The Society for Imprecise Probabilities:
Theories and Applications

SIPTA & Open Access

Posted on May 17, 2013 by Erik Quaeghebeur
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Dear colleagues,

On Wednesday 15 May, I participated in the meeting ‘Open access versus Commercial Publishing’ organized by the maths and computer science section of the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences. The speakers consisted of two clear proponents of Open Access, an Elsevier Senior VP presenting her Company’s efforts in the Open Access area, and somebody giving a more descriptive overview of the issues at hand. I found the meeting very interesting and I think the topic is relevant to all researchers. I also feel that SIPTA, as a learned society, and its members, as authors, reviewers, and editors, have a role to play. The basic issue is that the big publishers, such as Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley, seem to offer a bad deal to researchers and the society at large, which funds the researchers: Journal subscription costs are too high for libraries to pay and are often offered in bundles including many unwanted journals. This results in people not having straightforward access to papers relevant to their research. The posting of papers on personal websites does not provide a structural solution to this problem and is sometimes even prohibited. The academic world is slow to form a coherent response. Some funding agencies and institutes have started to require that the publications of the researchers they finance or employ be made available under some open access model. But currently the libraries are still struggling. Publishers seem to adapt their business model only at a glacial pace. Grassroots initiatives, usually started because of outrage over publisher behavior, have managed to generate enough pressure to effect more rapid, but still quite limited changes. So pressuring publishers does help, and this is where I think we as a community and individuals can make a difference:

While I think commercial publishers will continue to have an important role to play, I also think structurally different alternatives would provide for some healthy competition. For example, SIPTA as a Society could consider creating an arXiv overlay journal. I hope I have given you some food for thought and look forward to discussing this issue with you during ISIPTA ‘13, so I hope to see you there!

Erik Quaeghebeur