Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Vitek Tracz interview re-published with update

The interview I published on Open & Shut? in 2006 with BioMed Central (BMC) founder Vitek Tracz has been re-published in the journal Logos.

Since the Open Access (OA) environment has changed somewhat since 2006 – not least as a result of the sale of BMC to Springer in 2008 – the interview includes an update.

In that update I sketch out how I believe the OA movement has developed, and add some further commentary from Tracz.

The interview is OA. Unfortunately, while the Logos issue in which it appears was published at the end of last year, the text has been imprisoned and placed behind a paywall. As a result, readers are being asked to pay the princely sum of $35 to download it.

I am told that this is due to a technical hitch that it is hoped will be resolved soon. In the meantime, the publisher of Logos (Brill) has kindly sent me the final PDF, which can be downloaded by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.

[Update: The Logos link now works, and the interview is available on an OA-basis via Ingenta here].

Below are a few quotes from Tracz taken from the update.

  • On his motivation to embrace OA:

“I took horrendous risks, and I was not at all sure that it would ever make financial sense. It was an ethical issue, and I was intrigued by the complexities of it.”

  • On whether OA publishing will prove more or less expensive than subscription publishing:

“I always assumed that OA publishing would be cheaper, but OA publishing is more complicated than we had initially envisaged. The logistics of it all quickly becomes very complicated, so it turns out not to be much cheaper than traditional publishing. This in turn means that the mount of money publishers can make is similar.”

  • On the argument that publishers charge too much for their services, and the research community might at some point no longer be able to afford to pay the bill:

“I have never participated in the economic argument. I haven’t got the faintest idea how that works, who says it is too much, on what basis they say it, or where it will all end. But it doesn’t matter that I don’t know.”

  • On why it does not matter that he does not know:

“It’s no different to when you walk into a market to buy a picture: If the buyer is not prepared to pay the asking price then the seller has to reduce the price. The price will always find its natural level. It’s as simple as that. So in the end it will depend on what the whole system is prepared to pay.”

  • On the future of scholarly publishing:

“What will be needed is not clear to me. But what is clear is that unrestricted access to primary research in the life sciences is essential. It’s got to the point where research can’t work without it. That means we will never return to a day in which access is restricted.”

To read the interview click here.

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