Jun 21, 2002 06:58 PDT
[This article is from _The Australian_ for May 29. Colin Steele forwarded
it to Stevan Harnad, who posted it to his AmSci (September98) list. The
newspaper's version is no longer free online; this portion is from
Factiva. I don't have the author's name. Stevan discusses the article in
a posting here,
The Australian (c) 2002 Nationwide News Proprietary Ltd
Serial Killers --Faced with rising costs for journals, some universities
are encouraging academics to publish in electronic repositories
'It does take a long time to break the academic culture' Colin Steele
Director of scholarly information strategies, ANU Thus the incentive to
publish electronically - either bypassing the commercial publishing houses
entirely or by preceding hard-copy publication - is being spurred at least
as much by spiralling costs as by any altruistic desire to provide
widespread and free access to intellectual thought and scientific endeavour.
Colin Steele, formerly chief of the Australian National University library,
is passionate about the possibilities that a university-based approach to
electronic publishing affords. His new job at ANU is director of scholarly
information strategies, and he is a pioneer of the eprint strategy.
In September last year ANU launched the first academic electronic archive
in Australia. It encourages authors to store their books, monographs and
conference papers as well as journal-style articles on its server, which
can be located on the internet by search engines using powerful metadata
Queensland and Melbourne universities have followed ANU in using this
approach and before long the remaining Go8 members are expected to join them.
But the service is still in its early days and at the ANU, take-up has been
patchy, with many disciplines still not represented. Steele puts this down
to uncertainty and inexperience on the part of some in the academy.
"It does take a long time to break the academic culture," he says. "They
take a while to be convinced - Am I going to lose my copyright? What does
it mean if I put it in the subject repository, do I have to put it in the
institution? It will take about a year for us to get there."
In some disciplines, where the process is more familiar because of its
success overseas, notably physics, chemistry, economics and commerce, there
has been a more enthusiastic response.
In the ANU system copyright is held by the author unless it is assigned to
a future publisher, and all types of material, refereed and unrefereed, is
accepted. This institution repository model is the kind being advocated by
one of the great champions of academic epublishing, Stephen Harnad of
Southampton University in the UK, but there are many others.
Vice-chancellor of the University of Western Australia Deryck Schreuder has
identified three further broad strategies.
The first is encouraging learned societies to create new, affordable
high-quality journals. The North American Scholarly Publishing and Academic
Resource Coalition, better known by its acronym SPARC, is a leader in this
Epublisher BioMed Central took a different approach. It charges the author
or the author's institution for publication and makes the work available
free to readers.
In a recent paper, Schreuder asserts that it will be social factors, not
technology, that determine the success of these initiatives.
These include: "the determination of individual academics, the support and
encouragement of individual universities as they change their internal
recognition and reward structures; the role of educational administrators,
as they promote more flexible forms of recognising high-quality research
... and, perhaps above all, of the learned societies that embody and
promote the collective will and values of their research communities".
Whatever path is chosen it is clear that academics will no longer have
unlimited access to hard-copy journals unless they wait to receive them via
inter-library loans or document delivery services.
As Steele sees it, the strength of the big publishing houses will not be
eroded easily, but institution-based respositories offer a strong alternative.
"In five years' time there will probably be a small group of publishers who
will charge very high prices for the top rank of scientific knowledge - the
Elseviers of the world," he says.
"Then, hopefully, there will be 80 per cent of scientific and social
science material that will be available through eprint repositories where
peer reviewing has been retained."
This two-tier system would have decided advantages: it would be cheaper and
would greatly increase the available material and the number of readers who
have access to it.
"The universities will be the winners because their research will be
largely their own."
Another initiative that has been widely publicised is the Public Library of
Science, set up to encourage publishers to allow work in their journals to
be made freely available six months or so after publication. But its
success has been limited. The US Chronicle of Higher Education reported
recently that the group's proposed boycott of unco-operative journals has
run into trouble and the group is now also considering publishing its own.