Archive for February, 2007

Compliance with Wellcome Trust’s OA policy

The BioMed Central Open Access Colloquium on “Open Access: How Can We Achieve Quality and Quantity?“, held on February 8, 2007, included a very interesting presentation by Robert Kiley, Head of e-Strategy of the Wellcome Library. His presentation was part of the session on “The open access imperative: where are we now, and where do we want to be?“, and was entitled: “Funding open-access publications“. His PPT presentation can be downloaded.

The presentation includes some noteworthy information about compliance of publishers with the OA policy of the Wellcome Trust (WT).

On Slide 6 of the presentation, it’s pointed out that “OA increasingly seen as a service – which publishers offer to meet the needs of funders and authors“.

So, what are the variations from publisher to publisher in relation to the provision of this service? Information from Slide 7 of the presentation:

Significant number of commercial and not-for-profit publishers now offer an OA option that is fully compliant with the Trust’s requirements (e.g. PLoS, BMC, Elsevier, OUP, CUP, BMJPG, Sage, Taylor & Francis)“.

Other publishers allow the author to self archive a version of the final article and make that available within 6 months (e.g. Nature, AAAS, AMA, Am. Physiological Assoc)“.

However, some publishers have policies that do not allow Wellcome-funded authors to publish in these titles. High profile publishers that do not offer a WT-compliant policy include the American Association of Immunologists, and the American Association for Cancer Research“.

Slide 8 presents information obtained via the RoMEO database. The data indicate that 59% of biomedical publishers are compliant with the WT OA policy, 15% are in active discussion (with WT about the policy), 16% currently have no publicly-available policy, and 10% are non-compliant with the policy.

Slide 9 shows that, of the WT-compliant publishers, 75% permit compliance via the self-archiving (Green OA) route and 17% via a paid OA option. Both options are offered by 8% of WT-compliant publishers.

Slide 10 presents data from the “PubMed 4000 study”, which “analysed papers indexed by PubMed, and attributed to WT funding, and looked to see if these were published in journals that had a WT-compliant policy“. Of these, 70% had a WT-compliant policy, 20% were in active discussion, 5% had no policy, and 5% were non-compliant. (A Google search didn’t reveal any other information about this “PubMed 4000 study”).

Slide 11 is entitled: “How are OA costs being met?“, and includes the information that “80% of the research that is attributed to the Trust, also cites another funder“. For this reason, the WT is “Investigating the feasibility of asking the researcher to estimate the relative contribution of each funder“. And, “Whilst we [the WT] are in this transition period, WT will – if required – pick up 100% of the OA costs for any research attributed to the Trust“. It’s also noted on this slide that: “Only 22% of OA funds made available to UK universities in the year 05-06 has been claimed“.

Slide 12 is entitled: “Total cost of paying for OA?“. Excerpts: “Providing OA to all the research papers it helps fund will cost the Trust between 1%-2% of its annual research budget“. … “If every single one of those papers was published as an open access article, with an average cost of £1650 per article, the total cost to the Trust would be £6.64 million; just over 1% of our annual research budget“. “Trust is rarely the sole funder of a research team, and more than 80% of papers that acknowledge our support also acknowledge the support of one or more other funders. In time these costs will be spread throughout the research budget and fall below the figure estimated here“.

The presentation ends with a quotation (2006) from Sir John Sulston: “Ensuring that the outputs of research are freely available to all is the best way to maximise their utility. Open access is good for science, the research community and mankind”.

The audio aspect of Robert Kiley’s presentation is also available.

I noted his comments about “WT-recalcitrant publishers“, and his remarks that “researchers have the power“. When they move (from recalcitrant publishers to other publishers), “impact … will follow them“.

Increasing numbers of funding agencies, with the WT in a crucial leadership role, have become major representatives of the public interest, in the escalating tug-of-war between those who support OA and those who, at present, do not. Information of the kind outlined above is badly needed, to foster evidence-based policy decisions by funding agencies.


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Open Access and the “Cultural Economy”

There’s an interesting article that’s identified in an item in “The Brooks Blog”, February 02, 2007.

The article is entitled “The Idea of the Law Review: Scholarship, Prestige, and Open Access“, by Michael J. Madison. The concepts of an “economy of prestige” and a “cultural economy” are considered in relation to the open access movement. Excerpts:

[On page 27 of 28]: “Does the economy of prestige theory have anything to say about the one scholarly community that seems to have whole-heartedly embraced open access principles for its scholarship, which is physics?“.

[On the same page]: “Open access flourishes for them [physicists] because they know that their brass ring isn’t tenure and a spot at the university that exempts them from representing real clients with real problems and delivering real results. Their brass ring is the Grand Unified Theory of Everything.”

[Page 28/28]: “Making open access work in any context requires understanding a cultural economy. If open access doesn’t challenge that economy, the two can co-exist, side-by-side. That’s the model that I see in physics“.

[On the same page]: “Open access tools and other resources must be designed so that they get taken up in the existing economic framework.”

I agree. It’s increasingly becoming clear, that “making open access work in any context” does indeed require “understanding a cultural economy“.

From this perspective, one needs to understand the various factors that influenced the early adoption of a “preprint culture” by physicists (and, especially, high energy physicists), and led subsequently to the rapid acceptance of the arXiv server. See, for example, Till J. E., “Predecessors of preprint servers” (Learned Publishing 2001; 14(1): 7-13). A version in HTML is openly accessible.

A relevant quotation from the article:

Odlyzko has suggested that the rapid acceptance of Ginsparg’s preprint server was a case of simple substitution: ‘His research community in high energy theoretical physics had, during the 1980s, developed a culture of massive preprint distribution’.[ref 13]”.

Odlyzko’s “substitution hypothesis” is based on the observation that a “preprint culture” was already deeply embedded in the “cultural economy” of high-energy physics.

For reasons described in the article in Learned Publishing, a preprint culture failed to become embedded in the cultural economy of the biomedical and health sciences, even though there were early attempts, in the 1960s, to establish such a culture.

There’s another important cultural issue that merits consideration. It’s one that affects a range of disciplines: an increased emphasis on the translation of research outputs into profitable ventures.

This cultural issue is noted in a preprint by Roger Clarke and Danny Kingsley, posted on 11 Feb 2007, entitled “ePublishing’s Impacts on Formal Scholarly Communications“.

An excerpt from section 5.1, “Implications for Practice”:

“This [significantly reduced funding provided to universities] has led to universities having to go through rapid adaptation. Their governance model has been transformed from collegiality to managerialism. Their objectives and strategies now favour profit-motivated behaviour over their longstanding goals of advancing knowledge through the conduct and support of research, and transmitting knowledge through instruction and supervision. One likely result of these changes is a reduction in the collaborative nature of research, as universities seek to commercially exploit the new knowledge they develop, suppress publication, impose competitive behaviour on their staff, and wrest control from scholarly communities“.

So, it can be argued that a major factor which influences the “cultural economy” of different disciplines is the extent to which opinion leaders in the discipline either accept, or reject, such reductions in the collaborative nature of research. For those who reject such reductions, an “open source” cultural economy may be attractive. See, for example,

And, “Open access and open source in chemistry“, Matthew H Todd, Chemistry Central Journal 2007(19 Feb); 1:3.

See also the item about “Open Science” in the previous post, “The Future of Science is Open“.

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