The Open Access (OA) tenets of granting unrestricted access to the results of publicly-funded research are in contrast with current models of scientific publishing, where access is restricted to journal customers. At the same time, subscription costs increase and put considerable strain on libraries, forcing them to cancel an increasing number of journals subscriptions. This situation is particularly acute in fields like High-Energy Physics (HEP), where pre-prints describing scientific results are timely available online. There is a growing concern within the academic community that the future of high-quality journals, and the peer-review system they administer, is at risk.
To address this situation for HEP and, as an experiment, Science at large, a new model for OA publishing has emerged: SCOAP3 (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics). In this model, HEP funding agencies and libraries, which today purchase journal subscriptions to implicitly support the peer-review service, federate to explicitly cover its cost, while publishers make the electronic versions of their journals free to read. Authors are not directly charged to publish their articles OA.
SCOAP3 will, for the first time, link quality and price, stimulating competition and enabling considerable medium- and long-term savings. Today, most publishers quote a price in the range of 1’000–2’000 Euros per published article. On this basis, we estimate that the annual budget for the transition of HEP publishing to OA would amount to a maximum of 10 Million Euros/year, sensibly lower than the estimated global expenditure in subscription to HEP journals.
Each SCOAP3 partner will finance its contribution by canceling journal subscriptions. Each country will contribute according to its share of HEP publishing. The transition to OA will be facilitated by the fact that the large majority of HEP articles are published in just six peer-reviewed journals. Of course, the SCOAP3 model is open to any, present or future, high-quality HEP journal aiming at a dynamic market with healthy competition and broader choice.
HEP funding agencies and libraries are currently signing Expressions of Interest for the financial backing of the consortium. A tendering procedure will then take place. Provided that SCOAP3 funding partners are prepared to engage in long-term commitments, many publishers are expected to be ready to enter into negotiations.
The example of SCOAP3 could be rapidly followed by other fields, directly related to HEP, such as nuclear physics or astro-particle physics, also similarly compact and organized with a reasonable number of journals.