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Upping access to open access

With the current system of scholarly publishing in a state of flux -- some might even say in crisis -- several institutions are experimenting with innovative ways of ensuring that their researchers can continue to effortlessly publish, read, and disseminate their work. Image: linkurl:flickr/wakingtiger;http://www.flickr.com/photos/wakingtiger/3157622608/ The problems in publishing aren't new, but are getting worse: Journal subscription costs are far out-stripping library budgets and research in

By | March 5, 2009

With the current system of scholarly publishing in a state of flux -- some might even say in crisis -- several institutions are experimenting with innovative ways of ensuring that their researchers can continue to effortlessly publish, read, and disseminate their work.
Image: linkurl:flickr/wakingtiger;http://www.flickr.com/photos/wakingtiger/3157622608/
The problems in publishing aren't new, but are getting worse: Journal subscription costs are far out-stripping library budgets and research institutions are scrambling to make ends meet. Consequently, many libraries are subscribing to fewer journal titles and providing less financial support to help their faculty publish. But some libraries are creating novel platforms and partnerships to help combat these trends. In January, the linkurl:University of California Libraries;http://libraries.universityofcalifornia.edu/ -- a collective of more than 100 libraries spanning 10 UC campuses -- minted an agreement with the publishing giant linkurl:Springer;http://www.springer.com/ so that all articles written by UC-affiliated authors would be published with full and immediate open access in any of Springer's 2,000-odd journals, even if the rest of the articles in the journals are subscription-only. Under the arrangement, UC authors retain the copyright to their work and don't have to pay additional fees on a per-article basis. In exchange, the publisher receives an undisclosed sum of money that is "part and parcel of our standard licensing arrangement with Springer," linkurl:Ivy Anderson,;http://www.cdlib.org/glance/directors.html director of collections for the California Digital Library, which licenses content on behalf of the UC libraries, told __The Scientist__. "Springer has been a very willing partner in experimenting," she added. "The research community produces this information and we don't see the value in handing over the copyright to other organizations which then impose barriers to its use and dissemination," said Anderson. "The research enterprise would be best served by unfettered access to information. Any kind of experiment that moves in that direction is something that we're interested in supporting." Some schools are going farther still, striving to make all publications by their faculty freely available. Last year, Harvard University's arts and sciences faculty approved an open access policy under which its authors, by default, must deposit finished papers in an open-access repository run by the library. Unlike the National Institutes of Health's similar mandate requiring federally-funded research manuscripts to be made publicly available, however, Harvard faculty can apply for a waiver to opt out of scheme. "It's a collective action of the faculty, but not a coercive action," said linkurl:Stuart Shieber,;http://www.eecs.harvard.edu/~shieber/ director of Harvard's Office of Scholarly Communication. Last month, Boston University adopted a similar measure that applies across its entire campus, rather than at individual faculties. "We seem to have the first [open access policy] in the US that is university-wide, which is exciting," said linkurl:Wendy Mariner,;http://sph.bu.edu/index.php?option=com_sphdir&id=239&Itemid=340&INDEX=573 a health law researcher and the chair of BU's faculty council. linkurl:Griffith University;http://www98.griffith.edu.au/dspace/ in Australia and linkurl:Nottingham University;http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/ in the UK have adopted similar measures. Critics argue that making articles freely available without compensation to the publishers could further undermine the viability of journals. That could drive prices up even more, thereby further exacerbating the underlying problem. Shieber recognizes that journals still need to be compensated for the services they provide, but it has to be "in a scheme that isn't subject to gross market dysfunction, as it has been," he said. Open access publishing, he said, "is an alternative business model." Open access doesn't come cheap, though -- a paper in __PLoS Biology__ will set you back linkurl:$2850,;http://www.plos.org/journals/pubfees.html while publishing in BioMed Central's (BMC) flagship journal __Genome Biology__ costs linkurl:$2040.;http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/about/apcfaq#howmuch Many institutions have cut off full memberships with open access publishers, citing spiraling and unsustainable costs that were breaking the libraries' banks. For example, over the past year several libraries around the world -- including libraries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Imperial College London, and the University of Saskatchewan, to name a few -- stopped paying for its faculty's articles in BMC's journals through so-called "pre-pay memberships" in which libraries pay for all article publication charges for their authors. "The library's decision [to drop its BMC pre-pay membership] was based solely and wholly on the library budget and our need to ensure that we live within our means," said linkurl:Susan Murphy,;https://library.usask.ca/hsl/staff head of the University of Saskatchewan's Health Sciences Library, in an email. "The way the costs of publishing are paid for is going through a change," BMC's publisher linkurl:Matthew Cockerill;http://www.biomedcentral.com/info/about/whoweare told __The Scientist__. "It is a change, and that change has knock-on implications for how funds are allocated to cover those costs." The University of Calgary is one institution that is experimenting with new ways to cover those costs. In 2007, after BMC changed its price structure, Calgary saw its BMC bill soar from around $5,000 to $50,000. That spelled the end of their pre-pay membership to BMC. "From a library point of view, any product that goes up that amount in one year makes itself a candidate for cancelation," said serials librarian linkurl:Andrew Waller.;http://www.blogger.com/profile/02108213504285849284 The university did try to soften the financial blow of publishing in BMC and other open access journals, however. The library set aside C$100,000 ($77,000) from its annual budget for an "open-access authors fund" to cover per-article author charges -- the first such fund in Canada, and only the sixth of its kind in the world. "Our researchers are coming to us and saying, 'I have to make this freely available -- how do I do that?'" said Waller. The authors fund provided an answer. "It's a pretty good start, I think," Waller added. "It's a soft launch. We're taking things somewhat easy. But the plan is for [the fund] to continue into the next budget year." Such experiments are likely going to get more common. Indeed, similar funds now exist at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Tennessee, UC Berkeley, and the University of Amsterdam, among others. "We need to get the business model and infrastructure right," said Shieber. "One way or another, we'll figure out the right way to do it."
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Yale dumps BioMed Central;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53450/
[31st July 2007]*linkurl:Open access 2.0;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/53781/
[November 2007]*linkurl:Economics of open access;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/21548/
[22nd August 2003]

Comments

Avatar of: Stevan Harnad

Stevan Harnad

Posts: 6

March 5, 2009

The universities just keep sleep-walking. It would be amusing if it weren't so appalling:\n\n(1) U of C-1 (University of California), completely conflating, as usual, the journal affordability problem with the research accessibility problem, triumphantly bundles extra payment for optional Gold OA publishing charges for its own researchers' article output into its "Big Deal" subscription contract with Springer, throwing still more money at publishers -- instead of simply mandating that their own researchers make their own (published) journal articles Green OA by self-archiving them in U of C-1's own Institutional Repository (and, entirely independently, subscribing to whatever journals U of C-1 needs and can afford). And they think this is a "Good Deal" and a big step forward for OA.\n\n(2) U of C-2 (University of Calgary) does the same sort of thing (having first cancelled an earlier Badder Deal along much the same lines), triumphantly earmarking scarce funds -- which could have been far better spent (especially in today's financial crunch) on things that U of C-2 really needed and could not get otherwise -- to pay for Gold OA publishing charges for its own researchers's article output. This, again, instead of simply mandating that their own researchers make their own (published) journal articles Green OA by self-archiving them in U of C-2's own Institutional Repository.\n\n(3) Harvard did the far more sensible thing, and mandated Green OA self-archiving instead (but only if the author is willing and able to negotiate rights-retention with his publisher -- otherwise the author can opt out of self-archiving). Over 90% of journals already endorse immediate OA self-archiving, 63% for the refereed final draft. If Harvard adds a clause that requires the no-opt-out deposit of all articles, without exception, immediately upon acceptance for publication, whether or not the author elects to opt out of the rights-retention clause, then Harvard has the optimal policy. (Access to embargoed deposits and deposits whose authors have opted out can simply be stored in Closed Access instead of Open Access during the embargo, or indefinitely; the Repository's semi-automatic "Request a Copy" Button can provide Almost-OA to Closed Access deposits almost immediately, with just one click from the requester plus one click from the author, until universal OA inevitably prevails.)\n\n(4) It is not clear whether Boston University's "University-Wide" policy (Harvard's mandate is so far only for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Faculty of Law) is indeed a mandate at all: If not, it will fail, as all other nonbinding request/encourage policies have failed -- beginning with NIH's policy, which was upgraded to a requirement after two years of abject failure as a mere request.\n\nTo make all the OA dominoes fall, all it takes is universal deposit mandates; the rest is just (to mix metaphors) treading water and somnambulism.

March 5, 2009

We need to have a completely new publishing methodology in place. Any author should be encouraged to have a web site of his own. He should publish his work first on his web site. Then he may request any publisher to publish his work. The publisher will publish only after peer review and mention that the article is edited and peer reviewed, publishing the names of peers too. The author may be asked to pay a fee for this or vice versa the publisher may pay a fee to the author for publishing it in their journal based solely on business considerations, based upon editor's and peers' recommendations. The later type of article can carry the tag 'paid for by publisher'. Any article read on the publisher's website may be paid for, a very nominal amount, say $1 and allowed to be printed for say $5. Pricing of a hard copy say for a library should be based on 'recovery of cost' and a reasonable profit. Publishers should also pay the peers (I believe it is done) some consultation fee.
Avatar of: wang qian

wang qian

Posts: 1

March 6, 2009

\nin the sentence:\n "Form a library point of view, any product that goes up that amount in one year makes itself a candidate for cancelation,"\n\nthe "form" should be "from"?
Avatar of: Elie Dolgin

Elie Dolgin

Posts: 4

March 6, 2009

Thanks for spotting the spelling mistake, Wang Qian. The typo has now been corrected (Mar. 6).\n\nElie Dolgin, Associate Editor, The Scientist\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 20

March 10, 2009

Articles are just interpretations of data, and were referred to by Tom Stossel as "Mere Magazines." http://www.aei-brookings.org/policy/page.php?id=240&PHPSESSID=caf74c461fafb4fa9a58d6c5d9465815\nWhat one really needs is access to the data to look for biases and confounders, but all too often the primary data are not available to reviewers or readers. In human studies, privacy is often a major barrier.

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