IEEE Joins With Consortium to Provide Free Access to Physics Articles

Collaboration would develop a way to give free online access to physics literature

7 March 2008

The IEEE is collaborating with a consortium of high-energy physics organizations and their libraries to develop a way to give free online access to physics literature that’s usually available only by subscription. Articles from the IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science, published by the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society, will be among the first offered once the program is fully launched sometime in 2009.           

A letter sent by the IEEE on 29 February to the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (SCOAP3) expressed interest in the initiative, provided it results in sustainable business arrangements along with the funding to support such so-called open-access publishing.

NEW FRAMEWORK The IEEE is participating in the consortium as a first application of its new Principles of Scholarly Publishing, which provide a framework for exploring new publishing models. Approved in November by the IEEE Board of Directors, the principles encourage the IEEE’s organizational units to experiment with new business models that include free public access.

“The IEEE wants to experiment with approaches to open-access publishing consistent with these publishing principles,” says John Baillieul, vice president, IEEE Publication Services and Products. “For example, SCOAP3 endorses peer review to validate scientific research. And SCOAP3 also supports the need for self-sustaining business models, as do the IEEE principles.”

SCOAP3 is a consortium of high-energy-physics laboratories, leading national and international libraries and library consortia, and government agencies that fund high-energy-physics projects. Members include CERN—the European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, which is building what will be the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider—Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Swedish National Library and the California Institute of Technology. The group plans to use the money it pays for subscriptions to high-energy-physics journals to support free online access to the material. Such library subscriptions are usually more expensive than subscription fees for individuals.

PLEDGES FIRST The consortium is now collecting pledges from libraries, funding agencies, and labs to change their subscriptions to direct payments, which will be channeled through SCOAP3 to the individual publishers, according to Kenneth Moore, director of IEEE Book and Information Services, who has represented the IEEE at meetings with the consortium. “Current library subscribers would empower SCOAP3 to negotiate contracts with publishers to support publishing in the field,” Moore says. “Publishers would also be required to deposit the final version of an article in an online repository available to the public for free.”

Once it receives enough pledges from libraries, SCOAP3 will ask interested publishers to submit bids to cover their costs of peer review and other publishing services involved with open access, explains Moore.

Besides supporting the costs needed to produce the six major peer-reviewed journals in the particle-physics field, SCOAP3 will also pay for publication on the Web of individual articles that would otherwise appear in  “broadband” publications—journals that cover particle physics as part of a larger field. Such publications—IEEE Transactions on Nuclear Science is one—contain articles on a wide range of engineering disciplines.

“Under the plan, the price of the IEEE’s subscription packages would be lowered for subscribers according to the number of high-energy-physics articles published on the Web with SCOAP3 funding,” said Barbara Lange, staff director, IEEE Product Management and Business Development, the area managing the SCOAP3 relationship. “This will ensure that no end users will pay for content that’s supported by SCOAP3 funding. The consortium’s goal is to fund publication of all articles in the field. In return, publishers will receive a fair payment for their articles to support their own infrastructure.”

For the IEEE, the SCOAP3 experiment is an opportunity for the organization to apply its newly adopted scholarly publishing principles, says Baillieul. “The IEEE will examine the operation of the SCOAP3 model in the coming months, and we expect that our experience will help us in future discussions on open access and other policies.”

The IEEE Principles of Scholarly Publishing and additional background are at For more about the consortium, visit

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