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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 11:18 GMT
Critics attack net journal initiative
Microscope, BBC
Campaigners want free access to research results
test hello test
By Ivan Noble
BBC News Online
Critics of a project to set up alternative open-access scientific journals on the internet say the idea is ill-conceived and will undermine quality.

Most journals don't make money

Sally Morris, Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
Financier George Soros announced in February that he was giving a $3m grant to the Budapest Open Access Initiative to set up open-archiving systems.

But, says Sally Morris, of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, open-access initiatives will undermine existing journals without replacing them.

"People value peer review and they value research being gathered together in things called journals," she told BBC News Online.

'Somebody has to pay'

"But open archiving means you don't have to go to the journal and we believe it could very rapidly undermine the journals without putting anything in their place," she said.

George Soros, BBC
Mr Soros' donation is arousing controversy
"The problem is that things happen in the loop and somebody has to pay for them," she added.

Ms Morris says she is concerned that open-access online-archives of the kind backed by George Soros will give free access to scientific research which, in effect, has been subject to the quality control process of a paid-for journal.

Her concerns are echoed by Albert Henderson, former editor of Publishing Research Quarterly.

'Errors, propaganda, mysticism'

"It is a sad day when a well intentioned philanthropist like George Soros is duped into foolishly spending millions undermining libraries, librarians, authors and referees," Mr Henderson said.

"Undoubtedly his goal was the opposite - to help students and researchers obtain the information they need.

"Those who don't drown in the flood may choke first on errors, propaganda, mysticism, and other garbage inserted into 'archives' presumed to have the same quality as refereed science journals," he added.

Supporters of open archiving say it will help free scientific research from restrictions on access placed by scientific publishers.

People costs

These publishers do not pay the scientists who contribute their articles, but do charge readers.

Ms Morris says that charges are needed to cover costs.

"The greatest cost is working out that a journal is needed in a particular field, then setting it up. Most journals don't make money for four to five years," she said.

"Most of the costs are people costs. Even if reviews are done for free, reviewers look and make suggestions and someone has to carry all that through with the author," she added.

See also:

14 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
Boost for research paper access
01 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Scientists call for online library
26 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Scientists threaten journal protest
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