Open Access publishing: A Personal View

24/09/2012 – 8:39 am
Tony McCall

General Observations

As will be seen from our comments below, we are not convinced by many aspects of the current proposals in practice. We are also far from convinced by the general rationale for open-access publishing, especially the ‘gold’ option, under which the author (funder, institution or individual) pays. We recognise that the Report of the Working Group chaired by Janet Finch is by no means the only contribution to the current debate. We are also aware that SAGE in common with other major publishers has been contributing to the relevant discussions. We are personally sceptical about many of the major premises of Open Access Publishing, and we are certain that many of the potential implications have not been thought through. The Finch Report pays remarkably little heed to the detailed arrangements that may need to be put in place, or many of the potential consequences for individual scholars, research groups and academic departments.

The imperatives for Open Access publishing are poorly articulated, and lack logic. It is asserted that the results of publicly-funded research should be more widely accessible. In point of fact the ‘findings’ of research are almost always freely available, as investigators are required by funders and others to disseminate their results widely (public-engagement events, web-pages, press-releases, media exposure etc.) In fact, Research Councils and major charities, such as Wellcome, could overnight make the results of their funded research publicly available by publishing final reports of all funded research projects on their websites, after the external evaluation process is completed. This, of course, would not satisfy the less overtly articulated agenda of trying to clip the wings of commercial publishers. There seems to be a political campaign based on a desire to stop public money, in the form of university library subscriptions, going to commercial academic publishers, while some academics are apparently adopting a characteristic, would-be patrician disdain for ‘trade’. In the current political climate, however, it seems odd. Vast amounts of ‘public’ money are in fact channelled into the ‘private’ sector. Through procurement and out-sourcing large swathes of public services are in private, for-profit hands – from prison services to defence procurement, to pharmaceuticals and healthcare provision. There seems no special reason to disrupt the long-standing ecology of publishers and academics. Open Access publication will only guarantee universal access to research, of course, if all the papers that are submitted are actually accepted for publication. The only alternative will be to expand open-access journals until they accept 100% of all papers submitted to them, which would of course destroy their credibility. (But the financial temptation is clearly there if every paper comes with a £1,000 to £2,000 price-tag,)

More at:-

authors: Sara Delamont and Paul Atkinson
source: Social Science Space (20/9/12)

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