Can an #openaccess advocate publish subscription-only content?

I am an active advocate for #openaccess and #opendata. I was recently asked on Twitter “how many closed access publications have you authored?” and I replied “none in the last five years.” I was then challenged about one recent paper on which I am an author and which is Closed:

Chemical Name to Structure: OPSIN, an Open Source Solution, Daniel M. Lowe , Peter T. Corbett , Peter Murray-Rust *, and Robert C. Glen,

J. Chem. Inf. Model., 2011, 51 (3), pp 739–753 DOI: 10.1021/ci100384d http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ci100384d

 

This is a legitimate challenge, and I’ll explain my philosophy. (Twitter is a poor mechanism for detailed discourse).

 

First, all papers in the last 5 years which I am sole author of are Open. (The only exception is an invited one in an Elsevier journal where I was promised Green Open Access but it has now been closed by the publisher). In most cases I have paid an APC.

 

In my own group, (now formally wound down – I have no direct students or research fellows now though I have several collaborators), we had the tradition that it was the choice of the person who did most of the work. I have always said that it is hard enough being a junior researcher without the additional constraint of a senior person’s prejudices. If a junior researcher feels that they must publish in a closed manner, I don’t think it’s right to force them to do otherwise. In particular there are some subdisciplines (e.g. polymer chemistry) where there is no clear #openaccess outlet. In practice we had a very strong Open culture and almost all papers were published APC-paid OA.

 

When publishing with other groups, and where there is no funder mandate, it depends on who controls the process. #openaccess is messy and multi-author papers are particularly messy (I have been on one with 95 authors). In the case above the other authors wished to published in ACS, and Daniel – who did most of the work and is first author – was not formally in my group. (I suspect the asterisk is because students can’t be corresponding authors or simply an error).

 

Where funders mandate #openaccess then there should be no problem. The researchers know the rules before they start the research – if they don’t want to publish #openaccess they don’t have to take the grant. It’s more difficult where one minor author has personal funding (e.g. a fellowship or sited in a funded laboratory).

I’d be interested what other #openaccess advocates do when the choice involved other authors.

[Note that all the material in Daniel's paper is Openly available – his thesis in Cambridge DSpace https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/244727 contains far more detail and is more valuable than the article ; the software is all available at https://bitbucket.org/dan2097/opsin/ and there is a running service at http://opsin.ch.cam.ac.uk/ . ]

 

 

10 thoughts on “Can an #openaccess advocate publish subscription-only content?

  1. Les Carr

    One may also publish in a journal with what one believes to be a Green OA policy that one’s repository manager interprets as Not Green :-(

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      Yes,
      That’s because Green isn’t well defined and keeps changing, many publishers have lax wording (some deliberately) and libraries are ultra-conservative.

      Reply
  2. Peter Kenny

    My position is that it is more important that the science be open than the access be free. I agree that free access does greatly help make the science open but doesn’t guarantee this. For example, a QSAR article in an open access journal that doesn’t state the models explicitly is not open science. The science in a pay wall article can be open if the authors share all the data, code etc and I would regard the science in JCIM 2011 51:739–753 as more open than that in an open access article where QSAR models, structures and data were not shared. I have included code and data in supplemental material (which in many pay wall journals is freely available) and would argue that this makes the science relatively open.

    My position on the Elsevier take down notice furore was that this was not a good fight for open access people to get into. Trying to wriggle out of an agreement once the other party has fulfilled their share of the bargain really doesn’t look good and I would also challenge people’s need to share journal version PDFs on their websites. What if somebody were to publish in an open access journal and then decide not to pay the publication charges after the article was published?

    The amount of money that journals demand from their customers does need to be challenged. I regard a download fee of US$ 50 and an open access publication fee of US $1000 as between one and two orders of magnitude too high. A big problem with pay wall downloads is that you don’t really know what you’re getting until it’s too late. I think that open access journals do need to be open with exactly how much was paid for the publication of each article since this makes them more accountable to their customers.

    I think that unethical practices in both pay wall and open access journals do need to be exposed and pressure should continue to be applied to both to reduce their charges. However, the demonizing of pay wall publishers usually ignores the fact that many chemical journals have editors who are members of the oppressed academia and some are published by (not for profit?) chemical societies like the ACS and RSC. It is my understanding that ACS and RSC journals offer authors open access options and the open access movement might find it instructive to learn why these options are not exercised more frequently.

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      Thanks for the detailed comments:
      > My position is that it is more important that the science be open than the access be free. I agree that free access does greatly help make the science open but doesn’t guarantee this. For example, a QSAR article in an open access journal that doesn’t state the models explicitly is not open science. The science in a pay wall article can be open if the authors share all the data, code etc and I would regard the science in JCIM 2011 51:739–753 as more open than that in an open access article where QSAR models, structures and data were not shared. I have included code and data in supplemental material (which in many pay wall journals is freely available) and would argue that this makes the science relatively open.

      I have some sympathy with this – an open access paper with little factual content is of limited value. FWIW I am on the board of JCheminf and have argued that all data and code be made Openly available. I don’t have many supporters so many of the papers are “advertisements for the science” (not my phrase).

      >My position on the Elsevier take down notice furore was that this was not a good fight for open access people to get into. Trying to wriggle out of an agreement once the other party has fulfilled their share of the bargain really doesn’t look good and I would also challenge people’s need to share journal version PDFs on their websites. What if somebody were to publish in an open access journal and then decide not to pay the publication charges after the article was published?

      I agree. The whole basis of Green is flawed and I shall shortly blog on this.

      >The amount of money that journals demand from their customers does need to be challenged. I regard a download fee of US$ 50 and an open access publication fee of US $1000 as between one and two orders of magnitude too high. A big problem with pay wall downloads is that you don’t really know what you’re getting until it’s too late. I think that open access journals do need to be open with exactly how much was paid for the publication of each article since this makes them more accountable to their customers.

      I agree. Given that only 1% of publisher’s traffic comes from PayPerView reducing the cost would have no financial impact. IMO a smart move would have been to allow views for 2USD – I have no idea who first dreamt the 40 USD and why they all followed.

      >I think that unethical practices in both pay wall and open access journals do need to be exposed and pressure should continue to be applied to both to reduce their charges. However, the demonizing of pay wall publishers usually ignores the fact that many chemical journals have editors who are members of the oppressed academia and some are published by (not for profit?) chemical societies like the ACS and RSC.

      The fact of being academics doesn’t necessarily absolve them from criticism. Chemistry is very slow to change compared with many other sciences and publishing is very slow to change. When you multiply them you get close to stagnation. And if you read the chemical blogosphere you’ll find that there has been concern about the learned socs, especially ACS.

      >It is my understanding that ACS and RSC journals offer authors open access options and the open access movement might find it instructive to learn why these options are not exercised more frequently.

      I’d put it down to the culture of chemistry (I am allowed to say that). I tried for 5 years – with JISC funding – to get chemists to deposit data publicly. Zero success.

      Reply
  3. Daniel Lowe

    Just to add, while it isn’t close to a proper substitute for open access, opsin.ch.cam.ac.uk has a prominent link to access the paper for free through the ACS’s articles on request system (50 free accesses in the first year, unlimited in subsequent years)
    The corresponding author I think is primarily due to students’ email addresses generally being far more volatile than their supervisors (and potentially the student may no longer be working in that area).

    Reply
    1. pm286 Post author

      Thanks Daniel – hope this was a reasonably correct account. And I am proud of what you did and continue to do!

      Reply
  4. Anthony Smith

    Great that Daniel’s thesis is openly available. Is Nick Day’s also? Had a look through Cambridge DSpace but could not readily find it.

    Reply

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