Article in The Australian

From: Professor Arthur Sale <Arthur.Sale_at_UTAS.EDU.AU>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2007 09:21:48 +1100

On 24 January, the national newspaper The Australian carried an article
in its Higher Education Supplement headlined "Open access a threat to
grants". The article is completely wrong and I am not going to give it
more exposure here. However, if you are interested you can read it at
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21106899-12332,00.html
.

I have written a rebuttal. If it is published, it may be in next week's
Higher Education Supplement, but in the interests of speed and guaranteed
access, here it is.

----> BEGINS
Open access no threat to grants

Arthur Sale
25 January 2007

It is nonsense to suggest that open access to Australia^s research
output would threaten the success rate for grants (The Australian, 24
January).

The ARC has continued its previous policy of not funding any of the costs
of publishing research results, and it is therefore hard to see how any
threat exists. Authors who choose to publish in journals which charge
up-front fees still have to find the funds elsewhere than from their
grants, whether the journals are online or on paper.

The article confuses open access publishing with open access itself. The
ARC^s policy basically asks researchers to make their research open
access if at all possible.

There are many zero-cost ways of doing this, like choosing journals whose
publishers are amenable to open access (estimated at over 90%),
depositing an author^s final copy in an open access university
repository, negotiating a copyright agreement with the publisher that
allows open access, or publishing in an open access journal that does not
charge fees, of which there are many.

Some open access journals charge author-side fees, just as some paper
journals do. It is little understood that the business models of open
access journals vary widely and indeed only some of them charge
author-side fees. Others are funded by professional societies; yet others
by grants.

Author-side fees, just like reader-side fees (subscriptions) are never
paid by authors or readers ^ it is their institutions that bear the
cost. The description simply relates to the side of the publisher^s
value-adding operation on which charges may be levied.

However at present open access journals constitute a small minority of
the estimated 24,000 research journals in the world, and this is only
slowly changing.

When and if they become the majority, and if author-side fees become the
preferred business model, there will be ample money in the university
library system from cessation of subscriptions to meet all the costs
involved. Unit publishing costs are predicted to drop significantly once
paper copies of journals are no longer produced ^ a simple consequence
of the Internet and post-Gutenberg publishing.

It is clear that what the ARC has done is to preserve the present
situation. There would only be a threat to grants if the ARC had acceded
to requests from some to fund open access journal charges, as does the
Wellcome Trust in the UK.

This is simple positive discrimination in favour of open access journals,
and is not warranted in Australia. We could not influence the global
publishing industry in any significant way, as Australia^s on-shore
publishing sector is relatively small, as is our contribution to the
world^s research.
Received on Thu Jan 25 2007 - 00:06:25 GMT

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