Punting on Open Access
Not the concept, so much as the journals.
In my general field there seem to be two options in terms of Open Access journals. The Plos family of journals and another plos-like group. I submitted a paper to PLoS-ONE a while back. There were some issues. Despite the frequent claim of being more efficient than the ‘traditional’ journals my paper set a record for most amount of time “sitting on someone’s desk’. It took about 6 weeks, and some public complaining, to get assigned an editor. A process that traditional journals handle in maybe 5 mins.
Perhaps this is an issue with the breadth of PLoS. I’d previously considered submitting to the slightly more focused Open Access journal. That might have been a more suitable move. Of course last week a lab mate told me that almost the same thing happened to him at that journal. The paper, sat and sat and sat, and then went out for review after ~2 months.
Not exactly accelerating academic publishing.
Both these of these journal groups make a big whoop about improving the publication process, in addition to being open access. That has not been my experience of that of many of my colleagues. The experiences aren’t universally negative. There is some variety. But they certainly aren’t any better than submitting to traditional journals. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I won’t be submitting anything to either of these journals. (I am writing this before my decision comes in for he PLOS paper, so it’s no influenced by that). Here’s my rationale:
1. They just don’t have the horses. PLOS-ONE seems to have three or four academic editors that may be interested in any research that I will be producing. Since at any point 2 or 3 may be on vacation, combined with the “only edit if you want to” opt in system. Seems like my papers are destined to “fall through the cracks”. This may be less the case at the more focused journal. I need to give their editor list a look through (maybe ask about their vacation schedule). If they have the same opt-in issue I will definitely be skipping them.
2. Traditional journals have their benefits. The high profile places I might submit all have triage systems that are very quick. I may seem odd to comment positively on a rejection mechanism, but I appreciate the efficiency. Time is valuable. The smaller more focused journals may take their time getting reviews, but I know what I’m getting. I “know” the people there and am confidence I can pick the right journal that will give my manuscripts a serious look.
3. Access seems to happen anyway. Much of my research is NIH funded and has to be put on in some form on PubMed. Also, in my area is seems pretty ubiquitous that papers are posted on lab websites. Submitting to traditional closed journals may not help the cause of Open Access, but as a practical matter my papers are pretty accessible to anyone vaguely motivated to get them.