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Open Access Publishing

  1. Feb 24, 2015 #1
    Hi there,

    I'm trying to dip my feet into the worlds of publishing in physics (quantum theory/mathematical physics) and I would like to make sure that it's available for anyone who wants to read it.

    I know one of the paths many researchers take is that they send their article to a big journal in their field and then they publish "preprints" of this article e.g. on the arXiv.

    But what about the other route? Why not publish it openly in the first place?

    I understand the point of the peer review process, but it appears to be far from ideal. Personally I have read articles in respected journals that were bogus and I've also read brilliant articles published purely on arXiv - and of course also the other way around. I mean, isn't it the researchers work to assess the quality of an article? Does this process not endanger the freedom of science?
    Wouldn't it make more sense to review and endorse good articles by reading and then citing them?

    Could it hurt my career if I published only, for example, on arXiv?

    What are other common ways/platforms for physicists to publish open access without supporting the waste of public money to overpriced journals?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2015 #2


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    Peer review is far from perfect, but it is the best we have right now. It reminds me of Churchill's "Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

    But you can't. Reviewing an article takes time, and often requires going back in the literature to clarify some things. I can't do that with every article I read. This is especially true if the article is not in my specialty: I need to be sure it has been vetted out.

    I don't see how. In science, the truth somehow always comes out on top. If someone's ideas are correct, they'll find a way to get them published.

    What about feedback? If you miss the mark on something, turning what would have been a good article into a so-so article, are you stuck then? Even novelists get edited: you need someone to go through your work and criticize it before publication.

    As a professional scientist? I don't know anyone who can make a career without publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

    That's begging the question. The peer review process, publishing, and archival process is very expensive. That are plenty of journals run by non-profit organizations (APS, IOP, etc.), without any money going to commercial publishers.
  4. Feb 24, 2015 #3


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    People need to beware that there are a lot of open access "journals" with minimal or no peer-review standards that apparently exist mainly to collect publishing fees from authors, or serve as an outlet for university faculty in countries where they are mainly evaluated on the sheer number of papers that they publish, without regard to quality.

    Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too) (NY Times)
  5. Feb 24, 2015 #4
    Well, the reason why I am asking these questions is that it appears like if I choose a certain way of publishing, I am casting a vote for this way of publishing. I appreciate any input, especially from people who have already walked this path.

    I don't know, I grew up with the internet and this has made me deeply accustomed to bogus :biggrin:. You can never be really sure that whatever you're reading is bullet-proof (unless you invest a lot of time to check it), especially if you're not accustomed to the field.

    Clearly, fully checking an article takes a lot of time, but on the other hand, as long as one is within one's own field, there's certain things one can look out for to rate the quality of the paper like the degree of mathematical rigor, obvious mistakes, misconceptions, the language and the care taken in making statements (wrong use of terminology, oversimplification, ...). Some of these things one can notice while flying over the article, things that don't take much time to check. This makes it possible to weed out the worst. I'm sure you do this yourself.

    I used to browse internet forums when getting into a new hobby and as you can imagine there's all kinds of nonsense to be found there as well as really good, new information one doesn't find in books. Sometimes people would then post review and collection threads and this way it was possible to keep a certain overview and consensus on what works and what doesn't.

    Why shouldn't it be possible for science to work like that? Doesn't it already work like that in some way?

    It really appears to me that the ability to separate good content from bad content is vital for a researcher.

    Nonetheless, if one is not accustomed to a field, it is very difficult to figure out the credibility of the statements made, I totally agree, and the argument from authority, is then one of the few recourses available.

    I agree with that, but that doesn't need to happen on the publisher level, where it could act as a censor. If a researcher publishes a nonsense article with his or her name on it then this hurts him or her reputation as well. So there's a natural incentive to publish high quality papers and ask other people for advice.

    So you suggest publishing there? What about uploading preprints? Aren't there any peer-reviewed open-access journals, where the entire process is government funded?
  6. Feb 24, 2015 #5


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    Many people do publish openly and I think that this is quickly becoming more and more accepted. In fact, a number of grants are now making it a requirement (or at least encouraging) that all work published from the grant be made publically available. That makes a lot of sense, particularly when the grants are publically funded.

    I think a lot of people get nervous when money gets involved though. Because it takes money to make something open access it's not too difficult to jump into a model where the funding for the journal comes from authors willing to pay to have their work published.

    Personally I think a lot of physics journals are reasonably immune from this though. Bogus results are relatively easy to spot or at least will not be repeatable if they are wrong.

    But what about fields like medicine where (i) the success or failure of a drug trail can translate into hundred of millions of dollars and (ii) the variables of the experiment are not as easy to control? In situations like this, its not hard to see how bogus results could easily make their way into the literature and avoid detection for a long time.
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