Nature News Feature ‘Open Access: the true cost of science publishing’

Richard Van Noorden’s Nature v495 issue 7442 News Feature discusses the true cost of science publishing and the value publishers add for their money.
The article states that while data to support claims by either publishers of subscription journals or advocates of open access publishing has been lacking “The past few years have seen a change, however. The number of open-access journals has risen steadily, in part because of funders’ views that papers based on publicly funded research should be free for anyone to read. By 2011, 11% of the world’s articles were being published in fully open-access journals1 (see ‘The rise of open access’). Suddenly, scientists can compare between different publishing prices. A paper that costs US$5,000 for an author to publish in Cell Reports, for example, might cost just $1,350 to publish in PLoS ONE — whereas PeerJ offers to publish an unlimited number of papers per author for a one-time fee of $299. “For the first time, the author can evaluate the service that they’re getting for the fee they’re paying,” says Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition in Washington DC.
The variance in prices is leading everyone involved to question the academic publishing establishment as never before. For researchers and funders, the issue is how much of their scant resources need to be spent on publishing, and what form that publishing will take. For publishers, it is whether their current business models are sustainable — and whether highly selective, expensive journals can survive and prosper in an open-access world.” ….

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American Anthropology Association to Switch One of its Journals to Open Access

The American Anthropological Association publishes more than 20 journals, but none is open access. That will change early next year, when the journal Cultural Anthropology,  which is published by one of AAA’s sections,  switches over to a fully open-access model. “Starting with the first issue of 2014, CA will provide worldwide, instant, free (to the user), and permanent access to all of our content (as well as 10 years of our back catalog),” Brad Weiss, the society’s president, posted on AAA’s Web site.  “Cultural Anthropology will be the first major, established, high-impact journal in anthropology to offer open access to all of its research,” he adds, and bekueves that the experiment will be useful to other open-access publishing efforts in the social sciences and humanities.

CA’s editor, Charles D. Piot, Professor of Anthropology at Duke, has called open access “likely the wave of the future” and states that anthropologists havebecome increasingly concerned about the relationship between universities and commercial publishers.  The push for open access has spread far and wide in the sciences and is catching on among social scientists as well. “We’re producing articles that come out of the intellectual commons, and we hand them over to presses who sell them back to us,” Professor Piot says. “That’s been a strong moral issue for a lot of anthropologists that I’ve spoken to.” So has the desire to make research “freely available to people anywhere in the world,” not just those affiliated with universities that can afford journal subscriptions. 

AAA currently has a  contract with Wiley-Blackwell for its journals program. Cultural Anthropology’s switch to open access will not affect that contract, according to Edward B. Liebow, AAA’s executive director.  The journal will still be offered to library subscribers and to AAA members through the AnthroSource online portal.

The Society for Cultural Anthropology (the section off AAA that publishes CA) has already started to revamp its Web site and move content online in preparation for the shift. It hasn’t yet worked out whether it will use an author-pays model to cover costs or try what Prof. Piot called “the NPR model” and call on members for support. 

Liebow is not worried that the experiment will hurt AAA’s bottom line. “It’s important to recognize that while the revenue we receive from publishing is important to it financially, our publishing program doesn’t make money.”  Given that its publications represent “such an important part of our scholarly exchange, we think it’s worth the money to make the experiment.”

Amherst College librarian launches new open access publishing venture

One doesn’t normally think of small liberal arts colleges as having very much of a role in affecting the direction of scholarly communication in general or academic publishing in particular. But Bryn Geffert, head librarian at Amherst College in Massachusetts, believes the can and should. With the endorsement of Amherst’s president and Board of Trustees, he has recently launched Amherst College Press, which will produce a handful of edited, peer-reviewed, digital-first books on “a very small number of subjects.” “We want to do a few things well, not overextend,” he says.

Staff retirements have allowed Geffert to repurpose two salary lines in the library’s budget into an editorial staff, including a press director­—”somebody who’s absolutely committed to open access,” he says. “That’s a fundamental value for the press.”

Although he has no illusions that library publishing operations will challenge Elsevier anytime soon, Geffert hopes that they will eventually help to shift the economics away from the bottom-line model that drives much of academic publishing. “I’m going to risk sounding like a wide-eyed idealist here,” he says. “If at some point enough libraries are producing or working with presses to produce enough freely available information,” the amount they need to spend on materials will drop. If that happens, the savings “will more than offset the expense we’re investing.”

Geffert has received  helpful advice from directors of larger university presses but doesn’t know yet whether Amherst College Press will join the Association of American University Presses. AAUP’s members produce a lot of good work, he says, but it  has taken stands he doesn’t agree with. For one, it objects to the Federal Research Public Access Act, which would expand federal mandates that guarantee access to publicly supported research. And it has stood behind the publishers who sued Georgia State University over alleged copyright infringement in e-reserves. Does a library-based publishing operation really “want to be part of an organization where at least part of the constituency is suing libraries?” he asks.

–Extracted from a larger article by Jennifer Howard in the Chronicle of Higher Education, February 4, 2013.

UCSD Linguist Active in OA Publishing Initiatives

Eric Bakovic, Associate Professor of Linguistics, has been active for several years in investigating open access issues, including the instiguation of an OA publishing platform for scholars in his field. At the annual meeting of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), held concurrently with the Modern Language Association  (MLA) last month in Boston, he co-organized a panel that included several big names in the Scholarly Communications field, including  Stuart Shieber, Director of Harvard’s Office for Scholarly Communication, and Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Scholarly Communication for the MLA, as well as editors of two OA journals in linguistics, Kai von Fintel (Semantics & Pragmatics) and Lindsay Whaley (Linguistic Discovery).  Bakovic himself spoke on a range of business models that might be used to support the expenses of OA publishing, and librarians from MIT and Boston University spoke on the role of institutional repositories and the implementation of  faculty-initiated OA  policies. For more information on the panel, the panelists, slides/texts/audio from their presentations, and more on LSA’s own efforts in OA publishing, click here.

Welcome the Open Library of Humanities

Open access isn’t just for scientists. Opening up research is an idea that appeals to more and more humanists and social scientists, including many at UCSD. The challenge has been how those fields can support the open sharing of research, since publication in the humahities usually does not have the kind of grant funding to cover publication costs that is common in scientific publication, or the potential commercial application (and remuneration) of so much published research in the science and technology fields.

Now, a new nonprofit organization, called the Open Library of Humanities, aims to create a humanities-and-social-sciences version of the successful Public Library of Science, or PLoS, which in the past decade has established itself as a major presence in open-access, peer-reviewed scientific publishing. Like PLoS, the Open Library of Humanities, or OLH, will be peer-reviewed.

“For me, there was an itch, a frustration: Why are we always talking about science?” says Tim McCormick, one of the three founders of the new venture. “I’m sure that it has probably crossed the minds of many people, and a number of people have said to me, ‘I’ve always thought there should be a PLoS for humanities.'”

McCormick is a veteran of the publishing-and-technology worlds. Formerly a senior product manager for Stanford University’s HighWirePress, he is now a consultant with Stanford’s MediaX, which encourages tech collaborations between researchers and the business world. McCormick’s OLH co-visionaries are academics: Caroline Edwards, a lecturer in English at the University of Lincoln, in England, and Martin Paul Eve, also a lecturer in English at Lincoln who’s also a computer programmer. Both Edwards and Eve have experience editing open-access journals in their fields.

As McCormick points out, the humanities and social sciences have a sometimes underappreciated history with open access. Some of the movement’s most visible leaders come from nonscience backgrounds: Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Open Access Project, is a philosopher by training, for instance. But the sciences have the most robust mechanisms in place to encourage the open sharing of work; PLoS is an especially visible publishing option, and the now-venerable preprint repository arXiv has long been the place physicists, computer scientists, and others to go for the latest research. The cause of openness has gotten a big boost from the National Institutes of Health’s public-access policy, which requires that research supported the agency be made freely accessible via the PubMed Central repository within 12 months of publication. Researchers have petitioned the government to expand the policy to all federally backed research.

Right now, OLH is mostly a vision and a Web site, which went live only a week ago. “At this moment, we’re a project,” Edwards says. “We’ve got a loose organizational structure.” But an advisory committees has filled up quickly with an impressive roster of well-established academics. For instance, Michael Eisen, an associate professor of biology at Berkeley and a co-founder of PLoS, is on the Academic Steering & Advocacy Committee, along with David Armitage, chairman of Harvard’s history department.

The group is in serious talks with foundations to line up money—somewhere in the neighborhood of $1-to-$1.5-million to build and sustain the Web platform they’ll need, hire a staff, and work out the details, starting this summer. How will the venture be organized so that it works for different disciplines? Will it draw on existing open-access journals now sequestered in hard-to-spot niches? A robust peer-review system will be essential in order to help humanists deal with lingering uncertainty about whether open-access publishing is a good career move. As for how the platform might function, he points out that there’s an accumulated wealth of open-access publishing precedent to learn from. The OLH team has been talking informally with PLoS, drawing on its knowledge and experience.

McCormick wants to seize the moment. “I don’t really like the term ‘cognitive surplus,’ but I have the sense there’s a lot of unfulfilled idealism out there, a lot of academics living in fear,” he says. “One thing we want to do is to tap into the wish people have to do something new and better, not just fix a problem.”

–Abridged and adapted from an article by Jennifer Howard in the online Chronicle of Higher Education (1/29/13).

Blue Mountain Project at Princeton to Digitize 34 Arts Journals

The Princeton University Library is pleased to announce the launch of the Blue Mountain Project, an open-access digital thematic research collection of avant-garde art, music and literary periodicals (1848-1923). Drawing together rare material from Princeton’s Art, Music and Rare Books libraries, the Blue Mountain Project will provide high-quality digital images as well as full-text searching, deep indexing of content, detailed metadata and descriptive essays to a broad audience.

With generous support from the NEH, the Blue Mountain Project will make 34 titles available over the next two years. A full list of these periodicals – which are in English, German, French, Danish, Dutch, Hungarian, Czech and Russian – can be found on the Blue Mountain project page . Check this site periodically as journals are made available, follow it on Facebook ((, or subscribe to its Twitter feed (@bmtnproj) for news and updates about the project’s progress.

Scholars interested in using Blue Mountain materials are encouraged to contact the project coordinator for collaboration. A conference will be held at Princeton in Fall 2013, bringing together researchers, curators, librarians and technologists to discuss methods of research and teaching with digitized periodicals. The Blue Mountain Project can be reached at: .

Linguistics Society of America to Move Publications to OA Framework

The Executive Committee of the Linguistics Society of America  (LSA) announced today that it will “significantly expand” the content and accessibility of its principal journal, Language,  by publishing new digital content under an Open Access framework. Among the chief components of LSA’s new publications policy are the following: 

  •  All content published in Language (both print and digital) will be made freely available on the new LSA website after a one-year embargo period.
  • Authors who wish to have their content available immediately, either on the Language site or on other websites, may pay a $400 article processing fee to do so.
  • The contents of Language will continue to be immediately available to subscribers of Project Muse.  (The UCSD community may directly access issues since 2001 of  Language. Contents of the journal from its beginning in 1925 up through 5 years ago are available to the UCSD community in JSTOR.)

LSA will also be hosting a session on OA at its January 2013 national conference in Boston, held jointly with the Modern Language Association of America. The session is being co-organized by UCSD Associate Professor of Linguistics Eric Bakovic.

The World Bank’s new open access policy and repository

The World Bank announced yesterday that it has created a “search-engine friendly” Open Knowledge Repository that contains more than 2,000 books, articles, reports and research papers and will allow the public to distribute, reuse and build upon much of its work—including commercially.

The repository, launched today, is a one-stop-shop for most of the Bank’s research outputs and knowledge products, providing free and unrestricted access to students, libraries, government officials and anyone interested in the Bank’s knowledge. Additional material, including foreign language editions and links to datasets, will be added in the coming year.

And, in a bid to promote knowledge-sharing around the world, the Bank has become the first major international organization to require open access under copyright licensing from Creative Commons—a non-profit organization whose copyright licenses are designed to accommodate the expanded access to information afforded by the Internet.

The repository and Creative Commons licenses are part of a new open access policy that takes effect on July 1 and will be phased in over the next year. The policy formalizes the Bank’s practice of making research outputs and knowledge products freely available online, but now much of that content can be shared and reused freely, if the Bank is credited for the original work.

Princeton Adopts Open-Access Policy

–From The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 29, 2011

The movement to make research freely available got a high-profile boost this week with the news that Princeton University’s faculty has unanimously adopted an open-access policy. “The principle of open access is consistent with the fundamental purposes of scholarship,” said the faculty advisory committee that proposed the resolution. The decision puts the university in line with Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Kansas, and a growing number of other institutions with policies that encourage or require researchers to post open copies of their articles, usually in an institutional repository. Unpublished drafts, books, lecture notes, etc., are not included in the Princeton policy, which gives the university a “nonexclusive right” to make copies of its faculty’s scholarly journal articles publicly available.

“Both the library and members of the faculty, principally in the sciences, have been thinking for some time that we would like to take a concrete step toward making the publications of our extraordinary faculty freely available to a much larger audience and not restricted to those who can afford to pay journal subscription fees,” said Karin Trainer, Princeton’s university librarian. She said they had encountered “no resistance at all” to the idea among faculty members.

The new mandate permits professors to post copies of articles online in “not-for-a-fee venues,” including personal and university Web sites. The faculty advisory committee that recommended the policy said that it will keep faculty members “from giving away all their rights when they publish in a journal.”

Authors may request a waiver for particular articles. Addressing fears that the waiver proviso would render the policy “completely toothless in practice,” the committee said that other universities’ experiences showed that journal publishers will often adjust their contracts when an author’s university has an open-access policy. Ms. Trainer said that the policy does not suggest any penalties for authors who do not comply with it.

Career pressure on junior scholars as well as differences in publishing practices among disciplines ”mean that some faculty are not in fact going to be in a position to comply with the new policy without asking for a waiver,” Ms. Trainer said. “And we know that.” She added that even faculty members likely to ask for waivers “understood that it was in the overall university’s best interests to have such a policy in place.”

Unlike Harvard and KU, which have established repositories and an upload procedure for researchers to follow, Princeton does not yet have a system in place to help faculty members make their work available. The faculty committee that recommended the policy encouraged the university to establish an open-access repository. “An open-access policy without a ready means for faculty to post their scholarly articles and an equally ready means of retrieval would be of very limited value,” it said. But it also acknowledged that “there are many issues of implementation and resources to be considered.” Princeton already has a public data-storage archive, DataSpace, but there’s not a lot of material in it yet. The faculty committee said it thought DSpace could be adapted to serve the open-access mandate. “We are still sorting out our options here,” Ms. Trainer said.

Sympoze: A New Tool for Peer Review

A new open access project whose goal is to improve the peer review process through the use of crowd-sourcing (by qualified referees) has opened for business. Sympoze, which is being developed by Academy Geeks, is still in its beginning stages and currently has only two projects in the works: a general philosophy journal and a philosophy textbook. They hope to eventually have sufficient numbers of referees to allow for the creation of similar resources in other disciplines.

The founders of Sympoze believe that the use of crowd-sourcing for the peer review process will resolve a number of problems with the current academic publishing model: it will reduce the burden on referees, reduce the review time, speed up the identification of qualified referees, eliminate the bad luck of having your work assigned to a biased or overworked referee, provide for more diverse feedback, and result in a review that better reflects the consensus opinion of the discipline. Furthermore, once the article has passed the review process, it is published immediately in an open source publication.

If you’re interested in pursuing such a venture in your discipline, there is a volunteer form on each page of the Sympoze website. See its “FAQS” page for more details.

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