Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, March 20, 2008

EC funds another study on impact of OA archiving on journal subscriptions

Cliff Morgan, The Latest OA Landscape, Wiley-Blackwell Journal News, March 2008.  (Thanks to Robin Peek.)  A short summary of recent developments, including the NIH mandate, the ERC mandate, the Harvard mandate, the Berkeley OA journal fund, and the EU Council Conclusions.  Here's the only part that may be new to OAN readers:

...In general, the European Commission favours an evidence-based approach to policy in this area, and with that in mind it will fund a project known as PEER (Publishing and Ecology of European Research) in which a number of STM publishers (including Wiley-Blackwell) will participate together with the European research community (funders and institutions). The project (which will run for at least 3 years as part of the EC’s eContent Plus program) will develop an Observatory to monitor the impact of large-scale archiving in repositories of journal articles that have been accepted for publication on journal viability, researcher access and productivity, and systemic costs.


  • Morgan makes it appear that the EC isn't in a position to adopt an evidence-based OA policy without running a new, three-year study.  This is untrue.  The EC commissioned a study in 2006 which drew upon many previous studies, and it has the January 2007 report from the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB).  EURAB was established specifically to offer independent advice on EU research policy.  Apart from these, it has heard from more than 1,300 European research institutions and more than 25,000 individual researchers in support of an OA mandate.  The EC's own Research Directorate-General supported OA in its February 2007 Communication (p. 7):  "Initiatives leading to wider access to and dissemination of scientific information are necessary, especially with regard to journal articles and research data produced on the basis of public funding." 
  • The EC has enough evidence, today, to adopt the OA recommendations of its own commissioned study, its own research advisory board, its own research directorate, and the 1,300+ research institutions throughout the continent.  Similarly, cautious governments or public funding agencies in 10 countries (including the EU, through the European Research Council) have adopted OA mandates on existing evidence.
  • The new PEER study will turn up relevant evidence, but the EC should use that evidence to fine-tune its policy.  It should not use the study to delay the policy itself as if there were insufficient evidence today.  If the PEER question is whether high-volume OA archiving will cause journal cancellations, then the EC can also benefit from the publishers' own study that high-journal prices are a significant cause of cancellations and that "availability via delayed OA...[is] relatively unimportant."
  • I made a related point in an article last September:

Note to the EU, US, and other jurisdictions considering an OA mandate:  there are at least nine [now 10] national-level, multi-disciplinary OA mandates and even more softer OA policies that encourage OA without requiring it.  These constitute a large, ongoing natural experiment.  By all means look at the evidence, but don't fall for the argument that we must delay the adoption of new OA policies in order to launch another, later, smaller study of the effect of OA archiving on journal subscriptions.