A very interesting short piece about the recent surge in open-access journals.
As a bit of background about the “traditional” and “open” manners of publishing scientific papers:
- In the traditional form, authors have their work reviewed; if accepted, it is published for free (or some relatively nominal charge to the author). There are often ads in journals published as such, and subscriptions (i.e., the ability to read the papers in these journals) are really expensive (for universities, commercial labs, etc.).
- In the open form, authors pay a lot to publish in the journal. However, once published, the journal articles are available to anyone for free.
The ethical implications of either of these forms of constraint on scientific creativity and sharing publications are unnerving.
Not mentioned in the article are Creative Commons-esque ways of publishing, such as arXiv (which has its own issues, such as lack of true peer review and sheer volume of publication).
2 responses to “Open-Access Publication: Creativity, Constraints, and Ethics”
Pretty interesting stuff. Academic publishing seems like such an incredibly dysfunctional institution and ripe for change. I’m not sure how exactly open-access journals would play out in scientific disciplines, but in the humanities this model could have some potential pitfalls. Without adequate funding to waive publishing fees from less financially secure authors, the pay-to-publish system could essentially turn into a tax on grad students and contract faculty- people who feel compelled to publish as much as possible in order to improve their circumstances, but who can rarely afford to pay $1500 for anything. Nonetheless, I’m excited by the idea of not having to pay $40 to read an article just because UBC hasn’t paid for a subscription!
The same problem of funding certainly exists in science. There might be more money in science than in the humanities, but most science professors aren’t sleeping on beds of grant money.
That said, there are a few big labs across the country that do have fairly sizeable grants. So, is the implication that it’s easier for them to publish in open-access journals than for smaller labs with less funding? (And, the “old boys’ club” nature of publishing already makes it easier, in either type of journal, for the big names.)