Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Support open access!

There is an excellent OpEd piece in today's New York Times by Michael Eisen, one of the founders of the Public Library of Science. A few years ago, the NIH mandated that any studies performed that were federally funded must be made available free of charge to citizens since they had paid for the research through their tax dollars. This obviously had an impact on journals that use the traditional business model of publishing, wherein the reader bears the cost of publication via subscription, either individually or through a library. Several years ago, the open access model of publishing emerged. In this business model, the cost of publication is borne by the author, often via funds from the research sponsor. However, papers published in this model are free to the reader.

The OpEd piece today points out that some notable journals in the traditional publishing model, including the New England Journal of Medicine, are now lobbying Congress to pass a law reversing the NIH rule so that they would no longer be required to make the papers available at no cost to readers. In response, Dr. Eisen calls on researchers to publish their studies only in open access journals and for libraries to cancel their subscriptions to journals that are not open access. The greed demonstrated by journals that are financially healthy is unpalatable. However, open access is a problem for investigators who publish papers that do not have a funding source, since the publication fees are often in excess of $1000 per paper. This is particularly a problem for hospital epidemiology, a field in which much research is unfunded, and is likely one of the reasons that the open access journal Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control has had a slow start. Open access is clearly a great concept and it should be maintained for studies that are federally funded. And for those of us who believe that medical and scientific research is a public good, further expanding open access by reducing or eliminating authors' fees via novel approaches is a worthy goal.

7 comments:

  1. ARIC has not had a slow start because of author-related financial reasons. It just takes a while to set up the site and get the editorial process flowing. Additionally, they decided to publish a set of papers from a symposium in France last year. Those papers should be out soon. I hope that Andreas Voss comments on this too.

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  2. Most of my studies are unfunded. My options for publishing in an infection control journal are ICHE, JHI, APIC and ARIC. If my paper is accepted in any of the first three journals I pay nothing. The publication charge for ARIC is $1660, but because my university is a supporting member of BioMed Central, the charge is reduced to $1411. Unfortunately, as much as I believe in Open Access, homo economicus rules. And I should add that I commonly do things that are not in my economic self-interest. I would be willing to pay $250 out of my own pocket to publish in an open access journal, but $1411? It's hard to imagine how the publication fees won't adversely impact ARIC even though I wish that weren't the case.

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  3. Thanks for this discussion Mike. As a non-university affiliated researcher without funding for any library or medical database library access, I am certainly in favor of open access. I currently have to rely on patron access at a local university for both medical and legal research. That said, however, I recently published an article in ICHE that would have been thwarted if I would have had to pay an author publication fee. I agree, novel solutions are warranted.

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  4. I agree that the ~$1500 per manuscript publication costs could limit publication in open-source journals. However, my comment was just directed at Mike's suggestion that ARIC has had a "slow start" due to the high publication charges. I would say that is not a reason.

    Some small economic barrier to publication could be helpful long term, but I agree that $1500 is too high for infection prevention given funding levels.

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  5. i assume most people on this blog are familiar with the psychological "anchoring" effect: when we are asked what we think a reasonable price for publication in an open access, on line journal is, our response is based on the numbers we know.
    Hold the phone
    Why should it cost more then One Dollar to publish a paper on an online journal ?
    I assume you can get, for free, the software; the cost of storage is now about zero (I mean, hard drives are a 100 bucks a terabyte, and at Tby is a lot of papers) these specialized journals don't get high volume traffic requiring good servers; the only cost is editing and reviewing.
    The reviewers do it for free (old joke, they are cheap and easy), so the only cost you have is the editor.
    In todays economy, with lots of un and under employed PhDs, you could find someone willing to do it for cheap money.
    but you sputter but but but....
    Why do you need all that extra stuff ?
    Seriously, why ?
    the only answer is 'prestige; we all knnow, despite what we tell outsiders, that where you publish is huge; a paper in Science (AAAS) or Nature is worth Tenure; a paper in journal X is almost worthless
    Aside from that, is there any reason it cost more the one dollar ot publish a paper ?
    (I have a few peer revewied papers; nothing great, but a couple have decent citation rates, and i have one methods in enzymology review)

    ps to the blog owners: do you know that the preview function on this blog doesn't work, which makes editing and proofing of posts difficult ? or at least in firefox, it doesn't work

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  6. I agree that the publication fees seem unreasonably high, and interestingly for the BMC journals they have not decreased over time (as you might expect given that hardware and memory have become cheaper). When I checked a few years ago, the editors of individual BMC journals were not paid.

    Regarding the preview function: I know it does work in IE and Chrome.

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  7. We have written a few times on cognitive bias and anchoring. You make a good point and I agree that it could be cheaper. A couple points of clarification, in our field, even in academics, you don't need to publish in a top-tier journal to get tenure or get promoted. Publishing in your society journal and having a national or international reputation along with a track record of funding take precedent over publishing in specific journals.

    One point I do want to make here and then maybe in a post is that we shouldn't judge science by where it is published but how often it is referenced and how often papers that reference the paper are referenced. Given current databases and technology, this should be easy. This would more fairly distribute the power of publishing and more importantly recognize the scientific impact of the manuscript. For example, Hans Krebs paper was rejected by Nature in 1937, but he then received the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1953) for the work presented in the paper. He published the work in Enzymologia in Holland. (Thanks to Len Mermel for pointing this out to me)

    Just checked and the preview button works at least in IE. Not sure what is going on. Sorry for your troubles and thanks for your comments.

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