16 February 2015

The Journal of Funding Agency

An argument in scientific publishing is, “Who pays?” For many journals run by traditional, for-profit publishers, usually the library pays. For many open access online journals, the author pays.

Scientists don’t want to pay out of pocket. This is a legitimate concern, because the article processing charges can be thousands of dollars (though not all are). Many have argued that funding agencies should ultimately be the ones who pay, because they are sponsoring the research, and they have a vested interest in seeing the research published as widely as possible.

Many agencies have taken up this cause, and have polices that require open access publication.

Still... this seems a long and needlessly complicated path for the money to take. Researchers have to write grants, budget for an unknown number of papers, which then have to go to the journal.

Why don’t funding agencies start their own open access journals?

The rule would be simple: If you have research supported by the funding agency, it’s free to publish open access in that agency’s journal.

If your research is supported by other agencies, you’d pay an article fee.

I wonder if funding agencies might actually save money by having their own publishing arms. They wouldn’t have to worry about the budgeting for the publication fees. It would simplify both the writing and review of grant proposals.

Most funding agencies already have the infrastructure to publish stuff. After all, they publish reports and calls for proposal and so on all the time. They have connections to peer reviewers, because they use them to review grant proposals.

Some government agencies have had their own journals for a long time. Canada’s NRC Research Press is one example. I don’t know those journals payment system, although I think most are using the “library pays” subscription model. It might have the potential to be “house publisher” for scientists with Canadian federal funding.

HHMI, The Wellcome Trust, and the Max Planck Institute got into the publishing end of things with eLife. But they are just “supporting” the journal, rather than it being in house. There may be advantages to this, mainly editorial independence.

Update, 23 March 2017: The Gates Foundation is taking up this idea. They are creating something called Gates Open Research. The news article is interesting because it variously called this a publishing “venture” and “platform” rather than a journal.

External links

Gates Foundation announces open-access publishing venture

Photo by Steven Depolo on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.


Stuart Buck said...

Check out the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which has an interesting history: http://www.cancer.gov/aboutnci/overview/jnci

Jim Till said...

From the "About the Press" section of the website of NRC Research Press: "In September 2010, the [NRC Research] Press transitioned out of the National Research Council of Canada into an independent not-for-profit organization operating under the name Canadian Science Publishing." So, NRC Research Press is no longer a publisher of journals for a government agency.