever since the University of Missouri announced on May 24 that it was closing its Press, university presses have been generating quite a bit of discussion. In the last few days several items of interest have appeared.
On July 6, The Iowa City Press-Citizen interviewed Jim McCoy, the director of The University of Iowa Press, about the future of the UI Press (“University presses seek out new roles and new markets“). McCoy said “we have an incredibly supportive administration who understands that we fill a necessary function. … We bridge the gap between research and teaching.” He also noted that they are very small in terms of people but publish a far higher number of books per staff member each year than other presses. He emphasized the value of working with the UI Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, Prairie Lights and The UI Libraries.
Inside Higher Ed published an opinion piece on July 9 by Marshall Poe of Iowa’s history department (“What Can University Presses Do?“). Poe would like to see presses move towards open access publishing and new modes of outreach. This item generated quite a few comments from people familiar with university presses and is worth reading for the responses it has generated.
On July 10, The Chronicle of Higher Education included an interview with Patrick Alexander, the head of the Penn state University Press, by Adeline Koh (“Is Open Access a Moral or a Business Issue? A Conversation with The Pennsylvania State University Press“). This is the 3rd piece Koh has written in her series “Digital Challenges to Academic Publishing”. This interview discusses differences between STEM publishing and humanities publishing
A government commissioned report titled “Accessibility, Sustainability, Excellence: How to Expand Access to Research Publications” calls for Britain “embrace and help accelerate the transition to the open-access publishing of research results.” We called attention to this expected recommendation in a May 3rd posting. According to reporting in the Chronicle of Higher Education “[t]he report’s main recommendation is that ‘a clear policy direction should be set towards support for publication in open-access or hybrid journals as the main vehicle for the publication of research, especially when it is publicly funded.’”
The White House petition sponsored by Access2Research and calling for open access to all journal articles arising from federally-funded research reached the required 25,000 signature mark on June 3, well ahead of the June 19 deadline. As of June 11, 26,592 signatures had been received. White House petitions which reach 25,000 signatures within 30 days receive an official response from the Administration.
The petition calls for the published results of all taxpayer-funded research be posted freely on the internet. Currently, only articles resulting from research funded by the National Institutes of Health have this requirement. The NIH Public Access Policy requires that articles be posted to PubMed Central within 12 months of being published.