Sunday, October 21, 2007

Full OA is a reasonable position, plus, compromise takes two!

Peter Suber's response to my postWould a Bold Politician Speak Up for the Public Good? says:

Heather is right to take a political perspective. But politically, this is a two-sided issue. On the one hand, immediate OA is in the public interest, but on the other, we should be ready to compromise in order to get a bill passed.

I completely agree, however with respect to the NIH Public Access policy, may I point out that it takes two to compromise?

IF the publishing industry recognized and appreciated the significant compromise of allowing for a 12-month embargo period (not to mention the significant funding for publication charges and subscription fees already provided by the NIH) and SUPPORTED the NIH Public Access policy, including a change to requiring public access, instead of hiring PR pitbull Eric Dezenhall and fighting the modification to requirement tooth and nail, THAT would be a compromise, and one worth supporting.

As things stand, it appears to me that we have one side which is basically neutral (Public Access Policy, presenting a position which is a compromise), and another which is opposed. What's missing? Someone who will speak openly and passionately for the public interest.

Surely it is reasonable to at least express this viewpoint, in a democracy? It may be that immediate OA is not mandated; but at least this would make it clear that allowing for a 12-month embargo is indeed a compromise, and a significant one.

This is not a purist position which does not take into account the economics of scholarly publishing; that is another myth of the Dezenhall variety.

The public interest in open access to NIH-funded research is not only about the unprecedented public good that comes with freeing access to our medical knowledge; it is also in the public interest to ensure due diligence in expenditure of public funds.

That is to say, NIH is already funding, not only the research, but also, but to large (if not fully known) extent, the publilcation costs, too. One of the myths spread by the anti-OA lobby is that NIH is an "unfunded mandate". This is simply not true, based on what NIH is already spending in this area. NIH is paying $30 million per year in direct publication costs alone, an average of $500 per article published based on NIH-funded research. NIH also contributes to subscription costs through indirect costs to research; while the precise amount is not known, it seems a real possibility that NIH is already paying more than enough to fund a fully open access scholarly publishing system for NIH-funded research. These funds would still be available with a full open access mandate. Even with all the costs of publication covered by NIH, publishers still have opportunities to earn considerable profits, by selling subscriptions to the final versions with all the value they add - the copyediting, layout, etc., and access to additional content not funded by the public, not to mention advertising dollars!


From: NIH. Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research. F: Potential Economic Impact on Journal Publishers. The NIH supports the current publishing process by providing its funded investigators with an estimated $30 million annually in direct costs for publication expenses, including page and color charges and reprints. In addition, NIH provides funds, through indirect costs, to research institutions for library journal subscriptions and electronic site licenses. NIH also supports the current process by encouraging publication of NIH-supported original research in scientific journals.

IJPE: NIH Public Access Policy: Is the Funding for an OA Transition Already There?