Roads to Open Access: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Der französische Mathematiker Karim Ramdani äußert sich grundsätzlich zu den Wegen, die zu Open Access führen sollen.

“Economic aspects
First, scholarly publishing costs in an author-pays model are higher than in the reader-pays model (whose costs are already unacceptably high). This statement is based on several projections made by French research institutions (CNRS, INRA) and the data available for the UK […]. At the same time, publishers’ costs decrease when moving to an open-access model (no printed versions, no managing fees for subscriptions and accesses rights). Second, the idea that universities will be able to control prices in an author-pays model by introducing competition between publishers is illusory. Indeed, most countries that started moving towards APC Gold Open Access have done so by signing contracts with big commercial publishers. Consequently, as with subscription negotiations today, universities will be in a weak position with no expected benefits from competition: it seems unlikely that any scientist will choose to pay €1,000 to publish with a small independent publisher, when Elsevier and Springer journals publish “for free” (the APC having already been paid at a national level). These economic arguments should disqualify any changeover towards author-pays models: either a partial one in which subscription costs coexist with APC costs (the ugly road to OA) or a complete one where only APC costs exist (the bad road to OA).

Scientific and ethical aspects
The author-pays model is unethical as well as costly. It introduces an unacceptable inequality in access to publishing between scientists (especially if APC expenses are not centralised at a national level). In such a system, only “rich” researchers will be able to publish in the “best” journals, often the most expensive ones (in the UK, the average APC by article was £1,575 in 2014 and £1,762 in 2015, with a maximum APC around £3,200). In return, this will increase their “visibility” and their ability to be funded. Besides introducing such discrimination, the author-pays model also carries ethical risks inherent in its philosophy: why would a journal refuse to publish a paper submitted for publication when its acceptance increases its profit? The answer is obvious, as shown by the emergence of several “predatory publishers” […] in recent years.

Finally, perhaps the first battle we must fight is the one of words. For-profit publishers have appropriated the noble idea of open access to propose through APC Gold Open Access a model that preserves their commercial interests. We must denounce this openwashing […] that makes politicians think that all forms of open access are beneficial for scientists and taxpayers. Promoting open access without specifying the road chosen to reach it makes no sense. The author-pays road (APC Gold Open Access) is definitely the worst of them.” (CC)

Autor: Klaus Graf

Historiker und Archivar, Blogger

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