I was reading a publication posted in UNESCO’s new Open Access portal (GOAP), specifically and article focused on the Spring Hybrid publishing model (the pay to publish model). It is an emerging model which is seen as a way to sustain the publishing enterprise and its costs (review, copyediting, archival, etc.). As I mentioned in an earlier post, this seems to be impractical until academia is able, willing or interested in adjusting its financing structures to support it (grant money, university funds, etc.).
At the same time, a strange question came to mind, consdering the possibility that OA-hybrind becomes an important publishing scheme: will the cost of publishing in open access hybrid models (pay to publish) lead authors to being more selective (and less repetitive) about what they publish?
We are accustomed, in our training as doctoral students to think about ‘how many articles’ we can squeeze out of work we develop, like a dissertation. It is afterall the currency of academia, we are taught. Articles have a particular style: introduction, previous work, literature review, etc. which leave a relatively small amount of space and stylistic freedom to present the study itself. It is not surprising that academics often publish and present work from the same ‘data base’, but ‘slice’ the data to present in different articles. Sometimes the articles themselves could easily be combined into one piece.
Now, if academics have to use their hard-earned research money, or appeal to a university fund to pay publishers such as Spring or PLoS anywhere from US$1000-3000 to publish their work, will it change their expectation of what a peer-reviewed, journal article should be like? Will it reduce the amount of publishing we are able and willing to extract from our work? Will that in turn (eventually) lead to different expectations in regards to promotion, tenure, and evaluation of academics? Will senior researchers, who often control resources, invest in junior researchers’ outputs?
One could argue that this move can lead to more complete, thorough and detailed articles that will in turn lead to more citations, recognition and such. But (at least from where I stand in Brazil) prolificacy is still the/a very important criteria for academic recognition.
This is not a one way road – changing the rules and options does just open doors, it might lead to changing paths and closing others. There is growing consensus on the need to openly publish publicly funded research, but much needs to be sorted out as to how peer-reviewed publishing is going to sustain itself. It is important to think beyond the financial implications and examine how providing ‘choices’ such as pay-to-publish can be a tricky business. Having to choose between publishing many closed (“free”) articles versus fewer open (“payed for”) articles is a strange conundrum.