HHMI – green or gold? And the data?

Peter Suber has highlighted a new policy by HHMI and given a careful critique of what “Open” may or may not mean. It’s a good illustration of the fuzzy language that is often used to describe “Open”.  See: HHMI mandates OA but pays publishers to allow it
HHMI Announces New Policy for Publication of Research Articles, a press release from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), June 26, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute today announced that it will require its scientists to publish their original research articles in scientific journals that allow the articles and supplementary materials to be made freely accessible in a public repository within six months of publication.
[… snip …]
HHMI also announced today that it has signed an agreement with John Wiley & Sons. Beginning with manuscripts submitted October 1, Wiley will arrange for the upload of author manuscripts of original research articles, along with supplemental data, on which any HHMI scientist is an author to PMC. The author manuscript has been through the peer review process and accepted for publication, but has not undergone editing and formatting. HHMI will pay Wiley a fee for each uploaded article.
In addition, the American Society of Hematology, which publishes the journal Blood, has extended its open access option to HHMI authors effective October 1. Cech said that discussions with other publishers are ongoing.
The policy and supporting resources have been posted on the Institute web site and may be found [here].

To supplement this press release see

  1. The policy itself, dated June 11, 2007, to take effect January 1, 2008
  2. The Institute’s new page on HHMI & Public Access Publishing

Comments (by Peter Suber – absolutely to the point as always).

  • HHMI is finally mandating that its grantees provide OA to their published articles based on HHMI-funded research within six months of publication.  We knew last October that it was planning to adopt a mandate, but now it’s a reality.  Moreover, HHMI is taking the same hard line that the Wellcome Trust has taken:  if a grantee’s intended publisher will not allow OA on the funder’s terms, then the grantee must look for another publisher.  This is all to the good.  Funders should mandate OA to the research they fund, and they should take advantage of the fact that they are upstream from publishers.  They should require grantee compliance, not depend on publisher permission.
  • But unfortunately, HHMI is continuing its practice of paying publishers for green OA.  I criticized this practice in SOAN for April 2007 and I stand by that criticism.  HHMI should not have struck a pay-for-green deal with Elsevier and should not be striking a similar deal with Wiley.  HHMI hasn’t announced how much it’s paying Wiley, and it’s possible that the Wiley fees are lower than the Elsevier fees.  But it’s possible that they’re just as high:  $1,000 – $1,500.  We do know that its Wiley fees will not buy OA to the published edition, but only OA to the unedited version of the author’s peer-reviewed manuscript.  HHMI hasn’t said whether its Wiley fees will buy unembargoed OA or OA with a CC license.  The Wellcome Trust’s fees to Elsevier buy three things of value –immediate OA, OA to the published edition, and OA with a CC license– while HHMI’s fees to Elsevier buy none of these things.  If HHMI gets all three of these valuable things for its Wiley fees, then it’s basically paying for gold OA and no one can object to fees that are high enough to cover the publisher’s expenses.  But paying for green OA, when the publisher’s expenses are covered by subscription revenue, is wrong and unnecessary even if the fees are low.   For details, see my April article.

Note that “Green” OA is very unlikely to make the Data Open. By default the publisher may restrict text-mining, and may have copyrighted the data (Wiley certainly have done and do this). So unless there is a CC license – which makes it effectively “gold” (in this very unsatisfactory terminology) it’s almost useless to data-driven science.

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