Voyages into publisher copyright – Less than full Open Access and less than Free

Continuing our exploration of Open Access – let’s stick with chemistry (after all I don’t know about anything else). Last year the American Chemical Society (ACS) announced:

ACS Offers Open-Access Option To Authors

Sophie Rovner

In October [2006], American Chemical Society journal authors will have the option of paying to immediately provide free online access to their articles on the society’s website. Authors will also be able to post electronic copies of their sponsored articles on personal websites and institutional repositories. Fees for the program will range from $1,000 to $3,000 per paper, depending on whether the author is an ACS member or is affiliated with an institution that subscribes to ACS journals.
The new ACS AuthorChoice option “underscores the society’s willingness to experiment with innovative models to broaden access to highly valued, peer-reviewed research” while upholding editorial standards, says Brian D. Crawford, senior vice president responsible for the journal publishing program of ACS, which also publishes C&EN. “The fee was established in light of the society’s actual costs incurred in the peer review and publication of an article.”

My analysis here is not with whether this is a good or bad thing or whether the fee is reasonable (I have views but I’ll keep quiet today) but whether it is clear what is going on. From the official page:

American Chemical Society Announces New ACS AuthorChoice Open Access Option

The American Chemical Society’s Publications Division is pleased to announce an important new publishing option in support of the Society’s journal authors who wish or need to sponsor open access to their published research articles. The ACS AuthorChoice option establishes a fee-based mechanism for individual authors or their research funding agencies to sponsor the open availability of their articles on the Web at the time of online publication. Under this new policy, to be implemented later this Fall, the ACS as copyright holder will enable unrestricted Web access to a contributing author’s publication from the Society’s website, in exchange for a fixed payment from the sponsoring author. ACS AuthorChoice will also enable such authors to post electronic copies of published articles on their own personal websites and institutional repositories for non-commercial scholarly purposes.
The base fee for the ACS AuthorChoice option will be set at $3,000 during 2006-2007, with significant discounts applied for contributing authors who are members of the American Chemical Society and/or who are affiliated with an ACS subscribing institution. The fee structure will be as follows:
[…fees snipped…]
The ACS AuthorChoice option will be extended to authors only after peer-review and editorial acceptance of their articles for publication, so as to ensure complete separation between scientific editorial decision-making and economic considerations. Upon an author’s payment to sponsor the ACS AuthorChoice option, the ACS will make the article freely available upon Web publication.

It is IMMEDIATELY CLEAR WHAT IS GOING ON. The Society will make your article available on its web site and also allow you to post your own artcle on yours for a fee of USD 1000 to USD 3000. The ACS retains copyright and – presumably by defualt – all other rights. They offer “unrestricted access” to the author’s web site. So one cheer for clarity.
So what does it look like:

An Exciting New Option for Authors…

ACS AuthorChoice facilitates unrestricted web access to your published ACS article—at the time of publication—for a one–time fixed payment, provided by you or your funding agency. Contributing authors who are ACS members and/or are affiliated with an ACS subscribing institution receive significant discounts. This policy also allows you to post copies of published articles on your personal website and institutional repositories for non–commercial scholarly purposes.
As a part of the ACS Cycle of Excellence, we are committed to providing the highest level of support for our authors. ACS AuthorChoice is one of many unique benefits offered to authors who contribute to ACS journals along with the ACS Paragon Plus System, Citation manager Functionality, and ACS Articles on Request to name a few.
More About the ACS AuthorChoice Option

“Those of you who read my Editorials know that I have been urging the American Chemical Society to address the open access issue. The Board of Directors recently adopted a new policy called Author Choice, which enables authors to pay to have their articles completely open access from day one… I think it is such a good deal that I have taken advantage of it myself. An article that I published in the October, 2006 issue of Chemical Research in Toxicology is the first fully open access article published in ANY American Chemical Society journal.”

Lawrence J. Marnett Editor–in–Chief,
Chemical Research in Toxicology
Mary Geddes Stahlman
Professor of Cancer Research
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Another cheer for the large logo which is instantly obvious (and is contained in all graphical abstracts). Also the phrase “Free Access” is extremely clear and obviously different from “Open Access”. So, in terms of CLARITY the ACS has done well – far better than Springer.
What about the papers themselves? Well again the ACS has done better than Springer – it gives a list of all the currently available Open articles ACS AuthorChoice Articles Currently Available which I visited. There are 27 in total from all journalsl (the ACS has 37 journals) and the scheme has only been going a year. So here’s the first research article:

The Structure of Testis Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme in Complex with the C Domain-Specific Inhibitor RXPA380
Hazel R. Corradi, Itai Chitapi, B. Trevor Sewell, Dimitris Georgiadis, Vincent Dive, Edward D. Sturrock, and K. Ravi Acharya
Biochemistry; 2007; 46(18) pp 5473 – 5478; (Article) DOI:

(I hope I am not breaking copyright by posting this beautiful picture – I’ll plead fair use.) So what’s it about? I visit the ABSTRACT:

[Journal Home Page] [Search the Journals] [Table of Contents] [PDF version of this article] [Download to Citation Manager] [Purchase Article]
Biochemistry, 46 (18), 5473 -5478, 2007. 10.1021/bi700275e S0006-2960(70)00275-1
Web Release Date: April 18, 2007
Copyright © 2007 American Chemical SocietyThe Structure of Testis Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme in Complex with the C Domain-Specific Inhibitor RXPA380
Hazel R. Corradi, Itai Chitapi, B. Trevor Sewell, Dimitris Georgiadis, Vincent Dive, Edward D. Sturrock,* and K. Ravi Acharya*
Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, United Kingdom, Division of Medical Biochemistry and Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town, Observatory 7925, South Africa, and CEA, iBiTecS, Service d’Ingénierie Moléculaire des Protéines (SIMOPRO), Gif sur Yvette, F-91191, France
Received February 8, 2007
Revised Manuscript Received March 19, 2007
Angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE) […snip…] the design of truly domain-specific pharmacophores.

[Full text in html]
[Full text in pdf]

OK – I expected the abstract and the paper to be copyright, but I can still READ it… (clicks [Full text in html] … and gets:

Authorization Required

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  • The Structure of Testis Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme in Complex with the C Domain-Specific Inhibitor RXPA380
    Hazel R. Corradi, Itai Chitapi, B. Trevor Sewell, Dimitris Georgiadis, Vincent Dive, Edward D. Sturrock, and K. Ravi Acharya
    Biochemistry, 2007, 46, (18), pp 5473–5478.

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var SA_ID=”acspix;acspix”; WHAT’S GOING ON? I thought this was a free article? Let’s return to the abstract. No, there is a purchase button. So although this is a “free paper” it is impossible to read it without paying.
So we remove all cheers. The ACS has said the paper is free but it isn’t. (At least I can’t purchase the article because I am too stupid to understand their shpooing cart system. I can’t believe anyone actually pays for articles.)
What’s actually going on is that the paper is free but ONLY if you go through the TOC. Does that matter? YES!! because if you resolve a DOI you go straight to the abstract and there is NO INDICATION THAT THE PAPER IS FREE. It would be very easy for someone coming that way to think it was a pay-per-view article. How many of you would go to the TOC to check for Free Access (after all the chance of any ACS article being Free is statistically about 0.1%).
What do I say? This is exactly the same problem that occurred with Springer – a free article for which the author was offered a purchase option. I’ll choose my words very carefully so as not to upset anyone out there.
Is it just possible that the ACS has slipped by a fraction of a percentage point from being “committed to providing the highest level of support for our authors.”? I am sure it will find all readers who have mistakenly paid for a free article and send them 50 free accesses to itto send to their friends. And I am sure that its web staff will tackle the enormously challenging task of rerouting 54 URLs so that any visitors to the site will thank authors that they now have “unrestricted web access to your published ACS article”.
Because they don’t at the moment.

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2 Responses to Voyages into publisher copyright – Less than full Open Access and less than Free

  1. baoilleach says:

    If you go from Graphical Abstract –> Text abstract –> Full text, you need to pay.
    The link is
    If you go from Graphical Abstract –> Full text, it’s free.
    The link is
    It seems like they’ve implemented the AuthorChoice system on top of the ‘sample issue’ system in a manner which leaves room for improvement.

  2. pm286 says:

    (1) Full marks Noel. You will do well in the Open Access exam. I guess what has happened is that the publishers assumed that there would be so few Open Choice/ Author Choice / Mumble articles that they didn’t need to alert the technical section to the fact that some articles needed different routing.
    I know the major publishers read this blog. Let’s see if they care enough to do anything about this. We’ll revisit this in a month or so and see if they have felt it necessary to mend the links. After all it’s only cosmetic.

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