Godwin’s law says that sooner or later every argument on the internet ends up with someone being called a Nazi. Interestingly in the Open Access debate, this has turned out not to be true; in this case, it’s been communists instead.

Perhaps the best known example of this was the Jeffrey Beale rant, which uses the term “anti-corporatist” and “collectivizing”. A more direct communist angle comes from Moshe Vardi at ACM. He defends the idea that publishing is expensive because of all the fixed costs, something seen from the ACM before, and which I have commented on (n.d.a) He also makes the tired confusion that “free software” is the same thing as “anti-copyright”.

Now, personally, I do not particularly mind being called a communist — I do have left-leaning political views, but in the US “communist” is essentially used as a short-hand for being personally responsible for Stalinist purges.

For me OA is just a small part of the issue. I do want OA because I get irritated that I have to read papers at work because at home I can’t login, as well as the slightly more philanthropic ideal that scientific knowledge should be free.

But I also want the entire publication process to be easier (n.d.b) I want a single submission format, free from the stupidity of multiple formats. I want peer review to be open and acknowledged. I want the process to take less time, less effort and less money. I want colour figures, I want animation (n.d.c) OA does not necessarily provide this: both OUP (M. J. Bell et al. 2012) and PLOS (Michael J. Bell, Collison, and Lord 2013) were painful. However, arXiv for example, provides cheap, rapid and simple publication at $7 a paper. Wordpress manages billions of articles as a loss leader.

Open-Access is only part of the issue. Scientific authoring is a hard, arduous and difficult process. Scientific publishing should not be. This is the issue.

n.d.b. https://www.russet.org.uk/blog/2248.

———. n.d.a. https://www.russet.org.uk/blog/1924.

———. n.d.c. https://www.russet.org.uk/blog/2189.

Bell, M. J., C. S. Gillespie, D. Swan, and P. Lord. 2012. “An Approach to Describing and Analysing Bulk Biological Annotation Quality: A Case Study Using UniProtKB.” Bioinformatics 28 (18): i562–68. https://doi.org/10.1093/bioinformatics/bts372.

Bell, Michael J., Matthew Collison, and Phillip Lord. 2013. “Can Inferred Provenance and Its Visualisation Be Used to Detect Erroneous Annotation? A Case Study Using UniProtKB.” Edited by Lennart Martens. PLoS ONE 8 (10): e75541. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0075541.