Open Access Publishing: the undiscussed pitfalls

There has been a lot of excitement in the media and on the social networks about Open Access Publishing. This has been partly prompted by the recommendations of my old Vice Chancellor, Janet Finch, and her working party, which have apparently nearly all been accepted by the government.

On the face of it, the arguments over Open Access Publishing seem reasonable. It is fair to suggest that the results of publicly funded research should be freely available. But two issues are immediately apparent: (i) what counts as publicly funded research, and (ii) who will pay the publication costs (since Open Access Publishing has to recover the publication costs which traditional publishing funded by selling journals)?

The idea is, apparently, that research grants will include an amount to cover the costs of Open Access Publishing. But such grants are increasingly hard to get, and their number will inevitably reduce if they have to include this extra amount. What about research that is done by academics in their non-teaching time at universities, which is not funded by a research council grant? Most of my research over the past 24 years has fallen into this category.

My main concern is something which does not seem to be being widely discussed in this debate, and that is, how will non-research grant-funded research continue to be published? I heard a figure of £3000 mentioned as the cost of publishing a paper under the Open Access system. If that is accurate, my 122+ publications would have cost about £366k to publish!

Ultimately the question is, under the new proposals, how will people like myself continue to be able to publish our research? And what will happen with collaborative work, including with overseas institutions, where the funding may have come from a number of sources? There are many questions that need to be answered, but there has to be a continued role for traditional journals, and their survival is essential for many of us to be able to continue to publish our work.

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One thought on “Open Access Publishing: the undiscussed pitfalls”

  1. I haven’t mentioned the issue of Journal Impact factors above. That’s a really thorny issue! While we may pressurised in one direction to publish in Open Access journals, our institutions will want us to publish where we can get the highest impact factor. I see no sign of that having been discussed so far.

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