[Coral-List] More on open access

RainbowWarriorsInternational southern_caribbean at yahoo.com
Fri Apr 18 14:37:57 EDT 2008

A final comment on the emerging model for specialized publishing.

Besides and before being an (almost) full-time environmentalist, I ran a small publishing company with regional aspirations, producing specialty local publications e.g Eco Aruba magazine and other specialty publications a.o in the field of telecommunications.

The specialty journal and periodicals publishing industry is almost hermetically sealed off to newcomers for competition and this is achieved by a modus operandi in which peer reviewers, productions staffers and specialized personnel are hard to come by and long-time standing agreements and academic traditions make it easy to "lock in" resources not of the financial kind.

When Terra Publishing (this publishing company) tried to investigate the possibility of producing specialty magazines e.g. on specific sustainable development for the wider Caribbean region we ran into a "publishing keiretsu" in the publishing sector if you will, in which the reluctance of the academe to go with new ventures can be a insurmountable threshold to new format journals being launched.

Of course there are exceptions to the rule, and one very delightful free distribution publication to which we subscribe, is the Marine Turtle Network's journal.

Such publications stay afloat because of the willingness of authors to submit, the dedicated reviewers and production staff and because of the donations, grants and subsidies received by the magazine.

I would recommend looking at http://www.arxiv.org to get a look at the emerging model for peer review and pre-peer review.

There is a long way to go before new models for publishing which focus on online open access and online competitively priced access will emerge.

A driving force behind this could be the need to reduce the use of paper for printed materials, which need to be physically transported at (great cost), whereas downloaded paid publications can be locally printed, all factors reducing cost of publishing and production.

Sapienti sat

Milton Ponson
environmentalist and publisher

Richard Dunne <RichardPDunne at aol.com> wrote: Coral Listers

The posts by Rainbow Warriors certainly present an interesting angle on 
this subject but I wonder whether they are entirely accurate.

For example the last post mentioned the News Corporation as being a 
publisher of "scientific journals". I am by no means an expert on this, 
but as far as I am aware the News Corporation does not publish any 
scientific journals - many newspapers and TV channels and Harper Collins 
books but not scientific journals.

We are also given the picture of  global publishing powerhouses buying 
up scientific journals led by tycoons who are growing richer and richer, 
and of a scientific publishing industry which is a reflection of the 
19th/early 20th century. I find this a little hard to swallow. True, the 
world has a history of self enrichment where any form of trade is 
involved. However, publishing costs money, particularly in the 
specialised areas that we are concerned with. Someone, somewhere has to 
pay for this activity. Should it be the reader/viewer (as it is with 
books and newspapers, and television), should it be the grant funding 
agencies, or the author, or perhaps someone else, I have heard 
advertisers suggested? Paul Muir also adds "The journals then get these 
articles reviewed and edited by other researchers for free". That is not 
entirely accurate. These days a journal has to maintain expensive 
electronic peer review websites, all editing is not free, particularly 
the final stages to make a paper ready for publication. True, there is 
no payment for peer review but then so also is there no charge for the 
author to submit and publish under this model. Perhaps then the peer 
review system has evolved historically as a trade off between a freedom 
to publish balanced by a willingness to contribute to peer review 
without payment. Perhaps this is a commendable ideal.

These posts also do not discuss how the new publishing organisations 
such as the Public Library of Science (PLoS) fit into this 19th/early 
20th century model. These publishers frequently claim to be non profit 
making yet charge authors large sums to publish (PLos Biology US$2,700 - 
which they also say do not represent the full cost). Perhaps we ought to 
be more concerned with this emerging model which whilst achieving true 
Open Access comes at considerable cost to the author. What do authors 
from less wealthy countries/ research organisations think of this. Worse 
still if we read the interview (commended to us by Marc Kochzius) with 
Richard Smith on the board of PLoS, who advocates the change to true 
Open Access we find quotes such as: "Perhaps [publishers] will end up 
charging quite a lot for actually publishing an article. For example, if 
you're going to publish in Nature or Science it might cost you Euro 
30,000". .. "I'm not saying this will happen. But when it comes to the 
publication of clinical trials Euro 30,000 isn't so much. Such a trial 
might have cost Euro 20 million." I find such sentiments somewhat worrying.

Nor does it appear that authors are on a level playing field. As Marc 
Kochzius rightly points out, for US Government employees the copyright 
lies with the government (not the author) and cannot be transferred to a 
journal. In these circumstances, journals have special clauses which 
apply to how the material may be used. Sometimes a similar situation 
arises with UK government employees. Why should we have these anomalies 
for these authors and these countries? Presumably under the new Open 
Access model (e.g., PLoS) these authors achieve no preferential 
treatment and the government accepts that it must pay the publication 

The Rainbow Warriors conclude: "Once the scientific community realizes 
that it has a role to play in this process change will come as market 
forces will be called into play." Many of us will be well aware that we 
have a role to play. Perhaps we should welcome the choice that is 
available in the present market. We can choose to publish in a journal 
with no charge (even for colour figures), or we can choose another that 
has page charges, and to these we can add the purchase of the 
publisher's open access. Alternatively we can pay one of the new Open 
Access journals. We can choose a journal which only  publishes 
electronically, or go to one that also produces hard copy. We can also 
choose a society journal which will be distributed to the members of the 
society as well as to libraries and institutions. We can try for high or 
low impact factor journals. We can choose a journal which gives us a PDF 
of the article or one that gives reprints. All this choice is surely a 
good thing. I personally rue the day that I am given no choice but to 
pay US$2,700, or more.

If Open Access is the ideal, it will need to be financed from somewhere. 
Ultimately it will involve a redistribution of funding from 
subscriptions either to grants or  to some supra national journal or 
research funding body (perhaps UNESCO). All publishers will have their 
part to play in this evolution. If funding is through the grant making 
bodies then one thing is certain, namely that the research freedom and 
the ability to publish that presently exists will be squeezed out as the 
power increasingly moves to the funding agencies. Perhaps that is not 

Richard P Dunne

West Briscoe, Baldersdale, Barnard Castle, Co Durham, DL12 9UP. UK
Tel +44 1833 650059

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