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Entire field of particle physics is to switch to open-access publishing (nature.com)
247 points by ananyob on Sept 25, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments

The SCOAP^3 consortium's news announcement about this can be found at http://scoap3.org/news/news95.html

Something like this may have been inevitable in particle physics: with essentially all articles appearing freely on arXiv.org, the journals have already been starting to look less necessary. That reality may have made them more willing to agree to something like this. It will be interesting to see, ten years from now, whether this model continues to be viable or whether the field will have adopted some entirely different mechanism for peer review.

It appears that the articles will be published under CC-BY licenses. The definition of the affected articles is quite broad, too: "SCOAP^3 Articles are defined as either all articles appearing in journals mostly carrying High-Energy Physics content, or articles appearing in “broad band” journals which have been submitted by researchers to arXiv.org under the corresponding categories."

The close integration with arXiv.org is pretty much essential for this to work, but I was still a bit surprised to see that arXiv categories are used as the defining feature of "particle physics content". (For those in the know, those categories are hep-ex, hep-th, hep-ph, and hep-lat.)

If the openness is increasing the number of citations of the articles in open journals it will affect the impact factors of the other journals and may force them to switch to open access later. I am really interested in the results as I have strictly now ideas in which way it will go. Are the non open high impact journals going to stay at the top?

Why, in this day and age, is there still publicly funded research that is not open access? Also I could rant for hours on the need to make your data available for any peer reviewed publication.

Because academic journals are products of inelastic demand. Researchers need to publish to keep their jobs[1]. Thus there is absolutely no incentive for the channels through which this publishing occurs to offer free access.

[1]By the way, being able to publish is especially necessary to receive public funding in the first place.

> By the way, being able to publish is especially necessary to receive public funding in the first place.

Being published in Nature gives you bonus points when it comes to funding. Which I don't quite understand, cause Nature is like the last journal where I'd look for newest information on my subject.

Publication in Nature is not so much for newest information on your specific and somewhat narrow subject, but for more or less breakthroughs of various degrees.

From guidelines[1]:

- report original scientific research (the main results and conclusions must not have been published or submitted elsewhere)

- are of outstanding scientific importance

- reach a conclusion of interest to an interdisciplinary readership.


My professor argued that keeping even publicly funded research and data behind paywalls will keep at least some of the people who have no idea about the scientific method from doing dangerous nonsense with it. I don't share this opinion.

This sounds like a variation of the Metallica defense. Does EMI own Elsevier?

It seems to be a really good step towards breaking away from the current journal publishing monopoly which makes access to cutting edge research so expensive. I hope other branches of science adopt this as well.

Not just science, it would be good to see open-access across all fields.

Physical Review D, the journal that publishes most papers in the field, negotiated a fee of US$1,900 per article “on the principle that we should maintain our revenue”, says Joe Serene, treasurer and publisher at the American Physical Society, which owns the journal.

The "principle that we should maintain our revenue"? I like that principle. Which box do I check to have that apply to me as well?

I don't understand why SCOAP3 isn't driving a harder bargain. They are anticipating a $10MM budget --- wouldn't this be enough to hire some good editors and publish online?

If the whole field is behind this, worries about "impact factor" should disappear. Or is the problem that salary/tenure/promotion is tied to an outside assessment of "impact"?

I think the problem is that salary/tenure/promotion is tied to hazy, individual, non-standard assessments of impact, of which the calculated "Impact Factor" of journals that people publish in is one factor. My boss (and Public Library of Science founder) has a blog post related to this, http://www.michaeleisen.org/blog/?p=911 . Essentially, hiring/tenure committees don't explicitly sit down and plug in the impact factors of journals that a candidate has published in, but most people have a hierarchy of journals in their mind, with Science, Nature, and Cell (for biologists) at the top.

Essentially, hiring/tenure committees ... have a hierarchy of journals in their mind

-- Penn State has a "middle of the road" law school

Almost all physics papers (not just particle physics papers) are posted on arXiv. Papers on arXiv are usually updated to the final published version, although the peer review process rarely produces significant changes.

It is unfortunate that university libraries will be continuing to send money to publishers who add almost no value to the scientific process.

It's great to see Nature, itself a high-priced journal, running this story.

arXiv.org really makes downloading papers a breeze. If only it were so easy in other discliplines. It's a lot easier than downloading articles from, say, ScienceDirect. The latter is, despite its name, a lot less "direct" than former. Just count the HTTP redirects and the number of domain names looked up. And many journals seem to have their own idiosyncracies vis-a-vis downloading. arXiv is by comparison beautifully simple and reliable. It has a nice consistency about it.

"Upfront payments from libraries will fund the access." Great, so the Library still has to pay for it...

Well, someone has to. The alternative is having the authors pay, and that creates the wrong kind of incentives.

I wrote about this recently [1], and here's my best shot:

Contrary to what some readers have said in e-mails to me, or inferred from what I’ve written, I’m actually not at all opposed to peer review or peer-reviewed publications. But the important thing these days isn’t a medium for publishing—pretty much anyone with an Internet connection can get that for free—but the imprimatur of peer-review, which says, “This guy [or gal] knows what he’s talking about.” A more intellectually honest way to go about peer-review would be to have every academic have a blog / website. When he or she has an article ready to go, he should post it, send a link to an editor, and ask the editor to kick it out to a peer-reviewer. Their comments, whether anonymous or not, should be appended to the article. If it’s accepted, it gets a link and perhaps the full-text copied and put in the “journal’s” main page. If it doesn’t, readers can judge its merits or lack thereof for themselves.

The sciences arguably already have this, because important papers appear on arXiv.org before they’re officially “published.” But papers in the sciences appear to be less status-based and more content-based than papers in the humanities.

I think this change will happen in the humanities, very slowly, over time; it won’t be fast because there’s no reason for it to be fast, and the profession’s gatekeepers are entrenched and have zero incentive to change. If anything, they have a strong incentive to maintain the system, because doing that raises their own status and increases their own power within the profession.

Given how cheaply one can find or buy a website / blog these days, I'm not sure where all this money is going.


Researchers and scientists could have asymmetric keys and peer review in that fashion. The authors could append cryptographic signatures to the article. Then we don't need centralized journals, just a list of academics whose scientific rigor is trusted.

I have often thought about doing something similar to this. Basically, you publish a signed version of your paper on your own website, and then other scientists can sign it with notes. It would be kind of like a "Facebook like" system. (By "sign", I mean a cryptographic signature.)

"82 PhD scientists have reviewed this paper, including 3 people in your close network and 2 more people from your extended network." ...or something like that.

You could do a network-graph search. Start with some professors that you trust, and some keywords that you're interested in and start walking the graph from there.

I don't know what the profit motive would be for someone to build this though. Nor the motive for individual reviewers to carefully review someone's paper and provide detailed useful feedback...

To clarify, the bad incentives would be that journal would publish lower quality papers to get additional revenue?

Yep-there are already some journals where that is the main business model.

I guess my question is whether we need the journals at all ... the process of printing the journal itself certainly isn't the hard part, but is there a way to properly do peer review in an open system?

I'm certainly happy to see this consortium has moved in the right direction, but could it be even more open?

Peer review is done for free by the community in any case, so this would not be a major problem. Most suggestions for a post-journal system I have seen so far are about setting up electronic journals with editorial boards that send out submissions for peer review as usual.

Moving away from journals seems to be largerly an issue of missing consensus and inertia. Also, where you publish is important for hiring committees, existing journals have a lot of credibility, newly sprung up ones not so much.

We already have model for future journals: http://www.emis.de/journals/SIGMA/ SIGMA is just an overlay over arXiv with added peer review. Also it has non-zero impact factor.

Peer review is done for free by the community in any case

This is a great observation.

The value in this sort of compromise is that it's relatively painless to existing systems. You won't need to explain a whole new peer review system to a tenure committee, you won't need to radically restructure your grant spending, libraries pay more or less the same costs, and the journals get more or less the same revenue. The only difference is that now, your results are free for everyone to read (and not just in preprint form).

We'll have to wait and see whether this model turns out to be the first step in a gradual transition or a stopgap solution until a radically different approach to peer review becomes accepted. I for one am excited to find out.

We need journals because without them we'd have the Android App Store. I know that seems like a stretch but the challenge is that there are lots and lots of papers (publish-or-die is a mantra remember) and so quantity is assured, but quality is more nuanced. And more importantly quality of the work. So what a journal does is builds a reputation for filtering for only very high quality papers, and then other systems feed off that. So if you publish in Science that is cooler or more impressive than publishing in a journal which has no standards, or worse your own self published journal. The Android App store has a similar situation except it doesn't (yet) have a good quality filter, there is no third party that has risen to prominence as the place to go for authoritative reviews or opinions on the quality of a particular application.

The hacker way extends beyond computing.

It's actually Computer Science that has most scattered and disorganized publishing culture, and could use a lot more collective hacker attitude to somehow fix things.

We used to joke that if you were in the Tevatron (Fermi lab) parking lot you were a co-author!

They should drop the "Consortium" from the name. It's cleaner.

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