What we at SV-POW! are doing for Open Access Week

October 26, 2012

If you’ve been following Twitter or the blogs, you’ll know that this has been Open Access Week. It’s been great to see many new open-access policies announced this week [IrelandBelgiumHungary], to read important explanations of why fully open (CC BY) OA is the way to go, and to see discussions from people like clinicians and librarians. It all contributes to the glorious sense that the transition to OA is beyond the tipping point.

Here’s what we at SV-POW! have been doing for Open Access Week:

Nothing at all.

We’re just carrying on, doing what we do — which is writing and reviewing papers for open-access journals, and of course writing an open-access science blog and writing about open-access issues. Because while open-access week is an excellent focal period, we believe in an open-access life, not just a week.

I’m actually not sure if I’ve ever stated this explicitly, but as of a couple of years back I am not submitting anything to non-open journals any more. Matt has made the same decision for himself.

Now we do understand that not everyone has the luxury of being so black-and-white about it — that most people, if they had a finding sexy enough to make it into Nature or Science would try that route. We do understand that papers in those venues can be career changers, and that lots of our readers are under heavy pressure to make the attempt. That’s all cool. But what I am sensing from more and more people is that they are shifting towards at least a strong preference for open-access venues — that they will prefer an open journal over an equally prestigious paywalled one, or even a rather more prestigious one. From some people, I pick up the idea that they’ve more or less promised themselves “all OA except Nature and Science“. It’s great to see that movement.

Come to think of it, nearly every time I read a comment on the necessity of publishing in non-open venues for career reasons, it’s those same two journals that come up. Trends in Ecology & Evolution has a much higher impact factor than PLOS ONE, but I don’t hear people saying “I have to publish in TREE for my career”. My sense is that Nature and Science are a special case — that people feel a publication there is somehow qualitatively different from one elsewhere. Is that an accurate reflection?

If it does, then maybe an “all OA except Nature and Science” pledge would be a good one for some people. (Not everyone: I know for example that there are also people who want to publish in JVP to support the society.)

Update (later the same day)

Richard Butler points out (see comments below) that the the career argument goes much further down the pecking order. It seems that naming Nature and Science in such arguments is just a rhetorical convention, and my suggested “all OA except those two” policy is a non-starter for career scientists. Shame.

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10 Responses to “What we at SV-POW! are doing for Open Access Week”

  1. Andrea Cau Says:

    There’s also a third kind of people, those with almost 0% probability of having an academic career, so with nothing to loose, that tries to submit to journals as “high” as possible just for personal vanity.

  2. Richard Butler Says:

    There is a “second rank” of journals than are generally non-open (Proceedings B, PNAS, TREE, Evolution, Biological Reviews, Nature Communications), although most have open access options. Although you can get a permanent research-orientated job in palaeontology without a paper in Nature or Science, it is unfortunately still true that without one or more papers in this “second rank” of journals you are really going to struggle (at least in Europe). So, although open access is desirable, your pledge is not really good advice for those starting their careers right now.

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    Right, Richard. So you’re saying that although the “but I need non-open publications for my career” argument is nearly always framed in terms of Nature and Science, it actually extends much lower down the pecking order. That’s a shame.

    I will say that my impression of both Proc. B and Biology Letters is that quite a large proportion of their content — and least in palaeo papers — does seem to be be OA. In fact they are the only two hybrid journals I can think of off the top of my head where the opt-in OA programme is more than a fig leaf.

  4. Richard Butler Says:

    Yes, the career argument goes much further down the pecking order. Nature and Science papers make careers, but realistically it is also a complete lottery getting into those journals, no matter how good your research. Having papers in the likes of Proc. B and PNAS makes a huge difference to the chances that a student/postdoc will get onto shortlists for positions, whether those be postdoctoral/fellowship positions or permanent jobs.

    I like Proc. B and Biology Letters because their papers are freely available after 12 months. Their Gold OA fee is relatively high (I’ve never been able to pay it), but my impression is that they quite often make palaeontological papers OA free for a week or two following publication.

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Richard. I added and update to this effect, so as not to mislead anyone who skips the comments.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Hey, speaking of open access, have any of you guys seen this?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/grrlscientist/2012/oct/26/2?newsfeed=true

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Yep, saw it. It makes some interesting points, but also embodies some misconceptions. Happily, Stephen Curry is ably addressing these in the comments. I may chip in, but only with the odd comment.


  8. Regarding how far down this goes: quartile! Must publish in the top 25% to make Leibniz Gemeinschaft happy, for example.

    http://www.nature.com/spoton/2012/10/when-your-opinions-conflict-your-employers-position-on-open-access/

  9. Rhonda Gilbreath Says:

    Very interesting points and views. I beleive there are many misconceptions in this area as well. Knowing that you must publish in the twenty five percent to make the Leibniz Gemeinschaft happy, makes you say hmmm..


  10. […] In the end I suppose open-access week doesn’t hit my buttons too strongly because I am trying to lead a whole open-access life. […]


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