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A step forward for open access publishing

Geneva, 14 December 2005. A landmark decision has been reached on the future direction of scientific publishing. At a meeting hosted by CERN1 on 7-8 December, representatives of several major physics publishers, European particle physics laboratories, learned societies, funding agencies and authors from Europe and the US, came together for the first time to promote open access publishing. Among the results of the meeting was the formation of a task force mandated to bring about action by 2007.

Strongly linked with progress in digitised documentation and electronic networking, open access is a hot topic for universities, publishers, and even governments. There are two approaches to open access. The particle physics community is already among the leaders of one: the institutional repository approach through which libraries such as CERN’s make their own information freely available on the Internet. The other approach is to work with scientific publishers to develop open access to the journals themselves.

Open access aims to change the traditional publishing model whereby publishers finance journals through reader subscriptions to a model where electronic access to journals will be free and the publishers will be financed by the authors. The current publishing model, which has stood the test of time for at least two centuries, ensures quality through the peer review process. However, since journal subscriptions are expensive, the model favours the richer universities and institutions. The challenge for open access is to preserve the quality assurance role guaranteed by academic publishers, whilst broadening access to the information, thereby bringing greater benefit to society.

Eighty participants attended the meeting, which follows CERN's signature of the Berlin Declaration2 in May 2004, and takes advantage of the particle physics community’s heightened awareness of open access. The creation of the open access task force comes at a crucial time for the particle physics community. In 2007, CERN will launch the field’s new flagship facility, the Large Hadron Collider, and wishes to make the results as widely available as possible.

Commenting on the meeting, CERN's Director General Robert Aymar said: “The next phase of LHC experiments at CERN can be a catalyst for a rapid change in the particle physics communication system. CERN's articles are already freely available through its own web site but this is only a partial solution. We wish for the publishing and archiving systems to converge for a more efficient solution which will benefit the global particle physics community.”

Full details of the meeting are available on the web.

1. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have Observer status.

2. Berlin Declaration [extract]:

Supporting the Transition to the Electronic Open Access Paradigm

Our organizations are interested in the further promotion of the new open access paradigm to gain the most benefit for science and society. Therefore, we intend to make progress by

  • encouraging our researchers/grant recipients to publish their work according to the principles of the open access paradigm.
  • encouraging the holders of cultural heritage to support open access by providing their resources on the Internet.
  • developing means and ways to evaluate open access contributions and online-journals in order to maintain the standards of quality assurance and good scientific practice.
  • advocating that open access publication be recognized in promotion and tenure evaluation.