On The Economic Context of Research: Open Access Publishing in the Sciences

By: Nick Hedlund-de Witt

Alex O. Holcombe, Associate Professor at the School of Psychology, and Australian Research Council Future Fellow at University of Sydney has published a worthwhile article on the growing movement with the academy towards open access scientific publishing HERE. As the author states in the following excerpt:

We’re mired in a system that wastes taxpayers’ money and unnecessarily restricts the flow of new knowledge. We scientists would like our journals to be “open access” – with the door of the journal’s website always open so anyone can visit and download our articles.

The largely for-profit publishing system particularly galls because we scientists do most of the work, but the publishers make all the money. For most journals, scientists not only write all the manuscripts submitted to them, but also vet and edit all these manuscripts before they are published – the peer-review process – all without receiving a cent for their services.

In a free market, one would expect lower-cost publishers to eventually win the day. But scientists, and the administrators who assess us, are so attached to the prestige of the older journal titles that new journals typically don’t get much traction.

A metric called “impact factor” is used as an indicator for the prestige of the journal that articles are published in, and used by administrators as a measure of the quality of our work.

This is not a good way to assess research quality, yet here in Australia the government has unfortunately made it part of the Excellence in Research for Australia scheme for deciding how much to fund each university. This makes us even more beholden to the publishers that own the prestigious journal titles.

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