Open access publishing is back in the news. Tim Gowers reports that Horizon 2020, Europe’s “Framework Programme for Research and Innovation”, is to support (or require?) open access publication of the research it supports.
They have not given precise details yet, but it seems that the eventual scheme will incorporate both “gold” and “green” open access. EPSRC announced some time ago that they supported both models.
These are very different things. “Gold” access costs the author money (as the name suggests). You pay up front (a large amount, typically thousands of pounds), and then anyone can access your published paper on the journal website without charge. I remain implacably opposed to this. Apart from other drawbacks, it creates two levels of researchers: those who have research grants including a sum for open access publishing, and those who don’t. Already, administrators are developing the mindset that the only researchers worthy of respect are those who have grants. This attitude is disastrous for mathematics.
“Green” access means putting your paper on an open repository (such as the arXiv, or an institutional archive). Of course, publishers don’t like this: it presumably damages their subscription base if people can get the paper for free. There are arguments over fine details, such as whether you can post a corrected proof of the article or merely a pre-publication preprint. I don’t think this matters too much to the reader (though clearly it does to the publisher).
Now Elsevier, the publisher we all love to hate, has muddied the waters further by adding a clause to its statement of authors’ rights. The relevant two items now say:
- the right to post a pre-print version of the journal article on Internet websites including electronic pre-print servers, and to retain indefinitely such version on such servers or sites for scholarly purposes (with some exceptions such as The Lancet and Cell Press);
- the right to post a revised personal version of the text of the final journal article (to reflect changes made in the peer review process) on your personal or institutional website or server for scholarly purposes, incorporating the complete citation and with a link to the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) of the article (but not in subject-oriented or centralized repositories or institutional repositories with mandates for systematic postings unless there is a specific agreement with the publisher).
In other words, the preprint is OK, but for the corrected proofs, as Stevan Harnad paraphrases it in a comment on Gowers’ blog, “You retain the right to post if you wish but not if you must!”
I am in the awkward position of having a foot in both camps.
First, as chair of the British Combinatorial Committee, I have responsibility for our practice of publishing (refereed) contributed papers to our biennial conference in an issue of the Elsevier journal Discrete Mathematics. Our relations with Elsevier have been difficult in the past, but at the time of the last conference, they were quite satisfactory.
Second, I am an honorary editor of the Australasian Journal of Combinatorics, which is currently debating whether to become entirely free and open-access, following such journals as Theory of Computing and Electronic Journal of Combinatorics, which have established themselves as respectable journals despite charging neither authors nor readers. (Laci Babai made the case for this in the first ever guest post on this blog.)
I clearly have some thinking to do. Your comments might help me reach some sort of conclusion.