There are some very interesting articles in the Guardian this week about what the paper is labelling the ‘academic spring’ (though with the weather recently, they’ll need to think carefully about that label) – i.e. the growing move towards open access publishing being required by research funders. The Wellcome Trust has just added impetus to this debate by requiring open access publishing of the research it funds, following other funders in recent months. Today’s article suggests that even allowing six months before papers are made openly available, as agreed by research councils, is too long a delay.
The paper sides largely with the view that conventional publishing inhibits the sharing of publicly-funded knowledge through the high costs charged for access, which enables publishers to make high profits whilst relying on unpaid peer review by academics. But it also provides a fair summary of the arguments from publishers that they provide the infrastructure needed for dissemination of research findings. The question is whether initiatives to bypass that infrastructure can replace the current structure of academic publishing whilst retaining the necessary rigour and credibility.
The Guardian’s ongoing coverage of this debate can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/peer-review-scientific-publishing.