University of California adopts open-access policy for research papers

Aug 05, 2013 by Bob Yirka report

The University of California (UC)—the biggest public research university in the world, has decided to adopt a university wide open-access policy for research papers produced by its faculty. The move marks a major victory for open-access proponents and a blow to professional journals who publish research papers behind a pay wall.

Open access, as described by Creative Commons , essentially provide to anyone with an Internet connection. Going forward, all faculty at the university will be encouraged to post their to the university's eScholarship web site. Under the agreement, posters will have to grant the University a non-exclusive license to their papers (per Creative Commons guidelines) and promise that their papers have been peer reviewed. The change doesn't force faculty to post to the university site rather than submit their papers to professional publications such as Nature, or Science, instead it provides a platform for publishing to an site should the authors wish to go that route.

In its announcement, officials with UC indicated that the move to open-access was meant to send a message to the rest of the research community—that open-access to research material is vital to "the future of research."

UC is not the first research organization to institute an open-access policy—various reports suggest that as many as 175 other universities have done so as well, perhaps most famously, MIT. The movement gained momentum after the White House issued a statement earlier this year announcing that all research papers that come about due to federal funds will be made available for free to the public within one year of being published in another journal.

Critics argue that the move to open-access publishing isn't what it would appear at all. They suggest that researchers will still want to publish in well known journals—the wide readership and established reputations make them the gold standard—plus there is the issue of peer review. Professional journals spend a lot of money to ensure papers are thoroughly reviewed before they are published—money they recoup by restricting access to the to only those willing to pay for it. Papers that are published on open-access sites, on the other hand, may or may not be as thoroughly reviewed.

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antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (6) Aug 05, 2013
Professional journals spend a lot of money to ensure papers are thoroughly reviewed before they are published

Erm - no they don't. Peer review works like this:
- Paper comes in.
- Editor goes through list of reviewers and send the paper out (anonymized. Reviewers are other scientists who work in the field.)
- This is the important part: Reviewers receive NO PAY WHATSOEVER for reviewing a paper. This is strictly a courtesy service amongst scientists.
- Reviewers hand the paper back with comments and a general tag (along the lines of: publish, publish with minor changes, publish with major changes, reject).
- Editor hands comments back to the author and -if changes are requested- the cycle begins anew (until the paper is changed to address all comments or all comments are shown to be erroneous or the paper is rejected)

The effort/expense on the part of a journal is quite minimal when it comes to peer review.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Aug 05, 2013
So in conclusion: Open access can, easily, replicate the peer review gold standard standard without too much of a financial hassle.

That said I find the statement:
...and promise that their papers have been peer reviewed.
a bit problematic. They should set up a central office at each university that handles the peer review process just like the editor does at a journal. That way there is at least some accountability/traceability of what is peer reviewed and what isn't.

Journales by themselves don't guarantee quality. The peer review process does.

the wide readership and established reputations make them the gold standard

That isn't an issue anymore, as most university subscriptions are online subscriptions. Whether you search through an Elsevier or Springer database or an Open Access database looking for articles on a subject makes no difference to the user.

jdbertron
5 / 5 (3) Aug 05, 2013
First, researchers have always had the choice to publish to open-access sites.
They usually care about peer review from other researchers at their level, who are usually paid by the journals to do work they would probably do anyway.
Although it looks futile and risky - giving average joe access to articles he might not comprehend - the move is actually a huge improvement to the way science is done, because in their selection of papers and reviewers, journals have enhanced popular theories to the detriment of others. There are countless numbers of PhD students who are very capable of finding inconsistencies and errors in papers that would not otherwise be found. The move will also send a signal that the choices one makes in selecting a branch of science is no longer restricted by a particular advisor or journal's influence on short term financial benefits but rather on the prospect of scientific progress. In other words, it will cut down on the rubbish so often published.
El_Nose
2.3 / 5 (6) Aug 05, 2013
Frankly as a tax paying citizen I am of the firm belief that all papers produced at a University that received government funding should mandate that all papers be open source. No matter if the paper goes to a prestigous journal such as Nature or Science -- or wherever. Public funds were used to help create that paper, it should not then be locked behind a paywall ever to be accessed again by any scientist without an institution to fund downloading the paper from a third party site.

Furthermore I am of the opinion that any and all data sets that are used should be available for public scrutiny as well. Both the original, raw data, and any modified,enhanced, noise reduced, milestone sets along the way.

Lets us make publicly funded science as transparent as we ask our government to be.

~~~ I am El_Nose and I endorse this message.
chardo137
5 / 5 (2) Aug 05, 2013
Almost every journal in the world has already agreed to a new funding scheme where the same amount of money goes from the universities to the journals, it is just not done through the subscription channel as it has been before. My understanding is that as of Jan. 1, 2014 99% of all papers will be available on the ArXiv hosted by Cornell. The potential problems have been solved, and it will be better for everyone involved. And now you and I can be involved too. Win, Win.
jwilcos
1.8 / 5 (5) Aug 05, 2013
Like antialias said, professional journals do not spend any money on peer review whatsoever. The reviewers work for free, and the editor works for free, and so do the authors. All they provide is an article pretty-up service (i.e., nice looking formatting) and that's about it. For this, they charge over a thousand dollars to the authors, AND they charge the readers (or libraries) for the access. That's why the CEO of Elsivier makes about $8 million per year. It is literally a scam.

But this particular initiative is not likely to have any real effect on anything. _Where_ you publish is very important, unfortunately, as there is an important journal prestige factor. When you spend years working on something you want to get the most out of it, so you publish where it will be noticed the most. There are already open-acess journal too, so the UC system does not add anything.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Aug 05, 2013
They usually care about peer review from other researchers at their level, who are usually paid by the journals to do work they would probably do anyway.

Peer reviewers aren't paid.

First, researchers have always had the choice to publish to open-access sites.

True. Currently that isn't done for a number of reasons. Most prominent being: impact factor.
Publishing scientists are most often grad students or postdocs. If they want to stay on the scientific track (which is almost a given for publishing postdocs) they need to amass enough impact factor to be eligible for a professorship. And given the abysmal pay and non-existent job security for postdocs that is a 'must have' at some point.
(Not saying the impact factor system is good - just saying how it is at the moment)

and risky - giving average joe access to articles he might not comprehend

Why risky? Most articles are over the heads of scientists working in the field without some additional work.

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Aug 05, 2013
There are countless numbers of PhD students who are very capable of finding inconsistencies and errors in papers that would not otherwise be found.

Who do you think does peer review? Professors? No way. They hand those on to their assistants (post docs) who mostly hand it down to the PhD students.
And in all honesty: PhD students are the ones most capable of doing the peer review as they are most up to date in the field (a state-of-the-art section is an essential part in any dissertation)
Postdocs collate the input and write the review comments. Professors sign it.

journal's influence on short term financial benefits

There are no financial benefits from journals to scientists (quite the reverse - as you need to pay extra if you want 'colored graphs' or other such newfangled/outrageous things to appear in your publications.)

All they provide is an article pretty-up service

Not even that as they just send you a demand for what formatting to use.
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (3) Aug 05, 2013
Frankly as a tax paying citizen I am of the firm belief that all papers produced at a University that received government funding should mandate that all papers be open source

Here's where it gets tricky: The amount of research that is SOLELY done on taxpayer money is pretty much non-existent.
Most of the time you have companies on board (as research institutions are being charged to do less and less 'theoretical' work but more research that has direct applications...which is a short sighted strategy IMO and one that will cost us dearly down the road. But it's the sort of strategy that 4-year-rulers will adopt to make the balance sheets look good).

So often it's also a question of whether the company finds anything to patent or not whether the research will be published at all (once published you can't patent).

As for making the data public: That won't do you any good. The raw data is almost always in a project-specific format. And the published sets are in the article.
antialias_physorg
4.8 / 5 (5) Aug 05, 2013
they charge over a thousand dollars to the authors, AND they charge the readers (or libraries) for the access.

The authors aren't charged - unless they want extras (color photos, graphs etc. ). They aren't paid, either.
The libraries do get charged. These can be sums into the tens of thousands of dollars per year for just one journal. It has gotten so ridiculous that some universities aren't able to purchase all the journals needed to do research in a field.
Individual issues aren't affordable to the casual reader (we're usually talking several hundred dollars per issue)

But this particular initiative is not likely to have any real effect on anything.

I'm not sure. If Open Access manages to start a competitive system to the impact factors (e.g. by having accredited scientists in each field vote on the importance of papers, or via citation indices - think: Google rankings) then that could change.
El_Nose
1 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2013
@ant

I disagree with only one part ant... and that being that the data is published with the artcile -- and while it may be submitted to the journal -- i have no idea, the papers i was attached to I graduated before the real work began... anyway the papers I have acquired have no datasets attached -- they have summeries, they have statistics -- and all sorts of charts -- bu tthe raw data is never there.

I would like it to be, as in this new digital age most datasets are less than a few gigs.

--

As a CS major I am fully aware of the more massive datasets that are terra and peta bytes in size -- however 99.999% of such experiments that deal with that much data are government funded and have teams of scientists working on them and we all 'trust' CERN, NIST, LIFE, NIF, NASA, ESA, JSA-- and all the other acronymic organizations to police their own or for other scientists to step up and cry foul.

-- is that coherent? -- tried not to ramble
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2013
anyway the papers I have acquired have no datasets attached

You have the generated graphs and the description of the methods used.
There's no other data (except for the raw data which is just a bunch of numbers and of no use to anyone who doesn't know the specifics of the collecting hardware).

If you really need it you can usually go up to the guys who wrote the paper and ask for it This may need an NDA and even may be refused, depending on whether there's a company involved at some level that wishes to use the results in one of their products. E.g. my CT data was used in a pharmaceutical study so the sum of datasets - even though anonymized - is not open to the public. A company paid for part of the acquisition cost and will likely use the datasets again for other studies as a control. So I can see why they don't want to hand that out for free to competitors.

There are almost no FULLY publicly funded research endeavours any more.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2013
The reason is, the cost of open access publishing is financed with particular research department (i.e. the scientists are forced to pay it from their grants), whereas the cost of other journals are payed with research base library.

That's an idea you pulled out of your behind. Open Access frees up resource from library budgets. That money can go to maintaining Open Access (and you will end up having a good deal of money left over).

Maintaining Open Access is a library (read: institution) matter and not one for the individual department and their individual grants budget.
And there is no real reason why every institution would have to maintain an Open Access site of their own. Theoretically you'd only need one worldwide.