British group outlines plan for open-access publishing for publicly funded research papers

Jun 19, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
Open access logo, originally designed by Public Library of Science

(Phys.org) -- The computer and subsequent Internet age have brought all manner of change to modern society, one of which is easy access to published scientific research papers; where before it would typically take months for a paper to be published, now it can be done almost instantly and accessed just as quickly. But with such change comes resistance as established entities seek to hold on to their position, even as others push for change. Today, most serious research papers are published by just a handful of journals, who then charge a fee for people to access them. One problem with this system is that it leads some to ask why the public should have to pay to access research papers that came about as the result of public funding. To address this issue in Britain, the government there has asked a working group of individuals to look into the problem and then to make some recommendations. Their report, headed by Dame Janet Finch, has been published online and is available without cost to anyone who wishes to read it.

In short, the working group is recommending that sites be set up and that publicly funded papers be published on them. In their opinion, the best option is to have those that submit the papers (or their funding group) pay a fee to have the paper peer reviewed and edited before it goes online allowing for all.

Not everyone agrees with these recommendations, of course, most specifically those well respected journals such as Nature, The Royal Society, , etc. They contend that the process they have set up adds value to paper publishing and that moving to an environment where researchers pay for publication, rather than charging readers an access fee would lead to diminishing .

As it stands now, when a research team writes a paper for publication, they submit it to one of the respected journals. There an editor reads it to determine if the research has scientific value and to check to see if it was carried out in proper fashion. The editor then either accepts the paper as is, sends it back for fixing or rejects it outright. Once the editor accepts a paper, it is sent to a group of unpaid academic professionals in the field who read it and sometimes try to recreate the results. If it passes peer-review, the journal edits the paper and adds it to its list of online content behind a paywall. All of this costs the money of course, which is why it needs to charge so much for access to the published work.

What’s still not clear is how changing to an open-access system would impact costs; for those that wish to publish, open-access publishers and those that continue to publish non-publicly financed research projects. Nor is it clear whether the peer-review process or the litmus test of whether the paper has any real value could be maintained by an open-access system.

The British government is apparently behind the move towards open-access, though it’s not clear how far they might go to ensure open-access publication of all publicly funded documents. Even so, papers by British individuals or institutions account for just 6% of all such papers published. On the other hand, British publishers account for some 20% of all published in the world, which means if things change in Britain, they might cause a change throughout the rest of the research paper publishing world as well.

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User comments : 15

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TS1
5 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2012
"Once the editor accepts a paper, it is sent to a group of unpaid academic professionals in the field who read it and sometimes try to recreate the results. If it passes peer-review, the journal edits the paper and adds it to its list of online content behind a paywall. All of this costs the journal money of course"

hmmm so if the academics are unpaid, how much can it cost the journal...
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (5) Jun 19, 2012
One problem with this system is that it leads some to ask why the public should have to pay to access research papers that came about as the result of public funding.

Not only that. It also impedes research and, if you're not part of a large institution that will pay those fees, downright prevents it.

Nothing more frustrating than hunting for that bit of information and finding that you have to pay for it...and after you have decided to pay for it that it actually isn't in the paper you just bought.

They contend that the process they have set up adds value to paper publishing and that moving to an environment where researchers pay for publication, rather than charging readers an access fee would lead to diminishing product quality.

I would think that only those papers deemed worthy of being published would then go through that procedure - weeding out those 'publish or perish' publications with little content.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (5) Jun 19, 2012
There an editor reads it to determine if the research has scientific value and to check to see if it was carried out in proper fashion.

The editor checks the form - not the content. Scientific value (and whether it was carried out in 'proper fashion') is evaluated by the peer reviewers.

Once the editor accepts a paper, it is sent to a group of unpaid academic professionals in the field who read it and sometimes try to recreate the results.

Read, yes. Recreate the results? That is mostly not possible. You have very little time for the review. Certainly not enough to duplicate another's experimental setup. (Remember that peer review is an unpaid courtesy service. And researchers DO have work of their own)
hmmm so if the academics are unpaid, how much can it cost the journal...

Editing and storage - as well as providing the servers. But it's szill a pretty good cash cow for the publishers (Elsevier, Springer, ... )
bart_laws
5 / 5 (3) Jun 19, 2012
"it is sent to a group of unpaid academic professionals in the field who read it and sometimes try to recreate the results. . . "

Hah! There is absolutely no way that peer reviewers are going to "try to recreate the results." That's utter nonsense. We read the MS and we comment on what is there. That's all. There is no way peer reviewers can ordinarily detect fraud or sloppy work.

"Sometimes try to recreate the results . . ." Utter rubbish.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Jun 19, 2012
There is no way peer reviewers can ordinarily detect fraud or sloppy work.

Well you can detect sloppy work sometimes (otherwise there would be no point to per review).

E.g.
- if the statistical measures used are wrong/inapplicable (which happens a lot in medical research)
- if obvious testcases that would mitigate the results haven't been taken into account (i.e. if the conclusions aren't warranted)
- if a theoretical work takes mathematical shortcuts that will not apply in real life applications
- ...

Fraud (massaging of data, creation of data out of thin air, etc.) is hard to detect.
But in my experience you have a good idea whom the paper is from (even though it is anonymized) - as people usually reference their own papers of prior work. And since peers are in the same field you usually know who is working on what, anyhow. So that gives you a clue as to whether the advances are plausible.
tpb
5 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2012
If nothing else, the papers should be available for free after some time period, perhaps six months or a year.
NotParker
1 / 5 (3) Jun 19, 2012
Recreate the results? That is mostly not possible. You have very little time for the review. Certainly not enough to duplicate another's experimental setup.


Many journals have data policies that suggest data used in calculations be placed in line.

It is quite common for "climate scientists" to refuse to put their data online in fear that Steve McIntyre will demolish the paper in less than an hour.
ihatesnow
not rated yet Jun 19, 2012

check out this research group ....out of the University of Washington

rosetta@home



antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2012
There is one perk, though, to peer review - I have to admit: You get access to the latest in research before anyone else does (other than the group that did the actual research). Sometimes up to 6 months before anyone else sees it.
And since you exclusively peer review stuff that is very close to your own specialty its an incredibly exciting way of keeping REALLY abreast of the field.

If nothing else, the papers should be available for free after some time period, perhaps six months or a year.

In your dreams. Publishers don't care about science. They want to make as much money as possible. Making stuff publicily available does not further that aim.
Jotaf
not rated yet Jun 19, 2012
So, unpaid professionals do unpaid things. How is it that publishers add value again? Maintaining servers? The cost of hosting a GB is a few cents nowadays, and papers over 2MB (10MB tops) are rare.

The editors of top journals can simply resign en masse and create open-access versions of the paid journals, with exactly the same process and rigor. Case in point: http://graphics.c...du/jcgt/
NotParker
1 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2012
There is one perk, though, to peer review - I have to admit: You get access to the latest in research before anyone else does (other than the group that did the actual research). Sometimes up to 6 months before anyone else sees it.
And since you exclusively peer review stuff that is very close to your own specialty its an incredibly exciting way of keeping REALLY abreast of the field.


Even better. In climate "science" your buddies control the journal and keep out anyone who disagrees with you.

Very evil and definitely anti-science.
bottomlesssoul
5 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2012
I checked recently if I could read the original Hardy-Littlewood paper on prime number densities. I figured since the work is some 90 years old and both authors have been dead for at least 30 years it might be free. Nope! 30 bucks a gander.
dtxx
5 / 5 (2) Jun 19, 2012
I checked recently if I could read the original Hardy-Littlewood paper on prime number densities. I figured since the work is some 90 years old and both authors have been dead for at least 30 years it might be free. Nope! 30 bucks a gander.


We really need to open these things up to the public. Not feeding curious minds is a crime, and winds up costing all of us in the long run. I don't really know what the answer is though. Publishers and others need to be compensated, or there will be very few new publications. It just seems the current "oh you are intersted in this? Pay $xx" model does not best meet the needs of any group.
i_me
not rated yet Aug 03, 2012
It is very imprortant to put science in demand of publicity, but do the open access journals insure the quality?
I am afraid that many of them will just disseminate. Errors will be published and may cause more errors. Time will tell.
NotParker
1 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2012
Recreate the results? That is mostly not possible. You have very little time for the review. Certainly not enough to duplicate another's experimental setup.


Many journals have data policies that suggest data used in calculations be placed in line.

It is quite common for "climate scientists" to refuse to put their data online in fear that Steve McIntyre will demolish the paper in less than an hour.


The Gergis paper is a great example.

http://climateaud...thdrawn/