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5 Comments

  1. 1

    richard.hecker

    Thank you for your thoughts Ben. I’d like to comment with my scholarly publisher hat on.

    Many of your comments on Open Access are fair. It costs money to publish material. Outside of any editorial honoraria, the software to run peer-review and production, the website support, the marketing & promotion, let alone printing, need to come from somewhere. Whether the funding is from the reader (subscription) or author (open access) is simply settling on a viable, sustainable business model.

    (Having said that, I do object to the implications that *all* publishers are making stag profits – perhaps the ‘big three’ (Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, T&F) but the road isn’t always so smooth for smaller, society focussed publishers especially where there is a scientific or national interest at stake.)

    In many cases OA does get taxpayer funded work back into the hands of the taxpayer, and this is undoubtedly a good outcome. The cases in which the research has a direct application to industry, for example to pharmaceutical corporations, means the taxpayer funds research yet the business sees the results freely, in essence a direct subsidy.

    Peer-review certainly has its known and recognised inconsistencies and a bias to supporting the status quo, and certainly alternatives ought to be explored. Your article does not distinguish open peer-review and post-publication peer-review. Open peer-review has the reviewer comments posted with the paper, in which the names may or may not be suppressed. Post-publication peer-review would have the paper formally published then open for comment and author correction if need be.

    The open peer-review method has been tried with some success in the physical sciences in which article criticism is largely technical. Certainly it works and the comments can offer useful insights for the capable reader.

    Post-publication peer-review is in my opinion a poorer idea. Not only does it remove any imprimatur of quality from a journal (material published has at least been considered of worth by reviewer/s and editor/s, so reducing a journal to the level of an unfiltered repository) but more critically the record of scientific progress is weakened. Managing version control may sound trivial, but alas here lie dragons.

    Richard Hecker
    CSIRO Publishing, http://www.publish.csiro.au
    Disclosure – I coordinate the publication of a dozen scholarly publications of which 11 are owned by learned societies based in Australia and overseas

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  2. 2

    Ben Harris-Roxas

    Thanks very much for your considered response Richard. I agree with your points and differentiating open peer review and post-publication peer review is particularly worthwhile. I agree with your appraisal of the dangers and difficulties.

    Your comment prompted me to consider if one of your journals, the NSW Public Health Bulletin, offers a slightly different approach to open access publishing. As I understand it the Bulletin’s production costs are at least partly supported by the NSW Department of Health, which enables open access to the publication without cost to the authors.

    Of course this investment in research and dissemination requires considerable vision and commitment on behalf of government agencies, but as OA requirements for publicly funded research increase could this approach be adopted elsewhere in government to ensure access goals are better realised? Pipe dream?

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  3. 3

    richard.hecker

    The New South Wales Public Health Bulletin is fully sponsored by the Department. I agree with your characterisation of this as visionary. The usage metrics for this publication are startling, with astounding interstate and international usage. For highlighing public health activities and innovations in the State, and for communication between government and citizenry, I believe it it a good use of funding.

    The difficulty with such a model is exactly as you identify, in that it is is dependent on ongoing funding needing to run longer than political cycles. Commitment indeed.

    One critical matter of course there is still an editor, in this case internal to the Department, maintaining a tight control on quality and commissioning special issues. An open access model is simply the train – the Bulletin, as all journals, are is only as good as their drivers.

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  4. 4

    Andrew Roberts

    The government usually pays for the cost anyway. The largest subscriber to journals would be universities and hospitals.
    There needs to be a change in thinking where the funding application includes a component for publishing. Some universities may be worried as they might have to decrease what I see as exorbitant administrative charges (I’ve seen up to 20% of the funding) for the research.

    Reply
  5. 5

    richard.hecker

    The Australian Research Council has made some steps in this direction you suggest Andrew. For funding from 2012 onwards, section 5.2.2 of the grants states ‘Publication and dissemination of Project outputs and outreach activity costs may be supported at up to two (2) per cent of total ARC funding awarded to the Project.’

    Of course my self-interest hopes that there would be a preference to Australia-based publications, but if wishes were fishes…

    Reply

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