Archive for Diamond Open Access

The Wrong Sort of Open Access

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , , on August 14, 2022 by telescoper

I came across two articles this week on the subject of Open Access and thought I’d share them here with a few comments of my own.

The first article was published in the LSE blog on 11th August with the title Article Processing Charges (APCs) and the new enclosure of research. For those of you not in the know, an Article Process Charge (APC) is a fee that authors are required to pay a publisher to allow Open Access to the paper on publication, i.e. without readers having to pay. The fees for some journals can many thousands of dollars. The lede for the LSE blog post reads:

Drawing on a recent analysis of APC pricing and movements within the commercial publishing sector, Gunnar Sivertsen and Lin Zhang argue that APCs have now firmly established themselves as the predominant business model for academic publishing. Highlighting the inequalities inherent to this model, they posit now is the time to consider alternatives.

In the text the authors reveal that in 2020 alone APCs contributed over $2Bn in revenue to academic journal publishers. I agree with the authors’ conclusion that the APC model is unfair and unsustainable. Indeed I would go further: it’s a complete con. The actual cost of processing an article for publication is a tiny fraction of the APC – the rest is just profit. The academic community is being fleeced. The right “time to consider alternatives” was many years ago, however, when we could have prevented this ridiculous model from being established in the first place. I still believe that the model will collapse under the weight of it’s own contradictions, however, so it’s not too late to change.

The second paper (which was published in January 2022) is entitled Open Science – For Whom? and is published in the Data Science Journal. It was drawn to my attention by the first author, Martin Dominik. Here is an excerpt:

So-called “Open-Access journals” lift the economic barrier to reading scholarly articles, but flipping the paywall from the reader to the author is not a viable solution and inhibits global participation in the scientific process. While article processing charges as well as read-and-publish deals currently on offer appear to be unaffordable to many institutions or individuals (not only in low- and middle-income countries), already the requirement of somebody else having to sign off for getting research published collides with the principles of academic freedom.

and later:

Flipping the paywall is not a solution for scholarly communication in a global Open Science ecosystem. Author-pays-charge models for disseminating research results are not viable in practice and simply absurd.

Simply absurd is right; see the above comments. How on Earth did we let the APC model take hold? I think the answer to that is inertia and lack of imagination within the academic community. It seems many researchers are willing to complain publicly about the absurdity of APCs but far fewer are willing to do something about the situation.

I pointed out the unfairness of APCs in a blog post ten years ago. I ended that post with this paragraph:

I for one have no intention of ever paying an Article Processing Charge. If the journals I publish in insist on levying one, I’ll just forget about the journals altogether and put my papers on the arXiv. I urge my colleagues to do the same.

I’m glad to say that I’ve kept that pledge and have never paid an APC. I recently completed a survey about Open Access which included a question about what level of APC I thought was reasonable; I put zero.

The way forward, I believe, is Diamond Open Access (i.e. free for both authors and readers), such as that offered by the Open Journal of Astrophysics. This is not the only model, of course, but we have at least demonstrated that it is viable (and indeed rather successful). And at least in setting up the Open Journal of Astrophysics I’ve done a bit more than whinge.

The AAS goes for Gold

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , , on September 2, 2021 by telescoper

Yesterday there was a big announcement from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) , namely that all its journals will switch to Open Access from 1st January 2022. This transition will affect the Astronomical Journal (AJ), the Astrophysical Journal (ApJ), Astrophysical Journal Letters (ApJL), and the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series (ApJS). Previously authors were able to opt for Open Access but from next year it will apply to all papers.

The positive aspect to this change is that it makes articles published by the AAS freely available to the public and other scientists without requiring the payment of a subscription.

On the other hand, these journals will require authors to pay a hefty sum, equivalent to an Article Processing Charge (APC), that increases with the length and complexity of a paper. AAS journals have in the past levied “page charges” from authors for standard (non-OA) publications. In the new regime these are merged into a unified scheme. Here is a summary of the rates.

What’s on offer is therefore a form of Gold Open Access that switches the cost of publication from subscribers to authors. In my view this level of APC is excessive, which is why I call this Fool’s Gold Open Access. Although the AAS is a not-for-profit organization, its journals are published by the Institute of Physics Publishing which is a definitely-for-profit organization.

The Open Journal of Astrophysics charges neither subscribers nor authors; this form of Open Access is usually called Diamond or Platinum Open Access.

The terminology surrounding Open Access is confusing not least because its usage is evolving. In the current jargon, “Gold” Open Access refers to publication that is free to access at the journal. The principal alternative is “Green” Open Access, which means that free access is offered through depositing the paper in some form of repository separate from the journal. Some astronomical journals allow authors to deposit their articles on arXiv, for example, which is probably the main way in which astrophysicists achieve Green Open Access.

Nowadays “Gold” Open Access refers to anything that is made available freely by a journal regardless of whether an APC is charged or not. The Diamond Open Access provided by the Open Journal of Astrophysics is thus a special case of Gold Open Access. A classification in which Diamond and Platinum are subdivisions of Gold must confuse the heck out of chemists, but that’s where we are at the moment. At least it’s not as bad as in astrophysics where the only terms used to describe chemical elements are hydrogen, helium and “metals”…

While I am glad to see the AAS move its journals into Open Access configurations, I can’t agree with the level of APC. The Open Journal of Astrophysics may be relatively small but it has plenty of capacity for growth while remaining entirely free. The more people realize that it costs tens of dollars rather than thousands to publish a paper the more likely it is that they’ll see the moral case for Diamond Open Access.