Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More on the OA journal fund at Berkeley

The University of California at Berkeley has released more information on its fund to support OA journals (first announced and blogged here last month):

For the next 18 months, campus researchers can obtain funding to publish their work in open-access journals, which typically charge authors a fee to make their work available online immediately upon publication at no cost to readers. Funds are also available for publication in traditional, fee-for-access journals offering an open-access option to researchers willing to pay for the privilege. The subsidies will pay for publishing costs not covered by grants or contracts.

Under the newly launched Berkeley Research Impact Initiative (BRII), faculty, postdocs, and graduate students can apply for campus funding to subsidize the entire amount, up to $3,000, charged by such open-access publishers as the nonprofit Public Library of Science (PLoS) and the for-profit BioMed Central. The program will also cover up to half the amount charged by so-called hybrid journals, which post a portion of their content online immediately upon publication. A growing number of venerable, for-profit academic publishers — including industry giants like Elsevier (with more than 2,000 journals) and Springer (with 1,300) — now make that option available to authors....

The initiative has its genesis in a 2005 conference here on scholarly publishing and the challenges of ensuring that researchers’ work is broadly accessible by readers on- and off-campus. The Berkeley Library’s budget has been flat since 2001, while journal prices continue to rise.

“The trend is just unsustainable,” says Chuck Eckman, the campus’s associate University Librarian and director of collections....

[Eckman] notes that other U.S. institutions, including the University of Wisconsin and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have started smaller subsidy programs for faculty researchers, as have some in Europe.

For Berkeley, the concern grows that as journals price themselves out of the market, research performed by a Berkeley scholar might not be available in a campus library. And unless the researcher has opted to publish in an open-access format, the work might not be available online either for six months or more, the standard embargo for traditional journals, including so-called society journals published by associations like the National Academy of Sciences.

“Something’s not working on the library side, and we’re interested in new ways of thinking about how we might create a sustainable budget,” says Eckman. “And while it isn’t clear yet whether open access can accomplish that, we want to be exploratory, rather than just sitting back and taking the old path of continuing to cancel and cancel and cancel.” ...

Comment.  I support university funds to pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals.  But I must point out that OA journals do not "typically charge" these fees.  On the contrary.  Most OA journals charge no publication fees.  In December 2007, Bill Hooker's survey of all full-OA journals in the DOAJ found that 67% charged no publication fees.  The month before, Caroline Sutton and I found that 83% of OA society journals charged no publication fees.