Open Access

Yesterday, we had a meeting of Faculty Council for the Arts (I have to go as chair of our undergrad studies committee). This poor librarian starts us off with a 15-minute presentation about open access publishing, and it was excellent: all the global justice and other reasons for opting, if one can, for open access. Then she finishes, and this guy lights into her like I haven’t seen. So he goes on and she asks, “Can you tell me what you think is wrong with open access?” And he says, “One word: crud.” And then he says something about it being “pay to publish.” Then our new dean pipes up and said she had “no idea” open access publishing included peer review.

So it was left to me to explain this thing called the internet and how Society and Space does as much open access as possible and how peer review works, such as, for example, in our department-based open-access journal Analectica Hermeneutica. I prefer publishing open access myself–I get much more feedback–and I have yet to pay to publish. But I share this only because I didn’t realize that this was a widely-held view that open-access = vanity press. And that some old guard is quite visceral in their anger over it.


  1. Two words: oy vey

    There seems to be a massive digital divide that was formerly known as a “generation gap.” Thanks for fighting the good fight.

  2. Wow. I thought things had at least moved beyond that. I guess for some of these people it feels like the train is leaving the station and they’re not on it. Not quite how they put it but does explain the anger. We’ve been going for over 10 years now and no one has (yet!) ever paid to publish with us. Although there are of course interesting problems around that.

    But don’t you just love the librarians! 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on Drops of Experience and commented:
    It amazes me how much (or little depending on your perspective) people know what open access publishing is. Thanks to Peter Gratton for showing that there is still a lot of misunderstanding about it. I hope people continue to see the value of it.


    Peter, you make good points, but even you seem to be mixing up OA publishing (“Gold OA”) and OA self-archiving (“Green OA”).

    Open Access (OA) means free access for all would-be users webwide to all articles published in all peer-reviewed research journals across all scholarly and scientific disciplines. 100% OA is optimal for research, researchers, their institutions, and their funders because it maximizes research access and usage. It is also 100% feasible: authors just need to deposit (“self-archive”) their articles on their own institutional websites. Hence 100% OA is inevitable.

    Yet the few keystrokes needed to reach it have been paralyzed for a decade by a seemingly endless series of phobias (about everything from piracy and plagiarism to posterity and priorities), each easily shown to be groundless, yet persistent and recurring. The cure for this “Zeno’s Paralysis” is for researchers’ institutions and funders to mandate the keystrokes, just as they already mandate publishing, and for the very same reason: to maximize research usage, impact and progress.

    95% of researchers have said they would comply with a self-archiving mandate; 93% of journals have already given self-archiving their blessing; and those institutions that have already mandated it are successfully and rapidly moving toward 100% OA.

    Plans by universities and research funders to pay the costs of Open Access Publishing (“Gold OA”) are premature.

    Funds are short; 80% of journals (including virtually all the top journals) are still subscription-based, tying up the potential funds to pay for Gold OA; the asking price for Gold OA is still high; and there is concern that paying to publish may inflate acceptance rates and lower quality standards.

    What is needed now is for universities and funders to mandate OA self-archiving (of authors’ final peer-reviewed drafts, immediately upon acceptance for publication) (“Green OA”).

    That will provide immediate OA; and if and when universal Green OA should go on to make subscriptions unsustainable (because users are satisfied with just the Green OA versions) that will in turn induce journals to cut costs (print edition, online edition, access-provision, archiving), downsize to just providing the service of peer review, and convert to the Gold OA cost-recovery model; meanwhile, the subscription cancellations will have released the funds to pay these residual service costs.

    The natural way to charge for the service of peer review then will be on a “no-fault basis,” with the author’s institution or funder paying for each round of refereeing, regardless of outcome (acceptance, revision/re-refereeing, or rejection). This will minimize cost while protecting against inflated acceptance rates and decline in quality standards.

    Harnad, S. (2006) Opening Access by Overcoming Zeno’s Paralysis, in Jacobs, N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects, chapter 8. Chandos.

    Harnad, S. (2009) The PostGutenberg Open Access Journal. In: Cope, B. & Phillips, A (Eds.) The Future of the Academic Journal. Chandos.

    Harnad, S. (2010) No-Fault Peer Review Charges: The Price of Selectivity Need Not Be Access Denied or Delayed. D-Lib Magazine 16 (7/8).

    Harnad, S (2012) The Optimal and Inevitable outcome for Research in the Online Age. CILIP Update September 2012

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