APS States Position on Public Access to Scientific Journals
By Joseph Serene
APS Journals & Open Access
Of the 10 APS journals, three are classified as pure Gold Open Access – journals that are free of charge and supported either by organizational contributions or by article processing charges paid by authors or their institutions. The remaining seven journals are deemed hybrids, with the option of open access under a “CC-BY” license, the most permissive of licenses standardized by Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that facilitates the use of creative work. The “CC-BY” license enables a person to use the author’s original work as long as attribution is provided.
APS supports the public access goals of the February OSTP memorandum that requires federal agencies to outline how they will provide free access to federally funded research. APS welcomes its encouragement of public-private collaboration to avoid unnecessary government duplication of existing mechanisms. These latter goals are of particular concern for APS and other scientific societies, because any funding agency resources unnecessarily spent on implementing public access will not be available for actually carrying out research.
At the same time, APS wants to re-emphasize the crucial contributions of scientific publishers to the research enterprise, and the need for sustainable funding to support these contributions.
Peer-reviewed journals are even more essential in our Internet-enabled environment, where a vast amount of un-refereed scientific literature is freely available on the Web. The importance of peer review is enhanced by the growth of interdisciplinary research and extends not only to the scientific community, but even more so to the general public, whose members have no other basis for discriminating reliable science from bogus claims. This is most apparent for the medical literature, but other examples, such as climate change, come readily to mind.
Peer-reviewed scientific journals represent a remarkable cooperative activity of the international scientific community. In 2012, APS – a midsized publisher – evaluated approximately 35,000 submissions, with the help of 25,000 volunteer peer reviewers. But in spite of the major contributions from volunteer referees, peer-reviewed journals are still expensive to produce. For example, APS hires full-time professional editors with Ph.D.s to edit its journal manuscripts.
Journal costs are now covered, primarily, by subscriptions from libraries in universities, colleges, and research organizations. APS would be happy to have these costs covered by article processing charges, if that could be accomplished without serious damage to research funding, but that does not appear to be a possibility in the United States at present. APS urges the federal funding agencies to exercise great caution in implementing public access in ways that minimize threats to existing subscription-based business models.
APS also warns those who favor funding agency repositories as the homes of our long-term archives to consider carefully the potential implications of recent threats of politically motivated discipline- or topic-specific congressional interference with NSF funding.
The Society strongly urges federal funding agencies not to duplicate the services and systems already provided by publishers, by building and maintaining their own repositories and platforms. Instead, APS hopes to collaborate with other publishers and with funding agencies to identify and index all government-supported papers that it publishes, to host public versions of these papers on our existing platforms, to continue to provide secure archiving through independent, non-governmental organizations such as Portico, LOCKKS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) and CLOCKSS (Controlled Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe), and to facilitate search and discovery of these papers, trusting the private sector to continue to be the hotbed of innovation in information technology. APS believes public access can be done at minimal cost to the government, saving scarce funds for research support.
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