The Schwerdtfeger Library News - March 2005

By Jean Phillips, Librarian


Open Access Issues

There has been much discussion of late about the various economic models put forth to support the open access enterprise -- should there be author fees, no author fees, subscription fees, altruistic support by those who use but do not contribute? Should there be open access to commercial scholarly literature or should open access focus on distribution of noncommercial scholarly works? Should access be immediate or delayed? Should costs be distributed in another way?

The American Meteorological Society, for example, looked at its business model to determine how much income they'd have to generate from other sources if they were to make everything open access. The AMS determined that the average cost of a peer-reviewed paper in one of its journals would have to increase from about $1200-$1500 to roughly $3600 per paper in order to cover production costs. In academic circles, most publication costs are covered by grant monies, thus, the AMS determined that the entire cost would fall on granting agencies because in their open-access model there would be no subscription costs (currently, the major subscription costs are borne by libraries). For now, the AMS is taking the step of offering free access to a 5-year moving wall of literature. That is, beginning in 2006, anything published before 2001 will be freely available and anything after 2001 will be available by subscription. [according to Keith Seittor, ASLI Meeting, January 2005]

Scientific publishing as we know it, dates to 1665 when Henry Oldenburg launched Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London and de Sallo, in France, launched Journal des Scavens. Peer-review has developed into a costly enterprise, but it is this valuable process (though sometimes flawed) that helps build the body of scientific literature, builds scientific reputations, gets tenure for faculty and increases the status of university research institutes. It is the reason libraries subscribe to the core journals of their fields.

Some questions emerge. If we acknowledge that there are costs associated with any form of distribution, what is the best way to balance access with the costs of production, maintaining quality and the rigors of the review process, while forming reliable, permanent archives of scholarly literature?

Further reading:

  • Stern, David. Open Access or Differential Pricing for Journals: The Road Best Traveled? Online Magazine v.29, no.2, March/April 2005, pp31-35.
  • Guterman, Lila. Study Challenges Equation of Open-Access Publishing With an Author-Pays Business Model. Chronicle of Higher Education, 15 March 2005.
  • Ewing, John H. Point of View: Open Access to Journals Won't Lower Prices. Chronicle of Higher Education, 1 October 2004.


Why Preprint Servers?

One way to distribute scholarly information is through preprint servers. A preprint is usually defined as a manuscript that has not yet been published. It may have been submitted for publication, reviewed and already accepted, or circulated for comment before submission. This kind of dissemination is a means of rapid communication and promotes discussion within the scientific community, however, listing a paper on a preprint or e-print server does not constitute formal publication. A paper can change substantially from its prepublication version to its published version -- as a result of the peer-review process which helps determine the merits of a piece of literature.

Publishers differ in their attitudes towards posting the official published version of a paper on a preprint server, however acceptance of this practice may be growing. When a published paper is provided in its full text, the copyright is typically still owned by the publisher, not the author, but the publisher has granted permission for the paper to be posted. Another common practice is to host older versions of the paper, providing full reference information/DOI for the published version (not full-text) so that it can be located. Yet another approach requires removal of all earlier versions of a paper once it has been reviewed and published. Citations to electronic preprints, though, have risen dramatically since the early 1990s when the first preprint servers appeared because of their rapid availability, whereas waiting for refereed publishing often takes more than a year.

Some preprint servers:


DOAJ: Directory of Open Access Journals

A joint project funded by Open Society Institute - Budapest and SPARC (The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), the aim of the Directory of Open Access Journals is to increase the visibility and ease of use of open access scientific and scholarly journals to promote increased usage and impact. There are now 1479 journals in the directory. Currently 378 journals are searchable at article level and 70135 articles are included in the DOAJ service.

Open access is defined as "journals that use a funding model that does not charge readers or their institutions for access." As defined by the BOAI, Budapest Open Access Initiative, "open access" includes the right of "users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles" as mandatory for a journal to be included in the directory. The journal should offer open access to their content without delay. The journal should also exercise quality control on submitted papers through an editor, editorial board or peer-review system.

Open Access Bibliography: Liberating Scholarly Literature with E-Prints and Open Access Journals by Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

The Open Access Bibliography: Liberating Scholarly Literature with E-Prints and Open Access Journals presents over 1,300 selected English-language books, conference papers (including some digital video presentations), debates, editorials, e-prints, journal and magazine articles, news articles, technical reports, and other printed and electronic sources that are useful in understanding the open access movement’s efforts to provide free access to and unfettered use of scholarly literature. Most sources have been published between 1999 and August 31, 2004; however, a limited number of key sources published prior to 1999 are also included. Where possible, links are provided to sources that are freely available on the Internet (approximately 78 percent of the bibliography’s references have such links).

The definition of "open access" employed to guide the scope of the bibliography, is that of the “Budapest Open Access Initiative.


SPARC Open Access Newsletter

A monthly publication of open-access-related news by Peter Suber. The current issue provides a full analysis of the final NIH public-access policy.



A joint venture between MIT and Hewlett-Packard, DSpace is a digital repository system that captures, stores, indexes, preserves and redistributes an organization's research material in digital formats. There are now many live DSpace Sites, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

[return to top]