Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #76
August 2, 2004

Read this issue online

The two lead stories in this issue describe two of the most significant open-access developments in our history. It's uncanny how similar they are and how, without planning, they were announced in the same week, reinforcing each other's message and momentum.


The open-access plan from the House Appropriations Committee

On July 14, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee adopted a set of recommendations for next year's federal budget.  One key recommendation would have the National Institutes of Health (NIH) put a condition on its research grants so that articles based on NIH-funded research would be deposited in PubMed Central (PMC), the NIH's open-access digital library.  In most cases, the articles would not become OA through PMC until six months after publication in a journal.  But if NIH paid any part of their publication costs, they would become OA immediately.

This recommendation arose in talks between NIH leaders and the members of the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for NIH funding (the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies).  All signs suggest that the NIH and the appropriations subcommittee both worked on the plan before the subcommittee approved it.  That was the first big step.  The second was getting the parent Appropriations Committee to sign off on it. 

* The language of the appropriations report

The exact language has not yet been published by the committees.  But SPARC has put an unofficial version of it on its web site.  Please understand that this is only our best understanding of the language and that it is subject to amendment as the appropriations process continues. 

The [Appropriations] Committee is very concerned that there is insufficient public access to reports and data resulting from NIH-funded research. This situation, which has been exacerbated by the dramatic rise in scientific journal subscription prices, is contrary to the best interests of the U.S. taxpayers who paid for this research. The Committee is aware of a proposal to make the complete text of articles and supplemental materials generated by NIH-funded research available on PubMed Central (PMC), the digital library maintained by the National Library of Medicine (NLM).  The Committee supports this proposal and recommends NIH develop a policy, to apply from FY 2005 forward, requiring that a complete electronic copy of any manuscript reporting work supported by NIH grants or contracts be provided to PMC upon acceptance of the manuscript for publication in any scientific journal listed in the NLM's PubMed directory. Under this proposal, NLM would commence making these reports, together with supplemental materials, freely and continuously available six months after publication, or immediately in cases in which some or all of the publication costs are paid with NIH grant funds. For this purpose, "publication costs" would include fees charged by a publisher, such as color and page charges, or fees for digital distribution. NIH is instructed to submit a report to the Committee by December 1, 2004 about how it intends to implement this policy, including how it will ensure the reservation of rights by the NIH grantee, if required, to permit placement of the article in PMC and to allow appropriate public uses of this literature.

Here are ten annotations to help understand the proposal. 

(1) Who would have to deposit the text?  This is a responsibility of the grantee, not the grantee's publisher.  However, there's nothing in the language to prevent services from springing up to help grantees in this regard.  I see no reason why grantees couldn't be helped by their publishers, their employers, PMC itself, or third-party entrepreneurs.  Grantees will not have to tag or mark-up their texts, or prepare them in any special way, before deposit.

(2) What version of an article would have to be deposited?  The version accepted by a journal's peer-review process.  Preprints would not suffice, but there are at least two kinds of postprint.  If the peer-review process introduced one layer revisions and copy editing introduced another, then only the former would have to be included in the PMC's OA edition.  (The distinction between these two kinds of postprint is not clearly spelled out in the text, but a person close to the Appropriations Committee tells me that this is the Committee's intent.)

(3) What "supplemental materials" would have to be deposited alongside the full-text articles?  Just the tables and data that authors submit with their articles.  In some journals, when these will not fit into the print edition, they are published in an electronic supplement.  The clause does not apply to raw data or lab notebooks.

(4) Why PubMed Central?  The obvious answer is that it is maintained by the NIH, that it already houses a very large body of medical literature, that it has benefited from years of infrastructure refinements, and that it is committed to open access, long-term preservation, and interoperability.  Some publishers have political objections to PMC and would like to see Congress allow grantees to put the literature elsewhere, either in multiple repositories or in any repository that meets certain conditions.  For the purposes of OA, these amendments would cause no problem.  At the same time, however, the high quality of PMC makes them unnecessary.  Some of the objections are based on misunderstanding, as if PMC conducted peer review and therefore as if this the plan was a step toward "government-controlled science".  Some are based on distrust of the long-term government commitment to science or, in fact, to anything.  The short answer here is simply that deposit in PMC is compatible with deposit elsewhere and with multiple copies to enhance long-term preservation.

(5) When would deposit in PMC have to take place?  Upon "acceptance" of the article by a journal.  This means that the deposit might take place up to six months before PMC releases the OA edition to the public.  Authors who choose not to submit their work to a journal (for example, because it contains patentable discoveries) will not have to deposit copies in PMC.  The same goes for authors who write books instead of journal articles, or whose work is rejected by journals.

(6) When would PMC release its OA edition of the article to the public?  If NIH paid "some or all of the publication cost", then immediately; otherwise, six months from the date of publication.  It doesn't matter whether the publication costs paid by NIH are color or page charges at non-OA journals or processing fees at OA journals, and it doesn't matter whether NIH paid all or only some of these costs.  Many publishers object to this rule on the ground that even a small payment from NIH would trigger immediate OA.  This provision seems to have been suggested by NIH as a way to treat OA and non-OA journals equally and not to favor one form of journal over the other.

(7) Why limit the policy to articles accepted by a "scientific journal listed in the NLM's PubMed directory"?  The committee's intention here was to ensure the quality of the articles in PubMed Central. 

Exactly which list of journals is this?  According to a source within the NIH, the existing list that best fits the legislative label ("NLM's PubMed directory") is the list of journals indexed in Index Medicus, currently with 4,098 titles.  However, my source tells me that even before the appropriations report came out, NLM was planning to produce a larger list that starts with the Index Medicus list and then adds journals indexed in smaller databases that later merged with Medline.  The result will have around 4,800 titles and fit the legislative description even better.

In short:

The list of journals indexed in Index Medicus (4,000+ titles)
(best fit so far but soon to be superseded)

Criteria for including journals in the Index Medicus list

The list of serials indexed for online users of NLM (10,300+ titles)
(not the intended list, too indiscriminate and including many defunct titles)

The list of Entrez PubMed journals (I haven't been able to count these yet)
(not the intended list)

The PubMed Central journal list (150+ titles)
(not the intended list)

Note that the selectivity of the list will be two-edged.  On the one hand, it will help keep PMC quality high.  But on the other, it will open a loophole.  NIH-funded research that winds up in unlisted journals needn't be deposited in PMC.  This is not the kind of loophole that authors might seek out; it's the kind of loophole that means that taxpayers won't get OA to 100% of NIH-funded research.

Can journals seek it out? Can listed journals exempt themselves from the OA plan by removing themselves from the list?  This is not clear.  On the one hand, the current language limits the OA condition to work accepted by listed journals.  On the other, journals may not have much control over NLM's decision to list them.  The list is valuable precisely because it's built on neutral, public criteria, not self-selection.  My source at NLM tells me that in the past NLM has only removed journals that stop publishing regularly and has never removed citations even at a journal's request. 

Even if journals could remove themselves from the list, they should think twice about trying.  It's not just a formality.  PubMed averages 60 million visits every month.  For a journal to give up this exposure, it would also give up a large part of its attraction to authors who submit their work.

Here are a few questions and objections that are not tied to specific clauses of the report language.

(8) Will this restrict the freedom of authors to publish in non-OA journals?  Some publishers are already saying "yes", but they are overstating the case.  The proposal in the appropriations report would essentially mandate postprint archiving.  But all OA journals and about 84% of non-OA journals already permit postprint archiving.  So NIH-funded authors will be able to choose among all OA journals and 84% of the rest.  More or less.  One reason to think "more" is that the number of journals that permit postprint archiving has been rising steadily since Elsevier decided to do so in May.  One reason to think "less" is that some of these journals permit postprint archiving in institutional repositories but not in disciplinary repositories like PubMed Central.

The 84% figure comes from Stevan Harnad's journal-level supplement to Project SHERPA's publisher-level data on copyright and archiving policies.

The JISC-OSI report from February 2004 (p. 50) showed that 70% of authors surveyed would "willingly" abide by a mandatory OA archiving requirement from their funding agency.  As knowledge of OA spreads among scholars, enthusiasm for it spreads apace, so this number is only going up.  Publishers who pretend to object on behalf of authors are getting it wrong and attempting to disguise their own objections.

Another sign that publishers are overstating the problem is that they are quick to attribute restrictive policies to other, unnamed publishers but slow to avow these restrictive policies themselves.  Let's hear from publishers (publishers in the NIH's general ambit of biomedicine) who are willing to drop the scare tactics and speak for themselves.  How many are willing to refuse to accept work based on NIH-funded research?

(9) Will the cost of enlarging PMC to handle the new submissions divert funds from the NIH research mission?  Martin Frank, Executive Director of the American Physiological Society and organizer of the DC Principles, opposes the plan in part because he estimates that it will cost the NIH $75-100 million (apparently per year).  Frank made this objection in person at the July 20 E.Journal Summit meeting sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences.  David Lipman, director of the NLM and PMC, responded that this estimate was too high by at least an order of magnitude.  However, it's too early to give a precise account of the cost, because it will combine fixed costs (a mechanism for accepting author submissions) and some variable costs (tagging the papers that need tagging). 

Frank also argued more generally that any NIH funds spent on open access through PMC would be ill-spent, since they could be spent instead to "find the next cure for heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimer's Disease".  This a false dilemma that overlooks or denies the role of open access in accelerating research for cures for heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's.  Disease advocacy organizations, or at least those that do not publish subscription-based journals, support open access precisely because it accelerates this critical research.  For example, see the endorsement of the NIH plan from the Genetic Alliance, a coalition of 600+ advocacy, research and health care organizations.

Martin Frank objection based on the costs to NIH and PMC

Mark Doyle's response to Frank's objection

Genetic Alliance endorsement of the NIH OA plan

According to the House Appropriations Committee report, the total NIH R&D appropriation for FY 2005 will be $27,923 million, the same as the NIH request.  The NLM portion of this will be $317 million, the same as the request.  While the overall NIH R&D budget increased 2.58% over the estimated FY 2004 budget line, the NLM portion increased 2.9%.

(10) Some publishers object that we should "let the market work" and not turn to a federal mandate.  One problem with this objection is that scientific research and its dissemination are permeated by government spending and government policies.  Hence, this is not a market in any ordinary or classical sense at all.  For example, in most countries (certainly in the U.S.) most funded scientific research is funded by governments, most scientists work at public institutions and are paid by governments, and most subscriptions to subscription-based journals are purchased by public institutions and paid for by governments.  If journal publishers really meant "keep government money and policymaking out of this sector", most would go bankrupt immediately. 

A second problem with the objection is that almost every observer not paid by publishers believes that the journal publishing system is dysfunctional and unsustainable.  I'm thinking of the universities (like Harvard, Stanford, Duke, and Cornell) that can no longer afford to subscribe to the range of journals they could formerly afford, the financial analysts (like PNB Paribas and Credit Suisse First Boston) that have analyzed the industry for investors, and the government panels like the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that have investigated the industry for universities and taxpayers.  Insofar as it's a market, it has failed. 

I've heard publishers complain (again, at the E.Journal Summit in July) that this federal mandate will force publishers to adopt an open-access business model.  But in every case, these publishers misunderstood the proposal.  It proposes OA through archiving, not OA through journals.  OA through archiving will have consequences for journals, but it will not require journals to convert to OA business models. 

Finally, if the publishers mean that governments should take no actions that reduce profits for private-sector businesses, then the objection is easily answered.  Congress and the NIH work for all U.S. taxpayers, not for the subset represented by publishers.  The purpose of this plan is to give taxpayers the access for which they have paid, and thereby to stimulate and accelerate research.  It's about advancing the public interest, not a private interest.

University actions against high journal prices, and the accompanying public statements denouncing the journal publishing system as unsustainable

Financial analyses of the journal publishing market by PNB Paribas and Credit Suisse

Scientific Publications: Free for All?  (The report of the inquiry by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, July 20, 2004.  For more details, see the next story below.)

* The procedural steps still to come

So far the NIH OA plan is just a recommendation of the House Appropriations Committee.  It has to come to a vote of the full House of Representatives, where it might be amended.  Many members wanted the vote to take place before Congress adjourned for its summer recess last week (July 23) but it was not to be.  So the vote has now been postponed until at least Labor Day, when Congress reconvenes.  Separately, the same bill will be taken up by the Senate Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee with jurisdiction over the NIH.  The Senate Appropriations Committee may prepare its own version of the bill or even decide not to address the matter.  When it has approved a Senate version of the bill, the full Senate will have to vote.  As in the House, once the bill goes to the floor of the Senate for a vote, it will be subject to further amendment.  If the Senate version of the bill differs from the House version, then the differences will be worked out by a conference committee.  The resulting conference report goes back through both chambers for one last approval and then on to the President for signature or veto.

The NIH OA plan is only one tiny part of a huge appropriations bill governing the budgets of the Departments of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and several related agencies for fiscal year 2005, which starts on October 1, 2004.  Everyone wants the budget to be approved before the new fiscal year begins, but it doesn't always happen.  (When it doesn't, Congress adopts continuing resolutions to keep the government running.)  So the vote is already delayed until at least September. Semi-predictable annual forces may delay it until October.  And special election-year pressures may delay it until November or later.

Even if the language is adopted without substantial revision, it won't immediately require NIH to adopt a new policy.  Instead, it will require the NIH to submit a plan to Congress by December 1, 2004, describing how it will implement the OA policy expressed in that language.  The NIH plan will likely be published for a period of public comment before it is made final and given effect.

* How this plan differs from the Sabo bill

Martin Sabo (D-MN) submitted his Public Access to Science Act to Congress in June 2003.  Procedurally it's still alive but politically it's been dead for some time.  Until the current NIH OA proposal, it was the single most direct legislative proposal ever submitted to Congress on behalf of open access.  It didn't die because OA opponents outnumbered OA proponents; we never got far enough to find out.  It died because it was written so that even OA proponents could not line up behind it.

(1) The Sabo bill would have revised U.S. copyright law to deprive federally-funded research of copyright.  The new plan does not affect copyright law.  NIH-funded research is currently copyrightable and will remain copyrightable if the plan passes.

(2) The Sabo bill would have put some literature into the public domain without creating open access to it.  The new plan would provide open access itself. 

(3) The Sabo bill would have applied to classified military research, revenue-producing books, and patentable discoveries --not by intent but because the language was not crafted to exclude them.  The new plan does not apply to classified research (because the NIH doesn't fund any) or to books (because the language is limited to journal articles).  It might apply to research that results in patentable discoveries, but only to the research that the grantees themselves choose to publish in journals. 

(4) The Sabo bill was proposed by one Democratic member of the House.  The new plan was proposed by a Republican-controlled committee.  This matters because it shows that OA is not a liberal or Democratic issue any more than a conservative or Republican issue.  It's very good for us that OA is, and is perceived to be, a non-partisan issue about the dissemination of science and the effectiveness of the taxpayer investment in research.

The Sabo bill (HR 2613)

Martin Sabo's Public Access to Science Act, my analysis from SOAN for 7/4/03

* Conclusion

This plan is an extraordinary step forward.  Given the mistakes of the Sabo bill, we can be very grateful that this plan avoids all of them.  It would provide actual OA to an important body of taxpayer-funded research, not just the legal basis or permission for OA.  It would avoid needless quarrels with friends of OA who also happen to be friends copyright, patents, or book revenue.  It starts with the most urgent federal research (medical research) and the largest federal research funder (the NIH).  It would provide OA through archiving, which is less expensive, less disruptive, and more readily scalable than OA through journals, although OA through journals is no less essential.  It preserves the freedom of scientists to publish in nearly any journal that will accept their work.  And the six-month embargo ensures that the plan is compatible with the survival of non-OA journals, a fact that may be critical for the political viability of the plan.  Publishers have already won large concessions and should be satisfied.  For the first time ever, we have a realistic political chance of achieving a significant wave of bona fide OA in one giant step.

The language of the NIH OA plan in the House Appropriations report (unofficial)

House Committee on Appropriations

House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies

Access to Biomedical Research Information, the NIH-NLM report to Congress (May 2004)

SPARC action-page to support the NIH OA plan

Public Knowledge action-page to support the NIH OA plan

Opposition to the plan from the Association of American Publishers

SPARC argument for taxpayer-access to taxpayer-funded research

The taxpayer argument for open access, my analysis from SOAN for 9/4/03

For a comparison of the NIH OA plan with the OA plan proposed in the same week by a committee of the UK House of Commons, see the next story, below.  For links to news stories about the NIH OA plan, see the section on major news stories, below.

* Postscript.  I'm already getting email from friends of OA who fear that the plan will be harmful.  Their objection is nearly the same as the objection many had to the Elsevier decision to permit postprint archiving, namely, that it will not apply to enough of the literature to allow libraries to cancel journal subscriptions.  My response is the same:  (1) where it applies, the plan provides genuine OA, (2) it brings the benefits of OA to all participating authors and all of their readers, and (3) if it doesn't yet help other authors, other readers, or libraries, then that doesn't make the plan harmful to OA, merely insufficient.  This plan will definitely expand OA to medical research, but no one thinks of that as a reason to stop working for OA in other fields.  The plan will definitely expand OA archiving, but no one thinks of that as a reason to stop working for OA journals.  As I argued last month in discussing the Elsevier decision, "we'll have at least two reasons to continue to work for OA journals even in a world of widespread OA archiving:  first, to help libraries solve the pricing crisis, and second, to ensure the survival of peer-review providers."


The UK House of Commons report endorses open access

After conducting a thorough inquiry for half a year, the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee finally released its report, _Scientific Publications: Free for All?_ .  The committee conducted four sessions of oral testimony, hearing from 23 witnesses, and received 143 written submissions.  It heard from leaders in research, libraries, universities, publishing, and government who put forward the best arguments for and against open access.

The report strongly endorses OA archiving and tentatively endorses the upfront funding model for OA journals.  Here's my take on the eight most important of the 82 specific conclusions and recommendations:

  1. The government should provide funds for all UK universities to launch open-access institutional repositories.
  2. Government funding agencies should require faculty receiving research grants to deposit copies of their articles in their institutional repositories.
  3. The government should create a fund to help authors pay the processing fees charged by open-access journals.  The committee is not yet ready to endorse the upfront funding model for OA journals (which it unfortunately calls the "author-pays" model), but wants to create such a fund in order to promote further experimentation with the model.
  4. The government should develop a wider, long-term strategy that includes open-access journals "as a matter of urgency".
  5. Journal prices are unacceptably high and publisher justifications for them are not credible.  The Office of Fair Trading (the UK office investigating monopolistic business practices) should monitor the journal publishing industry and issue biennial public reports on the "state of the market".
  6. The government should investigate whether leaving copyright in the hands of authors would have a "disproportionately negative impact" on authors or research.  If it would not, then government funding agencies should require their grantees to retain copyright in articles based on funded research.
  7. All these steps can and should be undertaken without jeopardizing "rigorous and independent peer review".
  8. The government should fund the British Library to take on the long-term preservation of digital scholarship.

The committee doesn't merely endorse OA, but calls for a national commitment to open access encompassing all UK higher education institutions, the British Library, the Research Councils, the government funding agencies, and government policy-makers.  The report recommends many steps, but puts the most weight on the one step that will do the most good:  asking government funding agencies to put an OA condition on research grants requiring grantees to deposit the full-text articles based on funded research in OA repositories.  Of all the steps that governments can take, this one will deliver OA at the lowest cost and the least disruption to publishers.  It is compatible with the survival of conventional journals, the rigor and integrity of peer review, and the freedom of authors to publish where they see fit (in any OA journal or nearly any non-OA journal).  It acknowledges that scientific research --especially when funded by taxpayers-- is not an ordinary commodity for ordinary market exploitation. 

The report is not a legislative proposal.  However, the government is obliged to respond and any of the report's recommendations could be taken up by the House of Commons and proposed as legislation.  For now it has a two-fold importance:  first as the lengthy, detailed report of a comprehensive inquiry and second, as the first step toward OA legislation if there will be OA legislation in the UK.

* Comparing the US and the UK developments

Scientific Publications: Free for All?  (July 20, 2004)
HTML  http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmsctech/399/39902.htm
PDF  http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmsctech/399/399.pdf

Oral and written evidence from the inquiry (PDF only)

HTML version of the written evidence from the inquiry

House of Commons Science and Technology Committee

I list some news stories about the committee report below in the section on major news stories.

* Postscript.  The day after the UK report was released, Elsevier announced price increases three times higher than the rate of inflation.  At the same time the price of Elsevier stock rose more than 10 points because the report did not directly endorse OA journals.

On the price increases, see Richard Wray in the July 21 Guardian

On the stock price, see Agence France Presse in the July 21 ChannelNewsAsia


Major OA developments in July 2004

This is a selection of open-access developments since the last issue of the newsletter, taken from the Open Access News blog, which I write with other contributors and update daily.  I give both the item URL and blog posting URL so that you can read the original story as well as what I or another blog contributor had to say about it.  For other developments, the blog archive is browseable and searchable.

Here are the major stories from July:

* The US House Appropriations Committee recommends OA to NIH-funded research.
* The UK inquiry releases its report, recommends open access.
* Springer launches its Open Choice program.
* Publishers find creative ways to experiment with open access.
* PLoS and BMC waive their processing fees, no questions asked.

* The US House Appropriations Committee recommends OA to NIH-funded research.

I cover this development in detail in the first story above.  Here are some other news stories covering it.

Andrea Foster, House Committee Tells NIH to Post Research Results Online and Make Them Free, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 19, 2004.

Alison McCook, Open access to US govt work urged, The Scientist, July 21, 2004.

Anon., Congress To NIH: Public Funds Should Equal Public Access, Library Journal, July 26, 2004.

Paula Park, NIH research to be open access, The Scientist, July 29, 2004.

* The UK inquiry releases its report, recommends open access.

For detail, see the second story in this issue, above.  Here are some other news stories covering it.

James Robinson, MPs to call for free online access to science journals, The Guardian, July 11, 2004.  (A preview of the report.)

PLoS press release on the UK report (July 19)

Also see the PLoS response to the report (July 22)

BMC press release on the UK report (July 20)

JISC press release on the UK report (July 20)

University of Southampton press release (July 20)

Anon., Call for freely available science, BBC, July 20, 2004.

Clive Cookson, Call for shake-up in way scientific journals provided, Financial Times, July 20, 2004.

Lila Guterman, British Parliamentary Panel Endorses Open Access to Scientific Literature, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 20, 2004.

David Litterick, MPs damn profits of scientific publishers, The Telegraph, July 20, 2004.

Donald MacLeod, Shake-up for academic publishing, The Guardian, July 20, 2004.

Bobby Pickering, MPs brand scientific publishing 'unsatisfactory', Information World Review, July 20, 2004.

Stephen Pincock, UK committee backs open access, The Scientist, July 20, 2004.

Rachel Stevenson, MPs call for biennial review of profits from science journals, The Independent, July 20, 2004.

Jeremy Warner, Outlook: Reed Elsevier, The Independent, July 20, 2004.

Richard Wray, MPs back free access to research results, The Guardian, July 20, 2004.

Anon., Open Access Publishing: broadsheet roundup and JISC's role, JISC, July 21, 2004.

Mike Shanahan, UK politicians give cautious backing to open access, SciDev.Net, July 21, 2004.

Richard Sietmann, Britische Parlamentarier für Open Access, Heise Online, July 21, 2004.

Declan Butler, Britain decides 'open access' is still an open issue Nature, July 22, 2004.

Anon., British Library national digital archive endorsed by MP committee, PublicTechnology.Net, July 22, 2004.

Philipp Grätzel von Grätz, Britisches Unterhaus sagt "Ja, aber" zu Open Access in der Wissenschaft, Telepolis, July 23, 2004.

Tom Morris, House of Commons call for open publishing, Pharyngula, July 23, 2004.

Anon., Free For All: UK STM Committee Report Calls For Broad Change, Library Journal, July 26, 2004.

Richard Poynder, British Politicians Call on U.K. Government to Support Open Access, Information Today, July 26, 2004.

Kevin Davies, UK MPs Debate Open Access, Bio-IT World, July 27, 2004.

Here are a few news stories covering *both* the US and UK developments.

Anon., Official Backing for Open Access, Outsell Now, July 23, 2004.

Daniel Clery and Jocelyn Kaiser, Two Plugs for Open Access, Science, July 20, 2004.

Sophie Rovner, Legislators Back Open Access, Chemical & Engineering News, July 26, 2004.

Andrea Foster and Lila Guterman, American and British Lawmakers Endorse Open-Access Publishing, Chronicle of Higher Education, July 30, 2004

Why is there so much more news coverage of the UK story than the US story?  I can only conjecture.  The UK story is based on a lengthy, official text, making life easier for journalists.  The text behind the US story is very short and so far unofficial.  Moreover, the UK report was long-awaited, due to the inquiry that preceded it.  But the two developments are equally significant, equally controversial, and of equal interest to the US and UK readers of mainstream media.  Time for the US press to get on the ball!

* Springer launches its Open Choice program.

Springer's "open choice" is a variation on the theme of the Walker-Prosser model --free online access by the article, at the author's choice.  To exercise the option, authors or their funding agencies must pay a processing fee of $3,000 US, in addition to any page charges that may apply e.g. for color or extra length. Open-choice articles will receive the same peer review, production, and indexing, as non-open articles, and will appear in both the print and online editions of the journal.  However, for Springer "open" only means no-fee access. Springer will hold the copyright and the only copying it will permit is for authors to put their own versions of the postprints in institutional repositories. Springer will decrease or increase its journal prices to match the amount of non-open content published in the previous year.  If enough authors take advantage of Open Choice, then, subscription prices will go down.

There's a lot to praise here.  It may be the largest program of free access to new articles (as opposed to free access to back issues) by a commercial subscription-based publisher to date.  It is certainly the largest based on the Walker-Prosser model.  It may be the first Walker-Prosser experiment to promise journal price reductions if enough authors choose the free-access option, even though David Prosser underlined this possibility as a key virtue of the model.  (Thanks to David Goodman for reminding me of this.)  Springer also allows postprint archiving for open-choice articles, though not in discipline-based repositories like PubMed Central.  The program is an initiative of Springer's new CEO, Derk Haank, the former CEO of Elsevier's Science and Medical Division.  Whether this represents a change of mind for Haank, a chance to try what he thought was promising even back at Elsevier, or a competitive gambit forced by the market, it's encouraging.

But there's also a lot to criticize here as well.  Springer still demands that authors transfer copyright.  It puts highly restrictive conditions on users' freedom to copy, redistribute, and reuse.  Springer's processing fee is very high, especially in light of the fact that authors can make their work open access (not just free access) without paying anything.  I saw nothing at the Springer site to indicate that Springer will waive the fee in cases of economic hardship.  If Springer gets very few takers, no one will not be able to conclude that authors don't desire free online access for their work, especially when publishers offering full OA at lower prices are thriving.  Or, to put this another way, Springer may be competing with Elsevier, but it's not competing with PLoS or BMC.

Springer does not deposit its open-choice articles in an OA repository, as PLoS and BMC do.  The reason is clearly that that would give users more freedom to use the material than Springer is ready to grant.  But Springer should recognize that its refusal deprives users of the assurance that the material will remain freely available if Springer should fail or change its access policies in the future.  The no-deposit policy detracts from the usefulness of open-choice articles and gives authors even less for their money.

If Springer had called its plan "open access", then I'd be the first to complain that it was seriously misusing the term.  But it is careful to avoid the term and deserves credit for that.  At the same time it frees us to be calm and candid.  It's not open access, but it has some strengths and some weaknesses.  Anxiety about the dilution of our useful term (which is on the increase) needn't enter the picture.

Springer's Open Choice program

Nick Hasell, Reed Elsevier, Wm Morrison, BAA, Exel, BOC Group, Times Online, July 3, 2004.

Saeed Shah, Pressure mounts on Reed to open access to science work, Independent, July 7, 2004.

Mark Chillingworth, Springer embraces Open Access and choice, Information World Review, July 8, 2004.

Anon., "Choice?  Springer ups the ante on open access" and "BMC:  Open Choice not to be confused with Open Access,"  Library Journal Academic Newswire, July 8, 2004.

Anon., Open Access:  are we at the tipping point? BioMed Central Update, July 13, 2004.

LibLicense thread launched by Ann Okerson (July 12) on how the Springer policy would work in practice to reduce journal prices

* Publishers find creative ways to experiment with open access.

A large number of journals made encouraging announcements in July about new OA policies or experiments.  Behind these specific announcements the story is that journal experiments with OA are many and varied, that there is more than one business model for an OA journal, and that there's a lot of room for creativity to thinking up new models and variations. 

In no particular order:

(1) _Nucleic Acids Research_ (NAR), from Oxford University Press, is converting to OA.  Starting in January 2005, it will charge a processing fee for each accepted paper and publish them all as OA.   NAR published for 32 years as a subscription-based journal and is listed by ISI as one of the "hottest" journals of the decade in biology and biochemistry.  It is the most notable subscription-based journal to date to make a full conversion to OA. 

Nucleic Acids Research

Mark Chillingworth, OUP joins the Open Access bandwagon, Information World Review, July 6, 2004.

Anon., Oxford to Move Journal to Full Open Access, Library Journal, July 27, 2004.

(2) _Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine_ (eCAM), also from Oxford, is a new journal OA from birth.  It charges no processing fees but instead covers its expenses with a subsidy from Ishikawa Natural Medicinal Products Research Center (INMPRC).  The journal's managing editor, Nobuo Yamaguchi, is the President of INMPRC and will not handle articles submitted by authors employed or funded by INMPRC.

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine

eCAM is also on deposit at PubMed Central

Anon., "In another twist, Oxford open access journal gets sponsorship, raises questions," Library Journal Academic Newswire, July 8, 2004.

(3) _Pediatrics_, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, has long had an open-access subset called the Electronic Pages.  Starting last month, authors will have the choice to have their articles published in the Electronic Pages.  Until now the OA subset was editor-selected; now it's author-selected.  Participating authors won't have to pay a processing fee, but their articles will not appear in the print edition of the journal.  If authors choose not to participate, their articles will become OA one year after publication.

Michael Clarke, Open Sesame? Increasing Access to Medical Literature, Pediatrics, July 2004.

Greg McConnell, Online journals seek alternatives to open access, American Academy of Pediatrics News, 25, 14 (2004).

(4) _Nature_ is providing six months of free online access to a collection of articles on microscopy.  The costs will be covered by Richardson Technologies, a microscope manufacturer.

_Nature_ pioneered this kind of sponsored OA last year when Qiagen subsidized six months of free online access to a collection of articles on RNA interference.  When I blogged the news (12/4/03) I wondered out loud why Nature couldn't provide permanent free access and use the subsidy to cover the critical first six months when there might be some lost revenue.  If you visit the sponsored articles today, you'll find that they are still free online, more than six months later.  Nature isn't advertising this as permanent free access but it's in no hurry to shut it down either.

(5) In a July 3 editorial, _The Lancet_ announced a new policy.  Because The Lancet is an Elsevier journal, it now permits postprint archiving, a most welcome development.  However, the editorial goes too far in describing the liberalization of its policy:  "While The Lancet remains a subscription (user-pays) journal, our enthusiastic support for institutional repositories, which can be linked and searched independently of the journal, means that in any ordinary meaning of the phrase, The Lancet's content is now openly and freely accessible."  Unfortunately this is not true.  The new postprint archiving policy means that Lancet articles *can* be OA if authors take advantage of this opportunity.  Because authors didn't have advanced permission for postprint archiving before, this is a large step forward.  But because authors have been slow to take advantage of existing archiving opportunities, and still need to be stirred to action, we still have a long way to go.

(6) The July 2004 version of the Emerald Copyright Policy Statement allows postprint archiving.  Authors must still transfer copyright, but they have reuse and reproduction rights without asking.  Apparently the permission for postprint archiving is limited to Word or Tex files (a silly restriction) and to institutional repositories (a popular but needless restriction).  The policy is an advance on the previous Emerald policy, but Emerald is not accurate when it says that it gives authors "unlimited" reproduction rights.

Short summary of the new policy

Long version of the new policy

(7) _Logical Methods in Computer Science_, published by International Federation for Computational Logic, is a new OA journal that charges no processing fees. 

(8) _The eJournal of the International AIDS Society_, published by the International AIDS Society, is another new OA journal charging no processing fees.  It's co-sponsored by Medscape/WebMD and the launch is supported by the Secure the Future program of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

Catherine Brahic, New journal for Southern AIDS research, SciDev.Net, July 9, 2004.

(9) _BMJ_ will offer all its research articles free of charge during 2005 and charge only for other kinds of journal content (editorials, reviews, letters, and so on).  After one year, even the priced content will become free.  I can't find any mention of processing fees at the web site.

* PLoS and BMC waive their processing fees, no questions asked.

We already knew that PLoS and BMC waived their processing fee in cases of economic hardship.  In July we learned from two different sources that they waive their fees *no questions asked*.  This decisively answers the objection raised by commercial publishers that the upfront funding model excludes the poor.

Helen Doyle and Andy Gass, letter to the editor in The Lancet, July 3, 2004.  (On the PLoS policy.)

Helen Doyle and Melissa Hagemann, Open access is fair and equitable, INASP Newsletter, June 2004.  (On both the PLoS and BMC policies.)


Coming up later this month

* Notable conferences in August

Electronic Resources and Electronic Publishing
Tilberg, The Netherlands, August 10-13, 2004

Essentials of Electronic Publishing Workshop (course limited to 20)
University of New Brunswick, August 16-20, 2004

American Chemical Society National Meeting (several sessions on scholarly publishing, one on OA)
Philadelphia, August 22-26, 2004

World Library and Information Congress:  70th IFLA General Conference and Council (OA is among the topics)
Buenos Aires, August 22-27, 2004

Euroscience Open Forum 2004 (two sessions on OA)
Stockholm, August 25-28, 2004

* Other OA-related conferences



Last month in describing the DOAJ launch of article-level searching, I mistakenly called it "full-text" searching.  The search is limited to article metadata.  Thanks to Klaus Graf for the correction.



* I've added five new conferences to the conference page since the last issue.  In the next few days I'll delete the second asterisk marking them and the new entries will blend into the rest of the collection.


This is the SPARC Open Access Newsletter (ISSN 1546-7821), written by Peter Suber and published by SPARC.  The views I express in this newsletter are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of SPARC.

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