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Open Access: there is something you can do…

As of 2015, 95% of CERN-authored high-energy physics articles will be published Open Access in high-quality peer-reviewed journals


Since the very beginning, CERN has put a lot of emphasis on the fact that its scientific output should be accessible to everyone. Today, on average, around 10% of articles are published Open Access worldwide. However, that figure is much lower when the proceedings of conferences, including those held at CERN, are taken into account.

The CERN Convention reads: “…and the results of its experimental and theoretical work shall be published or otherwise made generally available”. There is little doubt that if this had been written today, it would have explicitly mentioned that our results should be published Open Access.

This is indeed what has happened as CERN has moved into the LHC era: a little known fact is that all LHC physics results have been published Open Access and can be read in their final form by anybody with an Internet connection. Most importantly, this information can be re-used thanks to Creative Commons licenses, which is not the case for conventional articles. From 2010 to 2013, this was arranged through a set of partnerships with leading publishers around the world.

As of January 2014, thanks to the SCOAP3 initiative, this opportunity is now available to the entire high-energy physics community. Together with over 2000 libraries in 38 countries, CERN has arranged for all high-energy physics results published in SCOAP3 journals to become Open Access.

Last week, CERN and the American Physical Society (APS) announced a partnership to increase the opportunities for articles with CERN authors to be published Open Access. Although APS is not participating in the current cycle of SCOAP3, articles appearing in journals such as Physical Review Letters and Physical Review D will be Open Access from the beginning of 2015. This agreement demonstrates both organisations’ commitment to working together for global Open Access.

Rolf Oldeman, chair of the LHCb editorial board, commented that “this agreement is excellent news for our collaboration: all the journals which we usually publish in are now Open Access for us and we do not have to take any particular steps”. Alexandre Arbey, a scientist from the Theory Unit, echoed this thought: “it is great that there are many Open Access options also for the theoretical output from the Laboratory”.

The articles expected to appear in journals participating in SCOAP3, together with the APS partnership, mean that 95% of CERN-authored high-energy physics articles will be published Open Access in high-quality peer-reviewed journals as of 2015. This might well be a new record: on average, the number of articles published Open Access worldwide is around 10%. When including articles from other disciplines at CERN, the number is still very high, at around 85%.

However, numbers are much lower when we take conference proceedings into account. About 600 such CERN-authored papers appear every year, which are published in a wide variety of publications, often not directly influenced by CERN. Unfortunately, many of these end up being inaccessible even to the authors themselves, even though reasonable alternatives exist. The Scientific Information Service is more than happy to assist all CERN personnel who participate in conference-organising committees to explore Open Access proceedings for their conference: just contact Library.Desk@cern.ch.