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Essay – A World Digital Library Is Coming True!

Robert Darnton is Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and University Librarian at Harvard – via New York Review of Books – [Snipped] “The entire system of communicating research could be made less expensive and more beneficial for the public by a process known as “flipping.” Instead of subsisting on subscriptions, a flipped journal covers its costs by charging processing fees before publication and making its articles freely available, as “open access,” afterward. That will sound strange to many academic authors. Why, they may ask, should we pay to get published? But they may not understand the dysfunctions of the present system, in which they furnish the research, writing, and refereeing free of charge to the subscription journals and then buy back the product of their work—not personally, of course, but through their libraries—at an exorbitant price. The public pays twice—first as taxpayers who subsidize the research, then as taxpayers or tuition payers who support public or private university libraries. By creating open-access journals, a flipped system directly benefits the public. Anyone can consult the research free of charge online, and libraries are liberated from the spiraling costs of subscriptions. Of course, the publication expenses do not evaporate miraculously, but they are greatly reduced, especially for nonprofit journals, which do not need to satisfy shareholders. The processing fees, which can run to a thousand dollars or more, depending on the complexities of the text and the process of peer review, can be covered in various ways. They are often included in research grants to scientists, and they are increasingly financed by the author’s university or a group of universities. At Harvard, a program called HOPE (Harvard Open-Access Publishing Equity) subsidizes processing fees. A consortium called COPE (Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity) promotes similar policies among twenty-one institutions, including MIT, the University of Michigan, and the University of California at Berkeley; and its activities complement those of thirty-three similar funds in institutions such as Johns Hopkins University and the University of California at San Francisco.”

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