Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, March 13, 2005

"Embargo creep" and the new ACS access policy

Richard Poynder, What is Open Access? Open and Shut, March 12, 2005. Focusing mostly on the new access-widening policies from the American Chemical Society (ACS). Excerpt: '[The new ACS policy] seems like a positive signal that both commercial and non-profit STM journal publishers now accept that publicly-funded research must be made freely available on the web. The ACS announcement is significant since the ACS was one of a handful of remaining publishers that consistently refused to "go green" and allow author self-archiving (technically ACS was classified as a gray publisher)....On the surface it appears that the ACS has had a conversion....Undoubtedly the new ACS policy is a direct response to the NIH policy....The ACS announcement is also a clear marker that it wants to maintain control of the process. But is it a signal that a consensus on OA has finally begun to emerge, and can we now expect to see a smooth transition to OA? Or is the ACS move merely a cynical ploy to engineer a situation in which a 12-month embargo becomes not (as intended by the NIH) an outer boundary, but the norm? Certainly the ACS has made the most of the watered down NIH policy....Stevan Harnad, a leading proponent of the green cause, and author of The Subversive Proposal, is unimpressed with the ACS position, believing it to be an attempt to make a virtue out of necessity....[Quoting Harnad:] "[A]ccess 12 months late is not very useful in itself and in any case already becoming the norm, but from a gray publisher it is actually a pretext for not going green, and as such, is no improvement at all. We should applaud partial steps only if they lead toward and increase the probability of 100% OA, not if they lead away from it!"...As Peter Suber pointed out in the February issue of his SPARC Open Access Newsletter the chief problem" with the final NIH policy is that "free online access could be delayed up to 12 months after publication. This is a significant delay, more serious in biomedicine than in most other fields. It will slow down research and slow down advances that promote public health."...[I]f OA does indeed imply immediate access, how should OA advocates respond to embargo creep?' (PS: Poynder also discusses the new Nature self-archiving policy, which introduces a six-month embargo on self-archiving.)