Open Access – ‘Learning to Share’


The Times Higher Education supplement, as mentioned by PLoS, has an interesting and informative article on the current state of play regarding open access, peer review, copyright and  funding, amongst other items for consideration. As will be apparent, there are deep divides between the publishing companies, universities, academics and libraries as to what degree of open accessibility to peer reviewed work can be offered, with two main models, green access and gold access being the most prominent in ongoing discussions. As we see:

There are two main open-access routes – the “gold” and the “green” (names invented by an open-access advocate purely to aid differentiation). In the “gold” or “author-pays” route – as used by Rainger – authors (supported by their funders) pay the costs of publishing in an open-access journal so that peer-reviewed articles then appear online and can be accessed immediately by users for free.

The “green” route – as used by Hicks – sees researchers “self-archive” the final peer-reviewed versions of their articles in institutional or subject repositories, where they are available for anyone to view. The versions deposited are generally not the final PDFs produced by the publishers (which own the copyright on this “version of record”), but rather the “post-print” or final versions that scholars send to journals after the work has gone through the refereeing process and the authors have made any corrections (the “pre-print” is the article before it has been peer reviewed). They are not formatted in the journals’ style and do not have the in-house edits, but having been peer reviewed they have a stamp of quality and will do the job for those who need to access them.

Much to the chagrin of the subscription journals (see box, right), since open-access advocacy began in about 2001 on the back of the web’s growing reach, it has come a long way. Although an evangelical group of academics may have led the charge, the movement has rapidly gained converts, including enlightened funders and cash-strapped libraries.

Interesting to note that there is much greater availability of academic research papers in fields such as physics, where new discoveries are said to overwrite previous research quite rapidly, whereas the humanities journals tend to keep much more material behind paywalls as the research is more often to be held as valid years after publication as when the authors submitted their research.


2 thoughts on “Open Access – ‘Learning to Share’

  1. I love the idea of free access, though NOT the idea that the author should pay for it, that’s ridiculous. However, I am also open to the pay-per-view system, so long as the fee is reasonable. And in almost all cases it is not only unreasonable but also counter-productive. If a journal typically charged 1 to 5 dollars per article, rather than $30, which appears to be the norm, they’d see a huge increase in sales volume, no question. And since cost of disseminating 1,000 copies online would be no greater than that for 10 or 20, it’s a no-brainer. Old habits die hard, but if the publishers were to wake up and remember that they are no longer in the business (or shouldn’t be) of disseminating expensive hard copies that cost so much per copy, but extremely inexpensive virtual copies that cost literally nothing after the initial costs are covered, they’d realize they could do a lot better charging $1 than $30.

    1. I too was quite surprised to see the suggestion that authors pay to publish their own papers, and I totally agree that if prices were lowered to something more sane, many more of us would pay for access. In some cases, it´s possible to pay upwards of 40 bucks, once you add tax, and I for one don´t understand the publishers´need to overcharge to that extent. Imposing such a degree of exclusivity seems counterintuitive, restricting public access as well as coverage and citations for the authors of such papers.

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