A long way from zero

Aug 23 2010 Published by under Open Access

If you believe this paper from last year, roughly one in five current peer-reviewed articles is now to be found open-access. (I'm not sure why the paper is only getting press now, but the world is weird.)

Numbers are bunk, let's just say that up-front. I don't believe these numbers; I don't believe most numbers around open access. It's too hard to draw a circle around what we're trying to find out. This study (as with most in this area) omits an important fine point, as well: how much of this open access is, y'know, legal? The authors found papers "on the home pages of the authors." Let me tell you, researchers don't know from copyright, much less publishers' policies surrounding same. I'd be pleasantly shocked if half those postings were legal.

Still. Twenty percent. One in five. It's a long way from zero.

Some days I feel that what I do is stunningly pointless. This… is not one of those days.

6 responses so far

  • rknop says:

    Let me just say that a publisher's policy that does NOT allow scientific authors to give away their own journal articles for free is sick and wrong.... Or, at the very least, counter to the needs, nature, and spirit of science.

    • I'm afraid that's most of 'em.

      • rknop says:

        I wonder why scientists don't revolt and throw out the publishers. We no longer really need print distribution of journals, which is a big part of what publishers do. Yes, copy-editing is nice, but as somebody who reads more papers off the preprint server than out of the journals nowadays, you can survive without it. You do need an editor to ride herd on the peer review... but peer review is already done by the scientific community without direct pay.

        • Dorothea Salo says:

          Welcome to the open-access movement, friend. 🙂 It's what has consumed my professional life until rather recently.

  • former academic says:

    Many of the professors I knew in grad school "managed" their administrative loads by remaining aggressively uninformed about departmental requirements and procedures.

    I wonder if the same process applies to open access and copyright law. It would make life easier if posting pdfs was 'the same as replying to a reprint request', so assume it to be so and wait for someone else to care enough to sort out the details.

    This isn't civil disobedience, exactly, but I still wonder if it provides leverage for those who do care about increasing legal open access. If the journals policies are widely flouted and they take no steps to enforce them, does that decrease their enforceability down the line (sort of like with some of the recent ruling on obscenity and evolving community standards).

    • There might be a sort of laches defense for copyright there (note: IANAL), and there's a certain amount of justified reluctance on the part of publishers to sue those from whom they garner the free labor they built their business on.

      However. That didn't stop Sage, Cambridge UP, and Oxford UP suing Georgia State. I'm quite sure publishers as well as I are watching that outcome extremely closely.

      Frankly, the folks you name—and there are a lot of them!—are not going to move until they feel pain. If this or another lawsuit makes electronic reserves untenable, they will feel pain. If this or another lawsuit causes institutions to crack down on informal sharing by faculty, they will feel pain. And then perhaps something important will happen.

      Until then, folks like me will grind on toward our small victories, because it's the best we can do.