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Open Access Round Up

The march of the righteous towards victory over the rent-seeking publishers continues apace, so here’s another Open Access round up. I’m not even going to bother trying to remain impartial any more, for the following reasons:

Terrible things publishers did

Tadeusz Iwaniec is a professor of maths at Syracuse University. He signed the cost of knowledge pledge recently, and gave a pretty scary tale as his reason for taking action. In short, according to Prof Iwaniec, someone he’d never heard of published a paper in an Elsevier journal and listed him as a co-author. When Iwaniec told the journal they’d made a mistake they were the opposite of co-operative, and it apparently took $12,000 of lawyering before Elsevier’s attorney admitted that “Dr. T. Iwaniec was not a co-author of this article”. The journal in question, by the way, was Computers & Mathematics with Applications, which you might recognise as the same organ which published an article by M. Sivasubramanian containing “no scientific content”. You can read Prof Iwaniec’s statement on the cost of knowledge site. (I emailed the site’s admin asking if there was a nicer way of seeing a particular person’s statement, but apparently there is not!)

Mohamed El Naschie, former editor of the Elsevier journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals, lost his libel case against Nature magazine over an published in 2008 about him titled “Self-publishing editor set to retire”. The article is back up on Nature’s site now that the world has seen sense. Nature posted a triumphant response to the judgement, but you’d be far better off reading the blog El Naschie Watch‘s highly entertaining coverage, including a list of the interesting parts of the judgement. A fun bit of trivia is that Mr El Naschie is single-handedly responsible for Alexandria University occupying the no. 4 spot on the THE world ranking of universities.

The former editor of the British Medical Journal had a bad bad week for access.

Finch recommends “Gold” open access

A working group chaired by Dame Janet Finch has published a report recommending “Gold” open access – where the author pays a fee to have their article published – as the standard for academic publishing in the UK. The report was itself reported on by the Guardian, the BBC and the Times Higher Ed, among others.

The executive summary of the report gives a short list of ten recommendations, which I will further summarise here:

  1. Funding bodies should support publication in open access or hybrid journals.
  2. Public sector funding bodies should make arrangements to meet the cost of publishing in (gold) OA journals.
  3. There should be policies to minimise restrictions on the rights of use and re-use of published content (for example, for data-mining the corpus of published work).
  4. While we’re moving to open access, funds should be made available to buy licences that let every institution in the UK access work published in closed-access journals.
  5. The proposals for walk-in access in public libraries should be pursued “with vigour”.
  6. Basically everyone who can read, if I’ve read the recommendation properly, should offer their opinion about how such licences should be funded. Do they mean the Big Society?
  7. Universities should consider how much the move to open access is costing the old publishers when negotiating new deals (outrageous!)
  8. Everyone should keep trying to publish monographs (non-new, reference works) under open-access licences.
  9. Subject and institutional repositories should be bigger, in particular for scientific data and preservation of old work.
  10. Funders shouldn’t insist on shorter embargo periods, when work is only available in paid-for journals, because publishers might lose money.

Just about everyone who’s anyone immediately published statements “welcoming the report”. Here’s a small selection, in roughly descending order of sincerity:

Also in a spirit of hospitality were the British Ecological Society, Research Councils UK, the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers, the Royal Society of Chemistry, Universities UK, and.. well, you google it, there are too many.

The reaction from actual academics was rather less welcoming. Tim Gowers gave a translation of Elsevier’s statement, beginning “We are particularly excited to have thought of a way of offering free access that is sufficiently inconvenient that it won’t have any impact on our huge profits”, in reference to the “free walk-in access” initiative. Stephen Curry wrote at Occam’s Typewriter about his disappointment at “the lack of clear support for subject or institutional repositories as a vehicle for green OA”.

The Times Higher Ed has published a couple of opinion pieces: Finch’s open-access cure may be ‘worse than the disease’, and Want gold? Let’s see some cash, both taking the opinion that if the Finch report is followed then publishing will cost more than it currently does.

Good news!

Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports now allows CC-BY licensing. The editor-in-chief of Nature says that “open access to research is inevitable”.

The Cost of Knowledge has reached 12,000 signatures.

The White House petition asking for US funding bodies to require taxpayer-funded research to be published in open access journals passed its 25,000 signature target and currently stands at over 28,000.

The Wellcome Trust will penalise scientists who don’t embrace open access, by withholding final grant payments.

Cambridge University Press’s new open-access maths journals

CUP launched two new journals at the European Congress of Mathematicians in Krakow: Forum of Mathematics, Pi and Forum of Mathematics, Sigma. They’re both “gold” open access – there’s a fee to pay if you get a paper accepted – but plans are afoot to find a wealthy backer to subsidise the costs. Neither one is really a “journal” in the traditional sense – articles appear online as soon as they’re ready, and are given an issue number only for citation purposes.

Tim Gowers is one of the founding editors, and wrote a long post detailing all the ins and outs on his blog.

Don’t start making plans for publishing in them though – they’re aiming to publish papers of a standard equivalent to the leading journals in their subject areas.


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