Open Access for Particle Physics

Cern Particle Physics Image from Nature article

Original Article from Nature

"After six years of negotiation, the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (SCOAP3) is now close to ensuring that nearly all particle-physics articles — about 7,000 publications last year — are made immediately free on journal websites."

This is a very interesting discipline wide push towards open access. Moves towards open access have often been somewhat more fragmented - though there are certainly exceptions worth mentioning. Recently the UK developed a national strategy to support open access, while the National Institutes of Health have for some time had an OA mandate for all government funded health research. The benefit of a disciplinary approach to OA  is of course that it cuts across national boundaries. All the research in a given journal will be freely available, and not just select papers covered by a national policy. One of the major questions with all OA projects is where the money will come from to support them. In this case:

"The consortium will pay the contracts from an annual budget of €10 million, which is funded not by authors or research grants, but by pledges from more than a thousand libraries, funding agencies and research consortia across the world. In effect, existing journal subscription fees are being repurposed to provide the open-access funds."

This is also a novel approach to funding open access. Typically funding OA journals has been supported by author publication fees - though these fees are in some cases supported by libraries, institutions or grants - or even maintained by the labor of faculty and support staff. But in this case, it is the pledge of combined support from a number of institutions that will make the move towards OA possible in particle physics. However, the concern of course is that publishers not be able to double dip. As libraries we do not want to pay to make support OA journals in these fields while at the same time continuing to pay the same amount of money we always have for the packages that these journals appear in. This concern, thankfully, also seems to have been addressed.

"Before any contracts can be signed, however, publishers must reduce the price of their subscription packages to offset the income from SCOAP3 — a complex calculation to ensure that libraries don’t pay twice for the same content. Then SCOAP3 must collect its pledges — not a foregone conclusion, as some libraries may be tempted to renege, figuring that their institution won’t lose access to the free papers anyway."

It looks like this deal still hangs in the balance to some extent, and its success requires that those who have pledged to fund this move will follow through with their financial support. Given libraries long standing support of OA, one would think that there is at least some degree of hope here so long as they are assured that they aren't going to be paying twice for the same content.