What was new? The Research Council UK (RCUK) in july announced a switch-over to open access publishing (see below): authors who want to be eligible for a grant will have to endorse it from October 1, 2005. The RCUK called for responses from the industry through August. Other grant institutions, like the Wellcome Trust, have also adopted the open access publishing model.
What is new? The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), a non-profit (!) organisation representing publishers of 8,000 journals, opposes the RCUK plan. It fears 'open access' will lead to dramatically lower journal sales, for both commercial and not-for-profit publishers. Also, quality could suffer because peer reviewing may come under pressure. Reed Elsevier joined the ALPSP, according to the Financial Times (subscription). However, a group of seven scientists, among whom Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the world wide web), disagrees with the ALPSP; open access would induce more citations and increased journal sales, they say.
How is this relevant? If the RCUK pushes ahead, which I expect it will, publishers like Elsevier Science have two options: continue the way they do and hope things will blow over, or (partially) adopt open access publishing themselves (like Springer and Blackwell). I believe open archiving poses an equal threat, because of the advent of Google Scholar (which still needs a lot of work). As soon as the majority of grant giving societies adopt open access publishing, scientists will be forced away from prestigious journals like the ones Elsevier Science owns. As of October 1 open access will get a boost from both the RCUK and the Wellcome Trust.
What is open access publishing? Proponents say that scientific research deserves open access (free through the web) because it is funded by government dollars, pounds and euros. Also, widespread citations and the very advancement of science would benefit from open access. Libraries no longer have to pay, but authors (or sponsors) are asked to pay a fee per article. The scientists retain copyright (unlike how it is in traditional publishing). Open archiving is related: the author places his article (usually a not-final version) on a website (repository). The site is either his own, his university’s or it belongs to the sponsor or an open access publisher like BioMed Central. Growth of open access and open archiving threaten traditional publishers because they could be either substituted (if they fail to act) or they will see their margins plummet (if they adopt the new model themselves, partially or wholly).