May 18, 2009

Paying open access publication fees

Writing about web page

I've been reading the RIN publication about paying for open access publication charges. The appendix has some sensible recommendations for authors, institutions, funders and publishers. The appendix also has a very clear and helpful description of the University of Nottingham's central open access fund, which notably mentions that the first part of their institutional policy is to encourage repository deposit.

The weakness of the publication, in my view, is that it does only deal with one way to comply with funders' requirements - that of paying for open access publishing, as opposed to repository deposit. This is stated early on, but I don't know that the message about the two possible routes is reaching authors/researchers very clearly. Or senior HEI staff: repositories are not mentioned in the summary recommendation for HEIs in this booklet.

I don't think it's helpful to separate out the advice to authors about securing funding for open access publishing, without first explaining that they can also meet the requirement by publishing in the traditional way and also depositing a version in an open access repository. I suppose I would say that: I'm a repository manager!

I'm not sure how funders are communicating the message about their requirements to their researchers. I'm not sure what researchers understand about those requirements, but I do believe that when authors are aware of open access, they nearly always think of paying to publish or entirely free journals, rather than repository deposit of early versions. I'm not sure why that is. In some disciplines/with some journals, there is never an author's own version created, after peer review, and authors do not want to share their earliest versions that lack the polished rigour that the peer review process adds to their work. So perhaps they are just more comfortable with the concept of paying to publish the final version in an open access way.

Why should an author choose to pay for open access publication? There are a few reasons that occur to me straight away:

1) The journal that the author wishes to publish in is funded entirely by open access author fees, so it is the only way to get the work published in the most appropriate journal. Or if the publisher does not allow repository deposit of any version of the work without a fee being paid. Authors should be able to choose the best channel for communicating their research regardless of what funding model the publisher applies.

2) The publisher will ensure that the funder is informed of the researchers' compliance with the requirement. That is a service worth paying for: open access publishers who keep PubMed updated with Wellcome Trust funded articles are performing such a service. Publishers can only do that for authors if the authors inform them of their funding details, though: do authors know that this is a part of what they are paying for?

3) The article should be made available on open access immediately, without any embargo period because there is so much interest in the work it describes.

Should an author have to pay for open access publishing in order to meet a funder mandate? I don't think so, but are funders saying that authors should choose to publish only in journals which support open access repository deposit or at least offer an author-pays model of open access publishing? This booklet makes me think that funder mandates are creating a world where fees for open access publishing must be met!

How are funders communicating their message to authors? How will funders be measuring compliance? How will funders define the outputs from the work they have funded? I don't think this message is reaching researchers all that clearly, and the suspicion that was apparent in a recent THES article is the result of a lot of confusion, I believe.

Repository managers are trying to get the message out about repository deposit, and to use the funders' mandates as a part of their message. Are funders expecting us to do this? Are we getting the message right?

Each institution will no doubt have a different type of repository with a different way of depositing, so no doubt it is appropriate that this part of the message be delivered at institutional level.

I believe that guidance should also be provided for repository managers, to complement this publication, and that future work on this topic should build in the repository deposit part of the open access message at HEI level, just as the University of Nottingham case study describes.

I know what advice and support I believe that we (repository staff) should be giving to our researchers/authors. We should explain that authors should make themselves aware of the specifics of their funders' requirement (& help them to do that) and that they should consider direct repository deposit as a route to open access publishing & therefore meeting a funder requirement. We (the institutional repository) should be supporting them in making that deposit, in the appropriate repository/ies (a weak point, I believe: I don't know of any IR depositing works in PubMed on authors' behalf, for instance... ), and then authors can consider paying for open access publishing as a separate matter... and seek funding accordingly.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Stevan Harnad

    Please see: “Against Squandering Scarce Research Funds on Pre-Emptive Gold OA Without First Mandating Green OA

    18 May 2009, 17:19

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