Posts Tagged Green OA

Open access – is the UK leading the way?

Novel scientific findings are disseminated via scientific journals. Currently, the scholarly publishing system has become dysfunctional and is in turmoil. The main reason is that the system was designed for the era of paper and print, not for the digital era.

For those involved in scientific publishing, the ‘ancient Chinese curse’ (more likely recent and Western) comes to mind: “May you live in interesting times“. The purpose of this post is to outline some relevant aspects of these ‘interesting times’, and to highlight some recent contributions made by the UK to the ‘Open Access Movement’. This OA Movement is increasingly seen as a solution to the currently-dysfunctional publishing system.

Some History

Scientific journals have a long history. The first scientific journal in English was the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Phil Trans), published in March of 1665 by the Royal Society of London. It was the first journal in the world exclusively devoted to science. It is still being published today, making it also the world’s longest-running scientific journal.

Thus, it was in London that scientific journals began. There was another academic journal that began publication, in January of 1665, in Paris. Later renamed Journal des Savants, it was more news-oriented than Phil Trans, was not restricted to scientific news, and subsequently became more of a literary journal.

The purpose of Phil Trans was to inform the Fellows of the Society and other interested readers of the latest scientific discoveries. But it accomplished much more, as described by Jean-Claude Guédon in an article, In Oldenburg’s Long Shadow, published in 2007. Phil Trans not only permitted scientists to communicate their discoveries and share knowledge. It also served as a public record of original contributions to scientific knowledge. In this way, it served as a public registry of intellectual property.

Such a registry meant that it was no longer necessary to use other (sometimes unorthodox) methods to ensure intellectual priority to the discoveries or insights of scientists. For example, J-C Guédon comments that Galileo had sent an anagram of the phrase describing his discovery of Jupiter’s satellites to Kepler (and to many others) in order to establish his priority. Phil Trans made such ingenious strategies unnecessary.

The founding editor of Phil Trans was the first secretary of the Royal Society, Henry Oldenburg. Oldenburg began the practice of peer review – sending submitted manuscripts to experts who could judge their quality before publication. Pre-publication peer review continues to be a feature of scholarly journals. Thus, a key feature of scholarly publications also originated in London.

Transition Toward Open Access

Now, after almost 350 years of existence, scientific journals are in the process of undergoing a major transition. The transition is away from journals being subscription-based, where the reader must pay a toll in order to have access, toward Open Access (OA), where no toll needs to be paid.

OA is the practice of providing unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles. It’s the existence of the Internet that’s made OA feasible. Scholarly publishing is being reconstructed to adapt it to the Internet age, where the costs of distribution of electronic versions of articles are much less than the costs of distributing paper versions.

OA comes in two degrees. A distinction needs to be made between Gratis and Libre OA. Some OA literature is already digital, online and free of charge (Gratis OA). Some is not only free of charge, but also free of most copyright and licensing restrictions (Libre OA). A long-term goal of the open access movement is to foster the transition of as much as possible of the scholarly literature from toll access (TA) to Libre OA.

At present, there is an ongoing debate about how best to achieve this goal. The main debate is about the best balance between ‘Green’ OA and ‘Gold’ OA. Green OA is based on OA repositories. OA repositories do not perform peer review. Instead, they provide a venue for articles that have been peer-reviewed elsewhere. Gold OA is based on OA journals that do perform peer review. Peter Suber (in 2008)  emphasized that the Gratis/Libre distinction (see above) is not synonymous with the Green/Gold distinction.

A recurring criticism of OA is that it will lead to the traditional peer review process being abandoned. However, this criticism is factually inaccurate.

Gold OA Journals

The UK-based BMJ (formerly, the British Medical Journal) became, in 1998, the first major general medical journal to provide OA to its research articles. It also began to deposit the full text in the PubMed Central (PMC) repository, and to allow authors to retain the copyright of their articles. BMJ pioneered OA medical research articles. Non-research articles in BMJ ceased to be OA in 2005 (see Comments section here).

Another of the first OA journals in medicine, the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), published its first issue in 1999. JMIR is based in Canada. It’s a Gold OA journal that’s now the leading journal in Medical Informatics.

Some examples of early OA publishers are listed here and here.

The first of the large for-profit STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) OA publishers was BioMed Central (BMC), founded in the UK in 2000. Hence, a UK-based publisher was a pioneer in the establishment of Gold OA as a viable publishing option for a commercial publisher. In October of 2008, BMC was acquired by Springer, the 2nd largest STM publisher. BMC currently publishes over 200 peer-reviewed OA journals.

Another pioneering OA publisher is Public Library of Science (PLoS), which launched it’s first journal in 2003. It currently publishes seven peer-reviewed journals.

An increasing number of toll-access journals offer a hybrid OA option. Upon payment of a publication fee, individual articles are made OA. This provides two revenue streams to the publishers of hybrid OA journals, one from subscriptions, and one from publication fees.

The hybrid OA model has led to concerns that publishers may be “double-dipping”, because they receive the Article Processing Charges (APCs) but do not reduce subscription fees.  Royal Society Publishing provides one recent example of a publisher of hybrid OA journals that has promised to implement a transparent pricing policy. As has been pointed out by Stuart Shieber, it’s difficult to determine whether or not double-dipping is happening.

Costs of Gold OA

Of course, the publication of articles involves costs. Gold OA does away with the use of subscriptions to cover these costs. Instead, there are a variety of other ways to cover the costs of publication. The description of each journal listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) includes information about whether or not a publication fee is charged. Many of the journals listed in the DOAJ do not have APCs.

Also, OA journals that do have APCs commonly offer a fee waiver for authors with limited financial resources. Examples are the waivers offered by PLoS  and by Frontiers.

However, within the biomedical sciences, the prevalent approach of publishers is to require the authors (or their funding agencies or institutions) to pay an upfront APC for Gold OA. For example, in 2002, BioMed Central’s business model evolved to include APCs, and these have been BMC’s primary source of revenue since then,

A major advantage of Gold OA is that articles are publicly accessible immediately upon publication. A major disadvantage is that the APCs can be costly. At the high end is Cell Reports (Cell Press), where the APC is US$5000.

The APC for Open Biology (Royal Society Publishing) is much lower, at US$1932, and is currently being waived. The APC for the very popular journal PLoS ONE (Public Library of Science) is even lower, at US$1350.  A recently-launched (2011) journal that’s analogous to PLoS ONE is Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Its APC is also US$1350. A comparison of APCs has been provided by the OA publisher BioMed Central. The APCs of BMC itself are in the £1075-£1230 (approx. US$1665-$1905) range.

A list of Publishers with Paid Options for Open Access (publishers that provide hybrid OA) is available via the SHERPA/RoMEO website, but the list and the information about APCs may not be up-to-date. Nature Communications (Nature Publishing Group) is at the high end (US$5000 per article). The hybrid OA option of Royal Society Publishing (US$2380) is less expensive.

A novel approach to OA publishing is the new journal eLife. It is supported by three influential research funders, the Wellcome Trust in the UK, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the USA, and the Max Planck Society in Germany. It will begin publication in the winter of 2012-13. The APC for eLife has not yet been announced, but will be waived while the journal is being established.

An even more novel approach is being used by PeerJ, a new OA publication that will be open for submissions in the last quarter of 2012. PeerJ will not depend on either subscriptions or APCs as sources of funding. Instead, every author must have a membership plan in order to publish in PeerJ. The plan is good for the life of the author, so long as the author meets a requirement to submit a review at least once per year.

One could regard the PeerJ membership payment as a one-time-only submission fee. Pricing of the membership  ranges from US$99 (one publication per year) to US$299 (unlimited publications per year). If a manuscript has more than 12 authors, then only 12 authors need to have a paid membership plan.

All of the journals mentioned above provide Gratis OA. Not all provide Libre OA. One needs to look at whether or not a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY) is being used. CC-BY is the most accommodating of the Creative Commons copyright licenses and provides Libre OA.

Green OA Via OA Repositories

Green OA requires that the authors deposit their works in OA repositories. A pioneering OA repository for electronic prepublications of scientific articles was ArXiv, established at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the USA in 1991 (it moved to Cornell University in 2001). ArXiv provides public access to e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics. The e-prints are not peer reviewed, but moderators review submissions and may reject or recategorize any that are deemed inappropriate or off-topic.

In 2000, PubMed Central (PMC) began operation. An examination of it’s history shows that the ArXiv was the primary conceptual model for what became PubMed Central. PMC is a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature. It’s sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

PMC International currently supports UKPMC (operational in 2007; will become Europe PMC in November 2012) and PMC Canada (operational in 2009). UKPMC was the first participant in PMC International, and the change in name of UKPMC is in recognition that the European Research Council (ERC) will be the third European funder to join UKPMC.

PMC is, in part, a national repository that captures the output of publicly funded research (especially, research supported by the NIH). The Public Access Policy of the NIH, implemented in 2008, requires that final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds be accessible to the public on PMC no later than 12 months after publication.

There are other kinds of repositories, including many institutional repositories. The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) and the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) list over 2000 research institutional or departmental OA repositories worldwide.

A major advantage of Green OA is that it costs authors nothing to self-archive an article in an OA repository, if a suitable one is available. There are no submission fees. A disadvantage is that there is much variation across different journals in their restrictions on Green OA. A useful database of the policies of various journals is available at the SHERPA/RoMEO website. For example, Nature permits the author’s version of an accepted paper (the unedited manuscript) to be archived in PMC and/or in the author’s institutional repository, for public release six months after publication. Such embargoes on public access are a major drawback of Green OA.

Although there is an ongoing debate about the optimal balance between Gold and Green OA, policy decisions are being made about how best to foster the transition from TA to OA (see below).

Political Appeal of OA

Various observers describe today’s global economy as one in transition to a “knowledge economy,” as an extension of an “information society.” In the UK, David Willetts, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, has articulated a vision of a knowledge economy supported by OA – to provide public access to publicly funded research results. In a speech made on 2 May 2012 to the Publishers Association annual general meeting in London, he said:

The evidence underpinning our ambition for public access is compelling. For example, publicly funded and freely available information from the Human Genome Project led to greater take up of knowledge and commercialisation than from earlier protected data. To date, in fact, every dollar of federal investment in the Human Genome Project has helped generate $141 for the US economy. Separately, a report this year from the US Committee for Economic Development has concluded that the US National Institute of Health’s policy of open access after one year has accelerated scientific progress and the transition from basic research to commercialisation; generated more follow-on research and more citations; and reduced duplicate or dead-end lines of inquiry – so increasing the US government’s return on its investment in research. The researcher Philip Davis, meanwhile, has found that when publishers randomly made certain articles open access on journal websites, readership increased by up to 250% compared to protected articles.

Thus, David Willetts emphasized the economic impact of the Human Genome Project,  highlighted information provided in a 2012 report [PDF] about the Public Access Policy of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) , and referred to the relevant work of Philip Davis.

The Finch Report

In October of 2011, David Willetts had already set up the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings (‘Finch Group’). It was chaired by Dame Janet Finch DBE, Professor of Sociology at Manchester University and independent co-Chair of the Council for Science and Technology. The Group’s role was to examine how UK-funded research findings could be made more accessible.

The membership of the Group, 16 in all, included OA advocates and other interested  parties. The latter included representatives of large commercial for-profit publishers (Springer, Wiley Blackwell). The presence of these representatives took into account the fact that the UK is home to a vigorous academic and scholarly publishing industry. Did these representatives drive the policy direction taken by the Group? It seems more likely that the publishing industry is in ferment, and that the representatives of publishers were not in a position of strength.

The report from the Finch Group (the Finch Report) was published on June 18, 2012. On July 16, 2012, there were three major announcements that signaled a transformation of OA policy in the UK. Firstly, the UK government announced that it had accepted the recommendations included in the Finch Report, and plans to have better access to British scientific research and academic papers by 2014. Secondly, the Research Councils UK (RCUK) announced a new OA policy, applicable to all qualifying publications being submitted for publication from April 1, 2013. Thirdly, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) announced plans to make publicly-funded research more freely available after 2014.

As Peter Suber has pointed out in an editorial in BMJ, “These announcements signal a massive shift towards open access for publicly funded research in the UK…“. In a much longer essay, Tectonic movements toward OA in the UK and Europe, he has analyzed this “massive shift” in a very thorough way.

Gold OA Preferred Over Green OA

The Finch Group expressed a strong preference for Gold OA over Green OA. According to a clarification of the RCUK policy, in comparison with the Finch Report, RCUK also prefers Gold OA, but, if a suitable Gold OA option isn’t available, will accept Green OA, with an embargo of no more than 6 months for science papers (12 months for papers in the humanities and social sciences).

The main concern about the preference for Gold OA expressed by the Finch Group and the RCUK is that a transition to Gold OA, without taking full advantage of Green OA, is needlessly expensive (see, for example, Open Access Evangelism and Key Questions for Open Access Policy in the UK).

On September 7, 2012, the UK government announced that it will provide an extra £10 million to help to cover these transitional costs. A sentence from the announcement: “The investment will be made to 30 institutions receiving funding through Research Councils and UK higher education funding councils“.

The extra £10 million will apparently be a one-off transfer of money from elsewhere in the science budget. The RCUK announcement includes plans to provide block grants to support payment of APCs. Any additional funds that may be needed must come out of the already-stretched budgets of funding agencies and universities.

One of the key benefits of OA, from the perspective of the RCUK, is “the potential it offers to the research community (and beyond) to mash, mine and mix information and knowledge.  This provides real opportunities to substantially further the progress of research and innovation“. Libre OA is required if this potential is to be fully realized. This is a reason why the Finch Group and the RCUK have endorsed Gold OA and a CC-BY copyright license.

What’s Next?

Will other countries join the UK in its efforts to implement a transition to Gold OA? An answer came quickly. On July 17, 2012 – only one day after the announcements in the UK – the European Commission announced that, as of 2014, all scientific publications produced with funding from Horizon 2020 will have to be OA. Horizon 2020 is the EU’s Research & Innovation funding program for 2014-2020. Apparently, equal weight will be given to Gold and Green OA.

The Reputation Issue

Studies of authors’ views about factors that influence their choice of a journal as a venue for publication have identified journal reputation as a major factor (see, for example, here and here). A very widely used indicator of a journal’s reputation is it’s Impact Factor, which is the average number of citations received per paper published in that journal during the two preceding years. There have been many criticisms of the Journal Impact Factor (see: Sick of Impact Factors and Impact Factors: Use and Abuse). A problem for Gold OA journals is that few are more than a decade old. Time is required for a journal to develop a very favorable reputation.

In the age of blogs and social networks, it’s the impact of the article itself, not its venue, that needs to be assessed. Alternative metrics (‘altmetrics‘) are under development.


Will the ‘Reputation Issue’ pose problems about compliance with these new policies in the UK and Europe? The Wellcome Trust (a charitable foundation in the UK that supports biomedical research) has had concerns about compliance with its own OA policy. On June 28, 2012, it announced that it will be tightening up enforcement of the OA policy.

One of the three steps included in the strengthened policy is that Wellcome-funded researchers must be compliant with the Trust’s OA policy before any funding renewals or new grant awards will be activated. Again, it seems likely that a policy initiative that has originated in the UK may serve as a model for other funding agencies, beyond the UK as well as within it.

Sir Mark Walport, director of Wellcome Trust and a champion of OA, has been appointed to take over as UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser in April 2013.

What About the USA?

As noted above, the NIH already has a Public Access Policy. The rate of compliance with this policy currently stands at a respectable 75%. However, a lengthy embargo period of up to 12 months is permitted.

In May, 2012 a petition was created, on a White House website, to advocate implementation of OA policies for all US federal agencies that fund scientific research. The petition has obtained over 30,000 signatures, more than the threshold of 25,000 required to evoke an official response. So far, there’s been no response. The response, Heather Joseph has said, “could be as weak as a simple acknowledgement, or as strong as a policy statement or directive“.

The timing of the petition was no accident. The bipartisan Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) was reintroduced into the Senate (S 2096) and the House (HR 4004) in 2012. FRPAA proposes to extend the NIH policy to other federal agencies, and to shorten the permitted embargo from twelve months to six. A FAQ about FRPAA has been provided by the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.

There has been strong opposition to FRPAA from journal publishers. A main point of opposition is the proposed reduction of the duration of the permitted embargo from 12 months to 6 months.

The House and Senate bills have been referred to committee, and no prompt action seems likely.

Is the UK leading the way during the transition from TA to OA?

The short answer to this question is, I think, “At present, yes”. The announcements in July (see the section on the “Finch Report”, above) have been identified by Bernstein Research, in a very substantial report (PDF) dated September 10, 2012 as “the revival of OA“. I agree.

Will this initiative be successful? Stevan Harnad is a long-time advocate of emphasizing Green over Gold OA during the transition period. He has predicted that, if the RCUK policy isn’t modified, “the UK will lose its historic leadership of the global open access movement along with a good deal of public money that could have been spent on supporting more research…”.

The policy leadership provided by the July announcements was a surprise. It’s a bold attempt to achieve Libre OA  within a very few years. In Stephen Curry on Open Access, post-Finch, dated August 20, 2012, Stephen Curry is quoted as saying (in part):

I have the sense that things are less up in the air now, because the UK has nailed its colors to the mast, but it depends if their policy will win the heart and mind of the scientific community.

In Conclusion

The only prediction that I’m willing to make is that there will be further surprises.


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Preliminary data about CIHR-supported publications cited in PubMed

Technical Bulletin No. 372 of the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) was posted on January 5, 2010. Excerpt:

Effective mid-October 2009, when a published article has an acknowledgement of funding support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), that information is added to the PubMed journal citation.

At present, a search using the country name alone (a search on ‘canada [gr]’) retrieves the relevant records, because CIHR is the only Canadian organization in the Grant Number field in PubMed at this time.

Thus, it’s now feasible to obtain, via PubMed, data that will provide  indicators of compliance with the Policy on Access to Research Outputs of the CIHR. This policy “applies to all grants awarded January 1, 2008 and onward, which have received funding in whole or in part from CIHR“.

For example, the Advanced Search option in PubMed can be used to obtain an estimate of the total number of CIHR-supported publications with a publication date in the last 2 months of 2009. The result (search #1): 867.

Of these, links to ‘free full text’ were available for a total of (search#2): 82 (9.5% of 867). Of these 82 publications, 23 (28%) were published in PLoS ONE (search#3).

Analogous data can be obtained for several topics (such as ‘Cancer’). Total number of cancer-related (and CIHR-supported) publications with a publication date in the last 2 months of 2009 (search #4):  221. Number of these for which links to ‘free full text’ were available (search #5): 23 (10% of 221). Of these 23 publications, 7 (30%) were published in PLoS ONE (search #6). (The other 16 articles were distributed across 14 different journals).

Comment: As the Policy on Access to Research Outputs of the CIHR is implemented, one can expect to see an increase in the percentage of CIHR-supported publications (cited in PubMed) for which links to ‘free full text’ will be available. As noted in NLM Technical Bulletin No. 372:

A PubMed Central Canada manuscript submission system will be implemented in early 2010. This will be another source for grant information from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

(Note: the link to PMC Canada in the current version of NLM Technical Bulletin No. 372 is corrupted).

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arXiv repository to be enhanced

Stimulus grant to enhance arXiv e-preprints for scientists by Bill Steele, Chronicle Online, Cornell University, November 17, 2009. Excerpts:

Soon, Cornell’s e-print arXiv of scientific papers will evolve from a simple database to a place where “authors, articles, databases and readers talk to each other” to help users identify a work’s main concepts, see research reports in context and easily find related work.


Other enhancements will provide interoperability with such research sites as PubMedCentral and provisions to allow scientists to contribute in newer, more flexible text formats.

Researchers might be more enthusiastic about participating in open access journals and repositories if they could see that their work was more accessible and usable, [Paul] Ginsparg suggested. “And perhaps the academic community will again play a role at the forefront as the semantic Web 3.0 rolls out,” he said. Academic publishing has lagged behind the commercial Internet in providing interactive enhancements that today’s students take for granted, he explained. “Configuring research communications infrastructure for the next generation of researchers requires getting into the heads of near-term future researchers — undergrads and grad students — coming of age in the Google/Facebook/Twitter era.”

Found via posts in [Digital & Scholarly] and [Open Access News].

Comment: The arXiv repository has been at the forefront of the Green route to OA. The proposed enhancements may once again permit it to play a leadership role. These enhancements are intended to add value of a kind that will enhance the appeal of repositories to a wider range of users.

Green OA mandates implemented by funding agencies and universities can be regarded as “sticks”, designed to push appropriate content into repositories. Enhancements of the kind being proposed for the arXiv can be regarded as “carrots”, designed to pull a variety of users toward repositories. The latter approach has, so far, received less attention from OA advocates than the former.

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What’s the future of OA?

Tom Wilson, in a message sent to the BOAI Forum on October 31, 2009, suggested that “… any strategy [for the OA movement] evolved today on the assumption that the future is likely to be the same as the past is probably going to fail“. Other excerpts:

No one knows exactly how the ‘open access’ movement will pan out ….. Strong advocacy of repositories is strong advocacy of the status quo in scholarly communication. ….. scholars are increasingly taking matters into their own hands and producing free OA journals on some kind of subsidy basis and any economist will tell you that social benefit is maximised by this form of OA.

Stevan Harnad, in a response to the same Forum, has reiterated some of his well-known perspectives:

The purpose of the Open Access movement is not to knock down the publishing industry. The purpose is to provide Open Access to refereed research articles. ….. The way to take matters in their [scholars’] own hands is to deposit the refereed final drafts of all their journal articles in their university’s OA Repository.

Comment: My own opinion is that both perspectives are tenable. I agree with Stevan Harnad that the most important short-term goal of the OA movement is to “provide Open Access to refereed research articles“. I also agree with Tom Wilson that ”No one knows exactly how the ‘open access’ movement will pan out” over the longer term, and that “the status quo in scholarly communication” seems likely to be unstable.

However, if the “status quo” is identified as a somewhat bewildering variety of options for scholarly communication that are changing quickly as technologies evolve, and are varying from field to field (and even across sub-disciplines in the same field), then this “status quo” may persist for quite a few years, before a smaller number of “best practices” become firmly established.

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OA repository launched by ResearchGATE

News release received via email on September 15, 2009 (Subject: Open Access on ResearchGATE):

ResearchGATE launches Self-Archiving Repository

Scientific Online Network ResearchGATE blazes a new route into the world of Open Access

Boston, September 15th 2009. The last few weeks have been big here at ResearchGATE (, the world’s largest online scientific platform. We have only been online since May last year, but already have 140,000 members. Recently, we introduced our international Job Board for Science and Higher Education. But today is set to be even bigger, as we are launching our Self-Archiving Repository. This will make full-text articles available to the public, for free – the first application of its kind worldwide!

Currently, there is no way for researchers to access millions of publications in their full version online. ResearchGATE is now changing this by enabling users to upload their published research directly to their profile pages (a system called the “green route” to Open Access). Our publication index, containing metadata for 35 million publications, will be automatically matched with the SHERPA RoMEO ( data set of journal and publisher’s self-archiving agreements. As a result, authors will know which versions of their articles they can legally upload. Since nine out of ten journals allow self-archiving, this project could give thousands of researchers immediate access to articles that are not yet freely available.

Our Self-Archiving Repository does not infringe on copyrights because each profile page within ResearchGATE is legally considered the personal website of the user (and the majority of journal publishers allow articles to be openly accessible on personal homepages). Therefore, each user can upload his or her published articles in compliance with self-archiving regulations. Our publication index makes every publication identifiable and is searchable. Since each profile is networked to the larger platform, the uploaded resources will form an enormous pool of research for our members. Of course, it’s free of charge, like the all the other resources at ResearchGATE.

To learn more about ResearchGATE and its many features, visit and sign up for a free profile. Also, feel free to contact me directly or our team at

To learn more about Self-Archiving, visit

Hannah Elmer

Marketing & PR

Excerpt from the Self Archiving webpage:

Self-archive with ResearchGATE

Self-archiving over a ResearchGATE profile page offers many advantages. The ResearchGATE search engines will display your publications among their results and the ResearchGATE semantic matching tool will recommended your articles to other users. These unique resources promote your work to the thousands of researchers who use the site daily. Additionally, publications archived on ResearchGATE are easily found by Google and other external search engines, so they are still retrievable through more traditional means. Since the publications are linked to your personal profile, all traffic they attract will be directed over your site, which further improves the visibility both of you as a researcher and of your other projects.

Comment: No confidentiality statement was attached to the email message, which was sent to members of ResearchGATE. However, so far, this news release doesn’t seem to have been cached by Google. ResearchGATE’s approach to self-archiving differs from that of Scholas. The latter site is intended for “Social File-Sharing for Academics“. For a brief commentary about Scholas, see: SCHOLAS: OnLine Academic Sharing Service, DE Tools of the Trade, August 31st, 2009.

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Addressing the scandal of the knowledge divide

An essay by Jean-Claude Guédon, Open Access and the divide between “mainstream” and “peripheral” science, was posted recently (July 23, 2009) at Mesa Redonda sobre Patrimonio Intelectual y Conocimiento Libre. [Apparently, this is a website supported by the Government of Venezuela – Google translation from Spanish to English: “Roundtable on Intellectual Heritage and Free Knowledge”]. A short excerpt from the latter part of this interesting essay:

This paper identifies the facets of the Gold and Green Roads that make sense in addressing the scandal of the knowledge divide. It brings to light essentially two fundamental strategies: on the Gold side, fully subsidized journals that do not financially penalize authors from poor countries, or do not submit them to humiliating forms of pleading for special treatment are essential. On the Green side of Open Access, the way to create symbolic value in competition with what presently supports the divide barriers is to organize a coherent system of institutional and thematic repositories. The former are charged with collecting and preserving all that they can and want to preserve. It is through institutional repositories that depositing mandates should be implemented as mandates can originate from a variety of institutions with some political clout, universities, research centres and granting agencies among them. However, it is through thematic repositories that the (research) wheat can be separated from the chaff and it is through them that various forms of new and useful forms of symbolic value can be created.

This essay had been deposited previously, as an eprint of a book chapter, in the E-LIS repository. The eprint was last modified on November 19, 2008. The citation indicates that this book chapter was expected to be “forthcoming in 2007, in Portuguese“.

Blog items (apparently, about an earlier version of the eprint) were posted by Peter Suber (OA for mainstreaming peripheral science) on December 1, 2007 and by Heather Morrison (National open access journal subsidy) on December 1, 2007. The eprint has been cited on CiteULike, and a version is also available via Scribd, posted on August 18, 2008 (see:

The version posted at the Venezuelan site has generated some recent interest on FriendFeed. See, for example, (July 25, by Bill Hooker) and (July 27, by Bora Zivkovic). Recommendation from Bora Zivkovic: “[Essay] by Jean-Claude Guédon is a Must Read of the day“.

Comment: An excerpt from Heather Morrison’s blog post is noteworthy:

Scielo is an excellent example of what can be accomplished through a nationally subsidized open access program. While the Scielo portal encompasses the scholarly work of many latin countries, Brazil alone, in 2005, brought 160 fully open access journals to the world at a very modest cost of only $1 million dollars.

Canada is experimenting with subsidized open access journals, through the Aid to Open Access Journals program.

Note: The link to the webpage for SSHRC’s Aid to Open Access Journals program has been updated in the excerpt. This  program has been renamed the SSHRC Aid to Scholarly Journals program. See also: About SSHC > Policy Focus > Open Access.

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FRSQ policy on OA

Stevan Harnad, Heather Morrison and Peter Suber have noted the Policy regarding open access to published research outputs of the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ) [version in French]. They didn’t comment on the Guiding Principles of the policy:

This Policy is based on four guiding principles that, together, underpin the concept of open access to research outputs:

Academic freedom – The Policy recognizes the importance of academic freedom as a means of advancing knowledge. It reaffirms the complete independence of researchers in determining the relevance of distributing research outputs and the means used to do so.

Use and development of research outputs – The Policy supports researchers in furthering the use and development of research outputs through distribution, transfer, translation or commercialization. It particularly encourages the dissemination of knowledge to the scientific community and to output users.

Compliance with ethical standards – The Policy requires compliance with the highest standards in matters of research ethics and the protection of personal information. Beyond the relevant legal and regulatory standards, it insists on the importance of transparent and fair action with the populations participating in a study or likely to be affected by the results. Furthermore, the Policy also reiterates the importance of adherence to the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) standards for research, when animals are used in experiments.

Harmonization of rules – The Policy ensures harmonization of standards and practices among health research funding agencies. It also takes into account Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) requirements in order to prevent needless overlap and to facilitate Policy implementation by researchers.

Note this commitment, in the 4th principle, “to prevent needless overlap and to facilitate Policy implementation by researchers” by taking into account “Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) requirements“. [CIHR Policy].

A prediction: Further efforts at harmonization of the OA policies of Canadian funding agencies will be on hold until PubMed Central Canada is up and running. (For updates on PMC Canada, see the website of NRC-CISTI’s Partnership Development Office).

This prediction could, of course, be regarded as a contribution to the ongoing debate about the the locus of deposit for Green OA to peer-reviewed research publications. For a recent contribution to this debate, see: Authors: I don’t care where you deposit, just do it, Gavin Baker, A Journal of Insignificant Inquiry, February 5, 2009. (Found via: Against the primacy of IRs, Gavin Baker, Open Access News, February 6, 2009). Please note, in particular, the last sentence of the post dated February 5:

The ultimate goal is opening all research, regardless of where the authors work or who funded the research.

Another minor comment: Note that “open access” in French is “libre accès”. So, how to translate “libre OA” into French? (“Libre OA” is the kind of OA which removes price barriers and at least some permission barriers, see: Gratis and libre open access, Peter Suber, SPARC Open Access Newsletter, August 2, 2008). My own opinion is that the “gratis OA-libre OA” nomenclature is very useful for discussions among advocates of OA, but isn’t yet widely appreciated.

For this reason, I’m currently using the term “publicly accessible” instead of “gratis OA” in posts to my other blog, Cancer Stem Cell News. My CSC News blog has a primary focus on cancer stem cells (although a secondary objective is to foster awareness of OA among those interested in cancer stem cells). I’ve used the term “open access” only in relation to “libre OA” (in accordance with the definition that was included in the Budapest Open Access Initiative, February 14, 2002).

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More on the HHMI/Elsevier deal

Found via: JCB to HHMI: Why did you sell out to Elsevier?, Alex Palazzo, The Daily Transcript, July 18, 2007.

About an editorial, How the rich get richer, by Mike Rossner (Executive Director, The Rockefeller University Press) and Ira Mellman (Editor in Chief, The Journal of Cell Biology), J Cell Biol 2007(18 Jun); 177(6): 951. Epub Jun 11, 2007.


HHMI [Howard Hughes Medical Institute] will bestow monetary rewards on a commercial publisher in return for the type of public access already provided by many nonprofit publishers.

Two problems with this deal immediately come to mind. First, there is a clear potential for conflict of interest when a publisher stands to benefit financially by publishing papers from a particular organization. Second, and even more seriously, this action by HHMI undermines the effort to persuade commercial publishers to make their content public after a short delay, by rewarding them for not doing so.

See also: Paying a fee for Green OA, 21 Mar 2007.

And: Elsevier, HHMI and Open Access, Kaitlin Thaney, Science Commons, 8 Mar 2007.

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How to select an Author Addendum?

Many non-OA publishers still require authors to transfer copyright upon acceptance of an article for publication. Some permit authors to retain the right to self-archive their articles in an OA repository (Green OA), and some do not. A way of dealing with those publishers who don’t currently have policies that permit Green OA is to add an Author Addendum to the publisher’s existing publication agreement.

I’m one of those non-experts on copyright who has been wary about adding an addendum to publication agreements. Why? Mainly, because it’s unfamiliar territory. There’s probably legal quicksand there somewhere, and I won’t realize it’s there until I’ve fallen into it. In particular, which addendum to select? And, where to obtain credible advice?

Many sources of advice are available. For example, Heather Morrison, in a message sent on Feb. 21, 2007 to the AmSci OA Forum, recommended an Author’s Agreement [PDF] that’s available via the College & Research Libraries News section of the website of the American Library Association. Heather likes this model “because of the support for authors’ rights, but also because of the clarity and brevity“. The first two (of three) paragraphs of the agreement:

1. In consideration of the Publisher’s agreement to publish the Work, Author hereby grants and assigns to Publisher the right to print, publish, reproduce, or distribute the Work throughout the world in all means of expression by any method now known or hereafter developed, including electronic format, and to market or sell the Work or any part of it as it sees fit. Author further grants Publisher the right to use Author’s name in association with the Work in published form and in advertising and promotional materials. Copyright of the Work remains in Author’s name.

2. Author agrees not to publish the Work in print form prior to publication of the Work by the Publisher. [ALA requests that should you publish the Work elsewhere, you cite the publication in ALA’s Publication, by author, title, and publisher, through a tagline, author bibliography, or similar means.]

Thus, the author retains copyright, but only agrees not to publish the work in print form prior to publication by the publisher. All other rights are retained by the author (so, Green OA is permitted).

Next, I followed up on an item posted in Peter Suber’s OA News blog on April 12, 2007: OA law program spreads to Canada. This item led me to an item, Open Access Law Canada, posted in Michael Geist’s blog on April 11, 2007. This item, in turn, led me to a webpage for the The University of Ottawa Law and Technology Journal (UOLTJ). The Copyright section provides access to the UOLTJ Publication agreement and copyright licence [PDF]. Section 1.2 of this legal-language document is interesting:

1.2. In addition to the nonexclusive rights granted above, the UOLTJ shall have the exclusive right to publish the Article in the UOLTJ, in print or electronic form, for a period beginning when this Agreement is executed and ending twelve (12) months after publication of the Article in the UOLTJ. During this period of exclusivity, the UOLTJ expressly consents herein that the author may publish the Article on the author’s own website or the SSRN or similar scholarly forum that publishes working draft versions of academic papers, providing that the author indicates, on or in association with the first page of the article, that the article is scheduled for publication, or has been published, in the UOLTJ. The Author agrees not to publish the Article, or any substantially similar article, in any other location until the expiry of the exclusivity period.

Not only does this agreement permit Green OA, but, after a year, all rights are retained by the author.

A Google HTML version of the licence is also available.

Access to the PDF version of this same licence is also available via the Licences page of Open Access Law Canada. This program is part of the Science Commons Scholar’s Copyright Project, which provides access to Creative Commons Licenses and to the very interesting Science Commons Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine. An excerpt from the latter webpage:

Using a simple Web form, authors choose the rights they want to retain and enter basic information like the name of the publisher and the title of the article. The Addendum Engine then generates a completed PDF copy of a one-page standard addendum allowing them to retain rights over the work that would otherwise be wholly forfeited.

“Immediate Access”, “Delayed Access” (6-month embargo), “Access-Reuse” and “MIT Amendment” options are available. The latter is an addendum specifically intended for use by MIT authors. An excerpt:

b. Once the Article has been published by Publisher, the Author shall also have all the non-exclusive rights necessary to make, or to authorize others to make, the final published version of the Article available in digital form over the Internet, including but not limited to a website under the control of the Author or the Author’s employer or through any digital repository, such as MIT’s DSpace or the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central database.

Green OA in various kinds of repositories is permitted. With minor modifications, the MIT Amendment could easily be adapted for use by authors based at other institutions.

The SPARC Author Addendum [PDF] is an example of the Access-Reuse Addendum option (see above, the Addendum Engine) approach to Green OA.

Institutions other than MIT have adopted amendments. An example is provided by the University of Michigan Author’s Addendum, [PDF]. Excerpts from the addendum:

3. Repositories. The Author shall retain the right to deposit the published version of the Article in an open-access digital repository maintained by the Author’s employing institution, such as University of Michigan’s “Deep Blue”, by an academic consortium to which the employing institution belongs, such as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), by a non-profit scholarly society, and/or by a governmental funding agency. At the Publisher’s written request, open access to the Article may be delayed for a period not to exceed 12 months from the date of publication.

4. Personal Website. The Author shall retain the right to post the published version of the Article on the Author’s personal website.

Various routes to Green OA are identified and permitted.

For another recent example, see: FAQ on Minnesota’s author addendum, posted by Peter Suber to OA News on June 19, 2007. A CIC Author Addendum [PDF] was adopted on May 3, 2007 by the University of Minnesota. It’s a delayed access addendum. The relevant excerpt:

2. After a period of six(6) months from the date of publication of the article, the Author shall also have all the non-exclusive rights necessary to make, or to authorize others to make, the final published version of the Article available in digital form over the Internet, including but not limited to a website under the control of the Author or the Author’s employer or through digital repositories including, but not limited to, those maintained by CIC institutions, scholarly societies or funding agencies.

So, Green OA (to the final published version) in various types of repositories is permitted, after a 6-month embargo. Perhaps non-OA publishers may be much more willing to accept an addendum that permits Green OA in such a wide variety of repositories if there’s a 6-month embargo?

What about an example of a licence that’s based on the perspective of a journal publisher? Learned Publishing is the journal of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), published in collaboration with the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP). The ALPSP Licence to Publish [PDF] allows authors to retain copyright. An excerpt:

Copyright remains yours, and we will acknowledge this in the copyright line which appears on your article. However, you authorise us to act on your behalf to defend your copyright if anyone should infringe it, and to retain half of any damages awarded, after deducting our costs. You also retain the right to use your own article as follows (provided you acknowledge the published original in standard bibliographic citation form), as long as you do not sell it in ways which would conflict directly with our commercial business interests. You are free to use your article for the internal educational or other purposes of your own institution or company; you may mount the pre -publication version (after peer review, but not the published article/PDF) on your own or your institution’s website and post it to free public servers of preprints and/or articles in your subject area; or you may use it, in whole or in part, as the basis for your own further publications or spoken presentations.

This licence permits Green OA to the final pre-publication version (after peer review), with no embargo.

The examples described above provide a range of options. Similarly, if one browses the Green publishers segment of the SHERPA/RoMEO database, it quickly becomes apparent how much policies related to Green OA vary among different publishers. However, the main relevant variables are also highlighted. They include: a) where the publication may be self-archived (e.g. personal website, subject-based or institutional repositories); b) which version may be self-archived (e.g. pre-refereeing preprint, author’s own version of final article, publisher’s version/PDF); c) duration of any post-publication embargo (e.g. none, 6 months, 12 months); d) whether authors may retain copyright (and transfer to the publisher only specified aspects of a bundle of rights, for a specified period). The number of possible permutations and combinations of these variables is quite large.

The question remains: how to select an appropriate Author Addendum? Obviously, it must be one that both the journal publisher and the author(s) will accept. Negotiation with the publisher is required. Negotiations are probably pointless unless authors are willing to change publishers if the negotiations are unsuccessful. I know of no source of information about which particular non-OA publishers have a track record of refusing to accept an Author Addendum (such as, for example, the MIT Amendment).

Is it likely that negotiations among publishers, individual authors, institutions and funding agencies, will soon lead to convergence, so that the number of options is minimized? Perhaps not soon. Publishers of journals that currently enjoy high impact factors, and also have low acceptance rates, are likely to resist any changes as vigorously as is possible without losing credibility. Publishers that are actively attempting to increase the impact factors of their journals, and also the number of submissions, may be more willing to propose or accept changes. Evolution seems inevitable, but it may be slow.

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Niche journals and self-archiving

Browsing through the SHERPA/RoMEO database of publishers’ self-archiving policies can yield some interesting information. I was looking for niche journals that are intended for members of particular disciplines in a specific geographic area (in my case, Canada). Some disciplines deal with topics that may vary greatly in substance from one geographic area to another. Health services research is one such area, because healthcare policy (e.g. how are particular health services delivered and paid for?) may differ greatly from one geographic area to another.

In 2005, the quarterly journal Healthcare Policy was launched, by “Longwoods Publishing, The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Health Services and Policy Research, the Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research (CAHSPR) and Editor-in-Chief Brian Hutchison …“. See: Announcement and Call for Papers. Only some selected contributions to this journal are OA, such as: Editorial: Getting Started by Brian Hutchison, Healthcare Policy 2005; 1(1): 1-3.

When I looked for this journal in the SHERPA/RoMEO database, neither the journal title, nor the publisher, were listed. This was an unusual result. What was usually found was information about the niche journal or the publisher, but not information about self-archiving policies.

For example, for the first 50 journal titles that contain the word “Canadian”, I found information about self-archiving policies for only five. Of these, two, Canadian Geographer and Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics, are listed as Blackwell journals, and three, Canadian Journal of Botany, Canadian Journal of Chemistry and Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering, are listed as National Research Council Canada (NRC Research Press) journals. Thus, information about self-archiving policies is currently available in the database for only about 10% of these Canadian journals.

Similarly, of 28 journal titles that contain the word “Canada”, I found information about self-archiving policies for only one, Health Law in Canada, an Elsevier journal.

Is this lack of information a result, at least in part, of the SHERPA/RoMEO database currently being incomplete? Probably, yes. And, efforts to improve the database are under way. See, for example, Copyright Knowledge Bank – Database. An excerpt from the webpage:

The Copyright Knowledge Bank (CKB) is a database containing comprehensive information on the self-archiving policies of journal publishers. It is an extension of the existing well-known and heavily-used SHERPA/RoMEO database of publishers’ self-archiving policies.

At the moment the CKB is still in development. As well as providing more detailed information on open access and self-archiving policies of publishers, the CKB will also have: * Improved coverage … and * Improved functionality …

However, the main reason for the lack of information about self-archiving policies for these Canada-oriented journals is probably because they do not yet have such policies. How best to deal with this issue, from the perspective of authors/researchers/scholars?

For results from a survey of author’s attitudes about such an issue, see: Copyright Issues in Open Access Research Journals: The Authors’ Perspective by Esther Hoorn and Maurits van der Graaf, D-Lib Magazine 2006(Feb); 12(2).

An excerpt:

The following emerging copyright models in OA journals were identified:

* a model in which the author keeps the copyright: this was preferred by nearly half of the respondents

* two models in which the author shares the copyright (with Creative Commons licences): these were preferred by nearly a third of the respondents

* a model in which the author transfers only the exploitation rights to the journal publisher: this was preferred by a small minority.

But, what if the publisher’s policy is the conventional one, in which the author is required to transfer copyright to the publisher?

One response is to make an effort to retain copyright on an individual, article-by-article, basis. An addendum can be added to the conventional copyright agreement. An example is the one recommended by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). See: Author Agreement (PDF).


Copyright of the Work remains in Author’s name.

Author agrees not to publish the Work in print form prior to publication of the Work by the Publisher. [ALA requests that should you publish the Work elsewhere, you cite the publication in ALA’s Publication, by author, title, and publisher, through a tagline, author bibliography, or similar means.]

[My thanks to Heather Morrison, AmSci OA Forum, 21 Feb 2007 for information about this addendum].

Another example is available via the SPARC Author Rights page, which provides access to the SPARC Author Addendum (PDF). Excerpt:

1. Author’s Retention of Rights. In addition to any rights under copyright retained by Author in the Publication Agreement, Author retains: (i) the rights to reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, and publicly display the Article in any medium for non-commercial purposes; (ii) the right to prepare derivative works from the Article; and (iii) the right to authorize others to make any non-commercial use of the Article so long as Author receives credit as author and the journal in which the Article has been published is cited as the source of first publication of the Article. For example, Author may make and distribute copies in the course of teaching and research and may post the Article on personal or institutional Web sites and in other openaccess digital repositories.

But, what to do if the publisher refuses to accept such an addendum? An alternative approach is one that’s been advocated vigorously by Stevan Harnad: ID/OA (Immediate-Deposit, Optional-Access), paired with a “Fair Use” Button. See, for example, Blackwell Instructions for self-archiving manuscripts, by Stevan Harnad, 17 April 2007. Excerpts:

Blackwell’s is a 12-month embargo publisher.

The solution is extremely simple: always deposit the postprint (i.e., the refereed, revised, accepted final draft) immediately upon acceptance for publication (definitely not 12 months later!) and set the access as “Closed Access” instead of “Open Access,” if you wish, which means the metadata (author, title, journal, abstract) are openly accessible to anyone on the web immediately, but the full-text is not. In addition … make sure to implement the “Fair Use” Button … : EMAIL EPRINT REQUEST …

All searches will lead to the Closed Access Deposit, and that in turn has the Button, which will provide for all usage needs during the 1-year embargo, semi-automatically, almost immediately, via almost-OA.

Embargoes will all die (I promise!) a *very* quick death once all institutions mandate immediate deposit like this; but embargoes will win the day if institutions foolishly make the mandated *deposit* date contingent on when publisher embargo’s say-so.

Will this strategy indeed serve to convince publishers (including publishers of niche journals) to permit self-archiving and minimal embargoes? Only time will tell (and, only if the strategy is used by many authors).

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