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The Good, the Bad and Gowers

Prof Sir Tim Gowers has published a couple of very interesting posts on his blog this week, explaining his thinking behind a couple of announcements to do with Open Access.

In the first post, “Why I’ve joined the bad guys“, the beknighted academic responds to accusations that he has joined the ‘bad guys’ by becoming an editor for CUP’s Gold OA Forum of Mathematics. FoM has an ‘article processing charge’ (APC) which is paid by an article’s author’s employer before publication, so that the article can be free to read. The post is part apology for APCs, and part FAQ to dispel misunderstandings about what authors will actually experience.

In summary: APCs will be waived for the first three years; after that they’ll be £500 per article. APCs are only due after the article has been accepted for publication – submission, peer review and editing are free, like in closed access journals. Authors won’t be expected to pay – their institutions will. If an institution says it won’t pay, the fee is waived.

Read the whole thing – as usual, Prof Gowers makes his points lucidly, and there’s a good discussion happening in the comments below the post. The other reason Gowers gives for the publication of the post is to draw attention to the fact that FoM is now accepting submissions (Sigma submission page; Pi submission page).

In the second post, “Why I’ve also joined the good guys“, Gowers announces a new venture that aims to make the production of arXiv overlay journals, which collect together peer-reviewed preprints from the arXiv and avoid the costly typesetting and editing stages of other journals. This would be “Diamond OA” – free to read and to publish. The organisation Timothy’s involved with is called the Episciences Project, and it’s funded by the Centre pour la Communication Scientifique Directe in collaboration with the Institut Fourier at Grenoble University.

The idea is that academics already do this work for free when reviewing for closed access journals anyway – the subscription money only goes to the publisher to cover editing and printing costs. Epijournals, as they’re being called, will only post links to arXiv preprints of the papers they have accepted, so they avoid those costs. Gowers also mentions the suggestion that each paper would have a comments area underneath it (the Internet: never read the comments!) where editors could write a couple of paragraphs explaining why a paper is noteworthy, readers can point out errors, and experts can write reviews. It would be good to have all these in one place – currently errors can at best be pointed out in letters published in subsequent editions of journals, and reviews mainly live on MathSciNet, and aren’t often linked to from journals’ websites.

It’s all very interesting stuff. And I expect a post titled “Why I’ve joined the ugly guys” is forthcoming.

Further reading

Forum of Mathematics Pi

Forum of Mathematics Sigma

Worse Than Elsevier by Orr Shalit – the article that prompted the first post

The Episciences Project doesn’t seem to have a website (or it has bad google-karma)

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