A Modest Proposal – The Open Journal of Astrophysics
Following on from yesterday’s piece, I thought I’d make a quick suggestion.
Astrophysics has taken the lead for many years in opening up access to scientific publications – all publications of any merit are available for free on the internet via the arXiv and, in my opinion, the traditional journals are already more-or-less redundant even without considering their “astronomical” cost. The one thing that seems a consistent objection to dispensing with journals altogether is the element of peer review.
However, yesterday’s news that many of us are probably going to have to pay up front fees to publish papers (at thousands of pounds a pop) will no doubt have convinced many that the government’s decision is potentially ruinous for science. I think it’s time for astrophysics to lead the way again.
My suggestion is that we set up a quick-and-easy trial system to circumvent the traditional publishing route. The basic is that authors who submit papers to the arXiv can have their papers refereed by the community, outside the usual system of traditional journals. I’m thinking of a website on which authors would simply have to post their arXiv ID and a request for peer review. Once accepted, the author would be allowed to mark the arXiv posting as “refereed” and an electronic version would be made available for free on the website.
Although there are many issues to be sorted out, a limited trial of The Open Journal of Astrophysics could I think happen very soon, perhaps even before the REF.
This idea would require community support setting it up (and doing the refereeing/administration) and it would probably only get off the ground if sufficient senior astronomers get on board. It will no doubt also take money to get it going. However, I feel sufficiently strongly about this that I’m prepared to stump up £10k from my own pocket just to get it started.
If anyone has ideas about how to take this project forward, is willing to help with technical expertise, or if any prominent astronomers would simply like to add their name in support of the idea please do so through the comments box below. Any further pledges of financial support would of course also be welcome.
And please pass this message on via Twitter/email/whatever, so I can gauge the level of support.Follow @telescoper