Open Access and the Semantic Web

As I alluded to in my recent post [1], the paper that we submitted to Sepublica [2] was accepted for a special issue associated with the main conference Extended Semantic Web Conference, as one of the best papers from the Workshops. The problem that this is published by Springer, and I want my publication to remain open access. We did enquire of the conference and Springer whether there was an open access option; their website mentions open choice, at the rather eye watering price of 2000EUR. Initially, we were told that they would do this, at 480EUR (40EUR a page), but it turns out that they have stopped doing this for single papers in a conference proceedings. So, we turned down the publication offer. Perhaps not a sensible thing to in the light of the current entertainment of REF [3], but I feel the right thing to do.

The strange thing about this story, of course, is that when we submitted to the Sepublica I was not actually aware of the post-conference proceedings. I did make enquiries about this, because of the mandate for LNCS format papers; my co-author, Robert Stevens, came up with an entirely different response to the requirement for a format designed for a printable paper at semantic publishing conference [4].

Despite the chance of the process that lead to the situation, this represents an interesting turning point for me; while, where I control the publication location, I have published exclusively as open access for quite a few years now, this is the first time that I have actually turned down an offered publication opportunity on the basis of it not being open access.

However, this does represent a severe issue for academic work within the semantic web. Both ESWC and ISWC publish their papers with Springer. This leaves academics such as myself caught between a rock and a hard place. Ensuring that science becomes an open enterprise is not easy under these circumstances. It is particularly unfortunate and ironic that this happens within the Semantic Web community — an environment with more to gain from and more to give to open science than many. I would like to submit a paper to next years ESWC, for instance, but do not really want to find myself in this position again.

So, this leads to an obvious question, neatly encapsulated by this piece of spam that arrived on my blog yesterday:

While will you publish once again? You truly captivate a lot of people!

— spam

Of course, in a sense, the Sepublica paper has been published. It is available here, on arXiv and should appear on WS-CEUR. Anyone who is likely to want to read probably already has. However, we are in the declining part of the REF, so we will publish this paper elsewhere; we now have a plan, and will be reporting on our publication experience once it has happened.


  1. P. Lord, "Trying arXiv", An Exercise in Irrelevance, 2012.
  2. P. Lord, S. Cockell, R. Stevens, P. Lord, S. Cockell, R. Stevens, P. Lord, S. Cockell, R. Stevens, P. Lord, S. Cockell, and R. Stevens, "Three Steps to Heaven", SePublica 2012, 2012.
  3. D. Colquhoun, "Is Queen Mary University of London trying to commit scientific suicide?", DC's Improbable Science, 2012.
  4. R. Stevens, "An Expedition in Semantic Publishing", Robert Stevens' Blog, 2012.