Physics World: The CERN Gold OA initiative

From: Paul Ayris <p.ayris_at_UCL.AC.UK>
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2007 06:45:56 +0000


As Director of Library Services in a research-led University in the
United Kingdom, may I offer an observation from the perspective of an
active academic library? I agree with David that the move to gold OA will
depend on the subject area under discussion. In particle physics, I take
the point that the majority of research publications are concentrated in
a discrete number of journals. In this context, it seems to me that a
move to turning library journal subscriptions into payments to an OA
consortium for journal publishing is a model worth considering. However,
I agree with Stevan that this is probably not a scaleable model, but I
suggest that at this time it is worth trying in discrete subject areas.

As a University Librarian, my concerns are these: once commercial journal
subscriptions are turned into a consortial payments for OA publishing, I
would have no more money to give to the consortium should its costs
increase. So the consortium will have to manage its costs with great care
in order for libraries to support them. Otherwise, libraries are no
better off than they were in the commercial subscription environment,
when we could be presented with large increases in costs with no
concomitant ability to meet these costs.

My second concern over the Cern experiment is this. I am still unclear
what the responsibility is for libraries to meet publishing costs in the
new Cern model (turning journal subscriptions into a payment to the new
consortium to support OA journal publishing) and the responsibilities of
funding bodies to support new models. Until subscription journals turn
onto OA journals, libraries will STILL have to pay the subscription costs
for these journals. It is the transition period which concerns me.
Surely, funding bodies should be asked to fund the transition. Then, when
libraries can safely convert journal subscription costs into a consortium
payment for gold OA publishing, libraries can make the requisite changes.
It is the researcher that libraries must support. And, until the model
has flipped from publishing in subscription journal to gold OA journals,
libraries will have to work in a hybrid environment where both models

Libraries need to support their academic researchers and to be champions
of change. They do the former very well. They can also do the latter, but
I suggest only when the model has changed. In the transitional phase,
there are two sets of costs: commercial subscriptions and separate OA
payments. What I am suggesting is that it is only through partnership
with funding bodies that libraries can help move from a commercial
subscription model to an innovative OA publishing model envisaged by
Cern. We are not there yet, but we could be if the partnership works.

Best wishes,

Paul Ayris
Director of UCL Library Services and UCL Copyright Officer
UCL (University College London)

At 17:09 08/03/2007, David Prosser wrote:

I agree with most of what you^ve written, especially about the urgency
of mandates. Where I still disagree is with the idea that we are losing
focus by also exploring gold models. In the field that CERN covers they
have 100% (or almost) open access. I think they should be free to now
look at ways in which they can fund gold OA. I do not believe that they
are beholden to promote green OA in other subject areas (over and above
what they are already doing, which is significant). Also, their model
predicts that a funded gold OA model in particle physics will be cheaper
than the current subscription model. (See
) So, for an investment now (the ^double payment^) a transition could
free-up funds for research.

You make the point that this model will probably not scale to all
journals. That^s true, but it doesn^t have to ^ all it has to do is
work for this community. The Science/Nature model (large number of
personal subscribers and significant advertising revenue in addition to
institutional subscribers) doesn^t scale to all journals either, but it
is a valid business model. Again, it is not the responsibility of
particle physics to develop a model for all journals.

So, should CERN being doing more to promote green OA in other subjects ^
I don^t think that we should expect them to do more that they already
do. Is the CERN gold experiment damaging to research? Well, it might
free-up funds and so benefit research. Does the CERN experiment delay
the day that we get 100% OA? I really don^t think so, although we may
disagree on that!

Best wishes


David C Prosser PhD
SPARC Europe

Tel: +44 (0) 1865 277 614
Mobile: +44 (0) 7974 673 888

Received on Fri Mar 09 2007 - 12:08:36 GMT

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