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09/10/2012

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AmSciForum

OPEN ACCESS IS NOT THE SWINDLE: PRE-EMPTIVE HYBRID GOLD OPEN ACCESS IS

Making peer-reviewed research freely accessible online to all users, not just those whose institutions can afford subscriptions, is not a swindle. It is a great benefit to research, researchers, and the public that funds the research.

"Green" Open Access can be provided cost-free by authors self-archiving their peer-reviewed final drafts, free for all online, in their Open Access (OA) institutional repositories. Research institutions and funders worldwide accordingly need to mandate (require) Green OA.

"Gold" OA can be provided by journals making their articles accessible online, free for all, but many charge the author a fee for this.

It is not Gold OA nor the author fee for Gold OA that is a swindle either. It is "hybrid Gold OA," which is when a subscription publisher continues to collect subscriptions, forbids or embargoes Green OA, but offers Gold OA for an extra author fee. This is double-paying for OA (via multi-institutional subscriptions plus an individual author fee), for individual articles only.

And the worst of it is that in the UK the publisher lobby has recently managed to persuade the government, and hence the government research funders, to mandate Gold OA instead of Green OA (which is what the UK's funders and institutions had formerly led the world in mandating since 2005). Although the wording of the new policy is unclear, it seems to state that researchers may only choose a journal that allows cost-free Green OA if the journal does not offer Gold OA; if it does offer Gold OA, UK researchers must pick and pay for Gold OA, out of scarce research funds.

That is not just a swindle but a boondoggle by publishers and a colossal bungle by UK policy makers. It will fail in the UK, but it will take another 5 years to realize that. Meanwhile, even in failure, because it will encourage subscription publishers the world over to offer hybrid Gold OA at the same time as lengthening their Green OA embargoes to make sure UK authors need to pick and pay for the hybrid Gold option, it will impede the progress of Green OA mandates worldwide.

The only antidote is a global hue and cry from researchers and the tax-paying public, and the adoption of Green OA mandates by funders and institutions worldwide.

Geoffstead

Fascinating point of view. But what is the answer? Surely it must be to create a viable alternative to the commercial publishers, that still offers some of the channels to readership?

Isn't this what people like http://www.openbookpublishers.com/ try to do?

Set up as a not-for-profit by academics at Cambridge University, they seem to be "Green Plus". In that they allow whatever model an academic wants, but try to seek funds from a diverse range of sources to keep afloat.

I am no expert in the murky waters of Academic publishing, but surely this model (either by them, or others) is a good solution? By aggregating many authors, you can build the momentum to get free ebooks into libraries (not easy), or build a recognised brand.

mweller

@AmSciForum - yes I take your point. A few people have interpreted my post as being completely anti-Gold OA, so I obviously didn't explain it well. As I said obviously access to articles for everyone is a good thing and something I've been fighting for for many years. I'm not fundamentally opposed to Gold OA, but the elitism problem is very real. My main issue is with commercial companies in the mix. I think Gold OA is okay if we have non-profits like PLoS, who are very happy to waive the fee - as long as this is well known, then the issue is less problematic. But if you have to make a return for shareholders then why would companies promote the fee waiver?
As you say hybrid Gold OA is really taking the mickey though.
@Geoff - yes, I think not-for-profits are the key, or university presses, so some staff time is allocated to publishing activity and tech support from university funds (through libraries, or research councils). I think there are LOTS of models we could explore, which is why the Finch report is so disappointing as it just seeks to maintain the status quo but with added OA.

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