by Marc Herbstritt (Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik) and Wolfgang Thomas (RWTH Aachen University)
The commercialisation of scientific publishing has resulted in a situation where more and more relevant literature is separated from the scientists by high pay walls; this has created an unacceptable impediment to scientific exchange. To illustrate how scientists can regain the essence of ‘publishing’ – namely to make research results public – we report on LIPIcs (Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics), an open-access series for the proceedings of international conferences.
With the advent of digital technologies, many tasks involved in scientific publishing have been facilitated enormously. This applies to scientific writing (using systems such as LaTeX) as well as the world-wide dissemination of literature via the internet. Somewhat paradoxically, at the same time the prices for accessing scientific literature have exploded, a development that was and is driven by commercial publishers and which imposes severe obstacles to scientific progress. It is not clear whether and how the world of science will be able to launch a “reconquista” of scientific publishing, taking it out of the hedgefonds and stock markets and making it more science-driven again.
We report here on an initiative, started ten years ago, that has the potential to be a successful chapter of this reconquista.
The Foundation of LIPIcs
Since the 1970s, a standard venue for proceedings of conferences in computer science was the series Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS) published by Springer-Verlag. When the first editorial board of LNCS resigned in 2004, the number of published volumes drastically increased (to about two volumes a day) by inclusion of many workshop proceedings. At the same time, the price of the series increased significantly, resulting in many research institutions cancelling their subscriptions. LNCS was effectively alienating its readers and contributors.
Responding to this development, the steering committee of the renowned Symposium on Theoretical Aspects of Computer Science (STACS), together with the Asian conference Foundations of Software Technology and Theoretical Computer Science (FSTTCS), made the bold decision in 2007 to leave Springer-Verlag after more than 20 years. They elected instead to go open access with solely digital online proceedings. A strong and devoted partner was found in Reinhard Wilhelm, then scientific director of the Germany-based Leibniz Center of Informatics – Schloss Dagstuhl, which is well known in the community for hosting its ‘Dagstuhl Seminars’. Together the open-access series Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs) [L1] was founded in 2008. LIPIcs embodies two core principles (discussed further below): (i) gold open access while insisting on high scientific standards, and (ii) providing affordable, meticulously edited proceedings.
Editorial Board and Editorial Policy
The editorial board currently consists of nine members whose terms are limited to two periods of at most six years each. The task of the board is to ensure that conferences of high scientific standards are accepted for LIPIcs. The board must determine for instance: (i) whether there is evidence that a conference has a high reputation, (ii) whether there is a steering committee whose members are renowned scientists and change on regular terms, and (iii) whether the conference adequately represents its respective field.
Strict rules determine whether or not an application is successful: a secret vote is held which needs six positive votes (out of nine) for acceptance. Accepted conferences need to re-apply every five years. This policy has led to rejections of several conferences that could safely be considered solid. Such a rigorous process was essential, however, for LIPIcs to earn an excellent scientific reputation within a short time. The appeal and success of LIPIcs is evident, with 25 conferences having now been accepted. To date, for 2016, this amounts to about 1,000 conference papers which are published open-access.
Production of the Proceedings and Financial Matters
Clearly, considerable effort is needed to ensure high editorial quality beyond the scientific value of a paper. This involves more than just adopting some LaTeX style (which some authors tend to violate). It also means, for example, that the validity of citations must be checked. This tedious work is handled by the team of the LIPIcs editorial office, who managed, despite rather sparse resources, to deliver high-quality proceedings [L2] on a par with LNCS and other conference proceedings series.
LIPIcs has been charging an article-processing charge (APC) since 2010. Initially the APC was kept at a very low €15. In 2015, the funding agency of Schloss Dagstuhl, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, stipulated that general funds of Schloss Dagstuhl were no longer to be used to support the publishing activities of LIPIcs. Thus the APC had to be increased to €60 to cover the costs. This still compares favourably to the charges of commercial publishers for gold open access, which range from six to 12 times this amount. The APC will be increased incrementally, in three stages between now and 2019, using a genenerous donation that Schloss Dagstuhl – now under the scientific directorship of Raimund Seidel – received from the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS).
The open-access movement has gained a considerable boost in recent years. A complete switch to open-access publications now seems possible, and research organisations worldwide are working towards this goal (see, for example, the report by Schimmer et al. at http://dx.doi.org/10.17617/1.3).
In the area of computing research, LIPIcs is at the forefront of making relevant research results openly accessible. This is underpinned by Schloss Dagstuhl’s recently established Dagstuhl Artifacts Series (DARTS) [L3] which aims for persistent publication of research data and artifacts. DARTS was triggered by the needs of LIPIcs conferences and shows how science-driven publishing infrastructure can evolve.
There are also other not-for-profit open-access publishing services for proceedings that share similar goals as LIPIcs, for example, EPTCS [L4] and CEUR-WS [L5]. Not-for-profit publishing services of this kind rely on cooperative authors and editors to make gold open access for computer science conferences happen. The reconquista of scientific publication into the hands of science will only be successful if these services are not seen as a simple replacement for for-profit publishers but as collaborative academia-driven not-for-profit initiatives.
Marc Herbstritt (head of LIPIcs editorial office)
Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik,
Wolfgang Thomas (chair of editorial board of LIPIcs)
RWTH Aachen University, Germany