Gold access, the destroyer of worlds (2 of 3)

August 9, 2012

Salvatore Babones is correct to identify the potentially divisive effect of the introduction of the "gold" model of open-access publishing. The problems will not be confined to the arts, humanities and social sciences, however.

A quick leaf through 10 recent issues of Ecological Entomology and Insect Conservation and Diversity (both published on behalf of the Royal Entomological Society) shows that only a quarter of articles involving UK scientists are linked to research council funding - and a substantial number of these relate to PhD work. The remaining 75 per cent arise from the other mechanisms for delivering research that exist across the sector.

The UK output for 2010 was 123,594 articles, according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base - 2011. It is difficult to reconcile the £60 million cost estimated by the Finch report with the bill for publishing all those articles in open-access form. The £60 million would pay for 40,000 articles at £1,500 apiece or, coincidentally, about a third of those produced in the UK.

The real cost of entering this game for UK universities looks to be a choice between finding another £120 million from existing resources or taking the reputational hit of continuing to publish in subscription journals.

Rod Blackshaw, Professor of agricultural zoology, Plymouth University

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