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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Open Access Debate Gains Momentum

    The open access debate is one of the hottest topics in academic publishing today with advocates for access scrambling for support and publishers battling for political and public opinion. Nathan Baum, the Assistant Director for Electronic Resources and Services at Stony Brook said, ‘We support the Open Access Debate. We think it’s a good idea and may help bring the costs down for Electric Journals. We support scholarly articles primarily available for readers opposed to current models for people to subscribe.’

    The dilemma is that if universities pay the salaries of researchers and provide them with labs and funding, why are these same universities forced into the situation where they do not have access to these research findings? This setback has resulted in many unsettled researchers and university administrators that are angry about the rapidly increasing journal prices as librarians are forced to decide on which journals to cut, and institutions do not have access to publications done by colleagues.

    Dr. Susan Brennan, associate professor of Cognitive Psychology at Stony Brook, agrees with this sentiment, ‘It is really aggravating when a scientific paper is unavailable when it’s in a journal that our library doesn’t carry because it’s either too expensive or too obscure’hellip;I consider it both my right and my duty to make this research available.’ I want other researchers to cite my research and build upon it.’ My research is federally funded, so I want it to be available to all.’

    The debate over open access resulted in the Federal Research Public Access Act proposed by the 110th Congress.’ This legislation would require grant recipients of federal agencies to publish their reach papers within six months of publishing elsewhere. Although academics and many legislators support open access, publishers claim that this proposal would force them into financial hardships as well as destroy the peer review system. These opponents include corporate giants, scholarly societies, some of whom depend on the revenues of journals, and university presses.

    In response to the debate over the Federal Research Public Access Act, university presses published a policy paper explaining their views last Feb. 27. In it, the paper emphasized the purpose of founding the first university press in the United States, ‘to advance knowledge’hellip;and diffuse it’hellip;far and wide.’ In addition, the university presses mentioned that they were not created with commercial goals. Some concerns they expressed in the paper include, if publishers lose revenue from the journals, their support will need to come from other sources such as libraries and foundations. The AAUP paper warned that scholars may find themselves in a worse situation if this happens. In particular, if university presses lose the substantial revenue they make from their generation in sales, about $500 million (90 percent of operating costs), these funds will have to be replaced or the presses will have to make cutbacks. In addition, requirements to provide journals online and free would compromise existing services such as Project Muse that sell packaged journals to academic institutions.

    As quoted from the ‘Inside Higher Education,’ Peter Suber, director of the Public Knowledge Open Access Project, said that the bottom line is ‘the subscription model is essentially unsustainable because the volume of published literature is growing faster than library budgets will ever grow, so we need to look for another model.’

    One way Stony Brook participates in Open Access is with the agreement SUNY made with Biomed central. Based in England, Biomed Central publishes Bio/Med journals freely available to anyone. The Model pay equals the cost of production. ‘One way libraries and institutions support Open Access is by paying author costs. We have a SUNY wide agreement with Biomed Central’hellip;the university pays a reduced rate’hellip;it’s expiring at the end of this month,’ said Baum.

    Other proponents to the Open Access Debate, question the skyrocketing increases in publishing costs. According to Brennan, ‘the authors of published articles never receive monetary compensation either, but do have to pay for things like reprints’hellip;all of the profit goes to the publishing company.’ Some of this is justified, as they pay for proofreading and copy-editing’hellip;But given the new procedures for highly efficient electronic submission, review, and distribution I would think that some of the publishing costs should actually be coming down rather than sharply rising.’

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