High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine

Editorial Board
Issue 12

 HEP Libraries Webzine
Issue 12 / March 2006

2005, the Year CERN Ran for Open Access

Anne Gentil-Beccot(*)




CERN has always actively supported the principles of Open Access, for example in its convention, by the creation of its document repository, and by signing the Berlin Declaration in 2003. But in 2005 the activity increased significantly. Signature of a new publication policy has taken place, creation of a dedicated website, financial support has been given to an open access journal, and some major events promoting Open Access have been organised... All these milestones are described in this article.


Open Access, BOAI, OAI, journal, repository


Since its beginnings in 1954, CERN has supported the principles of Open Access to scientific information. Indeed, it is clearly stated in the Convention: "the results of its experimental and theoretical work shall be published or otherwise made generally available" [1]. However, it was not until the BOAI (Budapest Open Access Initiative) [2] was created in February 2002 that the phrase "Open Access" was defined. The BOAI suggested two complementary strategies for achieving open access to scholarly journal literature: self-archiving, and open access journals.

From 1993 CERN has managed a repository of its own electronic preprints in what is now called CDS (CERN Document Server) [3]. In November 2003 a policy document was issued from the Library and SIPB (Scientific Information Policy Board) in order to reinforce the habit of self-archiving [4], and following the signing of the Berlin Declaration in May 2004 [5] there has been CERN-wide involvement in Open Access (OA) activities.

Up to 2004, involvement in the OA movement had remained mainly in the Library but this was about to change. With the widening of interest to CERN management, the focus of discussion has shifted from self-archiving to open access journals, from the first BOAI strategy to the second. This does not mean that self-archiving has been abandoned, rather that work on the repository will continue whilst the Library staff become more proactive than they were previously in investigating the possibilities offered by open access journals to the field of particle physics.

The situation for particle physics in 2005 is that most of the papers in the field from the last ten years are freely available through the main particle physics repositories: arXiv.org, CERN Document Server (CDS), and SLAC SPIRES. Recent figures show that 70% of CERN's own recent scientific production is available in its own repository in OA form [6].

Thus despite largely being freely available through the document servers, the final, authoritative versions are frequently published in traditional subscription journals to which libraries must pay large amounts of money in order to be able to see the articles. This creates an apparent access barrier to the final version for some readers. It is well known that subscription prices are still generally increasing each year at a rate higher than the rate of inflation. Relating this increasing cost to an increase in output, as many publishers do, does not help libraries to find the money required to continue their subscriptions. Library budgets do not appear to be keeping pace with research funding. But whatever the reasons for this lack of funds, it leads to more and more institutions having to make cancellations and therefore lose access to some of these papers.

Furthermore, computing technologies have developed new possibilities for the distribution of scientific results which have not yet been fully exploited. Publishers still produce and distribute their packages of articles in much the same way as they have always done when they were dealing with print journals. Threats do exist to the traditional system if the current situation continues without change: alternative peer-review systems and impact measurements are already being developed (for example see the detailed work on peer-review systems [7] and impact measurements [8] performed by Van de Sompel's team) and the physics community is increasingly questioning why repositories are not utilised more in the publication process. For one commonly-shared opinion on the future for particle physics an excellent opinion piece was written by Van de Sompel, Payette, Erickson, Lagoze and Warner (see [9]).

There are many reasons why the current publishing model would be improved by change, yet waiting for the system to evolve might not bring about these changes because of the momentum inherent in the current system. The CERN Scientific Information Policy Board (SIPB) decided to investigate how a change could be encouraged. A new publication policy, dated March 2005 [10], stated the opinion that it was desirable for CERN to move towards open access or low cost journal solutions. Of course, the SIPB was aware that the movement towards open access would take some time, and that the subscription model would not disappear overnight, and for this reason, it proposed a transition period for the testing of several models.

As a result of this policy, a team was set up in 2005 to work on CERN's Open Access plan. The team is composed of CERN Library staff, CDS staff and is chaired by a senior CERN physicist. In coordination with CERN's Management, the team has organised some activities designed to highlight, promote, discuss and develop Open Access for particle physics, at CERN and inside the community. The programme of these activities which took place during 2005 is detailed below.

March 2005: adoption of the new policy.

The team were asked to contribute to the new publishing policy which was agreed upon and adopted by the CERN Scientific Information Policy Board (SIPB) in March 2005: Continuing CERN action Open Access journals and conference proceedings [10].

Faced with the increasing costs of scientific journals and an evolution of technology, CERN states it's willingness to participate in action to change the publishing model.

The SIPB states in the policy that CERN will:

The text was adopted by the CERN SIPB on 6th March 2005, and by the CERN Management on 23rd March 2005.

June 2005: CERN announces its sponsorship of the open access journal PRST-AB [11].

The new policy adopted in March did not wait long before it was applied. Indeed, in June, after a flurry of written communication about the policy and with encouragement from the support it had received, the Working Group for Acquisition (WGA) took the decision to sponsor the open access journal: Physical Review Special Topics: Accelerators and Beams (PRST-AB) [12], published by APS (The American Physical Society). The journal had been created in 1998, based on an open access model which made it completely free to readers and financed through institutional sponsorship. CERN became the first European sponsor of the journal.

It is important to point out that this decision was taken whilst a Library acquisition budget cut was being faced and a cancellation survey was being launched by the Library staff on behalf of the WGA and the SIPB. CERN was able to demonstrate by its financial support, its commitment to open access solutions.

August 2005: creation of the 'CERN Action on Open Access' web site [13] and OA symbol.

In preparation for the next stages of the Open Access plan, the OA team created a web site to collect together all the information for CERN staff about OA activities (news and information on OA, instructions for submitting preprints to CDS, advice on where to publish, etc). A symbol was also created which was composed of a green triangle and interlocking OA letters and used on the web site. This symbol later became useful in promoting the upcoming 'tripartite' meeting.

September 2005. Open Meeting on the Changing Publishing Model [14].

In order to promote a change in the current publishing model, CERN Management and CERN Library together organised an open meeting in September which was aimed at CERN authors and editors. The intention was to discuss the concerns and requirements for making open access publishing an attractive publishing model for the particle physics community.

Representatives of the main publishers of particle physics were present at this meeting. It was attended by more than a hundred physicists and the debate showed that the author community was ready to explore new publishing patterns even if there were many issues to be taken into account in order to achieve a successful change, such as ensuring high quality peer-review and long-term archiving.

The meeting was a great success with continuing discussions being heard for many weeks afterwards in CERN's staff restaurant. The conclusions could have great import for CERN because the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), the new particle accelerator, is expected to start in 2007 and with it, a big increase in the scientific output of CERN and its authors. The LHC Collaborations, SIPB and CERN Library are already involved in discussions about the possible scenarios for publishing LHC physics papers that will result from the experiments.

The output of this open meeting was the starting point of a second meeting, held in December 2005 at CERN, which aimed to pull together the different actors in the publication chain for the creation of a plan to move forward with open access publishing.

November 2005: CERN's Director General promotes Open Access at the World Summit for the Information Society.

CERN's Director General is a firm believer in Open Access and has driven the recent activity. Proponents of the OA movement were pleased when he became one of the speakers at the World Summit for the Information Society in Tunis in November to specifically mention Open Access: "CERN actively supports the Open Access movement, which aims for universal and lasting availability of all knowledge, cultural heritage and educational best practices. CERN advocates the establishment of open electronic knowledge repositories worldwide" [15].

December 2005: 'tripartite' Colloquium on Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics[16].

To plan a change to the current publishing model, CERN organised this colloquium with the three parties currently involved in the publication chain but who were also interested in open access publishing. By gathering those publishers favourable to OA, physics funding agencies, and research institutions together, to discuss the future of scientific communication in physics, CERN strongly believed that a change, albeit with all the problems such a change would imply, could be achieved through a transition plan which expressed a common understanding amongst all the parties involved.

The meeting took place on the 7th and 8th December, and involved some fifty people coming from Europe and the United States.

The meeting resulted in the setting-up of a task force comprising representatives from the publishers, funding agencies and research institutions who could explore a transition plan in more detail than the colloquium could achieve. This OA Task Force began work in the New Year of 2006, it is chaired by Rudiger Voss, a physicist based at CERN, and assisted by a secretariat composed of CERN Library staff.

The mandate of the Task Force is to "study and develop sustainable business models for OA publishing for existing and new journals and publishers in particle physics, focused mainly on a sponsoring model".

The results will be made available to the participants of the December Colloquium and the CERN Management around the end of March 2006. The chair, Rudiger Voss, will attend the Berlin 4 Conference [17], at Golm in March 2006, where he will present the Task Force's results.

Concluding the year

Just one year after the adoption of a new publishing policy at CERN, the Open Access Task Force, composed of physics publishers, funding agencies and research institutions from Europe and the United States, will make its results available to the community.

The OA team are rightly proud that such progress has been made in only one year! CERN has already succeeded in one important goal: to involve a larger part of the particle physics community in the OA movement. Of course, a lot of work still needs to be done and the finishing line is not yet visible, but without collaboration, nothing would be possible and now, these foundations are there.

Each year at CERN a relay-race takes place for running teams of CERN staff. In 2005, two teams were entered from the Library and CDS section called "Open Access Data" and "Open Access Literature". Thanks to determination, team spirit, hard struggle, and - let's admit it - a bit of luck, both teams mounted the podium...(Figure 1)

What better sign for the whole Open Access movement?

Figure 1: The year CERN ran for Open Access


[1] Convention for the establishment of a European Organization for the Nuclear Research.
URL : < http://doc.cern.ch/archive/electronic/other/preprints//CM-P/cm-p00046871.pdf>

[2] Budapest Open Access Initiative. February 14, 2002.
URL: < http://www.soros.org/openaccess/read.shtml>

[3] CERN Document Server
URL : <http://cdsweb.cern.ch/>

[4] An electronic publishing policy for CERN (2003)
URL : < http://library.cern.ch/cern_publications/SIPBPubPol.17.11.03.htm>

[5] "CERN and University of Pavia sign Berlin Declaration at meeting on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities". CERN Press Release, PR07.04 of 13.05.2004.
URL : < http://www.zim.mpg.de/openaccess-berlin/berlindeclaration.html>

[6] Joanne Yeomans, "CERN's Open Access e-print coverage in 2006 : three quarters and counting". High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine, issue 12, February 2006
URL: <http://library.web.cern.ch/library/Webzine/12/papers/2/>

[7] Marko A. Rodriguez, Johan Bollen, Herbert Van de Sompel. "The Convergence of Digital-Libraries and the Peer-Review Process". Journal of Information Science, 32:151-161, 2005.
URL : < http://www.arxiv.org/abs/cs.DL/0504084>

[8] Johan Bollen, Herbert Van de Sompel, Joan Smith, and Rick Luce, « Toward alternative metrics of journal impact: a comparison of download and citation data". Information Processing and Management, 41(6):1419-1440, 2005.
URL : < http://www.arxiv.org/pdf/cs.DL/0503007>

[9] Herbert Van de Sompel, Sandy Payette, John Erickson, Carl Lagoze and Simeon Warner, "Rethinking Scholarly Communication: Building the System that Scholars Deserve". D-Lib Magazine, September 2004: 10(9).
URL: < http://www.dlib.org/dlib/september04/vandesompel/09vandesompel.html>

[10] CERN policy document "Continuing CERN action on Open Access journals and conference proceedings"
URL : < http://library.cern.ch/cern_publications/CERN_exec_board_23.03.05.html>

[11] Corrado Pettenti, "Sponsoring open access: more than just wry amusement". CERN Courier: November 2005, Letters.
URL: < http://www.cerncourier.com/main/article/45/9/28/5>

[12] Physical Review Special Topics: Accelerators and Beams
URL : <http://prst-ab.aps.org/>

[13] CERN action on Open Access
URL : <http://open-access.web.cern.ch/Open-Access/>

[14] Open Meeting on the Changing Publishing Model, Meeting Homepage.
URL : < http://open-access.web.cern.ch/Open-Access/20050916.html>

[15] Robert Aymar "Statement from The Conseil européen pour la recherche nucléaire (CERN) on African Research and Education Networking". Second Phase of the WSIS, 16-18 November 2005, Tunis.
URL: < http://www.itu.int/wsis/tunis/statements/docs/pe-cern/1.html>

[16] Colloquium on Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics, Conference Homepage
URL : < http://indico.cern.ch/conferenceDisplay.py?confId=482>

[17] "Berlin 4": International Conference on Open Access following the Berlin Declaration, Conference Homepage
URL : <http://www.zim.mpg.de/openaccess-golm/>

Author Details

Anne Gentil-Beccot
Serial Librarian
CERN Library
CERN CH 1211 Geneva 23, Switzerland
Email: anne.gentil-beccot@cern.ch

Anne Gentil-Beccot currently works in the Periodical section of the CERN Library and is involved in the CERN's Open Access project.

For citation purposes:

Anne Gentil-Beccot, "2005, the Year CERN Ran for Open Access", High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine, issue 12, February 2006
URL: http://library.web.cern.ch/library/Webzine/12/papers/3/

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Last modified:  24 July 2007