Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

HHMI mandates OA but pays publishers to allow it

HHMI Announces New Policy for Publication of Research Articles, a press release from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), June 26, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute today announced that it will require its scientists to publish their original research articles in scientific journals that allow the articles and supplementary materials to be made freely accessible in a public repository within six months of publication.

“We have sought to balance the goal of public access with the important principle of scholarly freedom in the formulation of this policy and believe that it represents a positive step for us and for the broader scientific community,” said Thomas R. Cech, HHMI's president.

Announcement of the policy follows extensive consultation within the community of HHMI scientists....It represents an extension of existing policies that already require HHMI scientists to share published research materials, databases, and software in a timely and useful fashion.

The policy applies to all manuscripts submitted on or after January 1, 2008, for which an HHMI scientist is a major author....For purposes of the policy, HHMI defines a major author as those listed first or last on a paper; however, if a middle author is designated as the corresponding author, then that individual would be considered the major author.

HHMI has designated PubMed Central (PMC), the free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences literature maintained by the National Institutes of Health, as the repository for journals in the biological sciences. Articles published in journals that are outside the biological sciences are expected to be deposited in comparable repositories and made publicly available within six months.

Cech noted that many journals in which HHMI scientists publish original research articles already meet the policy requirements. Several months ago, HHMI reached an agreement with Elsevier that brings Cell Press and Elsevier journals into compliance with the new policy. The agreement with Elsevier goes into effect on September 1 for all manuscripts submitted after that date.

HHMI also announced today that it has signed an agreement with John Wiley & Sons. Beginning with manuscripts submitted October 1, Wiley will arrange for the upload of author manuscripts of original research articles, along with supplemental data, on which any HHMI scientist is an author to PMC. The author manuscript has been through the peer review process and accepted for publication, but has not undergone editing and formatting. HHMI will pay Wiley a fee for each uploaded article.

In addition, the American Society of Hematology, which publishes the journal Blood, has extended its open access option to HHMI authors effective October 1. Cech said that discussions with other publishers are ongoing.

The policy and supporting resources have been posted on the Institute web site and may be found [here].

To supplement this press release see

  1. The policy itself, dated June 11, 2007, to take effect January 1, 2008
  2. The Institute's new page on HHMI & Public Access Publishing


  • HHMI is finally mandating that its grantees provide OA to their published articles based on HHMI-funded research within six months of publication.  We knew last October that it was planning to adopt a mandate, but now it's a reality.  Moreover, HHMI is taking the same hard line that the Wellcome Trust has taken:  if a grantee's intended publisher will not allow OA on the funder's terms, then the grantee must look for another publisher.  This is all to the good.  Funders should mandate OA to the research they fund, and they should take advantage of the fact that they are upstream from publishers.  They should require grantee compliance, not depend on publisher permission.
  • But unfortunately, HHMI is continuing its practice of paying publishers for green OA.  I criticized this practice in SOAN for April 2007 and I stand by that criticism.  HHMI should not have struck a pay-for-green deal with Elsevier and should not be striking a similar deal with Wiley.  HHMI hasn't announced how much it's paying Wiley, and it's possible that the Wiley fees are lower than the Elsevier fees.  But it's possible that they're just as high:  $1,000 - $1,500.  We do know that its Wiley fees will not buy OA to the published edition, but only OA to the unedited version of the author's peer-reviewed manuscript.  HHMI hasn't said whether its Wiley fees will buy unembargoed OA or OA with a CC license.  The Wellcome Trust's fees to Elsevier buy three things of value --immediate OA, OA to the published edition, and OA with a CC license-- while HHMI's fees to Elsevier buy none of these things.  If HHMI gets all three of these valuable things for its Wiley fees, then it's basically paying for gold OA and no one can object to fees that are high enough to cover the publisher's expenses.  But paying for green OA, when the publisher's expenses are covered by subscription revenue, is wrong and unnecessary even if the fees are low.   For details, see my April article.

Update.  I just received this clarification from Avice Meehan, HHMI's Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs:

This policy affects HHMI investigators and scientists at the Janelia Farm Research Campus. They are employees of the Institute (not grantees) and represent the bulk of our scientific activity.   For the moment, this policy does not affect the International Research Scholars, who are scientists supported by HHMI through a grants mechanism and conduct research outside the US.