After the UK and the EU announced their plans to purchase a flat-rate open access agreement for parts of their research programs, it became public recently that also the particle physics community has negotiated a deal that will switch nearly all publications in the field to OA. As Nature reports:
After six years of negotiation, the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (SCOAP3) is now close to ensuring that nearly all particle-physics articles — about 7,000 publications last year — are made immediately free on journal websites. Upfront payments from libraries will fund the access.
The agreement was achieved by an auction system. Nature explains:
The consortium invited journals to bid for three-year open-access publishing contracts, and ranked them by an undisclosed algorithm that weighed their fees against their impact factors and the licences and delivery formats they offer. Under the deal, the journals will receive an average of €1,200 (US$1,550) per paper.
I think it’s really encouraging to see that such a transformation of existing journals with a long tradition can be achieved apparently without larger problems once there is sufficient determination and self-organization of the research community. Such a global negotiation makes a lot more sense to me than every scientist fighting for OA with the funds of his own research budget. Let’s hope for a similar change in Ecology. As the article remarks, particle physics is different to other research fields in that it is much more centrally organized with only a few important journals, and the CERN as a large and powerful player in the middle. It’s hard to see who could take this role in Ecology. We have the societies, but unlike CERN, which is also a subscriber to journals, our ecological societies do not only not pay for journal subscriptions, they even gain from them trough fees from the society journals. So, it’s not clear to me how much interest they would have to really push for OA. More likely, the move will come from universities and funding agencies. Progress has been slow on that side in the last years, but hopefully this could change once we have a few successful examples that lead the way.