Brake before breaking mould

June 19, 2014

I have been interested to see that my letter on open access for monographs (29 May) has prompted a series of responses, acknowledging that this is a highly complex question and offering assurances that nothing is decided yet. In my experience of decision-making in higher education there is a tendency for a notion once floated to become a proposal to be carried through regardless of consequences.

There will be scams. The rush to make open-access journal publishing a research excellence framework requirement has prompted numerous entrepreneurial launches of new publications; we all have a weekly inbox full of offers to sit on their editorial boards or contribute articles on every conceivable subject.

There will be a loss of quality. Remove peer-review “readers”, house editors, copy editors, professional typesetting and let the author self-publish online? I remember when digital production became feasible and Cambridge University Press experimentally (but not for long) asked its authors to do their own copy-editing and typesetting. Hands were clapped to mouths at the press as it saw the results. I hope, at the very least, that sufficient time (and this means years) will be allowed for the full implications of the move to open-access requirements for books to emerge before this, too, is rushed through.

Let it happen naturally and without REF pressure if it proves to be the right way forward.

G. R. Evans

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