Finland takes steps in the openness of academic journal pricing

(The title is a riff on my 2016 post announcing the efforts of Finnish open science activists to obtain pricing information through the courts.)

Edit 1: I gave a comment for a Times Higher Education article on Elsevier's negotiations.

Edit 2: on Feb 2, 2018, FinELib released more details, including the level of total price increases and the full text of the agreement (apart from some important financial details). While completely open agreements are possible and arguably should had been part of the negotiations from the start, I do concede that FinELib has made a significant effort to increase transparency – thank you.

Although I have not lived in Finland since 2013, I've kept in touch with the open science community there as well as with current open access discussions. On January 17, I got a rather unpleasant birthday present in the form of an announced three-year, 27 M€ deal between FinELib, a consortium of Finnish research institutions, and Elsevier, perhaps the most egregious of the big publishers. The deal was reached after two years of hard negotiations, supported by almost 3000 Finnish researchers who had committed in the #nodealnoreview boycott to refuse reviewing for Elsevier if the negotiations fail.

The glowing press release, seemingly written purely by Elsevier, compounded with an almost complete lack of details, left an immediate bad taste in my mouth. My opinion did not much improve through discussions in the Finnish Open Science Facebook group, and with journalist Richard Poynder whom I urged to try and get more details. He just published his Q&A with FinELib, which I warmly recommend you read. I have two principal concerns with the deal: the lack of transparency over the actual terms, and the hybrid OA discount option — especially as it was immediately implemented at the University of Helsinki.

Firstly, FinELib told me on Twitter that the deal does not include an NDA, and they have publicly committed to LIBER's principles of transparency. Regardless of this, and despite calls from people who had joined the boycott (I find this tweet by Panu Halme particularly poignant: "[...] For example I gave up an editor position to help you and now I have no idea was it worth anything"), they have not released any detail. Both in Richard's Q&A and on Twitter, they ignore explicit questions by reiterating the same basic facts. This is obfuscation, pure and simple, and particularly hypocritical in light of their stated commitment.

That brings us to the second problem: the hybrid OA discount. As part of the negotiations, Elsevier agreed to provide a 50% discount on ACPs for participating institutions to many Elsevier titles (though not all, and apparently not including flagships such as Cell), mainly for hybrid OA. Immediately after this, the largest Finnish institution, the University of Helsinki, announced a policy that they would cover the remaining 50% of the fees, effectively making publishing hybrid OA with Elsevier "free" for its researchers.

It is really hard to see a scenario where the University of Helsinki ends up paying less to Elsevier, which would be the whole point of an offsetting agreement. Further, this is exactly the opposite to what would be needed to introduce real price sensitivity to the market, and against the stated position of both the Academy of Finland AND the University of Helsinki itself! The latter contradiction is particularly glaring in their library's Finnish-language blog post defending the policy while reiterating that they do not support hybrid. They also claim that paying the fees centrally was the only way to gather data on uptake for future negotiations, but obviously they could had simply asked Elsevier to provide this for all affiliated authors as part of the deal.

Some of the people behind the boycott have been more positive about the deal than me, and I appreciate their position. However, as I have no real ties to Finland I can perhaps be a bit less politic about this and emphatically state: unless FinELib releases the full details of the deal voluntarily, they have truly let down the Finnish research community.

Finland takes leading role in the openness of academic journal pricing

Freedom of Information request by open science advocates has revealed academic journal pricing through an administrative court decision. Finland is the first country where the subscription prices paid by practically all universities and research institutions to individual publishers are made available. This strengthens the position of universities in the 2016 contract negotiations, made ever more timely by the recent deep funding cuts. Comparisons between publishers and countries also supports the ongoing discussion of alternative publishing models and directing funding towards open access (OA) publishing.

The costs of academic journals have risen precipitously, but the lack of detailed pricing information has made the overall situation difficult to perceive. There are significant price differences between publishers, universities and countries. While dominant publishing houses have reported profit margins of tens of percent and the industry is ever more concentrated, university libraries including Harvard have reached a fiscally unsustainable situation. This has in part contributed to the ongoing breakthrough of open access.

In the spring of 2014, the conclusion that contract prices should be public also in Finland was reached in a discussion group of the Open Knowledge Finland (OKF) association. In the summer, researcher and open science advocate Leo Lahti made a Freedom of Information request to Aalto and other Finnish universities on behalf of the OKF. The universities themselves would stand to benefit from the openness, making negotiations more transparent and potentially resulting in cost savings.

None of the universities supplied the requested information. The fear of publisher legal action may have prevented them from following their own principles of openness, because for example Aalto refused to even provide an appealable decision, denied having acted as a public institution covered by the openness laws, and finally tried to transfer its responsibility to the National Library. Open science advocates brought the matter to the Helsinki administrative court, which predictably confirmed that the prices of subscription contracts are public information. Similar demands for openness had been made previously; national and university-level figures are available for some countries, but detailed publisher-specific information has only been made public in the UK and the USA. In the end, the Open Science and Research Initiative (ATT) of the Ministry of Education and Culture took responsibility for gathering the Finnish pricing data.

After this two-year process Finland is now amongst the first countries where publisher- specific prices have been made public in detail over several years. The material includes the costs of 266 publisher titles for all universities and dozens of other institutions, the total sum of which in 2010-2015 was 131.1 million euros. A more detailed analysis can be found in a separate post. Special thanks are due to the Finnish open science community, whose initiative and perseverance was required to fulfill the spirit of the openness laws.

Links:

Elsevier, academia.edu, and Berlin OA meeting

News from the open access front, Mike Taylor amongst others have drawn attention to Elsevier being busy shooting itself in the foot by issuing thousands of takedown notices to authors that had deposited manuscripts to the social network site Academia.edu. Of dubious practical value, the move has again drawn negative attention on the company, leading to renewed interest in joining the ongoing boycott.

Stephen Curry comments on this in a recent blog post, but also does an excellent job of summarizing the recent Berlin Open Access meeting, where many of the key players presented the current situation. I won't try to summarize the same information here – just go and read his blog.

Peter Suber's Open Access

Peter Suber's 2012 book "Open Access" is now – appropriately enough – openly available from the publisher, as announced by Peter on Google+:

I'm happy to announce that my book on OA (Open Access, MIT Press, 2012) is now OA. The book came out in mid-June last year, and the OA editions came out one year later, right on schedule. My thanks to MIT Press.

As it says on the tin: essential reading.

Science Europe's open access statement

The Science Europe foundation is an association of European research organisations whose objective is to strengthen collaboration between national research organisations throughout Europe. The most important Finnish research funder, Academy of Finland which currently only "recommends" open access, is a member. I recently personally heard from the Academy director Heikki Mannila that the they will closely follow the Science Europe's decisions in future Academy policy-making.

Thus the recently announced "Science Europe Position Statement: Principles on the Transition to Open Access to Research Publications (April 2013)" is especially important for Finnish researchers. To quote from the document:

The benefits of Open Access are clear; furthermore, the technology available allows for a decisive move towards making Open Access a reality. The ultimate goal is to move to a new and sustainable system of scholarly communication of Open Access that guarantees the highest quality of publications and maximises the impact of research results. Science Europe Member Organisations acknowledge that the transition towards such a system presents challenges and that a common understanding of these challenges, and a collective approach to tackle them, is the most efficient way forward to accomplish the transition.

Open access advocate Ross Mounce warmly welcomed the statement on the The Open Knowledge Foundation blog, highlighting it's rejection of hybrid open access - a counterpoint to some arguments that have been put forward. It will be very interesting to see if the Academy will interpret the position as a nudge towards implementing an actual mandate for Academy-funded research.


A few further bits and pieces:

  • I only just now ran into Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, which is a web-based journal that is covering open access developments in great detail. The latest issue includes recent arguments for and against CC-BY licensing, a very nuanced discussion on various facets of the green vs. gold debate, and several items on article processing charges, repositories, the latest policy developments, etc, giving a very frank evaluation of the positions of various open access advocates.
  • Ars Technica published a rundown of the latest open access news.
  • A recent Scientific American blog post argues that Elite journals are going to hell in a handbasket since their proportion of the most highly cited articles is diminishing. Although the data is certainly interesting (and, coincidentally, showing that the plethora of Nature-branded journals is working well for NPG), I'm not quite convinced this is a huge trend at least yet.
  • Finally, as interviewed for Deutche Welle, the editor-in-chief of Nature Medicine raises the doubt that scientists are less inclined to do tough experiments for open access journals. Although some such effect might be real (scientists being human and swayed also by non-scientific motivations as is well known), it's a bit doubtful whether this distinction has anything to do with open access per se. Furthermore, new mechanisms such as open peer review would likely have a big impact in this.

Update on open access in Finland

I've been recently involved in a few initiatives related to open access in Finland and our university, Aalto.

First, there is an initiative to build a common Aalto Current Research Information System (ACRIS), where all Aalto researchers will input their published research. The system will directly feed into Aaltodoc, our university's publication archive. I was graciously given a chance for offering input to working groups for both projects, and in general the planned systems sound very sensible to me. However, the self-archiving workflow isn't as streamlined as it should be before the ACRIS system is adopted in 2015, and in the meanwhile, it is expected that significant self-archiving will start taking place in 2014 due to funder mandates.  As we recently wrote with my colleague Jani Kotakoski recently in Signum, the University of Helsinki open access mandate has not worked as well as it should had, and the technically overly complicated self-archiving process is surely partly to blame. Hopefully some of the suggestions that I made (such as metadata autofilling by doi) can be implemented before the system comes to widespread use, and Aalto will have better levels of compliance (and awareness).

I've also heard that our university is finalizing a draft of it's upcoming open access policy – I've been trying to get involved with the process, but so far the people making the decisions have decreed that the policy preparation should be done behind closed doors. I'm a bit peeved with this, and it certainly doesn't help with the criticism that Aalto administration is too closed to grass-roots participation. As we also wrote in Signum, Aalto stands in a very good position to learn from the experiences of others. Furthermore, the timing is very opportune since the international political situation has really started to take shape in the past year. I'm personally strongly in favor of Aalto further adopting a strict mandate for open access self-archiving of all Aalto-funded research, and believe I have the arguments to back why this would beneficial for the University. Let's hope they will open the process for comment in the draft stage.

Second, on March 19, there was the second meeting of the Tutkimuksen Tietoaineistot (TTA) -project looking at issues of open and linked data, metadata formats, long term data preservation etc. The second meeting was a bit technical for me, but it was good to hear what is being done on this front. Finally, the founding of an Open Science Finland working group was announced under the auspices of the Open Knowledge Finland association. There will be a joint meeting with the Finnish Open Access working group (FinnOA) on April 17, which I am going to attend.

Third, Bo-Christer Björk published an article on the rise of open access in the Finnish-language Tieteessä Tapahtuu magazine (loose translatable as "Happening in Science"). The article is a recap of the results of the peer-reviewed article Björk and his colleagues published in BMC Medicine last year, which made big impact when it came out (see e.g. the Guardian story I've linked to before). Nice to see more articles in Finnish on the topic that seems to be very much on the table nationally at the moment.

I'll keep following the situation and will be sure to keep the blog updated on new developments.

There are also a couple of interesting links that I'd like to add here.

Michael Eisen, one of the more radical open access advocates, gives an overview of The Past, Present and Future of Scholarly Publishing on his blog. Randal Olson draws attention to a potentially ugly side of the open science movement, and Heather Morrison decries Elsevier's licensing policies.

A couple of interesting podcasts recently came out. First, we have a pair of publishers justifying the costs incurred in publishing scientific research on The Chronicle of Higher Education. Then, we have an interview with Ross Mounce for the Journal of Ecology podcast. I had the pleasure of meeting Ross, who is a Panton Fellow at the Open Knowledge Foundation, at the OKFest in Helsinki. He's very active in advocating open data and open access, and I warmly recommend subscribing to his blog at http://rossmounce.co.uk.

Finally, the Nature Publishing Group announced the upcoming launch of a data journalScientific Data. While on the face of it the initiative is laudable and in line with open science ideals, some of its specifics (e.g. the article fees and licensing terms) have already generated a lot of critical discussion on the Open Science mailing list.

It will be interesting to see how the debate develops when we move closer to the launch.

Nature's special issue on the future of publishing

Nature Magazine's latest issue is a special on the future of publishing. There's a ton of great content, starting with the introduction and the Editorial:

New technologies allow a much greater and faster transition to a digital future, and this week’s special issue reveals that scientists are finding a multitude of ways to publish and access their research results. As this journal has noted before, the future of research literature will ideally be an amalgam of papers, data and software that interlinks with tools for analysis, annotation, visualization and citation. The need for common standards is as great as ever.

But it is demand, not supply, that will shape how scientists and publishers grasp these opportunities. For instance, a key reason that online open-access journals are now accepted as a mainstream (if still minority) method of publishing research is because of the mandates steadily introduced since 2001 by institutions and by research funders.

The issue features a story on the rise of predatory publishing, a truly outrageous case of using journal identity theft to scam authors, on the changing roles of libraries and open data, on licensing issues (paywalled, alas), on the future of scholarly communication (see also this comment), and many more.

However, my favorite article by far is Richard Van Noorden's meticulously researched look at the true cost of science publishing. His article covers almost all the important emerging data on the many aspects of the issue, and addresses most of the recent debates surrounding the cost of article processing fees, true publication costs, the debate on the added value of traditional publishers, and licensing issues. Richard was also a guest on the latest Nature podcast.

I'll highlight a few of the passages that most caught my eye, but I really recommend reading the whole thing. On the current debate:

The variance in prices is leading everyone involved to question the academic publishing establishment as never before. For researchers and funders, the issue is how much of their scant resources need to be spent on publishing, and what form that publishing will take. For publishers, it is whether their current business models are sustainable — and whether highly selective, expensive journals can survive and prosper in an open-access world.

On the current wide variety in the cost of publishing:

Data from the consulting firm Outsell in Burlingame, California, suggest that the science-publishing industry generated $9.4 billion in revenue in 2011 and published around 1.8 million English-language articles — an average revenue per article of roughly $5,000. Analysts estimate profit margins at 20–30% for the industry, so the average cost to the publisher of producing an article is likely to be around $3,500–4,000.... Outsell estimates that the average per-article charge for open-access publishers in 2011 was $660. ... But Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature, estimates his journal's internal costs at £20,000–30,000 ($30,000–40,000) per paper.

On publisher profits:

Elsevier's reported margins are 37%, but financial analysts estimate them at 40–50% for the STM publishing division before tax. (Nature says that it will not disclose information on margins.) Profits can be made on the open-access side too: Hindawi made 50% profit on the articles it published last year, says Peters.... Commercial publishers are widely acknowledged to make larger profits than organizations run by academic institutions. A 2008 study by London-based Cambridge Economic Policy Associates estimated margins at 20% for society publishers, 25% for university publishers and 35% for commercial publishers.

On added value:

The key question is whether the extra effort adds useful value, says Timothy Gowers, a mathematician at the University of Cambridge, UK, who last year led a revolt against Elsevier. Would scientists' appreciation for subscription journals hold up if costs were paid for by the authors, rather than spread among subscribers? “If you see it from the perspective of the publisher, you may feel quite hurt,” says Gowers. “You may feel that a lot of work you put in is not really appreciated by scientists. The real question is whether that work is needed, and that's much less obvious.” ... A more-expensive, more-selective journal should, in principle, generate greater prestige and impact. Yet in the open-access world, the higher-charging journals don't reliably command the greatest citation-based influence, argues Jevin West, a biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. Earlier this year, West released a free tool that researchers can use to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of open-access journals (see Nature http://doi.org/kwh; 2013).

On the path forward:

More than 60% of journals already allow authors to self-archive content that has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication, says Stevan Harnad, a veteran open-access campaigner and cognitive scientist at the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada. Most of the others ask authors to wait for a time (say, a year), before they archive their papers. However, the vast majority of authors don't self-archive their manuscripts unless prompted by university or funder mandates.

As I said, really excellent reporting, and is one of those things that goes a long way to justify for me the current cost structure of the Nature Publishing Group. Go read it all.

New models for academic publishing

New models for academic publishing
New models for academic publishing

Academic publishing is changing fast. In this post, I'll describe not only the exciting recent policy developments, but also several new models for the publication of scientific research.

Undoubtedly open access in set to truly break through this year, mainly thanks to strong funder mandates (e.g. RCUK and Horizon 2020). The debate has started to shift to the relative merits of author-pays-gold (or rather, funder-pays; see below) and institutional-repositories-green models. (Please see Peter Suber's widely accepted definitions for the terminology). Richard Poynder continues his important coverage of the developments, describing in detail the controversy over the UK's gold-first policy in the international context:

As the Committee began to explore the complaints it had received, a key issue emerged: Was RCUK’s policy in line with what the rest of the world was doing with OA, or was the country taking a risky gamble in the hope of acquiring a leadership role in the development of OA?

[...]

At a stroke, the risk the RCUK policy could pose for the UK begins to look much greater. If the rest of the world follows the US lead, rather than the lead of RCUK, the UK will likely discover that the extra transition costs it anticipates (paying both APCs and subscription) could continue indefinitely.

The "US lead" refers to the just introduced US bill dubbed FASTR, which would require free public access to all federally funded (published) research after a 6 month embargo period (green self-archiving), and also includes a lauded new open data component. Although such legislation has been introduced before, the current political climate is looking more amenable this time around. As the White House was still obligated to respond to a petition that gathered 65000 signatures demanding such a mandate, there were realistic hopes for a strong response from the Obama administration.

Thus, although not completely unexpected, The White House's response to the petitioners last Friday was well received indeed:

The logic behind enhanced public access is plain. We know that scientific research supported by the Federal Government spurs scientific breakthroughs and economic advances when research results are made available to innovators. Policies that mobilize these intellectual assets for re-use through broader access can accelerate scientific breakthroughs, increase innovation, and promote economic growth. That’s why the Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that the results of federally-funded scientific research are made available to and useful for the public, industry, and the scientific community.

Moreover, this research was funded by taxpayer dollars. Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support.

The way the US government will ensure this is by an overarching mandate that any agency receiving more than $100M yearly in Federal funding for research or development must ensure that their research is openly available after a guideline 12 month embargo period (green self-archiving). A full memorandum of the decision is available on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy's website. See also reporting by Nature News (also this) and Ars Technica, and the response from the National Science Foundation. Such a strong green mandate from the US leaves the UK policy looking rather lonely in the international context. Nature's recent editorial – perhaps unsurprisingly, since Nature has a vested interest in gold – expressed some disappointment:

But in 2013, it looks as if a combination of financial constraints and a lack of firm resolve at the top of the US government is blocking movement towards the policy that ultimately benefits science the most: ‘gold’ open access, in which the published article is immediately freely available, paid for by a processing charge rather than by readers’ subscriptions.

[...]

As for Nature, we view the US position as a signal that in the longer term, for highly selective journals, fully funded gold open access is a scientific necessity.

However, Peter Suber, one of the leaders of the open access movement, warmly welcomed the decision in an statement on Google+ soon after the announcement. He highlighted the similarities and differences between the White House memo and the FASTR legislation, making the case that both are necessary. For a more in-depth analysis, see his latest SPARC newsletter, where Suber compellingly argues that the directive should be viewed as a step forward despite the 12 month embargo:

Some friends of OA have criticized the White House policy for allowing excessive embargoes. I join the criticism but praise the policy. We must distinguish a backward step from a forward step that could have been larger. The White House directive is a forward step that could have been larger. Whatever the reasons were for not taking a larger step forwards, there's no sense at all in which it's a step backwards.

However, as continuing resistance from incumbent publishers remains strong, so does the rhetoric of open access advocates not content even with the recent progress, and more wrangling over the exact course of the change looks unavoidable.

Whatever happens with legislation, it is clear we are at a tipping point, with some estimates finding as much as 17% of literature published in 2011 openly available from publishers (however, see the discussion on the Guardian report of the study). With such a major shift in the centuries-old publishing industry in full swing, lean newcomers are seeking to challenge the incumbents, while the old giants are scrambling to reinvent themselves (at least on paper). New ideas and models are cropping up at an increasing pace, and several interesting novel ways of organizing the publication of scientific research have started to emerge.

One of the more disruptive new initiatives is the recently launched PLoS One –like journal PeerJ, which is trying to change the old adage "publish or perish" to "publish until you perish". PeerJ offers very affordable lifetime memberships that allow the members to publish either one, two or unlimited papers per year for a single, one-time flat fee. Additionally, PeerJ will use article-level metrics (as does PloS One) and (opt-in) open peer review. The launch has garnered some very positive reactions, although questions about the sustainability of the funding model seem to remain. An important issue is the quality of the peer review, and PeerJ's approach of having members review one article per year is clever (and already in use elsewhere). It is also worth mentioning that a few companies are trying to decouple peer review from journals altogether.

Another interesting development is the concept of arXiv overlay journals:

What is an arXiv overlay journal? It is just like an electronic journal, except that instead of a website with lots of carefully formatted articles, all you get is a list of links to preprints on the arXiv. The idea is that the parts of the publication process that academics do voluntarily — editing and refereeing — are just as they are for traditional journals, and we do without the parts that cost money, such as copy-editing and typesetting.

The Episciences Project is trying to set up a platform to make it very straightforward to set up such arXiv overlay journals. For the moment this activity seems to be concentrated on mathematicians, including Elsevier boycotter Timothy Gowers. Although open access advocate Steve Harnad has questioned the need to give this approach a new name, that seems to be a rather secondary concern considering the real change this approach would represent.

As mentioned in the Guardian story, the article processing fees (APCs) of many commercial publishers are rather high (and the degree of openness this buys varies greatly). This offers a clear opportunity for newcomers to establish themselves. Three more traditional type new open access journals taking advantage of this are eLife, which sets to compete with Science and Nature and is able to waive it's APCs at least for time being due to society support; the aggressively priced The Forum of Mathematics, which some of the people behind the Elsevier boycott are backing; the PLoS-like Open Library of Humanities; and a series of IZA's economics journals.

Consolidation of publishers is still ongoing, the latest news being that the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) has bought a majority share in the Swiss-based community-driven open access publisher Frontiers (read the announcement, Nature News Blog). This marks a big step up in the volume of open access articles NPG publishes; all NPG journals published 2000 open access articles in 2012, while Frontiers had doubled it's article count to 5000 to become the world's fifth largest open access publisher. Frontiers had also experimented with open peer review and other community features, which NPG is very interested in.

I've also personally had a good publishing experience with the Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology, which is also able to waive APCs due to society support, at least for the time being. Although commercial publishers understandably have a great interest in defending their high APCs, emerging data doesn't seem to show a strong correlation between high price and article-level citation impact. This is an indicator that will be very interesting to follow as the citations stack up.

A related debate is the claim that gold open access is a burden on the authors themselves due to APCs. Peter Suber of the Harvard open access initiative debunked this claim thoroughly on Google+, while providing interesting data on where the costs actually fall. Commenters chimed in with important further details, such as the distribution of open access journals that do not and those that do charge APCs by scientific discipline. Many publishers (including the Forum of Mathematics) also have fee waivers for non-affiliated or non-supported authors.

Finally, there has been lively recent discussion on the best licensing terms for open access publications. Traditionally, open access activists (and indeed most journals) have favored the most liberal Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license, which basically allows any sort of reuse with the proper citation. Some journals have opted for the CC-BY-NC license, which prohibits commercial reuse, but this can be problematic for several reasons. However, others argue that the choice of license is not always completely unproblematic.

To conclude, it looks clear that the year 2013 will be as interesting for open access as 2012. Since these issues are currently very much on the table in Finland as well as internationally, I'll be sure to keep updated on any interesting new developments.

In the meantime, if you can read Finnish, check out the magazine articles we have written on the topic with my colleague Jani Kotakoski, especially the latest one that just came out in the magazine of the Finnish Research Library Association, Signum. We are also looking for new publication venues to keep following the situation in Finnish, so any tips on that front are most welcome. Please also see the slides (embedded below) of a recent talk I gave on the positive effects open access and social media could have on research impact.

My thanks to Ross Mounce and Jani Kotakoski for commenting on a draft of this post.

[slideshare id=15932694&doc=openaccessandsocialmedia-130110080010-phpapp02]

The Episciences Project

An interesting new journal platform concept called the Episciences Project was recently unveiled by Timothy Gowers on his blog and subsequently reported on Nature News:

Many mathematicians — and researchers in other fields — claim that they already do most of the work involved in publishing their research. At no cost, they type up and format their own papers, post them to online servers, join journal editorial boards and review the work of their peers. By creating journals that publish links to peer-reviewed work on servers such as arXiv, Demailly says, the community could run its own publishing system. The extra expense involved would be the cost of maintaining websites and computer equipment, he says.

An interesting idea, although I do think the proofreading, unified formatting and copyediting services – at least for the better journals – are not superfluous, overly expensive as they might be. Just think about the legibility of some articles I'm sure many of us have reviewed. A middle way sounds more appealing to me, but of course it's better the more things are tried.

On a related note, Mike Taylor at the Guardian recently wrote a rather strong blog post on the immorality of publishing behind a paywall that is worth a read.