Friday, February 20, 2009

Increased access to science, but who gets to publish?

ResearchBlogging.orgWhat role will open access (OA) journals play as science publishing increasingly moves to the internet and involves a more diverse array of participants? In a recent short article in Science, Evans and Reimer tried to answer this using citation rates from 8253 journals and examine trends in citation rate shifts. They found that researchers from wealthier countries were not likely to shift to citing OA journals while researchers from poorer countries did. The authors conclude that the overall shift to citing OA journals has been rather modest, but these journals have increased inclusion for researchers at institutions in poorer countries that cannot afford commercial subscriptions. However, there is an unfortunate flip side to the OA model -paying to publish. Most OA journals recoup the lack of subscription earnings by placing the financial onus on to the publishing scientists. This means that while researchers from poorer countries can now read and cite current articles in OA journals, they still are limited from publishing in them. True, most OA journals allow for deferring costs for researchers lacking funds, there is usually a cap to the frequency in which this can be done.

J. A. Evans, J. Reimer (2009). Open Access and Global Participation in Science Science, 323 (5917), 1025-1025 DOI: 10.1126/science.1154562


Martin Nuñez said...

Publishing in OA journals seems to be a problem for people in poor institutions, not just for people in poor countries, since all of them ask for substantial amounts of money (from $700 to $3000 in my experience). This may not a big problem for the high profile journals like PLOS Biology, but for the ones with lower impacts, since it may be hard to convince a department head to pay $1000 to publish in a journal with impact factor of 2, knowing that there are free alternatives. I wonder if there is a solution for this. I guess than since libraries expend so much money in no-OA journals they may consider sponsoring some of this journal, since in the long run they might save money with that. It is a complex issue definitely.
Anyway, I think that OA journals are great, and I hope that they are able to reduce the fees to publish in them.

Peter Suber said...

Hi Marc: In fact, most OA journals do *not* charge publication fees. For the background and early evidence, see my article from 2006. All the more recent studies confirm the early numbers and even show that the percentage of no-fee OA journals is growing relative to the fee-based OA journals. Here's one from 2007. A newer study is under way right now.

Marc Cadotte said...

Hi Peter, Thanks for the post.So many journals -in fact your list has more journals then are contained in Thompson lists. Two things, first I wonder whether readership and citation rates vary by whether the journals charge or not Second, I only have knowledge abut ecology and evolution journals and there doesn't seem to be good free options (fully indexed, high readership and citation rates).

Also, I keep being asked to be an editor for various new OA journals and e-book series, and all of these include high author costs and often do not have an editor-in-chief. Surely they are nothing more than profit grabs.

Peter Suber said...

Hi Marc: OA does improve readership and citation. For the studies and evidence, see Steve Hitchcock's bibliography.

For OA journals in ecology and evolution which charge no publication fees, go to the "for authors" section of the DOAJ, and browse by field. Each journal is annotated to show whether it charges publication fees.

Some of the solicitations you receive to serve on the editorial boards of fee-based OA journals may be perfectly legit. Many first-rate OA journals charge publication fees, such as those from PLoS and BMC. But some shoddy publishers are seeing a profit opportunity here and spamming researchers to get them to submit papers or joing editorial boards. Use your judgment. One clue is the reputation of the journal's editor in chief. If you're in doubt, you could ask other researchers in your field or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.

Stevan Harnad said...

Immediate Open Access Versus Embargoed Access

Evans & Reimer (2009) (E & R) show that a large portion of the increased citations generated by making articles freely accessible online ("Open Access," OA) come from Developing-World authors citing OA articles more. It is very likely that a within-US comparison based on the same data would show much the same effect: making articles OA should increase citations from authors at the Have-Not universities (with the smaller journal subscription budgets) more than from Harvard authors. Articles by Developing World (and US Have-Not) authors should also be cited more if they are made OA, but the main beneficiaries of OA will be the best articles, wherever they are published. This raises the question of how many citations – and how much corresponding research uptake, usage, progress and impact – are lost when articles are embargoed for 6-12 months by their publishers against being made OA by their authors. (It is important to note that E & R's results are not based on immediate OA but on free access after an embargo of up to a year or more.)

For full text of this commentary, see: Open Access Benefits for the Developed and Developing World: The Harvards and the Have-Nots

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

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