Two articles in the 29th May/5th June issues of THE of OA interest

From: Andrew A. Adams <a.a.adams_at_READING.AC.UK>
Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2008 01:13:04 +0100

In the 29th May and 5th June 2008 issues of the Times Higher Education
magazine there are two articles of interest to OA advocates. One is a report
on the costs of peer review to universities. This is of minor interest,
however, as no one in OA is expecting peer reviewers to start being paid for,
just the cost of administering peer review.

This article can be found at:

The second is much more worrying (and indeed annoying). It is an utterly
flawed attack on Open Access by Prof Philip Altbach (professor of higher
education and director of the Center for International Higher Education at
Boston College). In it he trots out the tired old canard that there is no
quality control on the internet and that Open Access must mean the demise of
peer review and the scholarly journal as a concept (utter balderdash as we
all know). Altbach's article can be found here:

Here is the letter I've sent to the THE decrying Altbach's deeply flawed

Philip Altbach ("Hidden cost of open access") displays a startling lack of
understanding of what Open Access means. Open Access absolutely does not mean
abandoning peer review and simply putting all academic work on the web
without context, review or quality control. Open Access is simply making peer
reviewed material officially published (in the academic sense) by journals,
currently only available behind toll barriers (for print and/or electronic
copies), freely available online. The simplest route to universal open access
(by all researchers to all peer reviewed papers) is for authors to
self-archive their peer-reviewed and published papers in an institutional
repository. In order to achieve this quickly funders and universities require
(mandate) academics to do this (in a sensible extension of the "publish or
perish" approach to requiring the results of academic work to be given the
greatest possible dissemination). No Open Access advocate suggests that
self-publication of a paper without peer review constitutes "academic
publication" in the traditional sense. Journal titles and standards are
expected to be maintained (as has happened in High Energy Physics and
Astronomy which have had near 100% Open Access for over a decade). Papers
deposited in an institutional archive include details of the journal in which
it was published, and skeptical readers can check that the paper they have
downloaded has matching meta-data with the publisher's meta-data (already
generally freely available online). It would be a serious (and easily
spotted) academic fraud to deposit a paper in a repository with a claim to
peer reviewed publication when it did not have that status. If, and it is a
big if given the experience in Physics and Astronomy where mass print journal
subscription cancellations have not happened, print subscriptions were
cancelled in sufficient quantity to undermine the cost recovery model of
administering peer review (note the other article in the same issues of the
THE pointing out that the reviews themselves are carried out for free by
academics themselves and it is only the administration costs that need
paying) then the cost savings provided by these print subscription
cancellations will more than cover the costs of administering peer review.
These cost shifts would happen because it is not in the interests of academia
to allow high quality journals to close down. Altbach's flawed argument in
opposition to Open Access is a disgrace to his position as a professor of
higher education.

Dr Andrew A Adams, School of Systems Engineering
The University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6AY, UK
Received on Thu Jun 05 2008 - 02:39:26 BST

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