Thursday, September 06, 2012

Open Access Publishing in Asia and the Pacific

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Mr Peter Booth Wiley, Chairman of the Board, John Wiley & Sons, is speaking on "Open-access and scholarly publishing in the 21st century". This is to mark the launch of the new open access publication "Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies" by Wiley and the ANU, during the conference "Positioning policy research in Asia and the Pacific Asia and the Pacific Policy Society's Inaugural Conference".

Mr Wiley provided a definition of open access, as befits a scholarly talk. He challenged Stewart Brand (publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog and merry prankster) assertion that information wants to be free. He emphasized that no research written work is "free", in that someone has to pay for it to be researched. Where this research is undertaken at public expense, there is the impetus for this work to be made available to the public.

Mr Wiley described his role as an author, researcher and publisher, concerned the stewardship of the information needing to be maintained. He is concerned that ill-considered approaches to open access may be harmful to the public. He gave the example of a doctor or engineer reviewing research literature and the danger of that information being incorrect. However, I would differ with Mr Wiley on this point as first of all, it is not clear if publishers make scholarly information more accurate and even volunteer written material, such as Wikipedia has been shown to be more accurate than commercially published material (such as commercial encyclopedias).

Mr Wiley raised the issue of the cost of content for libraries. He also mentioned Open Education Resources (OER), which is the educational equivalent of open access publishing. Also he mentioned Open Access Certification (OAC) of professional skills, a term I was not previously familiar with.

Mr Wiley then criticized PDF as a publishing format, singling out the US Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) for criticism for publishing in this format. He did acknowledge the great efforts made to get documents from paper to the on-line world, but went on to describe the dynamic content now possible.

While I agree PDF is limited, the difficulties of standardized dynamic content are large. Before PDF and HTML, publishers produced e-books in proprietary formats which depended on specific versions of operating systems. These e-book became unreadable within a few years of publication. Current experiments with e-books run the same risk. Also the dynamic content can cost an order of magnitude more to create than a conventional text based book. Mr Wiley described the production of dynamic e-books as being like making a film. This is a good analogy, with film making being much more expensive than typesetting a book. In addition readers still need a conventional linear, static, book-like path through the dynamic work, as a default option.

Mr Wiley said that the "gold road" would change the funding model from the library paying the publisher to the author paying the publisher (with research article publishing cost being covered by research grants). A green road would have the government mandating that government funded research resultants be published open access (I signed a submission to the Australian Research Council, to this effect). A hybrid model would combine elements of the gold and green models. An approach which Mr Wiley did not mention, was advertising supported publishing.

Mr Wiley asked how to manage commercialization in an open access environment. He cautioned that Australia might provide publican openly and China would not reciprocate. This did not seem to me to be a risk, as there would be sufficient befits to Australia for open access, even without reciprocation.

What Mr Wiley did not address in his speech is what commercial publishers offer to on-line scholarly publishing. Academics write the papers and now typeset them themselves. Other academics review the papers and then approve their publication using free open source software. University librarians handle the dissemination of the papers. It is not clear what commercial publishers offer in this process.
Public Lecture

Title: Open-access and scholarly publishing in the 21st century

Speakers: Mr Peter Booth Wiley, Chairman of the Board, John Wiley & Sons

Date: 6/9/12

Time: 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Description: Peter Booth Wiley is the Chairman of the Board of John Wiley & Sons, a global publishing house founded in 1807. A member of Wiley’s Board of Directors for 28 years and Chairman for 10, he represents the sixth generation of his family to participate in the leadership of the company. During his time as Chairman, Wiley & Sons has moved content online, in interactive and user-friendly applications.

A former journalist and newspaper columnist, Wiley is the author of five books including a history of libraries and the San Francisco Public Library and was the senior editor and lead writer of Knowledge for Generations: John Wiley & Sons and the Global Publishing Industry, 1807-2007.

Wiley is a member of the Board of Directors of the University of California Press, the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, and of the Library Advisory Council of California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo. Wiley writes and speaks frequently about the history of publishing, the writing experience, and the transformation of publishing as a global undertaking in a digital environment.

Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, the flagship journal of the Crawford School of Public Policy, will be published online three times a year by Wiley Blackwell, with all contribution made freely available from Wiley Online Library.

This lecture is presented by the Asia and the Pacific Policy Society at the Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU.


Tom Worthington said...

In talking to Mr Peter Booth Wiley, Chairman of the Board, John Wiley & Sons, after his talk "Open-access and scholarly publishing", I found that the did not say "Open Access Certification", as I had thought, but referred more generally to certification by professional bodies.

Leigh Blackall said...

Thanks for your notes Tom.

There's a difference between information "wanting" to be free, and information "being" free. One talks about a gravitational-like propensity, which I think has shown to be a reasonable idea, the other is the end point of that propensity. Sounds to me that Wiley, as has almost the entire publishing industry, from arts and entertainment, to journalism and journals, continue to miss the difference.

And I can't believe he played the China card! Really? Did anyone cry out "yellow peril" or "reds under the bed"?