Learned society states position on open access
24 November 2005
The Royal Society (RS) has accused open access supporters of trying to stop commercial publishers profiting from publicly funded research.
In a position statement, the RS welcomed the exploration of open access 'where the aim is to improve the exchange of knowledge between researchers and with wider society'. But it accuses some participants in the debate of trying to pursue other aims, 'namely to stop commercial publishers from making profits from the publication of research that has been funded by the public purse'.
BioMed Central's publisher Matthew Cockerill said the accusations were 'rather bizarre' and that there is great opportunity for open access publishers to be commercially successful. 'It's a shame that a society like the RS seems to be driven by concern to keep things the same in publishing rather than by the needs of its members,' he told Chemistry World.
The RS is concerned that open access repositories will contain some non peer-reviewed material. Cockerill said this is not a concern. 'It's like saying journals shouldn't go on the internet because some of the internet contains non peer-reviewed material,' he said. There is a clear distinction between material that is or isn't peer-reviewed in open access online repositories, he said, and added that open access publishers carry out the peer review process as rigorously as traditional commercial publishers.
Astrid Wissenburg, director for information and communications for the Economic and Social Research Council, is involved in preparing the Research Councils UK (RCUK) position statement on open access, and was not sure who the RS was accusing. 'I certainly don't recognise RCUK in that statement,' she said.
RCUK hopes to publish its position on open access by the end of the year, with input from organisations like the RS. The RCUK statement will probably encourage authors to deposit articles in a repository, but would not suggest that authors break any copyright agreements they have with publishers, said Wissenburg.
Whether an author chooses to publish in a traditional journal or an open access journal should be up to them, not their funders, said Wissenburg. 'We want the researchers to make the choice based on what criteria are important to them.'
BioMed Central's Cockerill said of the RS statement, 'it's not helpful, but they are swimming against the tide'. KS
The Royal Society claims that a critical open letter it received from a number of its members was written under false pretences.
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