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The Importance of Editorial Quality in Open Access

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Every year an increasing number of books and journals are published in Open Access, and there is little doubt that it has become a significant part of the world of science. Still, Open Access is facing many problems – one of which is the editorial quality.

This issue will be the main topic addressed by the open discussion panel organized by the National Union of Journalists and the Wellcome Trust. The event will take place on Wednesday 6 February at 7pm in London, with principal speakers:

Philip Campbell – Editor-in-Chief, Nature

Matt Cockerill – BioMed Central and Springer STM

Professor Stephen Curry – Imperial College and open access blogger

Peter Lee – Publishing Director, Cell Press

Mark Patterson – Managing Executive Editor of open access journal eLife

Pete Wrobel – NUJ, Magazines and Books

Why has NUJ decided to take up this matter?

The NUJ believes – we can read on their website – that the added value of quality editorial work – including editing, assessing manuscripts, handling peer review, copy editing, layout and design, and web production – must not be left out of the debate.”

It continues its point by posing a number of questions: “But what do publishers and academics believe? Is editorial quality an important issue in the future of academic publishing? Who is committed to sustainable open access models which build in the editorial quality behind the vibrant and successful industry we have in Britain? What kind of a future does our industry have?

[More details about the meeting can be found on the official website]

The main topic that will be discussed within the framework of the panel is extremely important. The current discussion around OA has focused primarily on the availability of funds. However, issues such as editing, assessing manuscripts, handling peer review, copy editing, layout and design, and web production are also pertinent, and perhaps just as significant.

Open Access continues to be treated by scientists as a secondary choice because, in spite of the passage of years, only a few OA publishers have managed to achieve the one accolade, which is most highly regarded by the scientific community: the prestige. This may be expressed in various ways – the simplest being of course, the Impact Factor. In turn, the prestige of the publisher or the title depends on a number of factors – among them, without doubt, the quality of editorial presentation.

In the first place of importance, the assessment of manuscripts and handling peer review – both of which determine the scientific quality of the work. On the other hand, copy editing, layout and design, and web production, also affect the way the journal or book is perceived, and that too can define the professional status of a publisher.

We are well aware that the Internet is full of initiatives, which are of dubious quality. The often-used term “Predatory OA Journals” encapsulates this situation well. This, alas, does not have a positive affect on the reputation of Open Access as a whole. However, it should be noted that this is not a problem unique to the Open Access model. A similar criticism can be levelled as easily at some traditional publications. The main difference being that the traditional publisher is less visible, while the openness of OA ensures that its own shortcomings are there for all to see.

Therefore, greater attention to editorial standards is one certain way to remedy the situation. Without a higher level of commitment from OA publishers, publishing in this model will continue to be treated with distrust and reluctance.

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