Six Proposals for Freeing the Refereed Literature Online: A Comparison.
Currently there are six candidate strategies for freeing the refereed research literature: (1) Authors paying journal publishers for publisher-supplied online-offprints. (2) Asking journals to give away their contents online for free and boycotting those that do not. (3) Library consortial support (e.g. SPARC) for lower-priced journals. (4) Delayed journal give-aways -- 6-to-12+ months after publication. (5) Giving up established journals and peer review altogether, in favour of self-archived preprints and post-hoc, ad-lib commentary. (6) Self-archiving all preprints and postprints. (1) - (5) all require waiting for policy changes and, even once these are available, all require a needless sacrifice on the part of authors. With (1) the sacrifice is the needless author offprint expense, with (2) it is the author's right to submit to their preferred journals, with (3) it is (as before) the author's potential impact on those potential users who cannot afford even the lowered access tolls, with (4) it is the impact of the all-important first 6-12 months after publication, and with (5) the sacrifice is the quality of the literature itself. Only (6) asks researchers for no sacrifices at all, and no waiting for any change in journal policy or price. The only delay factor has been authors' own relative sluggishness in just going ahead and doing it! Nevertheless, (6) is well ahead of the other 5 candidates, in terms of the total number of papers thus freed already, thanks to the lead taken by the physicists.
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