Omega Alpha | Open Access

Advocate for open access academic publishing in religion and theology

Richard Poynder interviews PLoS’s co-founder and open access advocate Michael Eisen

Earlier this week Richard Poynder posted an interview with Public Library of Science’s (PLoS) co-founder and open access advocate Michael Eisen. Eisen was one of the original signatories to the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative statement. Over the last twelve years, PLoS (founded in 2000) has transformed from an open access advocacy site to a successful open access life sciences publisher.

Michael Eisen recently wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times (January 10, 2012) vigorously opposing proposed House legislation known as the Research Works Act (H.R. 3699), which has generated significant backlash against commercial academic publishers that supported the legislation, and has spawned alternative proposed legislation in the Senate. (See also my “Not entirely off-topic: The Research Works Act”.)

Poynder is himself a strong open access advocate, but he didn’t give Eisen a free pass. In particular, Poynder was pretty hard on Eisen and PLoS for failing (as yet) to significantly bring down the cost of scholarly journal publishing. Lower cost is supposed to be one of the principal benefits of open access.

A common approach for covering the costs of open access publication is to charge authors/sponsors an article processing fee in lieu of reader subscriptions. But these fees can be quite high, and one wonders about the sustainability of this approach (even though institutional sponsors or grant funders often foot the bill). In response, Eisen insists that marginal costs will be reduced as the technological infrastructure is more fully implemented and as authors submit articles in publishing-ready formats. He did seem to admit that we’re not there yet.

The scale of scientific journal publishing—even open access scientific journal publishing—is dizzying for scholars in Religion and Theology. Nevertheless, this is an interesting and informative read that ranges over other open access topics such as the potential for an enlarged role for article self-archiving (so-called “Green OA” vs. journal-based “Gold OA”), and alternative models for peer-review.

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