Friday, September 7, 2018

Academic Open Access Publishing Needs Education and Auditing

A move to open access research publishing will need, I suggest, a well resourced information campaign, and a well staffed anti-fraud unit. European and UK research funding bodies have decided to move to open access publishing by 2020. As a condition of receiving funding researchers will be required to publish papers from that research where they are available free. The researchers will be provided with finding to pay for publication. However, it is likely that some academics and publishers will attempt to game the new system, placing public money and the integrity of research at risk.

In 2014 the Australian Government expanded student loans from universities to non-government  vocational and educational training (VET) colleges. A 2015 Parliamentary inquiry heard "... harrowing and concerning evidence of misconduct by private VET providers ...". Education providers, and brokers, offered students inducements such as laptops to sign up for courses. This came at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Australian community and harmed the reputation of Australian vocational education.

Similar scams are likely with open access publishing, unless controls are in place from the start of the scheme. Academics are under pressure to publish and will be tempted to accept inducements from publishers and brokers, to place their business with them. We will likely see offers of free equipment and trips in return for publishing. We are also likely to see offers to the heads of research organizations for all research by their staff to be directed to one publisher in return for favorable treatment.

It should be made clear to publishers and researchers from the outset that offering, or accepting, cash and gifts in return for publishing is a crime. It should be made clear there are trained criminal investigators looking for such behavior and those responsible with be prosecuted.

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