April 18, 2008

Getting on board for SCOAP3

What is SCOAP3, you ask? One of the most interesting Open Access projects out there these days and perhaps one pathway into the future of scholarly publishing.

To quote myself:

And look at what's happening in the High Energy Physics field with the SCOAP3 project! Imagine a world where libraries could band together to pay publishers to make their journals all Open Access. It's almost a utopian dream.

Ah yes, a utopian dream. So, here's the story in a nutshell: The HEP field is fairly small, with only a handful of core journals (at both commercial and society publishers) and another handful of journals that publish some HEP content. There's already a great tradition of open access using, for example, the arXiv repository. But, the journals in the field and still valued for their peer review/gatekeeping function. But how to get all the peer reviewed content freely available to everyone?

The SCOAP3 idea is for all the libraries and institutions that subscribe to the journals to band together and form their own consortium. That way, all the money can be collected and negotiations can be started with publishers for the best price. Aha! Here's the trick. Instead of all those subscribers paying their money for exclusive access to the publisher's content, they would use that money to pay for open access for everyone to the content. Basically, all the same funders pay more-or-less the same money to the same publishers but instead of for their own good, it's for the common good.

Now, there's a lot more to the details of this and the best source is the SCOAP3 website itself.

Some more info from other sources:

CERN is one the driving forces behind SCOAP3 and in general they've had really good success in Europe. They're also beginning to make real headway among US libraries. Check out who's involved.

For whatever reason, Canada isn't on board yet. I don't know why. If you're reading this and you're a Canadian science (esp. physics) librarian, bring it up to your administration or to your consortium. Talk about it, explain why it's so important to look to the future of scholarly publishing, to look beyond locking us in to the whims of the commercial publishers. At the Open Access session hosted here at York this past Wednesday, one of the speakers bought up SCOAP3 and wondered aloud why Canada wasn't involved. I wished I had an answer for him.


ChristyC said...

What a great experiment. But at the UC Berkeley meeting, there were two main concerns:

1. Assuming that worldwide we're able to gather the $15 million (USD) needed for the consortium, what's to stop everyone else from canceling subs to the core journals? It's not clear that this consortium is all that the core journals need to survive. It could be, but no one has said this.

2. Institutions would essentially be subsidizing the tenure process. We are already of course, but I suppose SCOAP3 makes it more obvious. I think that idea is misplaced, since we don't have OA archiving figured out. We may as well say we're subsidizing an archive.

Despite these concerns, SCOAP3 is exactly what OA has needed: a scholar led effort with no page charges!

John Dupuis said...

Thanks for the report, Christy.

One of my worries about SCOAP3 has always been about the potential "tragedy of the commons" aspects. It's great to dream utopian, but if libraries start to think about a very narrow definition of their own self-interest, it is certainly possible that the whole thing could fall apart.