Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, February 21, 2008

NIH-funded authors and fee-based OA journals

Springer recently sent a memo to researchers on using Springer Open Choice journals to comply with the NIH OA policy.  Excerpt:

Do you receive research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)? If so, as from April 2008 you will be required to deposit the final manuscript of your journal articles in PubMed Central and ensure free availability (open access) within 12 months of publication.

You will be pleased to hear that Springer journals are fully geared up for that requirement. All you have to do is opt for open access publication of your article through Springer's Open Choice....

Springer will take care of the immediate deposit in PubMed Central and what's more, not of the manuscript, but of the final, published article. And it will also be available with open access right away, and not just after 12 months.

The cost of Open Choice is - as stated on the NIH web site - a permissible cost in your grant so please take care to budget for it....


  • It's true that NIH is willing to pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals, including the Springer Open Choice journals.  And it's true that if researchers choose to spend their grant funds in this way, they can ensure immediate OA to the published edition of their article, as opposed to delayed OA to their peer-reviewed (but not copy-edited) manuscript.  Springer Open Choice also uses a CC-BY license, while the NIH provides free online access but limits users to fair use.  This is a legitimate option that researchers should understand and consider.
  • But the Springer memo leaves the false impression that NIH-funded researchers who want to publish in Springer journals must pay a fee to do so.  The Springer Open Choice journals publish some OA articles and some TA articles, at the author's choice.  If researchers don't want to use part of their grant funds to pay for Springer's OA option, currently $3,000, then they can still submit to Springer journals for (no-fee) TA publication.  If Springer accepts the article, the peer-reviewed manuscript will still become freely available through PubMed Central.
  • Moreover, Springer is green and allows author-initiated postprint archiving without fees or delays. 
  • Bottom line:  Under the new NIH policy, grantees must reserve the right to comply with the policy whenever they publish a journal article based on their research.  Hence, they never need to pay a publisher for permission to comply with the NIH policy
  • On the other hand, some publishers may well refuse to publish work by NIH-funded authors unless the authors pay a fee.  The fee wouldn't pay for permission to comply with the NIH policy, which is already assured, but for publication in the journal.  Springer has not adopted such a policy, but I welcome information about other publishers that may start to do so.