Memorandum from the Particle Physics and
Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) on the House of Commons Science
and Technology Select Committee Inquiry into scientific publications
C. What are the consequences of increasing
numbers of open-access journals, for example for the operation
of the research assessment exercise and other selection processes?
Should the Government support such a trend and, if so, how?
1. The international particle physics community
has since 1991 run an "e-print" archive service named
It is currently hosted by Cornell University in the USA with part
funding from the National Science Foundation, with mirrors around
the world. In the UK, the mirror is hosted by the Department of
Electronics and Computing Science at Southampton University, which
received start up funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee
(JISC). Running costs are estimated to be of order $100,000 per
annum, or <$5 per paper.
2. Research papers are sent to the archive
by their authors as pre-prints, ie in advance of publication.
At the same time, or shortly after, they are submitted to a journal.
Within the community, the point of publication is considered to
be the point at which the paper appears in the database rather
than its eventual appearance in a journal. That is, pre-prints
on the archive are read and cited by the community in exactly
the same way as fully published papers.
3. If, following peer review by the journal,
a paper is revised, it is up to the author to decide whether or
not to also update the archived version of the paper. The normal
situation is that authors do update archived papers and on some
occasions a series of updated versions of the same paper may reside
on the archive.
4. Once published, the journal reference
appears on the archive, so that it is clear whether the paper
is a pre-print or a post-print.
5. Copyright is transferred on publication
to the journal and some journals require there to be a notional
difference between the archived and published versions of the
paper, but there has so far been no attempt by journals to attempt
to restrict the appearance of published papers on the archive.
Increasingly, journals are requiring authors to submit papers
to them simply by emailing the relevant archive link.
6. Papers posted to the archive may attract
critical evaluation from other scientists, which could in principle
form a type of parallel peer review to that carried out by the
journals. However, this affects only a minority of papers (but
this perhaps reflects the truth that most published papers attract
very few readers) and there is no systematic way of searching
for comments made on any particular paper.
7. The archive has become the working source
of all particle physics publications. They are published to the
archive and are usually read there. The parallel process of publication
in a journal (and particle physics journals are usually read in
electronic form) provides the peer-review validation needed for
academic career progression and RAE submissions. It is conceivable
that a system of peer-review validation could be constructed around
the archive which would remove the need for formal commercial
8. The arXiv archive is available free to
authors and is free to access. It accepts input as TeX, HTML or
PDF via a web form interface. It is also indexed by citebase which
provides citation index information so readers can check which
other authors have cited a paper on the archive.
9. While initially set up by the particle
physics community, the coverage of the archive has since spread
to astronomy and more recently to applied mathematics, computer
science, condensed matter physics and quantitative biology.
(i) The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant(s)
to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of
access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and
display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative
works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject
to proper attribution of authorship, as well as the right to make
small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.
(ii) A complete version of the work and all supplemental
materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above,
in a suitable standard electronic format is deposited immediately
upon initial publication in at least one online repository that
is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government
agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable
open-access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and
long-term archiving (for the biomedical sciences, PubMed Central
is such a repository).
293 See http://arxiv.org/ Back
P. Ginsparg, invited contribution to UNESCO conference, February
2001, http://arxiv.org/blurb/pg01unesco.html Back