An editorial on open archives

Subbiah Arunachalam subbiah_a at YAHOO.COM
Wed Aug 4 00:11:19 EDT 2004


The following editorial in The Hindu (a leading Indian
newspaper with its headquarters in Chennai) of 3
August2004 supports open archives.

[Subbiah Arunachalam]


IN JULY, THE movement for `open access' got an
important boost when the
Appropriations Committee of the United States' House
of Representatives
and the Science & Technology Committee of the United
Kingdom's House of
Commons recommended measures that would help make
scientific journal
publications available more freely online. Scientists
are judged by
their research output. Each year they publish more
than a million papers
in approximately 16,000 science, technology and
medical journals put out
by more than 2,000 publishers worldwide. Commercial
publishers have a
dominant presence, with Reed Elsevier having a 28 per
cent market share.
There has been a growing feeling that neither the
public, which pays for
much of the science that is published, nor the
scientists, who receive
no payment either for their papers or for carrying out
the `peer review'
that ensures that quality is maintained in journals,
benefit by limiting
access to the papers through journal subscriptions.
Not only are
journals expensive; there is mounting criticism that
journal costs have
been rising exorbitantly. The Commons' S&T Committee
noted that
commercial scientific journal publishers enjoyed
"substantially higher"
profit margins than the academic, educational and
publishing sector as a whole. And this was happening
at a time libraries
were obliged to cut down on journal subscriptions in
order to keep
within budgets. The problem is particularly acute for
institutions in developing countries such as India.
Another issue that
has been raised is that the larger public has little
access to the
scientific research that their tax money makes
The limitations of the `subscriber pays' system has
led some to attempt
an `author pays' model for scientific journals. BioMed
Central, which
was established in 2001, has now over 100 journals in
biology and
medicine. [Public Library of Science] PLoS Biology,
launched in October
2003, has the ambition of joining the front ranks of
journals; PLoS Medicine is to be launched soon.
Prominent public and
private research sponsors such as the Wellcome Trust
in the U.K., the
Max Planck Society in Germany, and the Centre National
de la Recherche
Scientifique (CNRS) in France, have announced their
support for such a
system of open access. But `author pays' publishing
currently accounts
for merely five per cent of the total journal market.
The Commons' S & T
Committee recommended that another alternative needs
to be explored and
supported - storing published work electronically in
archives. Just a month before the Committee published
its report,
Elsevier announced that scientists publishing in its
journals would be
allowed to post the final text of their articles on a
personal or
institutional website. Over 80 per cent of the journal
publishers allow
such archiving. The House Appropriations Committee
suggested that copies
of articles published from research supported by the
National Institutes
of Health be deposited within six months of
publication in PubMed
Central, a free digital archive of life science
The Commons' Committee recommended that "all U.K.
higher education
institutions establish institutional repositories on
which their
published output can be stored and from which it can
be read, free of
charge, online"; and that "Research Councils and other
funders mandate their funded researchers to deposit a
copy of all of
their articles in this way." It is an idea that India
- where research
is overwhelmingly supported by the Government - must
adopt with
conviction and enthusiasm. The software for such
archiving is available
free of cost and has been used to establish an e-print
archive at the
Indian Institute of Science. Not only must more such
repositories be established; scientists need to take
the lead in
ensuring that their papers are suitably archived.

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