Open access and editorial quality

OPEN ACCESS publishing of academic research is here to stay. So far debate about it has been mainly on the financial aspects of improving access to academic research and specialist information. But what about the value of editorial quality in the new publishing models?

The NUJ believes that the added value of quality editorial work - including editing, assessing manuscripts, handling peer review, copy editing, layout and design, and web production - must not be left out of the debate. The union is organising a debate on open access publishing and editorial quality. Chaired by Alok Jha, science correspondent at the Guardian, it is on Wednesday 6 February at 7pm at the Wellcome Trust, 215 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE. Speakers include:

  • Philip Campbell - Editor-in-Chief, Nature
  • Matt Cockerill - BioMed Central and Springer STM
  • Professor Steven Curry - Imperial College and open access blogger
  • Peter Lee - Publishing Director, Cell Press
  • Mark Patterson - Managing Executive Editor of open access journal eLife
  • Pete Wrobel - NUJ, Magazines and Books

The meeting will be followed by a networking reception. Entry is free, but to get on the guest list please RSVP to mbprc@nuj.org.uk with "Open Access Meeting" as the subject line and including your name and where you work. The information will not be used for anything unconnected with the event.

The Freelance observes that commercial journal publishers, without exception, require academic authors to assign all rights in their works - though authors may be able to claim money from the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) for photocopying of work published in books, rather than journals. Journal publishers demand this for no fee, and charge universtity libraries up to several thousand a year for journal subscriptions. Many publisers of academic books demand all rights for fees of the order of £50 for a chapter.

The Public Library of Science (PLOS), one of the more respectable Open Access publishers, requires authors to make their work available under the Creative Commons Attribution License - and, if they work in a developed country, charges from US$1350 to $2900 for the privilege.

The issues are complicated by the existence of commercial "open access" publishers. One, Bentham Science Publishers, in 2009 suffered the embarassment of accepting for publication - for a fee of US$800 to be sent to a PO Box in the United Arab Emirates - a "paper" generated by a computer program called SCIgen and containing no sense whatsoever. To be fair, at least one conventionally-published journal has been tricked in the same way.

Last modified: 05 Jan 2013 - © 2013 contributors
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