Opinion: OA Advocates Slam Science Advances

Proponents of open-access publishing question the newly announced terms of publishing in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s forthcoming journal.

By | August 13, 2014

FLICKR, DUNCAN HULLOpen access advocates, led by Imperial College London PhD student Jon Tennant, are drafting an open letter to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), publisher of Science, outlining concerns over newly announced details for the organization’s forthcoming open-access journal Science Advances. Tennant and a bevvy of cosignatories argue that publishing in Science Advances places “unnecessary restrictions on reuse,” and that the journal does not meet the standards of the Budapest Open Access Initiative. (Full disclosure: I am a signatory on the draft open letter, and worked for the open-access publisher BioMed Central from 2012 to 2014.)

Like most open-access journals, Science Advances will be supported by article processing charges. But unlike other publications, the journal plans to charge an additional fee ($1,500) for processing articles longer than 10 pages. “In an online-only format, page length is an arbitrary unit that results from the article being read in PDF format,” Tennant et al. argued in their draft letter, which is being edited today on a collaborative Google Doc.

The authors also take issue with the new journal publishing papers, by default, under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC-BY-NC) license, making researchers funded by organizations such as the Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust unable to submit their work. The open access advocates argue that non-commercial restrictions offer little benefit to the progress of scholarly research, and instead hinder dissemination of material for educational purposes. Science Advances does offer an option for researchers to publish under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC-BY) license, for an additional $1,000.

Compared with other open-access journals, the cost of publishing in Science Advances is steep. For example, PLOS ONE charges authors $1,350 to publish open-access articles of any length, while PeerJ charges authors a lifetime fee of $99 for unlimited publishing. Both of these journals release content under the CC-BY license by default. The article processing charge for a standard, CC-BY-NC-licensed paper in Science Advances is $3,000, according to AAAS.

“Academics may submit what they perceive to be ‘better’ research to ‘higher quality’ journals. But that’s almost entirely subjective,” Tennant told me on Facebook. “Superior, to me, is publishing efficiency [and a] lack of constraints.”

In an e-mail, Science journals editor-in-chief Marcia McNutt noted that her staff controls the publications’ “content and decisions on direction,” whereas the business team manages publishing pricing. Will Schweitzer, business manager for Science Advances, said his team intends to prepare a response to the open letter once published, but was not able to comment further by press time.

Tennant said he plans to polish and submit the document to AAAS tomorrow.

Dalmeet Singh Chawla is a freelance science journalist based in London.

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