09 August 2008

Open access and scholarly neglect

Thanks to Peter Suber's OA News for drawing attention to a forthcoming Communications of the ACM paper, 'Open access publishing in science: why it is highly appreciated but rarely used', by Florian Mann and colleagues. And what is holding things back? According to Mann et al. it is the "short-term performance related concerns and the wait and see attitude of the majority of researchers". One can understand, at least in the UK - because of the impact of the Research Assessment Exercise, the concerns over performance, but I am less impressed by the wait and see attitude. It speaks of a total lack of concern over the wider dissemination of scholarly information that says more about ego than it does about social responsibility.

It is not entirely clear what Mann and co. mean by the Golden route to open access: once again, as so often, there is a suspicion that they mean the use of author charging to subsidise publishers. The position would be made much clearer if the notion of the Platinum route was separated from author-charging, and, of course, by Platinum I mean publication in journals that are open access and free of author charges. Only the Platinum route gives truly open access, since it is 'open' at both ends of the process - no author charges and no subscription charges. If all the resources that are currently, in my view, wasted on supporting repositories and author charging were put to the development of Platinum journals, true open access would rapidly become the dominant mode of scholarly publishing. However, it is not likely to happen as long as university administrators remain ignorant of the potential and as long as the scholarly community remains in a wait and see posture. If you believe that open access is beneficial to society, why are you publishing in restricted journals? Instead of waiting and seeing, start getting out and doing!

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