By Caroline Wintersgill
The debate on open access for academic research has reached boiling point – it is difficult to open a serious newspaper or have a conversation with anyone connected to a university without it coming up. Less discussed, outside the pioneering fringes of the open innovation agenda, are the likely effects on wider book markets, our cultural and intellectual life, and the very possibility of a writing career.
The argument that publicly funded research (or research conducted as part of a university contract) should be freely available to read by anyone who wants it around the globe is a compelling one, especially for academics who have spent years writing their major book, to find that it has sold only 200 copies at a stratospherically high price.
By On October 7, 2013 · As Duke University’s first Scholarly Communications Officer, Kevin Smith’s principal role is to teach and advise faculty, administrators and students about copyright, intellectual property licensing and scholarly publishing
The later part of this past week was dominated, for me, by discussions of the article published in Science about a “sting” operation directed against a small subset of open access journals that purports to show that peer-review is sometimes not carried out very well, or not at all. Different versions of a “fake” article, which the authors tell us could easily be determined to be poor science, were sent to a lot of different OA journals, and it was accepted by a large number of them.
After years of being held at the mercy of commercial publishing interests, scientists are beginning to wake up and take steps to recoup the rights to their own work.
The scientific literature represents the accumulation of centuries of knowledge, experimentation, and experience. As the scientific process has been characterized as nanos gigantum humeris insidentes (Latin for "dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants"), the scientific literature is the body of knowledge on which we dwarfs stand, in the hope of gaining a bit more insight.
In the past few decades, however, the scientific literature has been bought up by commercial publishing interests, and has been made expensive and in too-many cases inaccessible to far too many of us dwarfs. This commentary is about the realization of the problem -- that much of the scientific literature is now available only on a for-charge basis -- and the beginnings of a solution.