Gold mining

Gold pan saloon

I’ve just had a look (be it brief) at the recent report “Heading for the open road: Costs and benefits of transitions in scholarly communications“, commissioned by the Research Information Network (RIN), JISC, Research Libraries UK (RLUK), the Publishing Research Consortium (PRC) and the Wellcome Trust, with contributions from many other (including publishers).

Although I was very much looking forward to this report, I was a bit disappointed that “Gold” ended up being the model that came out on top. I haven’t read the full report, so I can’t actually attempt to poke holes in the analysis, and I will have to take a look at the numbers they present in more detail when I have time. I was a bit concerned about comments that were made about not undermining the publication system – isn’t this to some extent part of the whole point of open access? I thought we were unhappy with the current publication system? Maybe not?

It is fantastic that OA is gaining momentum, and publishers are realising the role they can play (and money they can make), but following the “gold” route will likely leave the scholarly communication system in the hands of for-profit publishers. Isn’t that why the system is currebtly not working for us, and libraries are struggling to pay the bills? Do we really want publishers to have all the power?

I still would like to see some additional modelling on possible outcomes, say :

  • If some percentage (20%, 50%?) of libraries cancelled all subscriptions next week – what  would happen to publishers, how would they change?
  • If 50% of article were put into repositories next week – how would the scholarly communication system change?
  • What would collapse of the system actually mean?

Perhaps these ideas (and the modelling) are unrealistic, but it would at least be interesting to actually model some potential outcomes. I am fairly confident we would find a way to continue distributing and sharing research outputs, even if publishers disappeared (and I am sure they wouldn’t, they would just have to figure out a new business model).

Image credit: Close to Spectacular

Online journals open access to scientific research

There’s a nice example of this today:

The Independent reported some fascinating new research that for the first time draws a complete family tree showing how primates – including humans, of course – are related to each other. The scientist whose views were sought for the article commented that the findings will significantly promote the study of the genetics of human health.

The research was published yesterday in PLoS Genetics – which is an open access journal. So how many people have looked at the work so far? By lunchtime today, 482. Not a bad impact  for one day after publication. Would it have attracted the same number of readers if it had been hidden behind a pay-wall in a traditional journal?

It’s good to see what seem to be significant findings published in an open access journal and made available to everyone. Isn’t this what all scientists want: for their work to be widely known, respected and shared?

Of course if the Independent had added a link to the publication, that would have been even better …

Image credit: Guwashi999 CC-BY 2.0

More OA Journals from Big Publishers

Wiley has recently announced Wiley Open Access, “a new publishing program of open access journals”. They plan to launch a number of OA journals in 2011, including MicrobiologyOpen, Ecology and Evolution, and Brain and Behavior. There is currently no mention of the pricing model for these new journals (that I could find), but we can only assume the cost will be similar to the existing $3000 US they are charging for their OnlineOpen option for their other journals, or perhaps a bit cheaper in order to successfully compete with others.

So what does this mean that big publishers are becoming more and more “interested” in open access publishing? We recently saw Nature Publishing Group release their new Scientific Reports, and don’t forget SAGE Open as well. Perhaps more will follow? Will publishing in OA journals begin to become more popular? And what will this mean for the “green road” to open access?

Heading Down the Gold Road

More and more publishers are now offering a hybrid Open Access option for many of their journals, yet still it is reported that the actual uptake and use of these options is quite low (1-2% industry-wide). Of course publishers themselves must see this as a viable route to follow (see a previous post here) or else they wouldn’t even be going there. Many academics also see gold OA as the only route forward (perhaps because of a lack of knowledge of alternatives?), yet we also have those fighting for the green route (see Stevan Harnad’s blog). From personal conversation I do know that (some) academics are concerned about the costs that are arising from trying to publish OA. Perhaps the cost will help them explore other options… nonetheless, the conversation about hybrid OA and paying to publish continues.

Four speakers, invited by the ALCTS Scholarly Communications Interest Group, recently presented on the topic of hybrid journals at the 2011 ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Diego. Slides can be viewed here. Looks like some good talks, and I am sure they led to an interesting discussion – with contributions from a scientist /faculty member, University Librarian (and Dean of Library Services), and two publishers. Of particular interest to us, were the slides presented by Philip Bourne, which demonstrate clearly what he, as one scholar wants to see in the future of scholarly communication.

Some of the results from the recently presented SOAP research project also focus on the cost of publishing (including both full OA and hybrid journals).

They asked academics:

  • how much they paid to publish their last OA article. (slide 10)
  • how the fee was covered (slide 14)
  • how easy or difficult it was to receive funds for OA publishing (slide 17)
  • how much they would pay to publish OA (slide 22)

Interesting results to take a look at.

How much are you willing to pay? We know publishers are thinking about the sustainability of this “new” option (slide 8), but are you?

Image credit: Nick Leonard

Launch of a significant journal

Nature Publishing group have just announced the launch of “Scientific Reports”, as a multi-disciplinary open access high-level journal.

From their website:

“Online and open access, Scientific Reports is a brand new primary research publication from the publishers of Nature, covering all areas of the natural sciences — biology, chemistry, physics and earth sciences.

Scientific Reports exists to facilitate the rapid peer review and publication of research that is of interest to specialists within any given field in the natural sciences, without barriers to access.”

This is an open access journal, charging an article-processing fee of £890/ $1,350:  articles will be freely available to everyone under a CC licence, deposited in PMC and authors retain copyright.

This follows in the footsteps of PLoS One and represents a significant move for NPG and, very likely, for journals in general.   This model takes advantage of the fact that “issues” of an OA and electronic journal are not limited in size and can vary up and down:  and can  accomodate all of the articles that meet their peer-review criteria, as they are assessed. With this freedom, the journal is able to work across disciplines, which could represent a challenge to traditional, slower, non-OA journals.  Backed by the Nature brand, this is a powerful mover for change.

Interestingly, although it is OA, the change and challenge that this represents for other journals is really only partially due to its OA nature.  It would be possible, although a little more complex, to have a similar model of a “mega-journal” based on subscriptions.  As I and the CRC team here have been saying for some time, OA is not the biggest challenge to publishers clinging to traditional models for their journals who see development as simply producing electronic analogues of what has gone before. Other capabilities and possibilities bought about by online dissemination and storage; multimedia capacities; meta-analyses; data-mining; and online, open peer-review are far more of a threat to closed, regular issue serials. Open access happens to be part of this suite of possibilities that have been bought by developments from outside publishing – and it fits very nicely.

We now have PLoS One, that led the way, confounding doubters:  Nature’s Scientific Reports has followed and is on course for an Impact Factor by 2013, and will be gathering adherants from now on, so by some metrics the clock is ticking.  What will the other publishers do to respond?