Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Open Access Gets A 'Big Bang'
The STM Market has always been a rich seam for publishing, but it is very different from other sectors in many aspects. The old joke was that publishers got the material for free, got it peer reviewed for free and then sold it back to the University for significant amounts of money. Obliviously, there is always a slither of truth in all such stories, but the reality is that publishers have greatly assisted the spread of knowledge and ensured the quality, accuracy and currency of material. However, digital and communications is forcing everyone to rethink the value chain and the STM sector is not immune.
In July, UK government announced that it would require the country’s taxpayer-funded research to be open-access from April 2013. In Europe, the European Commission also adopted a similar approach aimed at opening up all the work funded under its Horizon 2020 research programme, which is set to run from 2014 to 2020. The aim is to making all EU-funded research open to all and deliver some 60% of all European publicly funded research articles to be open access by 2016.
Now it appears that the particle physics world has created its own ‘Big Bang’ and is about to make its research papers freely available through open access. This is unique, in that the initiative is across the specialist field and is helped by the relative smaller number of journals involved (12 journals cover 90% of high-energy-physics papers published). Particle physics already posts most papers on the preprint server arXiv but peer-reviewed versions are still published in subscription journals.
The Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (SCOAP) aims to ensure that all particle-physics articles (some 7,000 last year) are free on journal websites with payments from libraries funding the access. Under the deal, the journals will receive agreed payments per paper. The transition to open access is hoped to be transparent with researchers not noticing any effect on their grant funding or on the way they publish papers. The consortium will pay the contracts from an annual budget of €10 million, which is funded not by authors or research grants, but by ledged from over a thousand libraries, funding agencies and research consortia.
The question is as to whether this model can be replicated by others or remains unique due to the small number of journals and publishers involved?
Open Access and Open Research are happening and the transition for many will not be as smooth or painless as the Big Bang of high-energy-physics.