Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

American Physiological Society launches hybrid journal program

The American Physiological Society has launched a hybrid OA journal program called Author Choice.  From the June 29 announcement:

Authors who publish with the American Physiological Society (APS) and want to provide the public with immediate access to their research results will now be able to do so under a plan announced today by the APS.

Under the new program, Author Choice, researchers who publish their studies in APS journals can make their results immediately available by paying an open access (OA) fee. The plan, which takes effect July 1, 2007, also guarantees that researchers who are required to provide open access as a condition of funding can quickly and easily do so....

According to Martin Frank, Ph.D., APS' Executive Director, "...Ten years ago we made online access to our journals immediately available for a nominal fee. Seven years ago we made all articles free online after 12 months. Two years ago we made articles available to all patients in need, at no charge. Now we are letting the researchers and their organizations dictate when the results of their research are made available to the public free of charge. Given today's market forces, it makes sense to let the authors decide what timing best suits their needs."

The plan goes into effect after several years of experimentation with the APS journal Physiological Genomics. During a three year period, APS offered authors the choice of whether to pay an open access fee plus standard author charges. At the end of the test period, 18 percent of authors opted for open access....

Authors who choose immediate access for their work will pay the $2,000 Author Choice fee, plus the customary author fees. Open access choice will apply to all of the APS' 10 monthly research publications: American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology; American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism; American Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology; American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology; American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology; American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative & Comparative Physiology; American Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology; Journal of Applied Physiology; Journal of Neurophysiology; and Physiological Genomics.

Some 4,000 Research Articles Have Potential to be "Open" ...

From the Author Choice FAQ:

The [$2,000] AuthorChoice fee was determined by calculating the real average cost of publishing an article in an APS journal, and subtracting the actual average amount already paid by authors in author fees (page charges and color fees). The AuthorChoice fee was designed to completely cover the cost of publishing an article. If enough authors choose open access, the journals will become open access, and we will forego subscription revenue for an author-pays revenue system.

The FAQ doesn't indicate the average author fees, but the copyright transfer agreement for Physiological Genomics requires page charges of $70 per printed page and color charges of $400 per figure.  No waivers are allowed.  Hence a 10 page paper with two figures would incur page and color fees of $1,500, and an Author Choice fee of $2,000, for a total of $3,500.

Comment.  Like other hybrid OA journal program, this one is welcome to the extent that it enlarges the body of peer-reviewed OA literature.  Unfortunately I'm not optimistic.  Author Choice meets none of my nine criteria for a hybrid journal policy:

  • Nothing in the announcement or FAQ says that Author Choice authors may retain copyright.  So I assume that they must sign the standard APS agreement, which transfers all rights to the publisher.  For the same reason, I assume that participating authors do not have the option to use CC licenses or the equivalent.  APS will host the free online copies itself and will not apparently allow authors to deposit copies in OA repositories independent of the APS.  If APS will not waive page and color charges in cases of economic hardship, I assume it will not waive OA fees either.  While the total price for short papers might be lower than the industry high-end, it is as high as any for long papers.  APS even demands the Author Choice fee from authors who must provide OA to the final version of their peer-reviewed manuscript (not the published edition) in order to comply with a previous funding contract.  Before Author Choice, APS authors funded by NIH or Wellcome Trust could comply with their funder's OA policy without paying their publisher for the privilege.
  • The next criterion is a little more complicated.  The APS doesn't promise to reduce its subscription prices in proportion to author  uptake.  But it does say in the FAQ that "[i]f enough authors choose open access, the journals will become open access, and we will forego subscription revenue for an author-pays revenue system."  Is that good enough?  No:  It means that APS will use a double-charge business model (OA fees plus subscriptions) until the day, if ever, when the journals convert to full OA.
  • The only good news is that the hybrid program hasn't made APS retreat from a green self-archiving policy.  But the reason is that APS did not have a green self-archiving policy.  It did not allow preprint or postprint archiving before it adopted Author Choice, with an exception for authors under a request or requirement from their funding agency.  And it does not allow them now.  On the other hand, APS will still provide free online access to non-Author-Choice papers 12 months after publication, just as it did for all its published papers before Author Choice.

Update. Also see the short article on Author Choice in Library Journal Academic Newswire for July 10. Excerpt:

The option is also a necessary move for APS, which relies heavily on income from its journals. In a report published in its newsletter, The Physiologist, APS officials noted that subscription revenue accounted for 58 percent of all revenue and "publication revenue," accounted for 83 percent, revenue streams that have been under increasing pressure recently. "This revenue was seen to be at risk because of the activities of advocates of the OA movement," the report states. Offering an OA option will "diversify" APS's publishing revenue streams.