Access, cash and quality
I haven't yet finished reading Eric's material that accompanied the announcement of the NET GEMS project
, so I'll save commenting on his ideas directly till later. (It's our end of year exam season!) But I can't resist discussing Rubén Gómez' post
on the subject.
Rubén argues that since it is costly to produce quality, then open access materials must be of poorer quality. He concludes:
The bottom line is, somebody has to pay for "open-source" scholarship in order for it to remain scholarship.
It's worth examining who "pays" for current print scholarship. The costs are divided between:
- costs of authoring: usually paid by the writers' institutions (except for amateur authors who pay their own costs by using "leisure time") - these costs need not shift for Open Access publication as long as the "guild" can ensure that scholars get similar Brownie Points (in research funding rounds) for work published this way.
- costs of quality control which are currently paid by the publisher out of the price the consumer is charged for access - under most Open Access models these costs are "front loaded": either, as is hoped in the sciences to be paid as part of the initial research grant, or through some other fundraising. They are non-recurring.
- distribution costs which for print are huge, for electronic media are minute.
So, assuming some form of grant to aid the initial quality control. The work can be free to the end user.
There are also hybrid models possible. For example stable citable editions are sold to libraries, providing the funds needed to maintain a freely available ever changing (and so un-citable) corpus for Open Access...
PS it is interesting (and timely) that, just after writing about this, I should read (cautious and nuanced) support by the Financial Times
for the proposal for Open Access science publication that the UK Government recently backed away from! At the same time Nature
is a subscribers' only piece ;) reports on support from the Welcome Trust
. (According to Peter Stuber
, of Open Access News) the article claims:
All papers reporting the results of research funded by the trust will in future have to be placed in a central public archive within six months of publication...