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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Open Access

I just today signed away the copyright for a paper from data last summer that's finally being submitted to Biological Psychiatry. Today I locked it in a gallery, where a guard will charge admittance at the door. I'm not yet at a point in my career where I can dictate to my boss where papers get submitted, of course, nor am I particularly invested in this paper (third author). But it brings up an interesting dilemma. A little background: B.P. is somewhere in the top five journals in psychiatry (the publisher puts it at third), and one of the few of those strong in neuroscience and psychiatry. So, while it may look like there are plenty of OA journals to submit to, from the perspective of an author with a half-psych, half-neuroscience paper that's pretty good but not world-class, B.P. has a limited monopoly. There are substitutes, but they are rather imperfect ones. The other OA alternatives seem to be a distinct step down and, while I might be willing to take such a hit for my morality, my boss is distinctly not the type.... Moreover, asking scientists to martyr their careers doesn't seem like a promising start to a revolution.
This cart-and-horse problem is all known, of course, and was the main reason that PLoS was such a great idea--a sort of jump-start. However, most of us aren't (yet!) putting out Nature- and Science- and Cell-level papers, and I think the stubbornness of this problem for the good-but-not-world-class journal level has been grossly underestimated. It all comes back to that limited monopoly crunch. Lots of journals at the bottom. A handful of journals at the top. Still only a few just below the top in each field. PLoS solved the very top problem handily, or is making great strides. But the Biol. Psych. dilemma will be with us for some time. New journals start at the bottom and have to rise, unless they are jumpstarted like PLoS. Part of the answer is to keep on going, accept that change will come gradually, and, like PLoS is doing, have them add their impramateur to new journals in the family. Another part is to convert for-profit journals to OA.
But PLoS can only start so many journals, and for-profits have tended to resist OA. The problem will be with us for a long time.
Today I locked up my paper with a signature.



Blogger Peter Suber said...

Publishing in an OA journal is only one way to make your work OA. Another way is to publish in a conventional journal, like BP, and then deposit a copy of the approved, peer-reviewed manuscript in an OA repository --either at your institution or in your discipline. About 80% of non-OA journals already permit their authors to do this. It's called self-archiving. Unfortunately, BP is published by Karger and I can't find the Karger self-archiving policy in the standard database of such policies [] or at the BP site. You should ask your BP editor for permission. Even journals that do not give advanced permission for postprint archiving will agree to case-by-case requests. For more on the differences between OA journals and OA repositories, see my OA overview, []. Good luck, Peter Suber.

10:08 AM  

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