Comments on Open Access
Private communication. Posted with permission.
Enrico M. Balli [firstname.lastname@example.org]
- In HE all the literature has, for years now, been entirely open access: the arXiv allows readers anywhere in the world to access completely free of charge all the scientific literature in the field. Hence, the hype on OA (proposed as a way to lift barriers on access) is essentially ill-founded.
- The fact that (high quality) peer-review is still necessary is another incontrovertible issue. We must convey the message that the costs of a journal is caused by this (the peer-review process has a cost, even though it hinges on the voluntary and unpaid work of the community) and not necessarily by other factors such as printing, distribution, promotion, etc.
- Commercial editors (and, alas, non commercial ones too) chargé for this service (peer-review) an excessive amount of money: one needs only look at the profits of these publishers and the salaries of their managers to realise that and, personally, I feel that distributing in the scientific community the budgets of publishers like Elsevier would be a highly instructive exercise.
- Changing the scholarly publishing business model (by going beyond the current subscription-based model) should enhance these facts: it only makes sense to pay for a high-quality peer-review, not for crowding library shelves. The cost of such a peer-review is easily seen by looking at the budgets of journals like JHEP (which amounts to less than 10% of Nuclear Physics).
- A possible alternative to the traditional model may be to ask authoring institutions to pay an annual fee that will guarantee the open access publication of papers. That is to say, every institution that now pays for a subscription would eventually pay for the actual peer-review alone. Developing countries institutions (who do not pay for subscriptions on current terms) would continue not to be charged and would have free access to the peer review for their authors.
- This alternative model would allow for a gradual transition (unlike other past proposals): each institution would be free to decide if and when to drop subscription payment and move on to paying for the open access publication fee without damaging the organisers of the peer-review process, who need constant and foreseeable funds.
JHEP was set up many years ago in order to fight the overwhelming power of commercial publishers, who make huge profits at the expense of the scientific community. We have managed to prove that costs can be reduced whilst at the same time ensuring the highest rigour in peer-review – something that only “a journal for scientists by scientists” could ever do.