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British research goes open source

All scientific research funded by the UK taxpayer is to become open source, according to an article in the Guardian. It seems that academics will be required to pay the fees to make their papers freely available.

Since few journals will solely publish papers by UK academics, this presumably means that the scientific publishers will retain the library subscriptions which are the bedrock of their profits, while gaining a massive windfall in the shape of open access fees for much of their content.

A good day to be a scientific publisher I think.

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Reader Comments (26)

Wellll I hope the USA and EU find ways to do this too, although I don't know how it's all supposed to be paid for. The PLoS journals lead the way on a lot of open source issues, but the more private commercial journals will probably find ways to keep their gravy train going.

Jul 16, 2012 at 8:57 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

I couldn't quite work out how this was going to cost money - I had assumed it would be preventing publishers for charging for access. I guess you're right - there is no incentive for any publisher to reduce their subscription rates provided they have any material which isn't open access. The existing open access journals presumably have no advantage in getting access to desirable papers for publication.
Whilst this does make access easier, in what way is it a good thing? Costs have gone up, and we're paying for it (with zero value add) - so wouldn't it have been easier to carry on with the old scheme unless there is some process by which subscription access journals will die out.

Jul 16, 2012 at 9:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterSean Houlihane

All over the world "closed" systems of information are losing their battles with more open sources. The only exception I can think of is pay-TV, which is succeeding because it is cheap enough for even normal people to buy.

The old academic journal system will be profitable, right up to the moment it falls off a cliff.

There is only the reluctance of the old guard to change the system that they grew up with.

Jul 16, 2012 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

It's one in the eye for data denialists, though.

Jul 16, 2012 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

Sounds good to me.

If it means that I'll be able to access papers that otherwise would be hidden from me behind a paywall, I'm all for it.

Presumably, university users (or rather their employers) on balance should neither gain nor loose - they pay to access papers at present, via subscriptions to the journals so, except for details of how the accounting is done, nothing much should change.

Jul 16, 2012 at 10:05 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

The problem is that authors will now have to pay for articles to be published and although the total cost to the university may not change the distribution will and knowing how budgets operate it is unlikely that the Library Budget will get transferred in total to the science departments.

Jul 16, 2012 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

Jul 16, 2012 at 10:17 AM Arthur Dent

"...knowing how budgets operate it is unlikely that the Library Budget will get transferred in total to the science departments."

I disagree. Universities are eager, above almost anything else, for their annual list of refereed publications to be as long as possible. It figures as a key measure in various rankings and assessments of universities. I have not the slightest doubt that any member of staff who has a paper accepted for publication will be provided with the funds to get it published.

Jul 16, 2012 at 11:31 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

CRU got round the FOI act so this should be no problem to dodge.

Jul 16, 2012 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

"CRU got round the FOI act so this should be no problem to dodge."

Actually John, they walked right through the FOI act and got away with it. I don't know if this will solve any problems, the real problems at the moment in paleoclimatology are that the paleoclimatologists (maybe not all, I don't know) will not:

1. Show the original data;
2. Explain why they chose one set of proxies over another;
3. Explain their methodology;
4. Show their code.

I saw Michael Mann referred to a mountebank in a letter to a newspaper the other day. Not sure he can be described thus, but he gave the lead to the others in not sharing data and methods. With good reason as it transpired, he had to invent a new branch of statistics to get the required results.

Jul 16, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

It's a pity to consign all palaeoclimatologists into the same bin marked 'inglourious scientific basterds'. When I was investigating how CO2 has nothing to do with the end of ice ages, nor is there any CO2-AGW, the work of a Swiss group on palaeo phytoplankton blooms was key.

The problem is the shysters at Penn State and CRU, poor scientists promoted for political reasons.

Jul 16, 2012 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

sparty, I didn't lump all the paleoclimatologists into the "inglorious scientific bastards" camp, you'll note I said that I didn't know if all of them were the same. Steve McIntyre over at CA had the same problem with a completely different Australian group who refused to show the data and told him getting it was called research. Of course after three days on his site Steve and his henchmen had discovered the paper was rubbish. Miraculously they, having been working on the paper for 3 years found the same error just one day before it was published on Steve's site. Wasn;t that lucky, or a coincidence or maybe pigs can fly.

Jul 16, 2012 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

"A good day to be a scientific publisher I think."

A bad day to be an independent scientist of strictly limited resources, trying to communicate anti-consensus facts. I have seen the fees already being charged by some journals for an author to get his/her paper published: around $1500, or even more. What good is "open source" if you have to be independently wealthy to participate (and still subject to the know-nothing, anonymous "experts", whose "peer" review only exists to further the "consensus", which is their only justification for calling themselves experts)?

It is still all just a sham, in my view. The only thing that will improve science will be a determination to publish papers critical of the consensus--a revolutionary change in the process of peer review. I think science publication needs to be taken out of the hands of institutional academics; they know not what they do. And I have no peers, if my revolutionary research and findings are not taken seriously, and competently confronted.

Jul 16, 2012 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

With respect to Harry Dale's comment above.

Although I still think the development, reported by Andrew, is an improvement, I also think that a revolution in the science publishing and in the peer review process, as indicated by Harry Dale, is necessary in order to enable independent and/or financially weak researchers (not just institutionalized researchers) to be heard.

Jul 16, 2012 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterSeptember 2011

The problem remains of taxpayer funded research being biased via funding councils towards underpinning political agendas.

Jul 16, 2012 at 3:24 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

I should be very good for Science by exposing the very many, 90%, PROMOTION PAPERS. All publicly funded papers should be Public Domain, and I see no reason to pay either Elseveir or others anything.

Gruess, omb

Jul 16, 2012 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterombzhch

Perhaps I misunderstood the proposal, but I don't see that there is a requirement to use the paid-for review services that are proposed.

I understood it to mean that as compensation for the publishers that will no longer be permitted to lock away papers behind paywalls, a payment of approx £2000 is expected to cover the costs.

But if the scientists chooses an alternative "green" route as suggested in the article, then there is nobody to pay the £2000 to. Won't this just hasten the death of the current scientific publishing system?

Jul 16, 2012 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta

Can an organisation have it Charity status removed and its funds siezed if it condones and organises criminal activity

Stealing fuses from an Emergency cut off switch at a Petrol station is theft.
Tampering with an Emgency cut off switch is Malicous Damage (vandlism)

Jul 16, 2012 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Shame i wasnt there with a Locozade bottle with no top to throw at them.
Find why they re called Green Piss.

Jul 16, 2012 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Let's work through the logic. the cost of publication per paper will fall because more will be published. At present, the university will ration according to the PR value of a report and this is why we have the takeover in climate science by the warmists, because the Universities have been competitively prostituting themselves.

So, we'll get less of a proportion which is propaganda, not science.

Jul 16, 2012 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

According to The Guardian the police have arrested 18 Protesters so far

Well the Olympics starts in 2 weeks .
18 people and all their mates from the CCTV will either be watching Usan Bolt in 100 metres final
on remind nicely out the way.
Or they be watching it on telly at home with a nice electronic ankle braclett and court restraining order
Cant go within 20 miles of an Olympic venue.No trouble makers keep out.
That what the sons of Brian Ferry and Dave Gilmores have got and that Knobhead from the Boat Race
They put Anti Aircraft Missles on the roofs of a Crack invested council tower block and some Yuppy Flats.Bored as hell with ichy fingers .

Was protesting at petrol stations on top of a couple of tons of explosive petrol chemicals really a good idea. Giving Aquida a few ideas.Next time SO 19 and maybe G4S will turn up with their Heckler and Cloks. Soon get them off the roof.

Everyday during the Olympics every Scottish, Welsh (Cardiff and Swansea) and English football Hooligan firm and just generally Every nutter with any past form will be reporting to their local police station twice a day.

Enviromentalist wont be so smug and arrogant this time.Welcome to London 2012

See if the Guardian let me post this mad rant up.

Jul 16, 2012 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Jamspid: "Can an organisation have it Charity status removed and its funds siezed if it condones and organises criminal activity"

Yes, absolutely, no question about that. But you would have to prove to the Charity Commissioners that the Trustees of the Charity were directly involved in that criminal activity, or were involved in organizing or conspiring in that activity. And I think you can take it that those higher up in the Greenpeace organization are well-versed in covering their backsides in such events, and have sufficient clout in Westminster to make sure that the authorities will turn a blind eye to their involvement

Jul 16, 2012 at 8:48 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

There's a few issues here...

The gatekeepers to the ivory tower are going to resist this as rationing is in their genes... as I've commented here before, becoming an (external) university library member (even paying quite a bit for the privilege) is nowadays in the UK near impossible if you aren't staff or a student - this in my view is deeply wrong.

Oh!! the cost!! -erm... and Google gives me 10GB in Gmail alone? Hard disk space is relatively cheap and there is an astonishing amount of storage available and already paid for in UK academia.

There's a large quantity of significant work that's being held hostage by the likes of Elsevier, Springer et al - there's also a fair bit of sub standard embarrassing tosh lurking there too... I can imagine a world where an embarrassing PhD thesis hidden behind a paywall is a positive asset.

I notice that there's little mention of the existing gatekeepers actually paying for the content they host... maybe the occasional consultancy or board position for a prominent academic nabob...

This is an opportunity to move to a significantly different environment and for the rest of us it can't come soon enough.

Jul 16, 2012 at 9:03 PM | Registered Commentertomo

A bad day to be an independent scientist of strictly limited resources, trying to communicate anti-consensus facts.

The reverse, in fact. An independent scientist will now not have to pay to get access to any articles published. That is a huge money saving.

Meanwhile the independent scientist is not obliged to publish the same way, as the ruling only covers state-supported scientists. They can, of course, publish effectively for free on the web anyway, since not being part of the state system means there is no reason to publish in the highest "ranking" journals.

So the non-state sponsored scientist is far better off. I know that I will be better of trying to access the history papers that currently tend to be very costly.

Jul 16, 2012 at 10:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

Hm. I don't understand Mooloo's response to Harry Dale Huffman's (16 July 10.28) comment. "A bad day to be an independent scientist of strictly limited resources, trying to communicate anti-consensus facts."

Mooloo writes: "The reverse, in fact. An independent scientist will now not have to pay to get access to any articles published. That is a huge money saving."

Surely the free access would only cover those articles submitted within the scheme, which except in the case of journals attracting contributions mainly from UK institutions would only be a small proportion of articles in any particular journal or in any particular field. Which would indeed be an improvement, but not a major one. Most other articles in all journals would remain behind pay-walls, including those from independent UK researchers (unless they wanted to pay to provide open access). Have I got that right?
Methinks those independent researchers would mostly continue as now, just circulating copies of their own published and peer-reviewed articles privately, without bothering to pay the fee.

Perhaps I have misunderstood the intention of the scheme. As BH points out, the big journal publishers would be the major beneficiaries. Once the principle is established they might prefer all articles submitted from whatever source to be subject to the submission fee. Those individuals and institutions who won't or can't pay the fees may then set up new journals outside the scheme.

But once any journal is fully open access, what is the need for libraries to subscribe to it? The fee will then have to increase to cover all the publication costs and profits, including those now covered by library subscriptions.

Jul 17, 2012 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterColdish

EU Commission to support Open Access policies for publicly funded scientific research

Remains to be seen how rapid or efficient the effort will be to make the needed changes, but good to see the EU join the UK's effort (now what about the USA?? NSF, NIH et al could break this issue wide open I think, given their vast levels of research funding):

"The European Commission, which controls one of the world's largest science budgets, has backed calls for free access to publicly funded research in a move that could force a major change in the business model for publishers such as Reed Elsevier."

""Taxpayers should not have to pay twice for scientific research and they need seamless access to raw data," said Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president for digital agenda."

Jul 17, 2012 at 10:02 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Harry Dale Huffman

I'm not at all minimizing the difficulties you describe, but fyi for your own purposes, have you looked at PLoS One? My understanding is that they grant fee waivers "for authors who do not have access to funds to cover publication fees" (the word "access" might seem to suggest specifically institutional research grants, since otherwise almost anyone able to submit a scientific manuscript could be said to have funds). They also say they separate consideration of a manuscript from whether a fee waiver is requested (something else I saw awhile back indicated that the fee waiver is not requested until almost the point of publication, i.e., first they decide to publish the paper and then the author can tell them he needs a fee waiver):

PLoS One on author fee waivers

I know they are not a physics or climate journal per se (I think they aspire to be more like an online Nature)....

"Fee waivers. PLoS offers a complete or partial fee waiver for authors who do not have access to funds to cover publication fees. Editors and reviewers have no access to payment information, and hence ability to pay or lack thereof will not influence the decision to publish a paper."

Jul 17, 2012 at 10:51 PM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

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