[Taxacom] Fwd: open access

Daniel Barker db60 at st-andrews.ac.uk
Fri Oct 25 05:02:20 CDT 2013

What is often not spelled out in discussions on Open Access is: plenty of
research gets done without specific funding. Depending on the employer,
the researcher may not receive much - or any - funding beyond his or her
salary, even in the richest of countries. For journals, the stated waiver
policy varies wildly. For some Open Access publishers, it does not seem
guaranteed that a waiver request will succeed.

Sometimes, funding is required for a project to go ahead at all. It's not
too hard to find mechanisms for the funder to cover the costs of Open
Access publication (as is often happening). Fine.

In other cases, obtaining funding may be too slow and impractical - an
impediment to the research. Many of us are passionate about our work and
will find a way to get something done anyway. To arrive at a position
where research is impossible without a funded project would be damaging to
the progress of research.

Open Access gets your work read more widely, and seems fairer. Most papers
get read more often than they got written. I am in the highly privileged
position that my employer is currently - at least temporarily - paying all
sensible Open Access charges from a central account.

But rather than rely on each individual employer to spend money on Open
Access - which would still be damaging for unusual sources of publication
(e.g. schools, private individuals) - a sensible long-term solution would
be this: fund journals through grants, making them free to read and free
to publish in. We all know that grant funding can be unreliable. But if
the journal puts its papers in a place like PubMed Central, it doesn't
matter much if the journal folds.

(I do realise - although PubMed Central has been engineered to withstand
events along the lines of nuclear war - there was a tricky moment recently
with US federal funding! Fortunately, it's got mirrors or sister projects
in a few other countries.)

Ultimately, as Quentin perhaps implies, academics are largely responsible
for the rules and conventions of academia. If enough of us keep making a
point, it is likely that people will listen. Raise it at appropriate
points as a poorly-funded researcher. Continue to raise it when you are
well-funded and powerful. One way or another, Open Access is the future
and this will be good, if we can make it happen right.

- Daniel

Daniel Barker
The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland :
No SC013532

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