Forced Open-Access publishing

The Dutch Secretary of State for Education Sander Dekker proposes to make it mandatory for Dutch scientists to only publish in Open Access journals (i.e., free to read) by 2016. If the proposal is really formulated like that, it is one of the most damaging, costly, and unnecessary proposals I have ever seen in science.

First of all: the quality of a scientist is, in general, measured by the citations he gets and the impact of the journals in which he publishes. The highest-impact journals which lead to the most citations are, at present, not Open Access and will not be Open Access by 2016. If Dutch scientists are no longer allowed to publish in journals which are not Open Access, their standing in the scientific world will suffer.

This is coupled with the fact that most Open Access journals require the contributors to pay for publishing in them. The reason that many scientists avoid Open Access journals is that they have no budget to pay for publication. Forcing scientists to publish in Open Access journals leads to two consequences: (1) a considerable part of the science budget will be spent on just paying a third-party to put publications online; and (2) many Open Access journals are low-quality because they are only interested in money, so they accept (almost) everything from anyone who pays — meaning that the scientific quality of Dutch publications will probably decrease.

And finally, here is why it is unnecessary: almost all journals leave the rights for re-publication with the original authors, meaning that you can simply put your publications on a University website. In my field, computer science, this is actually so common that I seldom need to browse through journals anymore: everything I need is found on the web. This is exactly what the Secretary of State wants: all publications being publicly available for free.

Therefore, the only thing the Secretary of State needs to make mandatory is universities putting publications up on their websites. And therefore, not publishing in the few journals that do not allow you to do that. In practice, this is already what happens in many scientific fields — we just need to bring those which exclusively stick to paper into the modern age of digital distribution.

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4 Responses to Forced Open-Access publishing

  1. Good post. I wrote a critique about the plans here: http://warekennis.nl/wordpress/dekker-en-open-access-intentie-goed-uitwerking-fout/. Hope we will not have to do the discussion about the Finch report all over again in Dutch 😦

  2. Stevan Harnad says:

    Unforced Errors

    Pieter Spronck is spot-on in every point he makes. Even his one slight exaggeration — “almost all journals leave the rights for re-publication with the original authors, meaning that you can simply put your publications on a University website” (actually it’s about 60% does not really matter, or would not, if all disciplines were as sensible as physicists have been since the outset, posting their peer-reviewed papers online without giving their publishers a second thought.

    So one could not agree more with conclusion that the only thing that has to be “forced” (i.e., mandated) is that all these other, more sluggish, disciplines do likewise, for their own good (and the good of the public that funds their research).

    See also The Journal Publisher Lobby in the UK & Netherlands: Part I and Finch II: “Our Mind’s Made Up: Don’t Confuse Us With Facts”

  3. I agree with most of wat you say here, although you are too harsh on OA journals. Many are of good quality (excepting ofcourse the real predatory rubbish) and – not that I care, but some people still do – have imnpact factors and all. Many also chargo nothing. By the way: secratary Dekker is also thinking of the many thousands of regular scholarly (paywalled) journals that have become hybrid by allowing you to pay to have your paper published OA. This is of course the publishers’ dream come true and what we should not waste money on. All details are laid out in my post (in Dutch) http://im2punt0.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/green-open-access-nu-goedkoop-met-vrije-tijdschriftkeuze/

  4. […] who pays — meaning that the scientific quality of Dutch publications will probably decrease. More here. Source: […]

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