Thursday 29 September 2011

Barriers in front of open access publishing

Free access to the scientific results and articles over the Internet or other virtual platforms seems to be a bright future for both environment and research community. It will prevent consumption of a huge amount of paper and ink, and will reduce the administration and maintenance costs of universities and libraries across the world that in return will help in sustainability of the world which suffers from excessive greenhouse-gas emissions and climate changes. At the same time, it helps in exponential acceleration of the research which will bring ineffable comfort and opulence for human beings.

Despite several models put in action toward open access for scientific articles, this area is always considered as a taboo, and has been avoided by the majority of scientific community. We think this is because of ignoring some barriers in front of the journal publishing industry in the design of these models. We will discuss these barriers below, and will propose a new open-access model to overcome them.

The first barrier is the business model of a journal publisher. Although a publisher can limit the access to the electronic version of articles to only its subscribers, these articles can easily escape from this limited environment and spread around the world. In other words, the subscription-based business model of publishers in this industry is a barrier in front of open access, and any new model should propose a replacing business model for journal publishers. Otherwise, the paper-based publishing will be the strong point of publishers in securing subscription revenue.

The current open access models can be categorized in two groups: i) author-pays-after-acceptance models and ii) grant-based models. The first group has not gotten attention from the scientific community as it can be read as pay-to-be-published. The second group models are constrained by definition, and therefore can cover a few journals (such as the Public Library of Science), and also can be suspicioned of being unfair as a result of their limited resources. None of these models can handle the first barrier without side effects.

The second barrier is shared with many other electronic version services or objects. For example, the legal value of a printed letter or even a handwritten letter is considered higher than that of an email traditionally. In the Internet, where everybody can publish a post or web page in a matter of seconds and can put any claim or story there, the question about the quality degradation of the scientific articles in the case of switching to only-electronic and online version is a very serious and challenging question. Therefore, the new open-access model should provide a mechanism to control the publication process and increase the scientific value of the scientific research.

We propose a new open access (NOA) model, which can address these barriers and other challenges toward free and open circulation of strong scientific results across the world.

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