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Getting Open Access Embargoes Right: Rational Policy Must Be Evidence-Based

A new study, out today, takes a broad look at the usage lives of scholarly journal articles. The information it contains is vital for achieving the balance necessary for Green OA policies to work.

A few weeks ago we saw a series of dust-ups over Green Open Access (OA), and its potential economic impact on journals. One faction made the seemingly obvious statement that if you make a product free, customers (particularly financially strapped customers) will stop paying for it. The other side of the argument stated that because Green OA was disorganized and sporadic, it wasn’t an adequate substitute for the paid product, and would thus have no negative impact on subscriptions. Both sides of this argument contain some truth, but as we move forward, both are essentially wrong because they fail to take into account how much the Green OA landscape is changing due to funding agency mandates.

While some funding agency and government public access mandates favor the Gold route to OA, most seem to be leaning more toward the Green route. The United States, Australia and others (Argentina most recently) have announced these sorts of policies requiring public access to research articles based on their funding efforts. The widespread growth of such policies moves Green OA from a disorganized practice into an consistent prerequisite for researchers hoping to retain their funding. Furthermore, efforts like CHORUS will soon provide a mechanism for fulfilling these mandates automatically. In short order, any argument about the disorganized nature of today’s Green OA will be moot.

This wave of Green OA mandates also changes the question librarians will need to ask about retaining subscriptions. Public access to the articles will only come after an embargo period. The real purchasing question for librarians will not be, “is it free?” Instead they must ask, “is it free soon enough to meet the needs of my researchers?”

Embargoes are at the heart of making these Green public access policies work. As Joe Esposito has noted, the concept behind Green OA is somewhat self-contradictory. Its success means damaging the survival chances of the very thing upon which it depends. Embargoes are the mechanism necessary to create a symbiotic relationship between the two and provide the balance needed to keep things running. While some extremists dream of a world where everything is immediately free, this seems, at least under current conditions, the equivalent of hoping for a perpetual motion machine or a free lunch.

The problem with embargoes is that nobody seems to know how long they should be. The goal should be to make the material publicly available as soon as is possible without destroying the underlying foundation that supports it. But it’s not really possible to know where that line should be drawn until you cross it. Finding the tipping point means deliberately causing damage to the journal publishing ecosystem, then drawing back and hoping that damage is reparable. Breaking something and then trying to glue the pieces back together is a less-than-optimal way to set policy.

Many OA policies seem to have chosen their embargo periods out of thin air. There is no rationale offered, no specific evidence presented, as to why a 6-month or 12-month embargo is appropriate. “Because we said so” is simply not acceptable. Instead, we need to rely on what evidence we can gather and proceed conservatively, start well away from the tipping point and creep slowly closer and closer to it. We need data collection and careful analysis to be able to make accurate estimates about appropriate embargo lengths.

One of the great strengths of the White House OSTP policy is that it requires a rational, evidence-based procedure for setting embargo periods:

…a mechanism for stakeholders to petition for changing the embargo period for a specific field by presenting evidence demonstrating that the plan would be inconsistent with the objectives articulated in this memorandum

The Journal Usage Half-Life study, released today, marks a beginning to the evidence gathering needed to answer these questions and set rational policy.

As I understand it, the OSTP set a 12-month embargo as the default, based on the experience seen with the NIH and PubMed Central. The NIH has long had a public access policy with a 12-month embargo, and to date, no publisher has presented concrete evidence that this has resulted in lost subscriptions. With this singular piece of evidence, it made sense for the OSTP to start with a known quantity and work from there.

The new study, however, suggests that the NIH experience may have been a poor choice for a starting point. Clearly the evidence shows that by far, Health Science journals have the shortest article half-lives. The material being deposited in PubMed Central is, therefore, an outlier population, and many not set an appropriate standard for other fields.

Embargo periods should also take into account societal benefit from access to the articles. There are obvious reasons why we’d want to push for faster release of medical research. It takes an extremely long time for medical research to translate into actual treatment, so anything we can do to speed that process may save lives. That sense of urgency may differ for research in other fields. Certainly the world is a better place with more insight into Chaucer’s writings or Lincoln’s political strategy, but unlike the latest paper on cancer treatment, these sorts of things aren’t likely to impact a nation’s mortality rate. The question of urgency should inform embargo period decisions and how risky we’re willing to be to get the material out rapidly. This again points to Health Sciences as an outlier and a poor choice as the standard.

I’ve heard through the grapevine of several data collection and embargo impact studies that are in the works, and I’m hoping to see a useful body of knowledge assembled that can be used to drive rational, evidence-based embargo period policies. It’s important to understand that a Green OA mandate with too short an embargo period is the same thing as an unfunded Gold OA mandate. When embargo periods are untenable, journals respond by requiring the author to pay an article processing charge (APC) to make the article immediately available, rather than acquiescing to an embargo that threatens to collapse its subscriptions.

Too short an embargo period and a forced but unfunded move to Gold OA creates problems for researchers and is contrary to the strategy chosen for these mandates. Green OA can be sustainable in the long-term, but implementation needs to be balanced, thoughtful and evidence-based, rather than set up around guesses or hopes. That’s why studies like this one are so important in achieving funding agency public access goals.

About David Crotty

I am a Senior Editor with Oxford University Press' journal publishing program. Prior to that I served as an Executive Editor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, and was also the commissioning editor for their book publishing program. Many years ago, I was a research scientist, receiving my Ph.D. in Genetics & Development from Columbia University, and doing postdoctoral research in neural development at Caltech.

Discussion

32 thoughts on “Getting Open Access Embargoes Right: Rational Policy Must Be Evidence-Based

  1. I understand why publishers of subscription-based journals would want this kind of data and want it to be used when making decisions about embargo periods. But if you look at it from the point of view of a scholar or a research funder, what you see is that the most critical period of time for any article is shortly after it is published, and thus any embargo is denying access to some fraction of potential users at precisely the time when the article is at its most useful. So to me, rather than providing data to help make rational decisions about green-OA embargo periods, this kind of data demonstrates that irrationality of the whole endeavor.

    Posted by Michael Eisen | Dec 18, 2013, 12:34 pm
    • Michael, As an analysts (not a publisher) I fail to see that “the most critical period of time for any article is shortly after it is published” anywhere in this data. Where do you see that?

      Posted by David Wojick | Dec 18, 2013, 1:32 pm
  2. What this amazing data tells me is that some of our basic concepts about scientific progress are probably wrong. Science is not a simple building block process, where today’s findings lead to tomorrow’s. Articles find most of their use long after they are published. For all we know these longer term uses are the more important scientifically. Dormancy and incubation may be more important than immediacy in the progress of science. Who would have guessed this?

    Of course it is well known, even legendary, that some important ideas lie relatively unused for a long time. That this might be the standard pattern is a big surprise. But then, information only becomes useful when it is needed and downloads are need driven, unlike publication, which is creation driven.

    Posted by David Wojick | Dec 18, 2013, 1:49 pm
  3. “The problem with embargoes is that nobody seems to know how long they should be. The goal should be to make the material publicly available as soon as is possible without destroying the underlying foundation that supports it.”

    Yes, this! Different fields have different behaviors and needs. Even sub-disciplines within a field may have different needs. Heck, one might argue that article types have different usage–make research papers open after 12 months but review articles after 24. I don’t know. But applying what was created for medical research to all other fields is naive and extremely devastating to some journals.

    Posted by Angela Cochran | Dec 18, 2013, 2:01 pm
  4. Perhaps this is addressed in the full study. I’ll admit I haven’t looked at it yet. But (at least) two questions remain before we conclude anything about embargo periods from this study. One is what is right metric for determining the impact of Green OA on subscription revenue? Is it timing of downloads or is it something else more directly tied to revenue? I don’t know the answer but we want to be sure we’re asking the right questions.

    The other important question is what percentage of any journal’s (or any discipline’s) papers are sponsored by funders with public access policies? If public access to a paper two years after publication draws readers away from the publisher’s site, it may not matter if only 3% of the papers in the journal are available in this manner.

    Posted by Dan | Dec 18, 2013, 3:10 pm
    • Great points Dan. I think this study really just represents the beginning of building the knowledgebase that’s needed in this area.

      Posted by David Crotty | Dec 18, 2013, 3:13 pm
  5. It’s great that Phil Davis has done this work: the findings are interesting in themselves, and have important implications in several areas.

    Embargoes are not one of them, though. Here’s the problem:

    Embargoes are at the heart of making these Green public access policies work. As Joe Esposito has noted, the concept behind Green OA is somewhat self-contradictory. Its success means damaging the survival chances of the very thing upon which it depends.

    I disagree profoundly with this premise. A publisher that can’t retain subscriptions when there is no embargo on Green deposition of accepted manuscripts is not doing enough to earn those subscriptions. The article that a publisher produces must have significant value added if the publisher is to have any right to an income from it; and when that’s the case, the publisher can charge for the value it’s added. Imposing embargoes of any length constitutes an admission that the value the publishers adds is not worth the fee that it charges.

    Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 18, 2013, 5:30 pm
    • Hi Mike,

      It sounds like you (and Michael Eisen above) are more upset with these policies in general than with this particular aspect of how they’re being implemented. I suspect that when dealing with government policy, particularly in situations where there are many stakeholders with differing interests, some level of compromise is to be expected.

      I think it’s mistaken to suggest that a journal has not spent any time, effort or funds, nor added anything to the process by the point where an article is accepted. Some journals (which shall remain unnamed) will have spent more than a year going through multiple rounds of review and revision with a salaried editor on a paper before it has been accepted. The validation, filtration and designation of papers are important (perhaps the most important) parts of the services that journal publishers offer (see http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/08/27/stick-to-your-ribs-why-hasnt-scientific-publishing-been-disrupted-already/). All of this has happened when the article has been accepted. That’s why many have no objection to the author posting a pre-submission preprint at any point, but ask for the embargo on the later versions after an investment has been made.

      The expenses and the contributions made are not trivial and should not be dismissed. It seems to me that publishers being willing to accept publicly available posting of the final accepted manuscript rather than the author’s initial submission is a compromise on their part. In return, the compromise they are given is a fair embargo period to allow them a chance to recoup their investment.

      Posted by David Crotty | Dec 18, 2013, 7:56 pm
      • It sounds like you (and Michael Eisen above) are more upset with these policies in general than with this particular aspect of how they’re being implemented.

        I think that’s fair, yes. It’s one thing to say “it’s good to have data on citation half-lives” — more data is always welcome. But it’s quite another to leap to any specific conclusion that this data should influence embargo lengths. You may feel that embargo lengths should be equal to half-life times 0.5; Kent Anderson (for example) might think it should be half-life times 1.5. I think it should be half-life times zero (and a lot of people agree).

        The broader point here is that in making policy you need (at least) two things: yes, data to base it on; but also an actual goal that you’re trying to achieve. The data informs you on how best to achieve that goal, but can’t determine what the goal is. That comes from outside. Bottom line: my goal is to optimise the benefit research has for society. Some involved in the publishing industry have instead the goal of optimising the benefit it has for their shareholders. Others have goals somewhere in between these extremes. But it’s these differing goals that are ultimately the source of conflict, not the lack of data.

        I suspect that when dealing with government policy, particularly in situations where there are many stakeholders with differing interests, some level of compromise is to be expected.

        When one of the stakeholders is the one providing all the money, I don’t see why compromise should be expected. In the end, funding bodes (whether governments or charities) hold all the cards. For some (e.g. the Wellcome Trust) the day has already come when they say “wait a minute, this is stupid”. That day is surely coming for others.

        Embargoes are damage. Worse, they are damage deliberately inflicted on the world. That just won’t do. We can’t go investing our time and effort to create hindrances. We have to be better than that.

        Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 19, 2013, 3:06 am
        • Mike, it is usage half-lives not citations. You claim that embargoes are damage (which I doubt), but the point of this data is that embargoes are potentially much more damaging economically than previously thought. This is because publishers are being forced to give away much more of their value. Usage is what publishers sell and if they have to give most of it away their product is devalued accordingly.

          As for funders doing what they like, that is not how government works. Fairness is a core element in policymaking.

          Posted by David Wojick | Dec 19, 2013, 6:37 am
          • Mike, it is usage half-lives not citations.

            Ah yes — downloads were measured, not citations. Thanks for this correction.

            You claim that embargoes are damage (which I doubt), but the point of this data is that embargoes are potentially much more damaging economically than previously thought. This is because publishers are being forced to give away much more of their value.

            What you call damage to the publisher, I call value for society. The primary purpose of these papers is to be read; generating revenue for publishers is only a side-effect.

            As for funders doing what they like, that is not how government works. Fairness is a core element in policymaking.

            Yes indeed. The problem is that publishers tend to equate “fairness” as meaning “fairness to publishers”. I am more interested in fairness to researchers, teachers, doctors, nurses, cancer sufferers, small businesses, fossil preparators, translators, and so on and so on.

            Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 19, 2013, 6:45 am
            • Mike, you are confusing benefits with fairness. There is nothing unfair about a producer selling it’s product, but of course it would benefit the consumers to get it for nothing. By your argument auto makers might be forced to give away all the cars they cannot sell in 12 months. The only problem is that there would not be any cars under those conditions.

              Posted by David Wojick | Dec 19, 2013, 7:16 am
              • It’s certainly true that I care more about benefits than fairness. If I get $20 and you get $50, that’s better for me than if we each get $10.

                As you very well know, your car analogy is completely invalidated by the electronic nature of the goods we’re discussion. The marginal cost of a car to its manufacturer is $10,000. The marginal cost of a copy of a published paper is zero. Analogies between physical and virtual goods never, ever work.

                Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 19, 2013, 7:51 am
              • This is about income, not marginal cost. Giving away your product in large amounts has to hurt your sales. No sales, no business. Nothing marginal about it. We are not talking about the slope of the curve, rather where it goes.

                Posted by David Wojick | Dec 19, 2013, 9:26 am
        • The broader point here is that in making policy you need (at least) two things: yes, data to base it on; but also an actual goal that you’re trying to achieve. The data informs you on how best to achieve that goal, but can’t determine what the goal is. That comes from outside. Bottom line: my goal is to optimise the benefit research has for society. Some involved in the publishing industry have instead the goal of optimising the benefit it has for their shareholders. Others have goals somewhere in between these extremes. But it’s these differing goals that are ultimately the source of conflict, not the lack of data.

          But those shareholders are also members of society. And government has a responsibility to driving the economy and the welfare of all society members, not just university researchers. So some level of compromise between these different goals is likely needed, as each ultimately works in the favor of the government setting the policy.

          When one of the stakeholders is the one providing all the money, I don’t see why compromise should be expected. In the end, funding bodes (whether governments or charities) hold all the cards. For some (e.g. the Wellcome Trust) the day has already come when they say “wait a minute, this is stupid”. That day is surely coming for others.

          What money, exactly, are we talking about? Funders do provide funding for doing the research. Do they also provide funding for publishing the research? The OSTP policy forbids putting any additional funds toward this. How much of library budgets come from overhead costs provided by grants from funding agencies? My understanding is that the majority of library budgets come from tuition and student fees (this varies by institution). So if that’s the basis, then the students should be deciding here, and since, again, as I understand it, humanities students contribute the bulk of this money, they should be making the call, not the rare scientists. Or are we talking about the money contributed to the country’s economy? How many people do publishers employ, how much do they and their employees pay in taxes? Or do we want to think about the companies that are going to take the funded discoveries and turn them into economic benefits for the country? Should we let private industry make all the decisions here? Does that mean researchers should lose all their patent rights?

          Again, many stakeholders, each with a legitimate claim. Some compromise is necessary.

          Embargoes are damage. Worse, they are damage deliberately inflicted on the world. That just won’t do. We can’t go investing our time and effort to create hindrances. We have to be better than that.

          The inability to sell content after the embargo period has passed is damage. Worse, it’s damage deliberately inflicted on publishers who are part of the world. That just won’t do.

          Compromise means each side has to give something in order to get something.

          Posted by David Crotty | Dec 19, 2013, 6:46 am
          • What money, exactly, are we talking about? Funders do provide funding for doing the research. Do they also provide funding for publishing the research?

            I see this question a lot from publishers. I find it baffling. Yes, of course funders pay for this! Writing papers is a part of the process of research that funders fund. A researcher who conducts experiments but doesn’t write them up isn’t considered to have done his job. I’ve certainly never heard of a researcher who has a separate income stream that covers her writing time.

            Compromise means each side has to give something in order to get something.

            That is indeed what “compromise” means. So far we are in agreement. Our disagreement is over whether a compromise is appropriate here. I think we can agree that compromise is not always appropriate. If a mugger demands all my money and I refuse, and he than asks for half of my money, that would be a compromise; but not one that you would expect me to entertain. To me, hiding the results of research is in this category. Heather Piwowar said it best in a different context: “we do research now just to know more but to do more”. Any barrier that prevents us from doing things with the results research is intolerable.

            [Just to be completely clear: that doesn't mean I think publishers shouldn't be paid for the real value they provide. It just means they should be paid for providing that value, not for holding existing value hostage.]

            Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 19, 2013, 7:05 am
            • I see this question a lot from publishers. I find it baffling. Yes, of course funders pay for this! Writing papers is a part of the process of research that funders fund. A researcher who conducts experiments but doesn’t write them up isn’t considered to have done his job. I’ve certainly never heard of a researcher who has a separate income stream that covers her writing time.

              There is a difference between writing and publishing. If writing on its own were sufficient, then the reports funders require of grant recipients would fulfill all your needs and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

              That is indeed what “compromise” means. So far we are in agreement. Our disagreement is over whether a compromise is appropriate here. I think we can agree that compromise is not always appropriate. If a mugger demands all my money and I refuse, and he than asks for half of my money, that would be a compromise; but not one that you would expect me to entertain. To me, hiding the results of research is in this category.

              First, let me say, nice metaphor. Very subtle. But let’s look at your approach in the broader context of civilization and society (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization_and_Its_Discontents). Civilization works because we each are willing to compromise, to hold back on our personal desires in order to receive the benefits we get from living together in an ordered manner.

              If no compromise is to be brooked and extremism is the rule of the day, then that mugger you mention should immediately be put to death. And here, what you’re proposing is not only that, but that anyone associated with that mugger, not-for-profits who are not guilty of the same sins as your metaphorical mugger, are being sentenced to the same fate. Instead, I would propose that if we want to end street crime, we look to find ways to meet that mugger’s needs as well, to provide education and meaningful employment so they don’t have to turn to a life of crime. This may require some sacrifice and cost on the non-mugger portion of society. That’s a compromise, but one worth making.

              Also, calling something publicly available “hidden” because it’s not available for free is rhetorical chicanery. Are the Harry Potter stories “hidden” because I have to pay for the book to read them? Is Anchorman 2 “hidden” because I have to pay to see it in the theater?

              Heather Piwowar said it best in a different context: “we do research now just to know more but to do more”. Any barrier that prevents us from doing things with the results research is intolerable.

              That’s a dangerous criterion to base your arguments on. Much research does not have practical applications. My thesis research, while interesting, did not enable anyone to “do” anything other than more research in the subject area. Further, I would argue that publishing is indeed “doing” something. If you want to start comparing contributions to society, I would argue that the economic contributions, through employment, sales and tax revenue, through investment and through the creation of practical tools that allow users to “do” something, what the publishing industry provides to society far outweigh those given to society by the Paleontological Research community. What does your research allow society to “do”? How many people does it employ and what does it contribute to the world’s economy?

              Should OA mandates only apply to works that specifically allow us to “do things”? How would you make that distinction?

              Posted by David Crotty | Dec 19, 2013, 9:30 am
              • “If no compromise is to be brooked and extremism is the rule of the day, then that mugger you mention should immediately be put to death.”

                Really, David. I’m not suggesting barrier-based publishers should be put to death. I’m just not willing to give them all my money, or even half of it.

                If we want to end street crime, we look to find ways to meet that mugger’s needs as well, to provide education and meaningful employment so they don’t have to turn to a life of crime.

                Yes. When a publisher reforms in the way you want the mugger to do, the result is that they do work that researchers and other citzens want done instead of demanding money with menaces. Gold OA is one manifestation of that. Another (which does exist, though it’s rare) is erecting no barrier to public posting of accepted manuscripts, and asking subscription fees only for the formatted version (so that the delta really does consist of the publisher’s, rather than the author’s, work).

                Also, calling something publicly available “hidden” because it’s not available for free is rhetorical chicanery.

                Perhaps I should have said “hidden from the 99%”.

                Are the Harry Potter stories “hidden” because I have to pay for the book to read them?

                They would be, effectively, if I was paying $30 for each 12-page segment. But as we both know this is a wholly flawed analogy because Rowling wrote those books on her own time, not on a public grant.

                Much research does not have practical applications.

                I doubt that’s true in the long term. At any rate, the case of basic research is that we can’t tell which of many possible streams of research will yield enormous practical applications.

                My goal is very simple: maximise the utility of research to the world. Publishers that help make that happen (whether for-profit like BMC or non-profit like PLOS) are good news. Publishers that hinder it (whether for-profit like Elsevier or non-profit like the ACS) are bad news. If it could be shown that the overall benefit to society of allowing barrier-based publishers to flourish was greater than the benefit of releasing the research, then I would be in favour of them. But the prima facie for that is extremely unconvincing, and the burden of proof is on the barrier-merchants to show their superior benefit to society.

                Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 19, 2013, 9:55 am
              • Really, David. I’m not suggesting barrier-based publishers should be put to death. I’m just not willing to give them all my money, or even half of it.

                Well, you did compare us to muggers.

                Yes. When a publisher reforms in the way you want the mugger to do, the result is that they do work that researchers and other citzens want done instead of demanding money with menaces. Gold OA is one manifestation of that. Another (which does exist, though it’s rare) is erecting no barrier to public posting of accepted manuscripts, and asking subscription fees only for the formatted version (so that the delta really does consist of the publisher’s, rather than the author’s, work).

                You keep bringing up Gold OA, but that’s not on the table here, and that approach has not been selected by many (most?) of the world’s governments. You are asking for a Green OA mandate with no embargo period, basically taking away the majority of the services that journal publishers provide. All you’re permitting in your plan is that publishers be allowed to sell copyediting and typesetting and must provide the time consuming and expensive other services with no compensation. Again, you fail to acknowledge that work from the publisher goes into the process whereby a submitted manuscript becomes an accepted manuscript. Can you offer a way of paying for that work? Without compensation, it will not get done.

                I doubt that’s true in the long term. At any rate, the case of basic research is that we can’t tell which of many possible streams of research will yield enormous practical applications.

                Well, you clearly haven’t read my thesis. That said, we seem to be in agreement here–you can’t make these decisions based on what you think may or may not be “useful” or because it allows us to “do things.”

                If it could be shown that the overall benefit to society of allowing barrier-based publishers to flourish was greater than the benefit of releasing the research, then I would be in favour of them.

                That’s something of a strawman. It is absolutely within your power, and the power of every academic to release the research to the public. Start by shutting down your Technology Transfer office and relinquish all patent rights. Then demand that funding agencies require and widely distribute reports on all research they fund. Problem solved.

                What’s in question here is the formal publication process which is a different matter.

                Posted by David Crotty | Dec 19, 2013, 11:38 am
          • David,

            Also, people who work at publishers almost all have at least Bachelor’s degrees (most have advanced degrees). Which makes them also part of the University donor base (for two or more universities if the degrees—like mine—are from different institutions). Alumni giving is a huge part of university finances in the U.S. I don’t know if it figures as largely in other countries?

            Posted by sjepstein | Dec 19, 2013, 7:19 am
        • “my goal is to optimise the benefit research has for society”

          If you think that involves somehow delivering access to the public to that research through a mechanism other than publishing, go ahead. As long as you involve publishers – and you involve them because they help make sure that the research does benefit society – you need to consider the impact that has on the publishers’ ability to continue delivering that value.

          Posted by David | Dec 19, 2013, 9:50 am
          • I agree. That’s why in the end I think Gold is a better approach than Green. Let me say again that I am not, and have never been, anti-publisher or indeed anti-profit. I am anti-barrier.

            Posted by Mike Taylor | Dec 19, 2013, 9:57 am
            • But Gold OA does involve barriers. Under Gold, only those who can afford to pay are able to get published (just as under a subscription model, only those who can afford to subscribe are able to read). Of course, in both cases the person facing a barrier may be able to get someone else to surmount it for them: funders in the case of Gold, libraries in the case of subscriptions, etc. But there’s always going to be a barrier, because publishing doesn’t happen without an investment of labor and capital, and those don’t come free. Being anti-barrier is like being anti-gravity.

              Posted by Rick Anderson | Dec 20, 2013, 9:05 am
  6. David, what this leaves out is that much, in fact most research in many fields is unfunded and not subject to any funding mandate. That leave only university mandates which are sporadic at best and often more of a suggestion rather than a requirement. While mandates do increase the percentage of authors that comply, even the fairly strong ones do not generate 100% compliance.
    They usually are limited to the accepted version which are minus copy editing and formatting so they are not equivalent to the actual published version.

    There is no good data but I question whether even short embargoes or even allowing immediate deposit would hurt subscriptions. Many publishers allow that currently doing that I assume believing it will not hurt their subscriptions.

    What I find fascinating is the speed at which the major publishers are moving to compete in the APC funded OA market. They are adding the hybrid option to most of their journals and some, like Elsevier are pricing them competitively and on an individual basis rather than a flat $3,000. Many are starting up gold journals, again Elsevier most aggressively, over 70 and most launched within the last year. They also just flipped 7 of their subscription journals to APC funded OA a few because they are part of the SCOAP 3 project but a few I guess just testing the waters with that business model.

    Posted by David Solomon | Dec 19, 2013, 6:37 am
  7. OA’s Real Battle-Ground in 2014: The One-Year Embargo:

    http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/1084-.html

    Posted by Stevan Harnad | Dec 19, 2013, 7:03 am
  8. I do wish the conversation were more about how to add more value and less about how to continue extracting more value from the same product.

    I’m not surprised that Phil Davis, given his history on this blog, would find data suggesting embargoes should be higher in some fields. Those fields represent a tiny fraction of the overall output, though, so the economic impact isn’t as large as you may think. There are no technical barriers to running article-level embargoes, but no one seems to be interested in that for some reason…

    Also, let’s not forget that economics aren’t steady-state. Open access creates opportunities to generate value that wouldn’t be present with toll-access content, as Mendeley has shown.

    Posted by drgunn | Jan 7, 2014, 3:06 pm
    • Phil emailed me (and my boss) asking for clarification of my comment above, so let me offer apologies to Phil if my initial comment was too offhand and snarky. I know from first hand experience that it’s annoying as hell when someone implies I’m a shill and that wasn’t my intent.

      Phil has many prior publications which address various issues around open access such as the open access citation advantage, the effect of open access policies on journal pageviews, etc,. He also lists numerous publishers among his consulting clients. I’m not claiming that he does biased or flawed work, just saying that this data should come under extra scrutiny here, just as work questioning climate change comes under extra scrutiny when it’s published by an oil company consultant.

      For reference, here’s Phil’s recent publishing history: http://phil-davis.org/articles/

      Posted by drgunn | Jan 7, 2014, 8:25 pm
      • Considering that you are employed by the same company as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the organization that sponsored this study, should we be equally as skeptical of everything you say?

        Sorry, couldn’t resist.

        Posted by David Crotty | Jan 7, 2014, 9:03 pm
    • So, let me get this straight.

      First, surely you mean that because of Phil’s stellar history producing high-quality and oft-cited published research which he at times summarizes in blog posts here, you’re not surprised to see another well-done study, this time about embargoes. Is that correct?

      Second, you say the fields he discusses represent “a tiny fraction of the overall output.” Are you saying that the fields of health sciences, life sciences, chemistry, computer science, energy & earth sciences, engineering, humanities, physics, and mathematics represent “a tiny fraction of the overall output”? What’s left?

      Finally, if I follow your logic associating access traits to value, because Phil’s study is not behind a paywall, it must clearly be creating opportunities and generating value that wouldn’t be present if we’d had to pay to see it.

      Posted by Kent Anderson | Jan 7, 2014, 8:47 pm

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