Thursday, November 26, 2009

Open Access: Who pays? How much?

Last month the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) launched a new guide called Who pays for Open Access? The guide, says SPARC, is intended to provide, "an overview of income models currently in use to support open-access journals, including a description of each model along with examples of journals currently employing it."

The guide is a useful and informative document penned by the well-regarded publishing consultant Raym Crow. On reading it, however, I found myself wondering whether it might not signal a change in SPARC's mission, or at least its priorities — one of several issues I raised with SPARC Executive Director Heather Joseph.

While Joseph emphatically denies that the mission of SPARC has changed, she concedes that the guide could give the impression that it no longer expects Open Access (OA) to reduce the costs of scholarly publishing. Since SPARC was created to try and resolve the so-called serials crisis, this is perhaps unfortunate.

Joseph's answers to my questions also left me wondering about the likely outcome of the transition to OA, and whether the OA movement is in danger of losing sight of the need not only to solve the access problem, but to also resolve the financial conundrum at the heart of the current crisis in scholarly communication: That is, how does one create a cost-effective system for disseminating research in a networked world. The promise of the OA movement was that it would lower the costs of scholarly communication. But will it?


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