Will open access work?

A new report on open-access publishing released earlier this month has raised concerns about peer review, the standard of editing, and the financial future of some open-access journals.

Oct 24, 2005
Stephen Pincock

A new report on open-access publishing released earlier this month has raised concerns about peer review, the standard of editing, and the financial future of some open-access journals. According to the report, comparable numbers of open-access journals and traditional journals conduct peer review of articles, but more open-access journals (28%) appear to rely on internal editorial staff for peer review, not outside experts, says Sally Morris, chief executive of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), which initiated the study "What they call peer review is not doing what peer review is supposed to do," she says.

Open-access publishers may also have impending financial troubles, the report notes. More than 40% of surveyed open-access journals report shortfalls, and 24% say they are breaking even. In comparison, 75% of the ALPSP journals are running a surplus. The report also found that just 72% of open-access journals copyedit their manuscripts.

Matthew Cockerill, publisher at BioMed Central, The Scientist's sister company, argues that the report seems to push a specific point of view. "It is well known that ALPSP is taking an antagonistic stance on open access," he says.

Cockerill adds that the authors "basically miss the point" in many ways. Regarding copyediting of research articles, for example, "it's a very open question in terms of whether the benefits of copy-editing outweigh the downsides such as inefficiencies introduced. It's about the quality of the research," he says.