Last Friday the American Society of Enology and Viticulture published an article by Science Editor (and my former Prof.) Linda Bisson and Managing Editor Judith McKibben that tackles the issue of Open Access to publicly funded research. You can read the article here. If you have any interest in free access to public research, be sure to give it a read.
The following is the letter I sent in response.
Regarding the debate over open access, which I believe to be an extremely important one, my advice for the ASEV is to focus on adding value to the research you publish.
Currently the ASEV’s value proposition is to “provide services that include an impartial, rigorous review process; manuscript editing of text, tables, and figures; design and layout; and both print and online distribution.”
I would argue that the single most valuable function that the ASEV currently serves is as an aggregator and a distributor. Folks looking for the latest research don’t have to cast about, they simply turn to the AJEV. It’s probably true that if you continue to be mainly an aggregator and distributor of research, that free access would make people less likely to pay for your service.
But you can do so much more.
Look at the typical “workflow” of one of the journal’s readers. In my experience, most people who value their time adhere to a system pretty similar to the following: They open up the journal, scan the Table of Contents, turn to an article that piques their interest, scan the abstract, turn to and read the conclusion, and only then, if they feel they need more detail or the research has a particular applicability to their field or work, do they read the entire article.
Why not add value and save your readers some time by writing Research Summaries that synthesize and give context to the research? Bibiana Guerra and Kay Bogart do a stellar job of this over at the Trellis Alliance. Here’s just one excellent example – their latest.
The ASEV has to read and vet the articles anyway, it shouldn’t take too much more effort to condense and contextualize the research findings into a few hundred words. If the workload gets onerous, farm it out to your
indentured servantsgrad students.
I would pay more than what I currently do for such a service. Much more. It would add tremendous value to the journal. Moreover it would delight your members.
The alternative is bleak unfortunately. Like it or not, the AJEV is a middle man for information that wants (and in many cases deserves) to be free. By adding value through your expertise and proven communication skills, you can do more than keep the ASEV solvent. You’ll preserve its heritage as an invaluable resource worthy of our dollars, while at the same time allowing public research to be viewed freely by the taxpayers who ultimately paid for it.
Viva Open Access!