Open access, again

Sarah Davies (31 July 2012)

Many will have seen the recent discussion around the Finch Report, which argued for widespread open access publication through the so-called ‘Gold’ model and which seems to have been fully taken on board by the UK government. David Willets, the universities and science minister, has promised that research funded by taxpayers will be free to access by 2014. In the words of the Guardian, however:

The Finch report strongly recommended so-called “gold” open access, which ensures the financial security of the journal publishers by essentially swapping their revenue from library budgets to science budgets. One alternative favoured by many academics, called "green" open access, allows researchers to make their papers freely available online after they have been accepted by journals. It is likely this would be fatal for publishers and also Britain's learned societies, which survive through selling journal subscriptions.

There is some nice discussion of these moves at the LSE’s impact of social science blog, and a long-running thread on the International Network on Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST)’s email list which includes responses from the editors of the three main journals in science communication (Public Understanding of Science, Science Communication, and the Journal of Science Communication). The general view seems to be that the government, and Janet Finch, have missed a trick by not standing up more to the big name journal publishers and going for a “green” open access model. What do you think? Will the changes make any difference to how you publish?




Mark Hodgkinson

In my field we already publish all journal articles (before submission to the journal) here: .Thus anyone can view them for free, and if you want to know its is peer reviewed you can see whether it is published in a journal or not. So for us, not sure it makes any difference. I think this websites model is quite different to the one proposed by Willets et al though? Mark


Blanka Sengerova

I'm not sure it makes science accessible for the general public... but it certainly helps researchers at institutions outside the big ones

In the life sciences, in many cases there is a requirement to publish in open access style already (eg. NIH or Wellcome Trust funded researchers), which means that a lot of journals have added the option to pay for open access on submission. As a result, researchers simply factor this cost into their grants.

I'm not sure it makes science accessible for the general public (for this, we would need some kind of commentary by experts who are able to translate the science into something less complicated), but it certainly helps researchers at institutions outside the big ones (eg. Oxbridge, Harvard, MIT, etc.), which don't have institutional access to many journals.


Simon Smith

Don't you sometimes feel caught in the middle of the crossfire? At the moment we're just getting the flack from both sides - I've almost been in trouble with my funder once for unwittingly choosing a journal that isn't fully open access for a paper. Others must have found themselves having to choose less well reputed journals than they would like because of funding conditions.

As researchers, we're interested in making our work available as soon and as widely as possible, but we also appreciate that journals cost something, so have to be able to generate an income - and there must be some relation between publishing costs and quality (of review, proofreading, editorial support, etc.). We don't particularly care about the technicalities of the solution, it would just be nice if they found one soon!


Sandrine Berges

Some journals allow authors to publish the version of the paper just before publication, that is, the same paper but without the page numbers and maybe a couple of small differences (typos, in my case!). This isn't really access, in that you can't refer to these drafts in a paper, but at least, it can give you some idea of what the paper says before you order it through the library. What I do in such cases is work with that draft and order an inter library loan which hopefully arrives on the time for me to add references.

One major drawback is that not everyone puts things online.


Blanka Sengerova

>>This isn't really access, in that you can't refer to these drafts in a paper

Actually in my field you can, as far as I know. You just quote it as 'in press' or 'online on', and I have certainly seen papers that have quoted other pre-published articles. Maybe this is a discipline specific thing for your field?