Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In Support of Open Access, Jill Russell, University of Birmingham

Despite all of the excitement about open research and the possibilities of the semantic web, the “dead document is still the main unit of currency at most universities” says Jill Russell from the University of Birmingham, who is here to give an overview of her institution’s project to encourage its researchers to publish in open access publications.

Take-up of the green OA route (publishing in a subscription journal but depositing the article in the university’s institutional repository) has been typically slow at Birmingham, and there is a lot of confusion among researchers about what open access publishing - especially the green model - actually is. Gold open access (paying a publication fee so that the article is published as freely available to all) is better understood, and researchers are more willing to pay for the immediate publication that gold provides.

Russell and her colleagues ran a pilot project to communicate with grant holders and grant applicants to encourage them to budget for publishing costs as part of their research projects, and to offer administrative support. They identified the top funders and their policies on OA, focussing mainly on STM where OA already has more of a foothold. Throughout the project they were careful to stress that their researchers still had the choice to publish where they wished, OA or not.

The pilot quickly showed that they had underestimated costs, with the average publication fee being £1500, double their initial estimate of £700. Birmingham’s researchers publish between 3500 and 4000 papers a year, so publication fees to make them all OA would amount to £5 million annually. The budget is £120,000. From September 2009 to March 2010, twenty five articles were funded for gold OA by funding by a combination of Wellcome, MRC and EPSRC.

Birmingham has taken institutional memberships to BioMedCentral, PLoS and Nucleic Acids Research from OUP.

Researchers don’t care about the journal’s business model, just its profile. Articles have to be in PubMed, but many researchers not sure of difference between PubMedCentral and PubMed. The majority of top fifty journals in which University of Birmingham researchers publish do have some kind of OA policy, however many of these policies are extremely unclear, vary vastly from publisher to publisher and sometimes don’t make a great deal of sense (Russell gave an example where paying for gold OA didn’t allow them to deposit the article in their own IR). Publishers really need to make their OA policies clear.

Russell summarised by saying that OA fees are rising rapidly, but subscription fees are falling slowly, so they are not seeing any savings at the moment. If Birmingham were to switch to a complete OA model it would only benefit if publication fees were set at a maximum of £1000 per article.

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Blogger Stevan Harnad said...

On Not Putting The Gold OA-Payment Cart Before The Green OA-Provision Horse

SUMMARY: Universities need to commit to mandating Green OA self-archiving before committing to spend their scarce available funds to pay for Gold OA publishing. Most of the university's potential funds to pay Gold OA publishing fees are currently committed to paying their annual journal subscription fees, which are thereby covering the costs of publication already. Pre-emptively committing to pay Gold OA publication fees over and above paying subscription fees will only provide OA for a small fraction of a university's total research article output; Green OA mandates will provide OA for all of it. Journal subscriptions cannot be cancelled unless the journals' contents are otherwise accessible to a university's users. (In addition, the very same scarcity of funds that makes pre-emptive Gold OA payment for journal articles today premature and ineffectual also makes Gold OA payment for monographs unaffordable, because the university funds already committed to journal subscriptions today are making even the purchase of a single print copy of incoming monographs for the library prohibitive, let alone making Gold OA publication fees for outgoing monographs affordable.) Universal Green OA mandates will make the final peer-reviewed drafts of all journal articles freely accessible to all would-be users online, thereby not only providing universal OA, but opening the doors to an eventual transition to universal Gold OA if and when universities then go on to cancel subscriptions, releasing those committed funds to pay the publishing costs of Gold OA.

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