[Open Science Sunday] Lincoln University’s Open Access Policy is out

By Fabiana Kubke 28/07/2013 53


New Zealand has its first Open Access Policy thanks to Lincoln University. We have been lagging behind in the OA landscape when it comes to tertiary institutions, and Lincoln’s position is a great step.

From their website:

Lincoln University takes the position that if public funding has supported the creation of research or other content then it’s reasonable to make it publicly accessible. So our new Open Access Policy endorses making this content openly and freely available as the preferred option.

That the public should have access to the outputs of the work they fund through their taxes has been a compelling argument around other international policies. A similar position statement was made in the  Tasman Declaration. New Zealand’s NZGOAL, released in 2010 provides a similar framework for State Service Agencies, but tertiary institutions are not included in the framework despite receiving substantial public funding in several forms. It has been then up to the individual universities to decide whether the principles of NZGOAL are adopted. Lincoln University has taken a leadership role for the tertiary sector, and I am hopeful that other  NZ institutions will follow their lead.

CC-BY-NC-SA by biblioteekje on Flickr

I have been often asked where the funds to pay for Open Access publishing will come from, at least in relation to the publication of research articles. What we sometimes seem to forget is that we are already paying for these costs through the portion of the overheads of our grants that go towards library costs for access and re-use of copyrighted material.  In many instances, too,  the charges for publication of, say a colour figure, can be equal or more than what it would cost to publish the same article in an Open Access journal. The maths just don’t work for me.

What we also seem to sometimes forget is that most publishers will allow the posting of the peer reviewed version of the author’s manuscript in their institutional repository. Why aren’t researchers not doing this more widely is not very clear.

And here is where Lincoln strikes a nice balance: posting in the institutional repository (aka Green Open Access) comes at no extra financial cost to the individual researcher.  IT will be interesting to see how the policy is implemented at Lincoln.

But is it enough?

It is a great start.

One of the issues with the Open Access discussion is that it sometimes the issue of copyright (and the resulting license to reuse) does not always feature prominently in the conversation. I (personally) consider that fronting the fee with a journal to make a paper open access when I still need to transfer the copyright to the journal is a waste of money. There is not much added value to the version of the manuscript that I can place in the repository and the final journal version (other than perhaps aesthetics). I am happy, however, to pay an OA fee when this comes attached with a Creative Commons licence that allows reuse, including commercial re-use, because that is where the true value of Open Access is. Lincoln University takes a good step by encouraging the use of Creative Commons licences – but In their absence the articles should still be made free to view through the institutional repository.

How is NZ doing in OA?

The articles that are deposited in Institutional repositories in New Zealand can be found through nzresarch.org.nz.  Today’s search returned 14,273  journal articles. It is unfortunate that the great majority of them (13,986) are “all rights reserved” and only 232 allow commercial reuse. If we really want to benefit from our research to drive innovation, then we should be doing better.

So where to next?

Lincoln University has taken a great first step, and hopefully the other NZ research institutions will follow. I am also hoping we will start to see a similar move from NZ funding agencies encouraging researchers to adopt the principles of NZGOAL or to place Open Access mandates on their funded research.

Perhaps next time a funding body or organisation asks you to donate money for their research to help cure a condition, you might ask them if they have an Open Access policy


53 Responses to “[Open Science Sunday] Lincoln University’s Open Access Policy is out”

  • Every silver lining has a cloud, and OA is no exception. The cons are rarely discussed, so let me: let’s call the old system (i.e. not OA) pay per read (PPR). On PPR, publishers get money in proportion to the number of reads. On OA, they get guaranteed money up front. The first question is: how much? I guess however much they feel like asking for! Note that this money, cost of publication (for an author) = production costs + PUBLISHER PROFIT. Now, the crucial issue is the proportion of scientific publications out there which only ever get a few reads because they are only of any interest to a few specialised scientists. If this proportion is high, then the public ends up subsidising low popularity publications that are only of interest to a few scientists! The public loses! The usual “spin” is that the public gets the opportunity to read everything for free! The reality is that they still pay, but they pay more, up front, and probably read the same amount as under PPR … bummer!

  • Thanks for your comments – but there is a misconception in assuming that the public is not already paying for the PPR as you call it. These costs come in the form of library subscriptions and copyright licences to reuse the material for educational purposes for example. The University of Auckland spends over $15Mp.a. in these types of costs. This is paid from overheads to grants as well as government support to universities as from student fees. So the money is coming from the public already. It is important to remember that every journal issue has “low popularity” articles that we are paying for anyway, and even if one were to just do a pay per view one would not know whether the article is worth the $ until after dishing the money out.

    The studies that have been made have shown that there is an actual cost saving when shifting from toll to OA publishing (see this as an example http://www.knowledge-exchange.info/Default.aspx?ID=316)

  • @stephenthorpe. In further defence of OA, the PPR system is going also to push a publication bias. Journals will not want to publish (assumed) ‘low interest’ research and negative results, thus information is lost from the academic record.

  • @John Kerr. I’m not sure it is guaranteed to work out that way. A lot of low popularity research does get published under the current PPR system, so I don’t see any real evidence that any is “lost from the academic record”. Can you back your claim up with hard facts, or is it mere speculation? Furthermore, even under OA, journals won’t necessarily be any more inclined to publish low popularity research. This is because they will still measure their “worth” by impact factors, which will still depend on numbers of reads, whether free or not. You seem to be making the assumption that low popularity articles will become more popular if freely available, but the digestive system of the lesser Siberian badger is still a pretty boring read (in fact I’d probably pay NOT to have to read it!) [a made up example, BTW!]

    • I think that yes, it is possible that what are now low popularity articles might become more popular because there will be broader access to them. And this is a guess – no data to back it up. But right now, unless I have access to it I cannot cite it because I cannot read it – but if I were to have access to it I might finds something valuable that would merit citing it. It is difficult to predict how citation rate for articles published in small journals that few libraries or individuals would change if they were made open – but my guess would be that they would become more citable and more discoverable – as long as the science is good.

  • @Fabiana Kubke. Well, it is not clear that the accounting has been done on this! I am interested in some pretty low popularity research (invertebrate taxonomy, etc.) UoA actually has rather few subscriptions of that kind. I can hardly ever find what I’m looking for here, and I often have to email authors directly to get PDFs (which is a rather cheap and effective backdoor route, via fair use, to get hold of literature!) There are however at least several different journals that specialise in such invertebrate taxonomy. If they all were to become OA, and charge up front publication costs, even a mathematical idiot like me can work out that this would add up to a significant amount of money! I concede that it all depends on the details. If the details are all favourable, then OA might work out a good deal, but not otherwise. They crucial difference, as I said, is that costs under PPR are in proportion to reads (or in proportion to subscriptions), but up front flat fees across the board are a whole different ball game …

    • Well, all of the studies that I have come across point to an overal saving by going open access. Happy to look at studies that show otherwise if you can point me to them. If I understand it well, this was the basis for the Finch Report recommedations. What I find surprising is that from what you describe, people in your field (ie with limited access through subscriptions) would be those who would benefit the most from OA. I for one tend to quite easily find what I need in the library (one of the advantages of working in the biomedical field). One thing that I think would be useful to clarify, is that the Lincoln Policy is not tied to Gold Open Access (that is through the journal) and one can comply with green – institutional repository. That means that there is no financial cost to the author to make their reviewed version of the manuscript freely available other than the time it takes to email the file to your librarian. I am not a big fan of this route because of copyright/reuse limitations (although I prefer it to nothing). In your example you would not need to email the authors to get the paper, just grab them from their institutional or whatever other repository. I may have had that same first instinct that you have about the overall cost of OA, but the numbers appear to show that OA does result in overall savings. Is there any reason (other than your gut feeling) that makes you think those studies are flawed? I’m interested to know if I am missing something.

  • @Fabiana Kubke. Well, I’m not so sure! Discoverability of articles is becoming less and less of a problem, and this has nothing to do with OA. Rather, at least in the area of biodiversity/taxonomy, there are more and more (too many in fact, but that’s another story!) online aggregators of such information. Just to name a few, of various kinds: Wikipedia, Wikispecies, EoL, CoL, GBIF, NZOR, ALA, ION, Mendeley, BioStor, BioNames, …

    I wish to be clear that I am not arguing against OA per se, I am simply pointing out that few if any of the discussions or sales pitches for it that I have seen have addressed all the relevant issues. As I said, the pros and cons of OA, who benefits and how, depend very much on the details, and even your reply above suggests that not even you are certain how those details are going to pan out …

    • Perhaps we should distinguish discoverability of article (not that bad these days) and discoverability of its contents (which is what I am interested in). I will not pay a journal to purchase a single article because the catch is that until I read the paper I cannot know whether it was worth buying. I tend to ditch a large amount of the articles I read because they do not deliver what was promised in the abstract.

      While I am not certain whether some of the details are going to pan out, even if those small details (would article X get more citations) I think the sum balance of OA is positive, and the benefit of OA (from my point of view) does not depend on those specific details.

  • @Fabiana Kubke. You say: [quote]I cannot cite it because I cannot read it [unquote]

    I say: Who says you can’t read it? You could (1) pay for access, either out of your own personal money, or your research budget, or (2) find someone who does have access to it and gain secondary free access from them under the terms of fair use (e.g. write to the author and request a reprint!)

    • Not always easy. If it is a recently published paper that might be the case – try to find an older paper where the authors have moved to different institutions and there is a lot of time wasted. My experience has been that the hit rate I get on “reprint requests” is not 100%. Asking a colleague that is in an institution that subscribes to the journal to send me a copy actually goes against the terms of service of the subscription of that institution – so whereas it can be done it does not make it legal. Sending you a full copy of the paper is not covered under fair use (as far as I understand fair use, or fair dealing in NZ). So no, I am not sure I buy the argument that I can read whatever I want, at least not legally.

  • @Fabiana Kubke. I haven’t read any studies. I am going by my familiarity with the way the system works (at least in my area of interest). Can you point me to an OA study or studies which demonstrate that for publicly funded research, there is an overall saving TO THE PUBLIC? That’s my concern here. I suspect either that the public will end up paying more for stuff they really don’t want to read anyway, or, if research funding doesn’t increase to cover publication costs, then there will be less research funding available to actually do research, because a chunk of it will have to be spent on OA publication costs! Such a scenario might actually suit researchers and their institutions! The institutions will still claim their 50% (or whatever) overheads from the research funding, so will be no worse off. Here’s the “subtle bit”: core public funded research tends to be less profitable than commercial contracts. Therefore, if an institution can gain guaranteed core funding from the public pot (as CRIs can), the institution claims the overheads as usual, and then if it can spend as much as possible of the remainder on anything other than tedious, time consuming, low profit research, this will free up more time for its researchers to do more profitable commercial contract work instead! Everybody wins but the public! Sorry if that is all a bit hard to follow!

    You say [quote]What I find surprising is that from what you describe, people in your field (ie with limited access through subscriptions) would be those who would benefit the most from OA[unquote]

    I say: No, I would rather see more research done than see the money diverted to freeing up literature, which I can usually obtain without TOO MUCH trouble, anyway…

    • There are a few studies that are linked from http://www.knowledge-exchange.info/Default.aspx?ID=316 . Subscription costs are public costs in the end (with exceptions I assume). If the move to OA saves money, that is money that can in fact be diverted to research – that is the whole point. If it is cheaper to move the system to OA than it is to continue with the status quo, then you have more money in the purse to put where it matters (which is what we all want). Don’t forget that your grants are already paying for “publication costs” except in the form of subscriptions. So you are not getting more money. Remember also that OA is not always a direct cost to your grant – there are institutional repositories, OA journals that don’t charge authors for publication and a variety of options. I am also not sure how well your personal ability to obtain without too much trouble what you need extrapolates. I know it does not extrapolate to me, but then again between you and I are N=2.

  • @Fabiana Kubke. Our dialogue is out of synch. I replied over your last post. Now replying to that: again, you may or may not be right about how the balance of wasted time under PPR pans out against wasted money under OA. Can you point me to any studies which look at this question? I read a lot of literature in my area of interest, and I don’t see any real evidence to suggest that authors are having any great difficulty in citing all the relevant literature …

  • @Fabiana Kubke. Over the top again! 🙂 You seem to think that the overall benefit of OA will not depend on such details, but you haven’t as yet backed up that “hope” with any hard evidence! I am a bit uneasy about that lack of hard evidence to demonstrate that the details won’t have a big effect on the overall benefit…

  • Yeah, BUT there are just too many question marks for my liking! As I said, it could pan out good, but there has been little discussion or debate on the likelihood that it will pan out bad (for the public: remember that whether it is good or bad depends on who you are, or maybe you think it is going to pan out good for everybody!) Sure, OA would probably result in lower subscription costs (though how this works for what is already published, I’m not sure?) But, if you are right then that would result in lower profits for publishers! I suspect that publishers will want to maintain or even increase their profit margins and so put up publication costs to compensate! If I am right about the lower profitability of core public funded research relative to commercial contracts, then such institutions will encourage their researchers to publish any old research in the most expensive and “prestigous” journals possible! Just sooo many variables and unanswered questions … must go, goodnight!

    • Thanks Grant – Indeed, the data I’ve seen seems to point to OA resulting in both economic as well as in impact benefits.

  • I seem to recall reading somewhere that under open access it was thought that negative results or results which duplicate previous work (to either support or challenge it) were more likely to happen which could be a good thing.
    Also, I’m not convinced that open access benefits the public in terms of allowing them access to journal articles many if which they are unlikely to understand anyway – the public tend to pick up their science from secondary and tertiary sources (e.g. New Scientist).
    They may benefit the public indirectly if they allow scientists to access a wider range of articles, even the “low popularity” research. The most amazing ideas can arise when a seemingly unimportant fact or concept is picked up by an innovative thinking researcher.

    • I hear that too – but hard to predict. Hopefully that would be the case. Both PLOS ONE and PeerJ allow those types of publications.

      One of the arguments about public good of OA (or public economic benefit) I heard Cameron Neylon say comes from impact to small and medium businesses. (I think he says it here if I recall http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2526108/scientists-say-open-access-research-inevitable-in-nz)

      I asked my dad who had a small business, and according to him. the key to his success was innovation based on getting access to the latest reseearch, apparently he never patented a thing cause he said industry would contract them because they knew they were always trying new things as new research came out. Back then (probably 1950’s-60’s) he said all he needed was subscriptions to 2 journals and they were very affordable. I would imagine today it wouldn’t be affordable for a small business because you’d need too many subscriptions with rates that increase above inflation.

      I would imagine that is one side of the public benefit. I also saw on twotter (cannot find, sorry) a teacher talking about the disadvantage of students in science fairs between schools where they could get access to original research (family members academics, for example) vs schools were that access was not there. So that would be another “public use”. So I think what we may think of when we think about “public” shapes a bit how we look at the issue.

  • Nobody can deny that there would be benefits to the public from OA! The issue is wther there would be a net benefit, or a net loss with a few minor compensatory benefits. In the latter category I would definitely place making school science competitions a fairer playing field! Is it worth millions of taxpayer $$$? I think not! As for facilitating innovation ideas for small businesses, well these are unlikely to arise from literature on invertebrate taxonomy, for example, yet even just the hundreds of journals in this area added up would need a considerable amount of taxpayer $$$ to make OA. Does anyone know how OA applies to already published articles? Will publishers still charge PPR for these? The reuse of data and images is another factor in favour of OA, which isn’t only about reading the article, but what you can do with the data, but again only some groups stand to benefit from this, and it may not be much of a benefit to the public.

    • Hi Stephen, I am not sure how to respond to your arguments in any other way that I have already done. One of my favourite quotes by Lawrence Krauss is “I would argue that the definition of open mindedness is forcing our beliefs to conform to reality and not the other way around.”
      I have pointed you to the studies that I have been shown that backs up the savings on OA. I’d be happy to discuss the flaws in those studies if you can identify them – or point me to studies reach a different conclusion. So far your arguments seem (to me) to be based more on your gut feeling than on actual data, so I can only take them as that.
      I am also not sure why you are dismissing the article pointed to by Grant right off the bat – it seems you are judging the value of that study based on its container (ie who published it) rather than by its content. Once again, happy to have you point me to specific flaws that you identify in that study (or similar ones).
      Regarding OA to already published articles they can be deposited in repositories according to the individual journal policy (most commonly the final author’s version of the accepted manuscript.) So no, no need to pay the journal any money.

  • Regarding this article (pointed at by Grant above): http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040176

    I find it very hard to take seriously the objectivity of an article, enthusiastically endorsed by a major publisher, who state:

    Yes, you’re right; we do have a strong and vested interest in publishing results that so obviously endorse our existence.

    and

    … consequently, [OA] should be extended to the whole scientific literature as quickly as possible.

  • Stephen,

    You’re supposed to realise that I was pointing at the Eysenbach research paper by way of the editorial referring to it –

    http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040157

    – i.e. you’re whinging about the wrong thing 😉

    (Just a thought: your reply reads as misleading to me, with the juxtaposition and ordering of these quotes in presenting them as one then then other when in fact the first quoted passage occurs several paragraphs after the second. You have presented it as if the ‘consequently’ referred to the first quote, but it can’t and doesn’t. The ‘consequently’ actually refers to: “we have always held that open-access publication speeds up scientific dialog between researchers” – i.e. their pre-held belief, not the results of the Eysenbach research paper.)

  • Grant:
    I do realise that! And I’m not whinging about anything! I was just trying to make the point that there is a (self-confessed) lack of objectivity in the editorial, and so objectivity in this whole area may be harder to find more generally, maybe even in the article itself and/or its review process (which was presumably overseen by the journal editors!) I agree that I should have left out the “consequently” from the second quote, as it is may be a little bit misleading to some, but my point still stands without it…

  • PS: It was the part that reads [OA] [quote] should be extended to the whole scientific literature as quickly as possible[unquote], that just seems a bit too “enthusiastic”, being uttered by a publisher who at the same time feels it necessary to preempt objections relating to “vested interests”…

  • Stephen – there’s a wink there y’know. Also, better to just read the research paper and critique it like any research paper?

    (While there are things you could poke at about the editorial, you’re still mangling what the editorial is saying to my reading. I think you want to bear in mind that things like this inherently have conflicts of interest (COI) so the COI in and of itself is less interesting than how they handle it.)

  • Grant:
    Perhaps you could be a little more transparent what you think the editorial IS saying! I don’t understand semaphore by wink! It is interesting that the editorial admits to less than utmost standards of rigor for ordinary research articles! I think that a serious shortcoming of the actual article is that it only considered one journal! Sure, an OA article in PLoS ONE might have a bigger impact than a PPR article in the same journal, but would an article in Annals of the Silesian Museum gain anything from OA?

  • Fabiana:
    I think my reply to Grant addresses some of your comments. At any rate, let me reiterate once again that I am not arguing against OA per se! I am just trying to point out that the issue is a whole lot more complex than many (all?) of the arguments I have read, at least some of which turn mainly on the angle of “the public should have access to the results of public funded research”. I think that the public has a right to know who exactly stands to benefit from OA, and how. It is unfair to say that MY argument is based more on gut feeling than on actual data! My argument is that there is a lack of actual data to support OA! Sure there are a few studies, but these don’t seem to take into account all the relevant factors. Your response regarding already published articles seems a bit too quick to me! Fact: there are currently publishers who are charging for access to literature which is already freely available on sites like Biodiversity Heritage Library! I really don’t think publishers are going to easily let go of all that historical literature (particularly the 1940 to present time range, which is still under copyright). If they do, it will come at a price, i.e. they will have to be paid a significant amount of money to relinquish control – money that could probably be better spent on research. Also, in biological nomenclature, final proofs are not good enough to have access to. You need the official published version. It isn’t all just about scientific content. There are sometimes other aspects of an article that are important for some purposes, and these you cannot get from anything short of the official published document …

  • Stephen,

    I don’t like having to spell things out that I feel are obvious to most.

    “I don’t understand semaphore by wink!”

    I think most people know that winks are used to indicate a passage should be taken in lighter tone. (Sorry about this, but I can’t help suspecting that you know that.) If you’re genuinely new to emoticons, then best to go and learn about them?

    “Perhaps you could be a little more transparent what you think the editorial IS saying!”

    Please re-read, I wrote: “You’re supposed to realise that I was pointing at the Eysenbach research paper by way of the editorial referring to it” – the editorial wasn’t ‘the point’.

    I feel this comes back to what I wrote earlier: “better to just read the research paper and critique it like any research paper?”

  • You are playing games! You say: better to just read the research paper and critique it like any research paper

    Firstly, I have done to some extent. I suggested that it was a serious shortcoming of the actual paper that it only considered one journal. Secondly, it may not be appropriate to critique it like any research paper, because there may be biases associated with it that don’t apply to other research. What I mean is that the editors of the journal in which the article appeared have a vested interest, by their own admission, and presumably oversaw the peer review process for that article. The reviewers were presumably other scientists, rather than general public, and scientists may also have a vested interest in OA that the public don’t, if their research is funded by public money …

  • More on the abstract to that article:
    They say: [quote]We found strong evidence that, even in a journal that is widely available in research libraries, OA articles are more immediately recognized and cited by peers than non-OA articles published in the same journal. OA is likely to benefit science by accelerating dissemination and uptake of research findings[unquote]

    I say: They make a covert slight of hand here! What do they mean “EVEN in a journal that is widely available in research libraries, …”?! That implies that the effect will be even stronger for journals which aren’t widely available! HUGE ASSUMPTION! I say that the effect is likely to be smaller or even absent for such journals. A journal like PLoS ONE is of high interest to lots of different people. It isn’t a specialised journal, but a general one. That may make a big difference! An article in the [made up] Journal of polychaete research in the Black Sea is unlikely to be more immediately recognized and cited by peers if it were to become OA …

  • “the editors of the journal in which the article appeared have a vested interest, by their own admission, and presumably oversaw the peer review process for that article. ”

    Can you please point to the source where the Academic Editor who handled the paper (C Tenopir) admits to having the vested interest that you suggest? (other than by being an Academic Editor in an OA journal).

    I am an academic editor in PONE (and PeerJ) and we and the reviewers are asked to clearly declare our COI.

  • I was referring only to this quote from the editorial: [quote] Yes, you’re right; we do have a strong and vested interest in publishing results that so obviously endorse our existence [unquote], nothing more, nothing less. Note that I didn’t say the editor(s) of the ARTICLE, but the (editorial team of the) JOURNAL. Anyway, the fact remains that the article is basically an n=1 study, where the “1” is a very general scope, popular journal. I am suggesting, contrary to the article abstract’s use of “even …”, that any OA advantage is likely to be bigger, not smaller, than less general, less popular journals.

    Actually, nobody has spotted by error as yet, though it doesn’t make much difference. The journal that the article used for the comparisons was PNAS, not PLoS! Oops! But still n=1, and it is still a general scope popular journal. So, PLoS are using the article to try to justify their charging of up front publication costs for OA, by endorsing a study which shows that there can indeed be some benefits of OA to some people …

  • Stephen,

    You wrote, “You are playing games!” No, I’ve tried to be polite, clear and straight-forward. This suggests you think others’ comments are part of some combative game, but I don’t think like that and would think most others here don’t either. You did something similar on Ken’s blog, too.

    On that note, I think I’ll leave you with your ideas. All I was offering was a link to a few articles I thought might be of use/interest.

    A few points, though, that you might consider for yourself. You wrote:

    “What do they mean “EVEN in a journal that is widely available in research libraries, …”?! That implies that the effect will be even stronger for journals which aren’t widely available! HUGE ASSUMPTION!”

    The full sentence you excerpted from the paper reads:

    “We found strong evidence that, even in a journal that is widely available in research libraries, OA articles are more immediately recognized and cited by peers than non-OA articles published in the same journal.”

    It would seem that they are not making an assumption, but are reporting the evidence they found and that their ‘surprise’ is that OA articles are more immediately recognised in ‘large’ journals when they might have expect that not to be true.

    Also, regards the ‘vested interest’ quote, my reading is that you’re supposed to read a trace of self-depreciating tongue-in-cheek humour running through that sentence 😉

  • Grant:
    I’m not going to reply to your ad hominem rhetoric, only to your on-topic points: I suggest that you may have missed the point with the “even” quote. It makes no difference to include the missing bit! They found strong evidence that in a journal that is widely available in research libraries, OA articles are more immediately recognized and cited by peers than non-OA articles published in the same journal. They did not find evidence (strong or otherwise) that EVEN in a journal … The “even” just doesn’t belong there! It implies that the result would be LESS surprising for a less widely available journal. I say it would be MORE surprising. That’s been my whole point! Making “The Journal of Male Bullfrog Spleen Diseases Research” [made up!] OA isn’t going to make it more popular or more often cited! OA subsidises low interest journals, of which there are potentially many …

    Also, regards the ‘vested interest’ quote, my reading is that it is more a case of cheeky “smart ass”: “hey, this conclusion is just what we wanted, but we’re objective really … really!!” Mind you, “tone” in witten dialogue can clearly be difficult to interpret …

  • stephenthorpe,

    ” I would definitely place making school science competitions a fairer playing field!”

    I disagree. It is more likely that students with academic parents/advisors do well because of the advice those parents can provide them, not because the parents can access journals.
    Having judged science fairs for 10+ years it seems to me the major advantage these students get is that their advisors teach them how to think in a scientific manner.

  • @Michael Edmonds Hey, hey! My only point was that this would be at best a very minor benefit of OA! Someone else suggested it as a significant benefit. It matters not one whit to my argument if there is no benefit at all to school science competitions from OA! So, you are not disagreeing with me …

  • Perhaps paring back this debate to the basics might help?

    In OA, the researcher bears the costs of publishing the article and anyone can access it.
    In what Stephen calls ppr (pay per read), a potential reader chooses to purchase an article that he/she thinks is useful or interesting.
    Both of these different from the current academic model where an academic library wholesale purchases access to some journals but not others.
    It isn’t immediately obvious to me how the costs of all of these stack up against the benefits.
    With ppr, provided effective search mechanisms were available and individual articles weren’t too expensive, then it strikes me that this is the most efficient economically.
    The philosophy of OA on the other hand is laudible, though one would expect research funding would have to include provision for researchers to pay to publish there work. It also is compatible with the idea that the public should have access to the results of publically funded research – though as I said before, I tihnk the public are better served if researchers explain more technical results through seondary or tertiary science publications.

  • @stephenthorpe
    Good that we agree on that point then, you might find some agreement with my subsequent comment as well.

  • OK, Michael, time to recap:

    I would liken “wholesale subscription” to PPR (same difference). The important point is that the publisher gets money in proportion to how popular the article or journal is. This contrasts with OA, where the publisher gets money up front, and it doesn’t then matter how popular or otherwise the article is. I’m not sure that the “philosphy of OA” is really that “laudible” at all! It just gives publishers guaranteed money up front! It is often pitched along the lines of “the public shouldn’t have to pay again for access to publicly funded research”! Every silver lining has a cloud! If the proportion of highly technical, low popularity publications is high, then the public might well end up paying MORE for the same amount of publicly funded research (or even less research for the same funding!) OA subsidises low popularity articles/journals.
    My problem is don’t sell it as for the public good, when it isn’t at all clear that the public will benefit!

  • Stephen – I have not written “ad hominem rhetoric”. You have ‘addressed’ the person (i.e. not the subject) both here and at Ken’s blog. I have politely tried to refrain from responding in kind.

    Regards your reference to ‘lower’ journals, in practice even the very top journals (however you rank them) offer open-access articles and there are efforts to make ‘higher-level’ open-access only journals (e.g. eLife). Furthermore, (most of) the better publishing houses include OA-only journals (e.g. Nature has Scientific Reports).

    Regards costings, I believe Stephen Curry has looked into that, too (as no doubt have others).

  • Grant, your first paragraph aside, I cannot see the relevance to the issue of what you have written! I have never indicated that the “top journals” have any reluctance to go OA! The point is that there are hundreds if not thousands of “lower journals” which will also want to go OA! OA benefits the lower journal more than it does the top journals! That’s the whole point! The public pays up front for all the content in the “lower journals”, which they weren’t doing before!

  • @stephenthorpe

    “The important point is that the publisher gets money in proportion to how popular the article or journal is”

    And I think therein lies a danger. Papers that in the long run are important papers are not necessarily popular papers. If publishers were to go down the track of only publishing papers they think will be popular, then some potentially important papers may not make it into press.

  • Michael:
    Yes, but that seems to be to be an entirely different problem. Even under OA, publishers may still do that! They measure themselves by impact factor/citation rates, and all that still depends on how popular the paper is, OA or not. What I am trying to point out, again, is this: consider a hypothetical paper which is so obscure in topic that it will only be read by, say, 2 people, ever! Under PPR, the publisher just gets 2 payments for that paper, probably not adding up to very much. But, under OA, the publisher gets one payment, up front, of however much they can get from the author, to publish the paper! This could be set well in excess of what they would get under PPR from the 2 reads! Who pays for the extra profit for the publisher? The author does, but if the author is using public research money, then the public does. But the paper still only gets 2 reads, so how has the public gained any benefit? They haven’t! They have just paid more to the publisher …

  • Stephen:
    Yes, but under OA some papers may get 1000 reads, therefore the publisher will pull in a lot more money for these and this will compensate for the less read papers.
    If a paper only gets two reads but one of those reads sparks an idea in a researcher that leads to a major breakthrough, then surely that paper has served the public well.
    I think there are problems in judging a paper purely on the number of times it is read.
    In science the value of a particular piece of research may not be revealed until decades later.
    The benefits of science are very difficult to judge before hand and often only become clear after the research has been carried out, something which is not easily understood (particularly by politicians)

  • Stephen,

    You wrote “I cannot see […]”

    Hey Stephen, do you think that because you can’t see something that justifies raining ‘loud’ remarks at someone (not just me) with exclamation marks ending every sentence? With respect, you may be frustrated but you might want to consider that you need to communicate more clearly (or more completely) rather than dump on readers eh?

    Regards “I have never indicated that the “top journals” have any reluctance to go OA!” All I did was to encourage widening the scope to include all journals; there was no need to address me like that for that.

    ”The public pays up front for all the content in the “lower journals”, which they weren’t doing before!”

    Michael has tackled some of this; like Michael I don’t think your argument about costs looks right. In addition to his comments, in both subscription and OA models the publisher has a lot of power to set prices. There have been some very loud complaints from libraries over costs of subscription-model journals purchased via the publishing house multiple-journal packages for example. (There was movement to boycott a major publisher a little while back over this.)

    Why do you present PPR as the comparison you set against OA, rather than comparing against subscriptions? PPR often seem to be wildly expensive and I would have thought the vast majority of articles are in fact obtained via subscriptions for the journal as a whole or, in the case of institutions, collections of journals.

  • Excuse the end-quote fail in (corrected here):

    Regards “I have never indicated that the “top journals” have any reluctance to go OA!” All I did was to encourage […]

  • Sigh!

    Michael Edmonds said: [quote] Yes, but under OA some papers may get 1000 reads, therefore the publisher will pull in a lot more money for these and this will compensate for the less read papers[unquote]

    No, no, no! With respect, you’ve got it completely arse about face! Under OA, a publisher pulls in no more money than the initial publication fee, regardless of how many reads the paper gets! If a paper gets more reads than expected, then a publisher actually loses out under OA! The compensation comes from the setting of an up front publication fee for the less read papers! If that fee is based on 10 reads but the paper only gets 2 reads, then that is all good for the publisher!

  • Sigh!

    Grant said: [quote]Michael has tackled some of this; like Michael I don’t think your argument about costs looks right. In addition to his comments, in both subscription and OA models the publisher has a lot of power to set prices. There have been some very loud complaints from libraries over costs of subscription-model journals purchased via the publishing house multiple-journal packages for example. (There was movement to boycott a major publisher a little while back over this.)

    Why do you present PPR as the comparison you set against OA, rather than comparing against subscriptions? PPR often seem to be wildly expensive and I would have thought the vast majority of articles are in fact obtained via subscriptions for the journal as a whole or, in the case of institutions, collections of journals.
    [unquote]

    First, to this bit [” in both subscription and OA models the publisher has a lot of power to set prices”] I say yes, absolutely correct! That is part of the very problem I am trying to explain! Under OA, a publisher can basically set the publication fee to whatever they like! If they set it high for lots of low popularity journals, then we get the problems! Also if they set it too high for even high popularity journals. If authors favour high popularity “prestigious” journals in which to publish their research, then that is going to eat into research budgets. And why wouldn’t they? Particularly if their research budget is public funded!

    I am including subscriptions as basically the same as PPR. Subscriptions are expensive, yes, but it is unclear how this balances out? At least subscriptions are selective. Subscriptions favour popular journals. OA subsidises low popularity journals, of which there are very many! What will all that subsidy add up to? Good news for publishers!