Tuesday, November 18, 2008
"Open Access" issue again
J. Harnad's article, "Approaches to Open Access in Scientific Publishing" raises the old issues concerning scientific articles being made available to all. The usual complaint, by the journals, is that they cannot cover costs and make money and that if they gave their materials away free they would have to make charges elsewhere. What? Exactly what are the costs that these journals experience? What does it cost to transfer a hard copy document to a ".pdf" file. What is the storage cost? The only cost I can see are a journal's hard copy printing expense and a lot of them have very limited readership and short copy runs are made...and a staff. Furthermore, the journals do charge libraries huge sums to access their materials either in hard copy or via the Internet. And, this applies not just to scientific journals. [Incidentally, scholarly journals are not the only sources for fees...so are popular science and academic journals.]
Approaches to scientific journal publishing that provide free access to all readers are challenging the standard subscription-based model. But in domains that have a well-functioning system of publicly accessible preprint repositories like arXiv, Open Access is already effectively available. In physics, such repositories have long coexisted constructively with refereed, subscription based journals. Trying to replace this by a system based on journals whose revenue is derived primarily from fees charged to authors is unlikely to provide a better guarantee of Open Access, and may be in conflict with the maintenance of high quality standards.
Approaches to Open Access in Scientific Publishing