An interview with Louis Lapidaire, the founder of United Academics.
Editor’s note: For an in-depth explanation of the different publishing models, see Nesru’s recent article on Diamond Open Access.
Over the past few decades, the Open Access movement has been challenging traditional subscription models through two main alternatives: the Green and the Golden models. More recently, another model has been defended: the Diamond model, with supporters claiming that it offers a valid alternative to overcome the limitations of the Green and Golden models. Louis Lapidaire, the founder of United Academics Foundation, which aims to help create a world where scientific research results are accessible for all, gives us his opinion about these open access publishing models.
Traditionally, two models of Open Access have been proposed to challenge the traditional subscription model: Golden and the Green Open Access. Which of these models represents a better alternative for the authors, readers, and publishers?
“It depends. From the author’s perspective, Golden would be more beneficial. In exchange for an Article Processing Charge, the publisher organizes peer review, marketing, and publicity around the paper. The paper is also being published in a journal, in an environment with similar scientific articles.
“From the reader’s viewpoint, it’s different. Because there are too many open access journals, it is complicated to know exactly where to find what you are looking for. In this case, it is easier to find an article in the Green Open Access repositories.”
The challenges with adopting Open Access are not related to which kind of publishing model we should implement?
“No. The ‘Green’ and ‘Golden’ models lead to an artificial segmentation of scientific papers. And the names ‘Green’ and ‘Gold’ contribute even more to this segmentation. ‘Gold’ suggests something that is always more attractive, more powerful.”
More recently, there has been some discussion about the Diamond Model. Do you feel the same way about that?
“Again, it is pointless to attribute names with a certain meaning towards something that it is not applicable to. Nevertheless, the Diamond publishing model may be the most elegant one. Yet it requires a lot of effort and cooperation of the scientific community itself.
“First of all, the reviewing process is difficult, because it always requires an intermediary that has to be appointed and that carries a cost. Then the end result has to be edited, in terms of fonts or illustrations. Lastly, you have to distribute it, to audiences or repositories.
“The Diamond model assumes that all these processes are done by participants for free, which is a bit naive. For instance, the fact that you have a repository online means that you have to pay for a server. Besides, it costs electricity bandwidth, especially when it becomes more popular and people start downloading things.
“So, even though it is conceivable that indeed authors and peer reviewers might be willing to work for free, all the instrumentation necessary to enable that costs money. People have to be willing to invest in that.”
Maybe as a Wikipedia type model?
“Let’s not forget that Wikipedia has a great number of volunteers that are keeping everything up and running, content-wise. But the Wikipedia machines are being organized by the Wikimedia organization that pay, every year, millions of dollars just for electricity bills and the rent for the servers.
“And Wikipedia is a very light instrument: they use a light font, no PDFs and nothing is being downloaded. Their bandwidth requirements are relatively light. On the contrary, the Diamond publishing model proposes that the distribution takes place via PDF, making it very heavy, and consequently, more expensive. If we consider the large amount of scientific production, this might add up to hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”
There are indeed pros and cons, but we cannot be naive and try to solve the problem by giving the model a beautiful name like green, gold or diamond. To really solve it, the government and organizations have to start to work together and for the general public, instead of for their own interests. At United Academics, we have the tools to serve the public. Ultimately, we want to make everything that has already been published, in every kind of publishing model journal, accessible to everyone.