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The Article Processing Charge and the Integrity of Open Access Publishing

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
17th February 2010


Richard Poynder has an interesting interview with the CEO of Open Access publisher Sciyo, Aleksandar Lazinica, where the latter states that “author pay formats” should be abandoned.

Here is interesting background to the controversy, read the whole interview here.

Richard Poynder:

“In their efforts to derail the onward march of Open Access (OA) opponents have conjured up a number of bogeymen about Open Access publishing. First, they maintain, asking authors to pay to publish could turn scholarly publishing into a vanity press. Second, they say, OA publishing will in any case inevitably lead to lax or even non-existent peer review. Third, they argue, OA publishing is not financially sustainable.

At the heart of the criticism deployed against OA publishing is the claim that levying an article processing charge (APC) on authors will inevitably corrupt the age-old process of scholarly publishing, and the independent peer review system on which it is based.

Certainly one obvious consequence of “author-pays” publishing is that the nature of the relationship between publisher and author changes radically from the traditional arrangement. While most researchers will doubtless obtain the necessary funds to pay to publish from their institution or funder, they nevertheless become paying customers of publishers not, as heretofore, supplicants seeking a free publishing slot.

For publishers it means migrating from a business environment in which their marketing efforts are focused primarily on selling journal subscriptions to intermediary libraries, to one where they have to sell a publishing service directly to authors.

Amongst other things, this means that many OA publishers have had to start utilising the mass marketing techniques characteristic of business-to-consumer (B2C) markets, rather than the business-to-business (B2B) methods traditionally associated with scholarly publishing.

For some this cultural shift proved difficult, with angry researchers reporting that they were being bombarded with spam messages that — they complained — were unwelcome, badly targetted and probably illegal.

Many researchers receiving these messages immediately conclude they are being invited to participate in some form of vanity publishing, particularly when the invitations arrive from unknown publishers. This serves to breathe life into the vanity press bogeyman.

These suspicions lead naturally to the further conclusion that, even if the invitations are not from a vanity publisher, since there must be huge pressure to accept papers (in order to generate revenue), the publishers concerned will inevitably set more lax peer review standards than traditional subscription publishers.”

In a related article, another interview of Richard Poynder with OA advocate and pioneer Steven Harnad, are some details about the state of the open access movement:

“It has been far from smooth sailing. Harnad had assumed that researchers would immediately see the logic of self-archiving, not the least of which are the benefits they would gain from the greater visibility and impact that their research would have once it was freely available. However, few did (only about 15% of authors self-archive spontaneously).

Out of growing frustration with researchers’ passivity, Harnad became an ardent advocate for the introduction of self-archiving mandates. For the past several years, he has grown hoarse calling upon universities and research funders to require researchers to self-archive their papers, a message he feels has too often been diluted by growing interest in OA publishing (Gold Open Access), which Harnad believes to be a far less certain road to OA.

Fifteen years after he posted his Subversive Proposal, the self-styled “weary archivangelist” is a somewhat disappointed OA advocate today.

There are still only 139 mandates in the world now, and many of those that have been introduced lack teeth. Consequently, most institutional repositories remain all but empty. Meanwhile, the research community keeps succumbing to what Harnad calls “gold fever.”

But it is not all doom and gloom. “All of the U.K.’s Research Funding Councils and 14 U.K. universities have mandated OA,” says Harnad. “So have NIH [the National Institutes of Health], Harvard and MIT in the U.S.”

And with last year’s reintroduction of the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) and President Obama’s recent public consultation on requiring U.S. federal science and technology funding agencies to introduce public access policies, Harnad is hopeful that in 2010 we will finally see the tipping point needed to usher in universal OA.”

Here is a detailed overview of what happened in 2009.

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One Response to “The Article Processing Charge and the Integrity of Open Access Publishing”

  1. olivia Says:

    please what it is really going on? A colleague of mine wants to know about APC, he submitted for publication and intech is asking a payment of APC from him, can he go ahead? kindly reply asap.thanks

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