Archive for EarthArxiv

How do we make accessible research papers a reality?

Posted in Open Access with tags , , , , on March 21, 2023 by telescoper

I wanted to advertise an event – an accessibility forum – organized by arXiv that looks interesting to anyone interested in open access publishing understood in the widest possible sense. It’s advertised as a practical forum, free for all:

Hosted by arXiv, this half-day online forum will center the experiences of academic researchers with disabilities who face barriers to accessing and reading papers. The forum will be useful for people across the academic authoring and publishing ecosystem who are committed to making accessible research papers a reality. Together, we can chart a path towards fully accessible research papers, and leave with practical next steps for our own organizations.

It’s on April 17th, from 1pm to 5pm Eastern Time (USA), which is 6pm to 10pm Dublin Time. You can find more details including information on how to register, here.

We usually focus on open access publishing in terms of the costs involved, but there is much more we can do in other respects to make scientific research as accessible as possible to as wide a community as possible. Having said that, this announcement did inspire me to go off

When I saw the word “ecosystem” in the description above, it reminded me of a brief discussion I had recently with a colleague who asked what I hoped to achieve with the Open Journal of Astrophysics (other than “world domination”). My answer was that I just wanted to show that there is a practical way to bypass the enormous expense of the traditional journal industry. Instead of just sitting around complaining about the state of things I wanted to demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be the way it is. The way the number of submissions to OJAp is increasing, it seems more and more people are becoming convinced.

It seems to me that the switch from subscription charges to the dreaded Article Processing Charge has help generate momentum in this direction, by making it even more explicit that the current arrangements are unsustainable. Previously the profits of the big publishers were hidden in library budgets. Now they are hitting researchers and their grants directly, as authors now have to pay, and people who previously hadn’t thought much about the absurdity of it all are now realizing what a racket academic publishing really is.

Increasing numbers of researchers think that the current ecosystem is doomed. I am convinced that it will die a natural death soon enough. But a question I am often asked is what will replace it? I think the answer to that is very clear: a worldwide network of institutional and/or subject-based repositories that share research literature freely for the common good. Universities and research centres should simply bypass the grotesque parasite that is the publishing industry. Indeed, I would be in favour of hastening the demise of the Academic Journal Racket by having institutions make it a disciplinary offence for any researcher to pay an APC.

We’re lucky in physics and astronomy because arXiv has already done the hard work for us. Indeed, it is now a fact universally acknowledged that every research paper worth reading in these disciplines can be found on arXiv. Old-style journals are no longer necessary. It is great that arXiv is being joined by similar ventures in other fields, such as BiorXiv and EarthArxiv. I’m sure many more will follow. What is needed is a global effort to link these repositories to each other and to peer review mechanisms. One way is through overlays as demonstrated by the Open Journal of Astrophysics, there being no reason why the idea can’t be extended beyond arXiv. Other routes are possible, of course, and I would love to see different models developed. I think the next few years are going to be very exciting.