Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

ACS re-announces its hybrid journal program

The American Chemical Society has re-announced its hybrid journal program AuthorChoice.  Yesterday's press release is essentially the same as the original press release from August 14, 2006.  If ACS has changed any of its terms or policies, it didn't point out the changes and I haven't noticed any.

To review, first see my nine questions for hybrid journal programs.  Of the nine, the ACS gives a good and welcome answer to just one:  it will let authors deposit articles in repositories independent of the ACS.  It gives unwelcome answers to three more:  it does not let participating authors retain copyright; it does not promise to reduce its subscription prices in proportion to author uptake (hence using the double charge business model); and it will apparently charge its AuthorChoice fee even to authors who want to self-archive.  It leaves us uncertain on the remainder:  Will it let participating authors use OA-friendly licenses?  Will it waive fees in cases of economic hardship?  Will it force authors to pay the fee if they want to comply with a prior funding contract mandating deposit in an OA repository?  Will it lay page charges on top of the new AuthorChoice fee?

I can't remember whether the ACS permitted no-fee, no-embargo self-archiving before it adopted the AuthorChoice program (and SHERPA has already been updated to reflect AuthorChoice).  If ACS was green, then the new policy steps backwards by charging for what used to be free.  If it was not green, then the new policy combines a forward and backward step:  allowing self-archiving but only for a fee. 

It's not unusual for publishers to retreat on their self-archiving policies when they adopt hybrid journal programs.  But the most common form of retreat is to add an embargo to their permission for postprint archiving, not to add a fee.  Wiley's hybrid program (FundedAccess) is one that adds a fee, even for (perhaps especially for) authors under OA mandate from their funder.

It's bad enough to charge for self-archiving and retreat from green OA in order to advance a low-uptake form of gold OA.  It's worse to charge for self-archiving, as if it cost the publisher money, when all the publishing costs are already covered by subscriptions.

Note that as the ACS policy is currently worded, it only charges the fee for self-archiving the published edition of an article.  Unless the ACS revises the policy, I would assume that authors who want to self-archive the final version of their peer-reviewed manuscript, rather than the published edition, needn't pay anything.

Update. Jane Smith of SHERPA tells me that ACS was a RoMEO white publisher before adopting AuthorChoice. It allowed authors to self-archive only the title, abstract, figures, and tables from an article, not the full-text of the peer-reviewed manuscript. (Thanks, Jane!)