Thursday, September 13, 2007

RSNZ on open access

such a good statement, i'm releasing it into the wild. go forth statement of clarity and multiply...
Royal Society Alert - Issue 489

1. WHO COULD ARGUE WITH OPEN ACCESS?
Comment by Royal Society Evaluation Officer, Dr Jason Gush jason.gush@rsnz.org

The bulk of published research is funded directly through taxes, as are the
majority of researchers. Peer review is largely performed as a public
service. Thus it seems perverse that to gain access to the content they
produce, researchers and institutions have to pay, with the taxpayer
largely locked out altogether.

There is an alternative - Open Access models where there is a fee for
publication, in return for content being freely accessible. OA was proposed
in various forms prior to the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative, but
technology and a supportive research community have only recently reached
the point where OA can take off, e.g., the Directory of Open Access
Journals currently covers over 2800 peer-reviewed journals and is growing
at more than a title a day.

Advocacy for OA publishing in New Zealand is a sensible proposition on
purely economic grounds. New Zealand produces less than half a percent of
the world’s publishing output, and with widespread adoption of OA, we would
stand to gain far more than the cost. Add in growing evidence that open
access articles attract higher citation rates than comparable closed access
publications, and it appears that OA should be a winning proposition.
Funding agents are starting to agree, with many having the expectation that
the work they fund be provided through some form of free access, and
offering the funds to support it.

This success makes the recent rear-guard action by the PRISM Coalition (a
lobby group established on behalf of ~300 publishers, including all the
largest journal publishers), disappointing. Astonishingly, they argue that:
OA will result in the destruction of peer-review; OA amounts to a large
scale plan to steal publisher’s intellectual property; and, only slightly
paraphrased, OA is the forefront of an Orwellian conspiracy by which
government may censor the past.

In fact, for what is simply a new publishing business model, OA carries a
fair amount of moral weight – it promises to make research findings
available to anyone with both internet access and interest. Simply put,
taxpayers should be able to read the results of the research that their
taxes fund. This is surely a positive step towards a research-literate
public. Open Access for publicly funded research is an idea whose time has
come.

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