Saturday, October 2, 2021

The Open Access Movement In Academic Publishing

I apologize that I look like someone voting for 3.5 and then some time later saying that they only support 1.5, but I am not interested now in discussing that matter. 

So, here I go. 1) I support Open Access in academic journal publications. 2) OTOH I grant that commercial publishers of academic journals should be able be able to demand payment for people accessing articles fully available in their journals, within "reason."  3) I agree that academic journals journals should allow authors to allow free access to their articles, but also that they may allow this not to be the case.

So, let me be more specific here. I have recently had a difficult situation regarding this. So awhile ago I was invited by someone I know I take seriously to submit a paper for a special issue in this issue, a 30-year retrospective on econophysics in the mostly physics journal, Entropy, published by mdpli.

I did not fully read the long pro-open access screed that accompanied this invitation, which came after the invitation from someone I knew personally. The publisher, mdpi, provided a very long proclamation explaining their support for the Open Access Movement, something I generally favor. Anyway, I poozed out on reading their long speech on this, so missed far down into it where they declared that any author publishing in their journal should agree to pay a sum defined in Swiss currency terms just below $2000. So when my paper was accepted after a long pile of mostly bs, I received an invoice for nearly 2K USD,, which I was unaware was coming due.

So there is this movement for open access that has become a very big deal in US academia. It involves academic library relations with major publishers of journals ans much else. It has led to my own uni, JMU, no longer accepting papers from a journal I used to edit, JEBO, a journal pubbed by "the evil empire," Elsevier. This decision by my uni's library meant that I got a 10 percent discount on the invoice that arrived on my desk to publish this paper, "Econophysics and the Entropic Foundations of Economics.".

I have very mixed feelings about all this. I have had journals offer me this option after they accepted a paper of mine to allow open access of my paper, if I would pay about 2k. But if I said no, then my paper would be published.  When recently offered such option, I failed to accept them.

When rhis invoice came I complained mightily. Eventually they offered a large discount, and my uni paid for it. But I see a serious bottom line here: who is supposed to pay for all this,, authors or their bakers or others?

This is mostly a physics journal, and most of them have funds in their grants for publication costs. But most social scientists do not have such funds in their grants even when they have them. There is a serious bottom line here, and I do not think authors should be made to paid for this.

Barkley Rosser



Bruce said...

I have believed for a long time that all journals sponsored by professional societies should be open-access. They will lose a revenue stream of course, but my bet is that most members of such organizations would happily pay slightly higher dues in return for having the work of their organizations more widely disseminated. I also don't see why the number of articles published in top journals is still constrained by the physical limits of publishing. The only real constraint is peer-review.

Jerry Brown said...

Well I can honestly tell you that if you were to charge me a couple thousand dollars to post a comment you would not be posting any comments from me. Which might be a good thing all around depending on your views of my comment... said...

I appreciate that if we are to have open access, somebody has to foot the bill. But I do not see why it should be authors, or if it is, or partly is, the prices that seem to be coming out for it, seem to be way excessive.

Kaleberg said...

The argument for Open Source was that so much research was paid for by the taxpayers that there was no excuse for that research being hidden behind paywalls, especially not extremely expensive paywalls. You can download satellite images from NASA at marginal cost while reading an article might cost $30.

Of course, not all published research is paid for by the taxpayers. It usually is, especially in STEM fields. Any cost of publication can be rolled into the grant application. Industrial and commercial research were seen as a means of burnishing corporate reputations, and a few thousand dollars is not a major cost for the kinds of corporations that have their people publishing. That leaves a lot of people uncovered.

I'm not sure why the cost of publishing an open source paper is so high, but I suspect is has to do with certain parties business model. I don't think Elsevier and the like are evil. I just think that they face becoming a luxury rather than a basic service like medRxiv or arXiv.