January open access highlights: Do authors have a responsibility to make their research open?


An interesting debate arose last month regarding the role of the author in open access publishing. Mike Taylor, a research associate at the University of Bristol, wrote an item in The Guardian arguing that publishing your research behind a paywall is immoral. “If you are a scientist,” he said, “your job is to bring new knowledge into the world. And if you bring new knowledge into the world, it’s immoral to hide it”.

In response, Chris Chambers, a senior research fellow at Cardiff University countered that those who publish research behind paywalls are victims not perpetrators. It’s easy to say that researchers should publish in open access journals, but Chambers asks, “do scientists who follow accepted publishing practices deserve to be labelled immoral”? The real problem is the way in which authors are judged by their research output, with the perceived “impact” and “prestige” of the journals they publish in being used as a measure of quality.

But this is an argument that is starting to carry less weight. Many research funders now discourage the use of metrics such as the Impact Factor in assessing research, instead focusing on the merit of the work itself. This, coupled with the fact that many open access journals are becoming just as highly regarded in their field as their traditional counterparts, should remove many of the barriers that researchers see in submitting to an open access journal.

Below is a roundup of some of our other open access highlights from January:

NIH takes the next step towards compliance
Since 2008, the NIH have mandated that the outputs from research it funds are made freely available, yet the rule only has a 75% compliance rate. Now the NIH have said that will enforce the policy by withholding grant money from those who fail to abide by it.

Lords science committee launch open access inquiry
In the UK, The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee began to hear evidence in a short inquiry into the Government’s open access policy. The committee will consider the findings of the Finch Report, which last year recommended a move towards open access to publically funded research in the UK, and will also look at how the Government should address the concerns raised about the policy

World wide web creator sees open access future for academic publishing
Speaking at the launch of the CSIRO’s Digital Productivity and Services Flagship, Tim Berners-Lee spoke of his support for open access. Berners-Lee has been a vocal proponent for making data freely available and said that he believes “the open access activists will win out”.