Open Access Gains Momentum

October 8, 2012

We have good news for fans of open access to scientific research: Nature reports on the landmark “Open-Access Deal for Particle Physics.” The agreement covers the entire field of particle physics, which is already more open than other sciences—most non peer-reviewed papers are posted on the preprint server arXiv. Also, subscription-journal publishers and researchers have been making deals here and there to free up some peer-reviewed versions.

The Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (SCOAP3)has been negotiating with publishers for six years to make almost all particle physics articles free on journal Web sites. Reporter Richard Van Noorden writes:

“So that individual research groups do not need to arrange open publication of their work, the consortium has negotiated contracts with 12 journals that would make 90% of high-energy-physics papers published from 2014 onwards free to read, says Salvatore Mele, who leads the project from CERN, Europe’s high-energy physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, and home of the LHC [Large Hadron Collider]. According to details announced on 21 September, six of the journals will switch their business models entirely from subscription to open access. It is ‘the most systematic attempt to convert all the journals in a given field to open access’, says Peter Suber, a philosopher at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, and a proponent of open access.”

SCOAP3 aims to make the transition without affecting grant funding or the way researchers publish. Publication is to be funded through the organization by the pledges of libraries, funding agencies, and research associations. Publishers must now reduce their subscription prices to offset this funding so libraries don’t effectively double-pay. Unfortunately, the deal could still fall through if, upon reflection, libraries decide to bail on their commitments.

Particle physics has some advantages in this realm that other disciplines lack, like a limited pool of journals and a central coordinating organization (CERN). If all goes well, though, this deal could possibly set a precedent for other scientific fields. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Cynthia Murrell, October 08, 2012

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