Monday Musings—Putting it All Out There: The Open Access Debate
An article in yesterday's New York Times, "Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too)" details the shady practices of some journal publishers taking advantage of the new open access model. The article shines a light on a complicated facet of publishing's evolution touching on new revenue models, the democratization of knowledge and making a priority of maintaining standards versus avoiding elitism. (Our magazines have previously reported on so-called "predatory journals" and Jeffrey Beall's crusade against them.)
The article inspires contempt at those who would take advantage of legitimate scientists and set academic discourse back by publishing shoddy research in copycat journals. It also inspired immediate rebuttals from those who either believe traditional academic publishing is too biased or elitist (e.g. editorial boards ignore new voices), or want to stress the many advantages of the open-access model (essentially, a "few bad apples" defense).
My initial thought on reading the piece was that some sort of accreditation process could go a long way toward pushing bad actors to the margins. Standards would have to set out minimum requirements for papers and journals and journals would be monitored for exploitative practices. While not a perfect solution, this would help all stakeholders know where they stand. If a publisher doesn't agree with the standards, they don't have to publish under the seal.
- James Sturdivant