Open Access: ‘A few countries are outstanding, including India’

Published in The Hindu on October 25, 2012

Open access will soon get a big boost as the entire field of high-energy physics will make a switch to open access. As a result, about 7,000 particle-physics papers, accounting for 90 per cent of high-energy physics papers published in subscription journals, will soon become freely accessible to anyone from any part of the world. Unlike subscription-based journals, researchers are required to pay a fee to open-access journals to have their papers published.

Salvatore Mele, who has co-ordinated the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (SCOAP3) initiative from CERN, clarified in an email to R. Prasad the basis on which countries will contribute to the project.

How do journals accept papers that are already in the public domain, in this case, arXiv?

Journals in HEP do not have apparent issues with the fact that articles appeared in arXiv. This is not considered as “prior publication” of the kind which will prevent a journal to process a manuscript

What is the funding mechanism?

The share of SCOAP3 to be contributed by each country comes from the volume of HEP they publish. Within a country this share is put together by varying mixes of libraries, library consortia and funding agencies.

How much does each library/institution contribute to SCOAP3? Is it based on the number of researchers from that institute or the number of papers published by that particular institute?

This is derived from country-specific arrangements. In several countries this is roughly measured as the amount the said library would have paid in subscription to those journals.

Will all libraries (most of which have not contributed financially towards OA) still have to pay the same subscription fee for the journal? Is it subsidised only to those that have contributed?

SCOAP3 Partners (which are those contributing financially to the operation) will enjoy guaranteed reductions in their subscription fees, as these journals, effectively, will not any longer be sold (in the case of those journals which will be fully converted to OA). Such reductions will be stipulated in the MoU among partners and reflected in the contracts between CERN and the publishers.

How much does India have to contribute towards the 10 million euro fund per year?

Please refer this site for the projected contribution from India. [India accounts for 2.7 per cent of HEP papers published. United States tops the list with 24.3 per cent]

For the time being, SCOAP3 is still working to forge a partnership with Indian institutions which, even if they collectively account for 2.7 per cent of the HEP publication being considered, are still not represented in the consortium. This weakens the breadth of the SCOAP3 initiative and risks to prevent it from starting.

What about the U.S. and China?

Please refer to the link given above. In the U.S., individual institutions and library consortia, as well as libraries from the Department of Energy are among the potential SCOAP3 partners. In China, the Chinese Academy of Science is a leading partner in SCOAP3.

Do all countries involved in HEP contribute to the SCOAP fund? Does India enjoy any subsidy at all?

So far, just a few countries are outstanding, including India. The success of SCOAP3 does depend on a wide participation and support from all countries. There are no clear “support schemes” at the moment for large countries which, after all, are both affording journals today and are affording research in this field. At the same time, an allowance has been built in the SCOAP3 contributions of every country to account for those who are not in a position to contribute at this moment in time.

Has the switch to open access become possible as high-energy physics has some unique features — scientists come together and work closely?

This is not entirely correct, as the theoretical high-energy physics community is widely spread.

Can it ever be replicated in other fields, where such collaboration does not exist and the number of speciality journals is more?

My personal belief is that once this is demonstrated to work, some variation will spontaneously emerge in other fields.

How did the manifesto of the CERN Convention talk about OA as early as 1953?

  The convention stipulated that (II.1) “[…] the results of its experimental and theoretical work shall be published or otherwise made generally available”. Congruent with its mission of “[…] sponsoring of international co-operation in nuclear research, including co-operation outside the Laboratories [which] may include in particular […] the dissemination of information”, CERN is now facilitating the implementation of open access in HEP.

What is the 2007 pledge taken by four experimental groups (ATLAS, CMS, ALICE and LHCb) about making experimental results available freely?

I guess you are referring to the fact that the LHC experiments privilege publication in OA journals. CERN supports this commitment through several agreements with publishers, while waiting for SCOAP3 to become operative.