Dawn of a new age: open access to refereed journal papers in physics

A dream has come true. We now have free online access to published papers in 10 journals. These are the major journals of particle physics (please see the list below). Unfortunately the “Physical Review” and the “Physical Review Letters” are not yet part of this initiative. I hope they join this effort soon.

Professional physicists make a distinction between the papers published in refereed journals and the papers published at the arXiv. Thank God we have the arXiv. Physicists who are members of research institutions can publish their papers online at arXiv first. Those papers may or may not be published in a refereed journal. The peer-review process is long and involved. Only the papers published in refereed journals are used in academic evaluation.

Previously, the only way to access the refereed journal articles was through the university libraries. Academic papers are read by few and the costs involved in maintaining an academic journal are very high. The academic publishers charge a huge amount for subscription. Only major universities can afford to subscribe to all the academic journals.

The “open access” debate is long. In other fields such as medicine there are open access journals but authors pay for the publication costs. There are ethical issues in such a model. There is no way physicists or their institutions can pay for the costs of publications. Physicist salaries are very low and the institutional budgets for physics research are very tight. The only possibility for physics is sponsorship.

CERN organized a consortium to make the majority of particle physics papers available free of charge online. Salvatore Mele, head of Open Access at CERN and leader of the SCOAP3 project said:

“In the last few years we have built consensus and trust between all parties: libraries, funding agencies and publishers, at the service of scientists in the field of high-energy physics and beyond. Most importantly, we have nurtured a community of partners, making a real difference, enhancing the Open Access movement and the publishing industry.”

According to the agreement, libraries and funding agencies from two dozen countries will redirect resources previously used to pay for journal subscriptions to support the publishers’ peer-review process directly. Libraries at more than 150 US institutions will participate.

Major publishing companies Elsevier, Institute of Physics Publishing and Springer took part in the SCOAP3 agreement, along with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft, Hindawi, Jagiellonian University, Oxford University Press, Physical Society of Japan, SISSA Medialab and Società di Fisica.

Publishers and journals participating in SCOAP3 include, in alphabetical order:


About Suresh Emre

I have worked as a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. I am a volunteer for the Renaissance Universal movement. My main goal is to inspire the reader to engage in Self-discovery and expansion of consciousness.
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