Open access academic publishing

Open access academic publishing made it into a UK national newspaper, both as an article (“Government welcomes calls to open up science“, The Guardian, 11 April 2012), as an editorial (“An open and shut case“, 11 April) and in it’s letter column (“Better models for open access“, 15 April). Yet for a working model of open and low cost academic publishing has provided a successful example for over twenty years. Authors place articles for free, articles are open for all to read and index, while the minimal costs are covered directly by research funding agencies. Readers decide what is worth a look, posterity decides what is good.

My experience with arXiv (the X is meant to represent the greek letter chi so that this is pronounced like archive) is that it provides me with everything I need. Why pay for the editorial staff when I provide journals with camera ready copy? Why pay for paper copies when no one uses them? The arXiv brand is now better known in theoretical physics than any single journal.  There are no referees for my arXiv articles but I find most referee reports of limited use. Instead I provide input to other authors electronically when I think I have something constructive to say for which I am paid the same as my reports for journals, i.e. zilch.  Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic Search and other social networking sites exploit the open nature of arXiv to provide citation tracking and other search tools.

The only reason I use a journal for my work is that the bodies funding my research persist in using the publications in a journal and the citations to my journal article from other journal articles as a measure of the quality of my output. Thus it is the funders themselves who perpetuate a system in which they use scarce funds to support an old fashioned, expensive and unnecessary system for the propagation of research results.

Part of a screen shot from arXiv

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