Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Open access publishing

Jim Giles had an article in NewScientist on open access publishing recently, along somewhat similar lines to his article in Nature earlier this year. However, this time it's a comment article rather than mere news, so he's prepared (allowed? Nature's hostility to open-access is hardly a secret) to present his point of view, which is that open access is the way forward. I agree with what he says, although think he misses a detail in his presentation of the matter as one of paper charges versus subscription fees. Many journals charge both! So in fact we are already paying the journals $1000-$2000 to take our work, hide it behind a paywall, and sell it for their own profit.

Since I had it handy, I just checked that the 4-page Comment on Schwartz will cost about $2000 for standard publication (in JGR) assuming some use of colour. In fact I see the AGU has just instigated a new experimental system whereby we can pay the same again (roughly) as an additional charge to have the article made freely available to all readers. So that would make it $4000, just for a short comment. Think I'll pass on that second option, as the AGU (in common with essentially all publishers) do not prevent authors putting papers on their own web sites anyway. Google will usually find the full text for recent and even forthcoming papers these days (old pre-web ones are harder to track down).

The EGU open access journals somehow manage the whole process far cheaper - and I don't think they are heavily subsidised by the EGU itself, at least not in the long term. Their page charges are about €20 per page. Even with their small pages this is lot less less than the AGU ask for (an order of magnitude cheaper than the AGU's free-to-view version), and right at, or even below, the bottom of the range of cost that Jim Giles suggests. I also like their open reviewing system. Now that several of their journals are well-established, it looks like an obvious place to send manuscripts on a wide range of topics. The only thing I really don't much like about their system is that the papers are only available as (awkwardly-formatted IMO) pdfs and not directly as html. But this is a bit of a detail. Sadly, they don't yet have a journal for what I would think of as the bulk of climate science itself (there's clearly a demand for it, as I've seen the occasional paper that I would class as mainstream "Climate Dynamics" material in rather tangentially-related journals like ACP and CP).


Heiko said...

Journals getting articles for free to then charge a fortune (to libraries or pay per view) is also one of my pet concerns about the current system of scientific publishing.

The scientific research is government sponsored for the public good, it should be freely available.

Bryan Lawrence said...

I'm given to understand that the open access EGU journals are significanty subsidised, and there is some argument about how they expect to transition away from that subsidy ... so your comment about them not being subsidised in the long term has yet to have any validity.

Which is not to say that I disagree with you, but that the business models which need to exist are not yet as clear as folk like to present.

James Annan said...

I agree the whole concept is not yet well established, but otoh it seems to me the only way in which journals really add value compared to the arxiv is through the peer-review process, which is the bit scientists do for free anyway! So there really should be a way of getting it to work if the will is there.

James Annan said...

FWIW one of the exec editors told me that he thought the whole enterprise (all EGU journals together) was around break-even, although it must be hard to demarcate the costs precisely.

EliRabett said...

Old fart that I am, I am not yet willing to let go of paper journals completely. That has a cost.

James Annan said...

You can get paper copies of the EGU journals, for a price. Open access and on-line access are not quite the same thing.

I do enjoy leafing though journals on occasion, and in some ways it can even be more efficient than using web pages. But the cost and inaccessibility is a large downside.

Our institute was going to unsubscribe from several major climate journals on the grounds that Jamstec's other institutes didn't want them ("Boat-builder Weekly" is more their thing). Not sure what happened to that plan in the end. A "consensus" was reached, no doubt.