Royal Society tries open access

Britain's national science academy has been one of the most vocal critics of making papers freely available

By | June 22, 2006

Britain?s Royal Society dipped a cautious toe into the waters of open access publishing this week, allowing authors whose papers are accepted by any of its seven journals to pay a fee and have their work made freely available on the web. The society?s officials have expressed serious doubts about open access on several occasions in the past. Although they are still concerned by a lack of evidence about the sustainability of the model, they hope the experiment will ultimately be a success, spokesman Bob Ward told The Scientist. ?It?s a toe in the water, but it?s not based on an expectation that it will fail -- we expect that it will succeed,? he said. ?We are also hoping that this will allow us to gather some evidence that the whole sector can use.? The first paper published under the new system appears in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Lead author Neil Roach from the University of Nottingham and his co-author were funded by the Wellcome Trust, one of the strongest advocates of open access, which also paid the Royal Society?s publication fees. "I am very pleased that the Royal Society has developed a model for open access publishing and that a piece of Wellcome Trust funded research is the first to gain from this new policy and be made freely available to all,? said Mark Walport, director of the trust, in a statement. Peter Suber, director of the Open Access Project at Public Knowledge, also welcomed the society?s decision to try out a ?hybrid? model -- combining open access with the traditional publishing system. ?The Royal Society is trying the hybrid model for the right reasons,? he said in his blog, ?to see how well it works, to answer critics, and to measure the demand.? But Suber said the plan was also flawed, pointing out that the society will not waive its fees in cases of economic hardship, will not apparently let authors choosing the new option retain copyright, and will not apparently deposit its open access articles in a repository. The fees for the new service are higher than those charged by open access publishers. Authors who choose to pay to make their papers immediately available on the web will be charged £200 ($370) per journal page for Proceedings A, Phil Trans A, and Notes and Records, or £300 ($550) per journal page for Proceedings B, Phil Trans B, Biology Letters, and Interface. For a 10-page article like Roach?s, that adds up to £3000 ($5500). This is more than double the fees at US open access publisher Public Library of Science, which charges up to $2,500 per article for its flagship journals. Ward said the fee was an accurate reflection of the cost of publishing a paper. ?People need to understand the cost of doing this,? he said. Still, the society remains concerned that the costs of open access publishing will be prohibitive for some researchers, he noted. Stephen Pincock Links within this article Royal Society launches trial of new ?open access? journal service, June 21, 2006. S. Pincock, "UK committee backs open access," The Scientist, July 20, 2004. S. Pincock, ?Royal Soc. attacked on open access,? The Scientist, December 9, 2005. N. Roach, et al, ?Entitled Resolving multisensory conflict: a strategy for balancing the costs and benefits of audio-visual integration,? Proceedings of the Royal Society B. S. Pincock, ?Wellcome insists on open access,? The Scientist, May 19, 2005. Peter Suber, Open Access News D. Secko, ?Author fee spikes at PLoS,? The Scientist, June 19, 2006.


Avatar of: Lisa Maw

Lisa Maw

Posts: 1

June 23, 2006

In the transition from student to graduate one of the most fustrating aspects is not having the access to interesting articles that once was freely available through university. You can see the article title but unless you pay the subscription fee there is no way of reading the treasured words within. This is not promoting interest in science within the general public and I for one am supportive of open access to journal articles.
Avatar of: Stevan Harnad

Stevan Harnad

Posts: 7

June 23, 2006

The Royal Society is a green publisher, giving its authors\nthe green light to provide immediate Open Access to their articles by\nself-archiving them in their own institutional repositories in order\nto maximise their usage and impact. The Royal Society is now also an\noptional gold publisher, offering its authors the "Open Choice" of\nproviding Open Access on their behalf, for a fee. But all of this is\noutweighed by the fact that this most venerable of Learned Societies,\ncontrary to the wishes of at least 64 of its (unconsulted) members,\nhas put its substantial prestige and gravitas behind a vehement -- and\nso far successful -- lobby against the Research Councils UK proposal\nto mandate author self-archiving by its fundees, as recommended by the\nUK parliamentary Select Committee on Science and Technology as well as\nthe U.S. Federal Research Public Access Act, and the European\nCommission. In this respect, the Royal Society is deporting itself\nexactly like the crassest of commercial publishers, and is putting a\nsad blemish on its proud record in the history of Learned Inquiry and\nthe dissemination of its fruits.\n\nIt is fine that the Royal Society is experimenting with the "EXiS Open\nChoice" option (giving individual authors the choice to pay their\njournal to make their article Open Access [OA] for them), but this is\na minor gesture, given that the Royal Society is meanwhile also\nstoutly -- and so far successfully -- opposing the UK recommendation\nto mandate that all RCUK fundees must make their own articles OA by\ndepositing them in their own institutional (or central) OA\nrepositories.\n\nWhat the research world needs today is OA, now: immediate 100% OA (not\nnecessarily OA publishing: OA itself). It is a matter of historical\nrecord that (without consulting its membership) the Royal Society,\ndriven by its publishing arm -- and exactly as many other (decidedly\nnon-royal) publishers have done -- has shrilly opposed the RCUK\nproposal to mandate that UK-funded researchers provide immediate OA by\nself-archiving their research: opposed it on the basis of no evidence\nwhatsoever, just speculative hypotheses of doom and gloom (eliciting\ngreat disappointment in the Royal Society's admirers, as well as an\nopen letter of protest from 64 of its members, including 6 Nobel\nLaureates, opposed to the Royal Society's stance on OA). (See 1, 2,\nand 3.)\n\nThe fact that the Royal Society, like a number of other publishers, is\nnow trying a leisurely experiment with Open Choice by offering their\nauthors and their institutions the option of paying (a hefty and\nrather arbitrary fee) for OA is next to ludicrous in this context --\nwhile institutional funds are still tied up in subscriptions, while\nthere is no evidence that self-archiving reduces subscriptions, and\nwhile publishers are vigorously opposing self-archiving mandates on\nthe grounds that they might reduce subscriptions.\n\nAlthough the analogy is unfairly shrill, it is useful in order to make\nthe underlying logic transparent if we note that this is not unlike a\ncall for an immediate public-smoking ban being opposed by a royal\ntobacco company, with a counter-offer to sell individual clients an\nalternative smoke-free product, as a matter of (paid) personal choice.\n\nWe will never even come near 100% OA if we keep waiting passively for\nthe 24,000 journals to convert to paid OA publishing, one by one,\nauthor by author, under these conditions. OA and hybrid OC (Open\nChoice) journals today are merely a sop for the ongoing worldwide need\nfor immediate OA: They do little to stanch the daily, needless\nhemorrhaging of research usage and impact.\n\nAn OA self-archiving mandate for publicly funded research, as proposed\nby the RCUK, FRPAA and EC (and already implemented by the Wellcome\nTrust and 6 universities and research institutions) would (like a\npublic-smoking ban) be a genuine remedy, but the Royal Society is\nopposing it.\n\nThis is a sad historical fact -- even though, to its credit, the Royal\nSociety's 7 journals are among the 94% of journals that have endorsed\ntheir authors' right to exercise the choice of self-archiving their\nown papers, if they wish:\n"the author(s) may... post the work in its published form on their\npersonal or their employing institution's web site"\nIt is just that the choice the Royal Society affirms with one hand, it\nlobbies vigorously with the other hand to discourage authors, their\ninstitutions and funders from actually exercising.\n\nThere is absolutely nothing in the Royal Society's ignoble deportment\ntoday that warrants making any reference whatsoever to its noble\nhistory in the evolution of research and publishing. The less said\nabout that, the better. This is a business, acting in the interests of\nits bottom line, not a Learned Society acting in the interests of\nLearned Inquiry.\n\nAmerican Scientist Open Access Forum Topic Thread:\n"Not a Proud Day in the Annals of the Royal Society" (Nov 24, 2005)\n
Avatar of: Gordon Couger

Gordon Couger

Posts: 23

June 28, 2006

In today's world of rapid advances in almost all fields the time it takes for a conventional journal to publish a paper is very very serious impediment on the progress of science. I don't think the discussion should be about open access to paper journals but should be if anything but open access online publicising is relevant in today. I have access to everything through a university. Even though inter library loans are often available in 24 hours. It is still still much more painful to use print than online resources. I can't use search and find on paper books and journals.\n\nA simple mailing list ProMed ferreted out SARS and is credited with not only bringing to the world attention but helping find the best treatment methods and being largely responsible for the fast action to bring the worldwide outbreak of SARS to a screeching halt. Without ProMed China would probably still be in denial and we might have a world wide problem with SARS if it had been handed in print journals with their inherent delays. Another example is 24 hours after Zeiss announced a new method of Differential Interface Contrast DIC microscopy several people had duplicated it using a informal Yahoo group and email to correlated their work using comments they had on hand.\n\nConventional journals are trading on their very well established names. The high page prices, resistance to open access, the fact the they only rent and don't sell electronic access to their journals and high subscription costs all work against them. In many cases it make them appear as only concerned about the money with little concern for the author or reader. When I first approached some one about online publishing the comment was, "show me someone that got a PhD publishing on the Internet." Now particle physic has erased that objection and leads the way with both open access publishing and peer review. Open access peer review give even faster access to new information. They make their case at\n\nThe cost of access to information is an inexcusable barriers to the poorer institutions and self financed researchers of the world. In a wold of shrinking funds for research increasing cost for access to information just to have it published in a prestigious journal raises ethical issues in my mind. If my work is good enough to be published by a top name journal does the added prestige of the journal add enough to my paper to be worth limiting the access to my work to the elite of the world that can afford access to the journal. If my work has merit it should stand the test of publication in a lessor journal with access to all.\n\nIf a few of the outstanding worker in a field will simply refuse to publish papers in Journals that require exclusive copyright it will solve the open access problem. Keith Yamamoto and Peter Walter have take the first step with the Elsevier boycott reusing to publish there because of the high price of the journals. Top name journals can't exist if the top names publish elsewhere.\n\nThere is no reason for outrageous page charges for open access publishing. The author can host them on his own web site or find a web site that will host them for far less money. A disturbed journal with resources scattered around the world is not hard to do. Building redundancy in would take some work but its possible.\n\nThe Journals that try to cling to their monopoly of the printed word could find themselves with an empty bag if the fail to react to the fast changing word around them.\n\nThe real cost of publishing on line are very low. It costs me about $1,200 a year to keep a sever up and running. To be safe you need to have two. Many small societies that don't run for prof tit only pay one or two people to keep the office running. They have the authors submit the papers in a format ready to publish. The reviewers aren't paid a cent. Charges of one or two hundred dollars or less would cover the cost of publishing. When you remove the cost of publishing a paper journal from the equation the cost of running a professional society can become very small.\n\nSincerely\nGordon\n\nGordon Couger\n624 West Cheyenne Dr\nStillwater, OK 74075 1411\n405 624 2855 405 269 3588

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