WAME-L: Pros and cons of open access

8 November, 2018

Dear HIFA colleagues,

I am forwarding the message below from the forum of the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME). It's an excellent summary by Pippa Smart, Editor-in-Chief of Learned Publishing, on the pros and cons of open access.

From Pippa Smart

Subject [WAME-L] Open Access development


Benefits of publishing Open Access

1. Anyone can read the article without having to pay - thus increasing access and development of knowledge (this is the main rationale)

2. There is no barrier to science, and no money-making profits from large commercial companies (but see below)

3. Anyone can re-use the published articles without having to ask permission (but see below)

Possible problems

1. Who pays? Either the author (or their grant fund) has to pay a fee, or the journal must be subsidized

2. There is money to be made from OA journals - charging authors can be a good money-earner, so commercial companies can still make money from science

3. Predation - if the authors pay then there is an incentive to provide an author-service that may not be good for science (e.g. publishing without quality control)

4. Funders are pushing for CC BY licences which allow anyone to take an article and reuse it for commercial reasons, or making a derivative work, without asking permission from the author or publisher (but they must always acknowledge the author and where it was first published). (This is normally not a problem, but some people are not happy that someone can reuse their work without permission.)

BUT: The same for OA and toll-access

Editorial systems, peer review, ethical considerations, all should be identical regardless of whether the journal is open or closed access

The moral argument for Open Access

1. If government funds have paid for the creation of knowledge, then it is wrong to keep that knowledge behind locked doors (subscription journals)

Counter-arguments for each model:

1. If publishers provide a service to researchers, then somebody has to pay for this (employing staff, developing technologies, ensuring archiving, etc.)

- But why should public science be used as a commodity by commercial companies to make profits?

2. Who should pay for quality assurance, publishing and archiving of knowledge? Should it be the people that consume the information (readers) or the people who create the information (researchers/universities/funders, etc.)?

- A subscription model allows anyone to publish (e.g. from low income countries), but limits access to people from low income countries (who cannot afford subscriptions)(with the proviso that initiatives such as Research4Life try to balance this)

- An open access model means that only a person/institution who can afford to publish can do so, and this might restrict knowledge coming from low income countries.

3. A subscription model requires a high quality product to be produced so that people will buy it - but an open access model has no such restriction as money comes from elsewhere.

- A subscription model leads to a narrowing of science - only publishing "newsworthy" "high impact" articles, and excludes useful knowledge that may not be deemed sufficiently attractive (e.g. negative results) - but an OA model allows all valuable knowledge (even if it is not "high impact") to be published and therefore reduces waste in research

I could go on ....


Pippa Smart

Research Communication and Publishing Consultant

PSP Consulting, Oxford, UK

Tel: +44 1865 864255

email: pippa.smart@gmail.com

Web: www.pspconsulting.org


Editor-in-Chief of Learned Publishing (www.Learned-Publishing.org)

President: European Association of Science Editors (http://www.ease.org.uk/)

Sign up for my online editors' course/resource, "How to publish better content", https://www.pspconsulting.org/training/online-editor-s-course/


Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, HIFA Project on Access to Health Research


Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information - Join HIFA: www.hifa.org

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 18,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on five global forums in three languages. He also currently chairs the Dgroups Foundation (www.dgroups.info), which supports 800 communities of practice on international development, health and social justice. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG /orcid.org/0000-0001-9557-1487 neil@hifa.org