Tracey Caldwell of Information World Review has reported on the discussion in this blog about (hybrid) Open Access as follows:
Scientific data should be freely available for re-use and OA policies need clarity
[…] Peter Murray-Rust has blasted publishers for “a systemic failure to embrace open access”. He warns that anyone who purchases author-pays Open Access content may end up paying a lot of money for something not labelled as Open Access.
In an emotive posting on his blog he resigned from one journal after finding that Springer had retained the copyright after authors had paid $3000 to make their papers Open Access.
“I am a scientist who believes that there is a major advance taking place with data driven science, using data as a primary route to understanding. I believe all scientific data should be published openly, relying on the BOAI declaration which implies that any data associated with open access should be openly and freely used without any permission,” he told IWR.
Murray-Rust was researching publishers to see to what extent they were enabling and encouraging the re-use of scientific data. When he looked at publishers with author pays business models he was shocked to find how imprecisely their open access policies were worded and the lack of clarity about data.
“I had assumed Open Access meant the author would retain copyright and Open Access would be enabled by the journals adding licences such as Creative Commons,” he says.
Jan Velterop, Springer senior director of Open Access, said, “I disagree with Murray -Rust that the Open Access is not clear. If it is open, it is open and that is clear. There are flaws in the way that is presented and we are addressing that technically. If it is a new article that is Open Access the author’s name will be on the copyright line. If it is retrospective, Springer’s name will be on the copyright line as it was before, as we don’t want to change the printed record.”
He added, “We have made some changes as a result of this as we will refer to the Creative Commons licence used in the article itself.”
Velterop does not have high hopes of the publishing community working together to create a consistent and proactive Open Access policy: “It is difficult as these things need co-ordination and the publishing industry is analogous to the scientific community in that it is fairly anarchic.”
Murray-Rust asked all the publishers to respond to his concerns but by press time only Springer and Libertas Academica had done so. “It is difficult to escape the conclusion that that the publishers do not have their hearts in this process and want to keep their options open,” said Murray-Rust.
PMR: Thank you Tracey for a balanced piece (my quotes were given over the phone). You are right, I was emotive, as the issue took me by surprise at the time and now I have got used to the realisation that this is a much bigger problem than I thought. It is, indeed, systemic in the publishing industry. And I think that JanV makes an accurate assessment when he says he does not have high hopes of the industry creating a “consistent and proactive Open Access policy”.
I should make it clear that I have no criticism of those publishers who espouse OA completely. BMC, PLoS and Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry are examples of this. Libertas Academica had an unclear public stance, but when I highlighted this to them they immediately responded positively and enthusiastically to clarify their practice and adopt Creative Commons licenses.
But this last expression is unacceptable. We – authors/funders – are paying the industry a lot of money (per article) for Open Access. If one of the leaders of OA admits that the industry is not in a position to produce a quality product the position is intolerable. The toll-access (TA) publishers make a great deal of play about how the enhance the quality in a way that no-one else can – reviewing, copy-editing, etc. – but it seems they are not even trying to make OA work.
It is not acceptable to use the excuse of anarchy to excuse incompetence. The TA publishers have had no problem in installing RightsLink – a tool whose purpose is to take money from readers and users – it seems to be a pretty uniformly used tool. Nor are they unable to use DOIs, or the services of CrossRef to link their papers. So I don’t buy the arguments that Open Access cannot be provided on a simple uniform platform. BMC and PLoS have no problem in making all their offerings available as full Creative Commons CC-BY. They don’t even need to coordinate on this – CC provides everything they need. The problem only comes (as I shall show in the next post) when they try to add non-OA or non-CC refinements to their products or simply fail to add them when they should.
If indeed this is the position, I think we shall see a fracture in the industry. Fully committed OA publishers – those whose journals are completely or almost completely OA – will have no technical or organisational difficulty making OA work. They may be competitors in some areas, but they will make sure OA is properly and uniformly implemented. The PRISM community – currently unclear – will find it very difficult to include any OA in their offerings. The middle will include publishers who have partial OA – either through hybrids (journals with some OA and some non-OA papers) , or with a small proportion of their journals completely OA (e.g. Nature has just one such). This middle group is likely to do OA incompletely and poorly unless special care is taken (see next post). This is because the overall heart of the publisher is still in TA. This “systemic failure” will permeate the whole infrastructure of the publisher who will regard it as a chore rather than a growing point.
On to an example of such a problem…