English: "Mind the Gap" - you hear t...
English: “Mind the Gap” – you hear this in London a dozen times a day if you use the trains (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Strategic thinking can force you to face uncomfortable realities. It often shakes up your assumptions — but it’s necessary in order to anticipate and plan, to play where the puck is going rather than where it’s been. Part of the role of publishers and business leaders is to look ahead, sense where how the business environment is developing, and make judgments accordingly — often on incomplete information.

In this light, a question has been dogging the strategic thinking part of my brain recently — basically, who is going to keep Gold open access (OA) growing?

Gold OA has grown rapidly over the past few years for a variety of reasons, and has been embraced by numerous traditional publishing houses, with hybrid experiments, new Gold OA journals, and new mega-journals all coming about. PLOS ONE, the Mother of all Gold OA mega-journals, continues to grow, and has achieved a market dominance once reserved for caricatures of Elsevier.

But the OA environment has been shifting of late in ways that may make immediate Gold OA less valuable or urgent. The change is around embargoes and, more particularly, the way the US OSTP Memorandum put the world’s largest science funding body squarely behind them — as if the NIH policies hadn’t been enough.

Embargoes are becoming a widely accepted and generally cost-free alternative path to achieving sufficient OA. With the US government making embargoed OA the de facto standard for the world’s largest scientific funding body, a major gravitational force is realigning orbits. Now, the OA business environment seems tilted toward a future of delayed Green OA. This has many virtues for funders, governments, and authors, and provides all involved with a viable, familiar path away from Gold OA.

Others are picking up on the change in the air. In a recent article about OA, the author noted that OA is spawning “new business models,” and notes that most of these are already leading away from straightforward Gold OA. A librarian from UCSF is quoted as saying:

I’m seeing some pushback from faculty, mostly to the ‘author-pays’ model of open access — those who are opposed think that the university is pushing costs off on researchers, while at the same time their research awards are decreasing.

Subscription publishers are not thrilled with embargoes as a rule, as studies show that 12-month embargoes are insufficient for most fields. But they are well down the path of adjusting to delayed Green OA, and the economic risks embargoes pose seem less likely to come to fruition, especially as the push for shorter embargoes runs up against untenable economics again and again.

In the meantime, OA APCs have become a greater drag on research funds, and with research funding stagnant or shrinking, cutting APCs seems to answer some real needs with little downside.

Funders are already realizing that paying APCs may not provide sufficient value, especially given a scenario of embargoed Green OA. This is no more acutely observed than in the UK, where reports criticizing the embrace of Gold OA have already been issued. In a world of embargoes, rather than paying $3,000 or more for a lifetime of free access to an article, funders are now paying only to accelerate access by 12 months for an audience that is secondary or even tertiary to the audience the research is intended to reach. With economies around the world stagnating, funders and governments aren’t likely to keep spending on Gold OA at a high rate where reasonable Green OA embargoes reduce the benefits of the spend to a matter of months. The US government’s OSTP memorandum set a new tone, one out of sync with a major future for Gold OA.

Authors in many fields are already wary of Gold OA, and many see the structural problems with it — burdens on research budgets, perceived “pay to play” publishing, and the continuing problem of predatory publishers. Authors are not pushing hard to drive Gold OA to the forefront, and there is no reason to believe that they will. In a recent paper in Learned Publishing entitled, “Trust and Authority in Scholarly Communications in the Light of the Digital Transition,” the authors note that their research showed:

There is palpable unease among some researchers about paying to have an article published — a notion that has been shown in previous studies to be rife. This may be because it is too much like “buying” and too commercial, and that was something that jarred with researchers.

Gold OA is also proving to be counter-revolutionary and more of a force of consolidation for larger publishers than previously imagined. Recent data from the UK shows that APCs are benefiting the biggest publishers, who are both getting higher volumes of APCs but also higher APCs on a per-article basis — that is, they are making more per article and getting more articles.

This is especially interesting to contemplate, as the most successful forms of Gold OA have emerged from a volume-based business model — the mega-journal. This trend may well continue, as mega-journals like PLOS ONE have clearly identified an unmet market need and fulfilled it at a sustainable price point. Such lower price-point entrants are at less risk if a shift to delayed Green OA comes about. Conversely, the premium-priced alternatives may be at greater risk. This may be especially important for hybrid journals, where a non-Gold OA option is already available.

For those who thought that OA would upend the status quo in publishing, these data about who is winning Gold OA business and at what price must come as a disappointment. Will OA advocates continue to support Gold OA if Elsevier, Wiley, and Springer are the primary beneficiaries? The short-term wins by these large publishers may lead to long-term limitations in the model.

Tim Gowers, of “boycott Elsevier” fame, has arrived at the opinion that Gold OA is not part of the solution, writing recently:

. . . the pace of change is slow, and the alternative system that is most strongly promoted — open access articles paid for by article processing charges — is one that mathematicians tend to find unpalatable. (And not only mathematicians: they are extremely unpopular in the humanities.) I don’t want to rehearse the arguments for and against APCs in this post, except to say that there is no sign that they will help to bring down costs any time soon and no convincing market mechanism by which one might expect them to.

If Gowers is right, then Green OA, most of which can be achieved via embargoes, may become the alternative of choice. In response to Gowers’ recent essay, Stevan Harnad calls pre-Green Gold OA “Fool’s Gold.”  The structural challenges with post-Green Gold OA are obvious — why pay for something that is already free? — and the challenges that immediate Green OA must overcome if it is to ever become dominant have been well-outlined by others here.

Institutions are likely to be decreasingly interested in supporting Gold OA in either case, as it diverts money from multiple endeavors, and as institutional repositories, and publishers’ tacit support of these for pre-print versions, continue without much problem. They are already balking at the additional expense it creates, demanding sweetheart deals that push the expense onto others. In the emerging reality of sufficient embargoes, the costs of subscriptions won’t be going away, meaning that Gold OA funding will be additive, not substitutive.

Scientific researchers also continue to have more outputs than outlets. Because the market is so driven by escalating volumes, pricing pressures on the subscription market and costs for Gold OA outlets are, as well. The question will be whether it’s more economical for a funder or institution to buy subscriptions than it is to pay APCs. Data suggest subscriptions still provide the greatest bang for the buck.

Because of the increased intensity around “publish or perish” and many more players in science, there is still room for marginal growth in the Gold OA businesses, especially as new fields emerge. There are also cash flow benefits to publishers launching Gold OA journals, as cash arrives as work is done and isn’t delayed as in the subscription market.

But a big question still looms: If subscriptions with delayed Green OA provide a more palatable alternative for the supply side in publishing, what benefits can Gold OA publishers create to offset market preferences?

One approach is prestige. Journals with higher prestige in a market can carry submission, page, or color charges, making it clear that price is not the sole determining factor. But Gold OA has not created many prestige titles. Some of the original PLOS titles (PLOS Biology, PLOS Medicine) have achieved this status, but newer entrants are more akin to mega-journals or have a less glamorous brand presence. eLife is attempting to create a prestige title; it currently charges no APCs, but notes in its financials suggest that it is certainly considering the model.

Convenience can be a market factor, but can it prove a long-term differentiator exclusive to Gold OA journals? There is no inherent barrier to a subscription journal having rapid turnaround and publication times; in fact, many are quick and responsive already. If competing for papers is the name of the game, Gold OA may have no inherent advantage.

It’s difficult to know when a state of equilibrium is being achieved, but embargoed Green OA has all the hallmarks of a resting place for the OA movement. Nobody has to pay more for it. It satisfies the modest political calls for public access. It is a gain for the public, but does not come at a high price for taxpayers, the industry, or market participants.

Gold OA may continue to grow for a period of time as scraps of funding and various national governments or institutional administrations divert money to support it. But this is a finite pool, and one that will also see evaporation. It does not seem likely that it will lead to a flood of Gold OA support.

If I were asked as a publishing strategist about going “all in” on Gold OA, I’d advise caution. The mega-journal market seems nearly sewn up with PLOS ONE and a passel of imitators. Prestige OA titles are possible, but they seem to lose money. Mid-tier titles have some potential, but the consistent story here is that they need to be in a family of subscription journals in order to survive. Predatory journals are still a problem, and taint the reputation of Gold OA journals generally. Gold OA incentives are mixed at best. And embargoes with delayed Green OA seem both politically and economically safe, viable, and proven, while possessing few if any downsides currently.

Latency is also hard to judge. That is, what is the length of time between an inflection point and actual consequences? With Gold OA, it may take a few years, or it may come more quickly. Either way, I believe the future of Gold OA is at best unclear. Given limited budgets, mainstream hesitancy, and delayed Green OA embargoes, “world domination” doesn’t seem feasible at this time. “Occasional alternative” seems the more reasonable choice.

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


58 Thoughts on "Strategic Thinking Exercise — Who Is Positioned to Keep Gold Open Access Growing?"

I think the confounding factor here is the continued lack of support for library budgets. One could similarly ask, where is any growth whatsoever in the journal market going to come from? If libraries are maxed out how will any new journal be added without the subtraction of another journal from the budget? That’s not growth, that’s just a shifting around of where the limited funds are going. I suspect we’ll still see some growth as funds continue to shift from monograph and book purchasing to journals, but until we see universities valuing their libraries appropriately, then growth through that channel is difficult.

OA may have its complications, but it does provide a means of creating and running new journals for fields that need them without further burdening the already overburdened libraries.

An interesting tangent to this is that many libraries are setting aside parts of their budgets for APCs, further beleaguering them. Not all of these APC funds are being spent, tying up funds for subscriptions for no clear purpose.

It’s also worth noting that library budgets have grown on a dollar basis consistently, but only because tuitions and fees have increased rapidly over the past 30 years. As I wrote about recently, “unsustainable” means “inadequately funded.” (http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2014/03/25/what-does-unsustainable-mean/) That can apply to APCs, as well. There is no reason to believe funding for Gold OA is immune from budgeting effects.

Kent, there is one factor you seem not to have mentioned: Page charges. In certain disciplines—astronomy, for example, or microbiology—publishers charge, and have charged, hefty page charges that amount to as much or more than hybrid OA APCs. These charges don’t seem to be going away; and why pay a page charge, and then have your article behind a paywall anyway, even with a six month embargo? And especially when most pure gold OA journals APCs are less than these page charges, anyway?

In some cases, page charges like the ones you’re describing are linked publicly with delayed Green OA. That is, they allow the publisher to fully support embargoed Green OA. Being already tied to an OA solution that is not Gold OA probably forestalls movement toward it. In other cases, page charges are for extravagances, like extra pages, extra figures, and so forth. They are more a way to control article length and features.

Gold OA charges are higher than most of these page charges in actuality. As I note, PLOS ONE seems to be the most regularly affordable Gold OA journal, but data from the RCUK show that APCs for Gold OA from the big publishers are much higher, often double or triple those from PLOS ONE, and these are paid routinely.

In either case, the question here is not whether Gold OA will exist, but rather who will keep it growing. There are three ways it can grow — volume, price, or both. I can see it growing slowly in volume after some inflection point (classic s-curve behavior), but not in price. Your argument is a price-sensitive argument, and many page charges are already lower than many APCs charged by the prestige publishers. That’s not a strong indicator that price will drive growth.

I actually can’t see a rationale for embargoing papers where authors have already paid a hefty page charge. I did some digging a few weeks ago, and I found that these page charges can run more than a hybrid OA charge, and much, much more than a SpringerOpen (where I now work, disclosure) or PLoS APC. In areas where publishing costs are already part of the budget and part of the discipline’s publishing culture, gold OA should, IMHO, be natural. If a publisher is already collecting such fees, then why not go “all in”?

Prestige is often a differentiator. Again, this is occurring among APCs now, and occurred with page charges for subscription journals. The more prestige a publishing venue has, the more leverage it has in the market — with authors, with institutions, with subscribers, with advertisers, with aggregators, with licensors, etc. A flaw is to think that every publication is comparable. There is a reason Elsevier, Wiley, and Springer have higher APCs in the RCUK data — they have higher-prestige journals. Elsevier commanded a 30% premium on the average — and the average was more than double what PLOS ONE charges.

If the page charges help a publisher sell subscriptions into stressed institutional budgets at a lower price, why change? Why give up the subscription dollars?

If most of one’s revenue is coming from the page charges, then, the authors are your customers. If your customers—in biomedicine, for example—are demanding immediate OA, then the reason to give up the subscription money is because the customers who are the source of most of your revenue want it. We are service providers, and we should go where our customers want us to go, I think.

I agree 100% with the sentiment–we are in a service business and our job is to provide what our customers want. That said, who exactly are the customers and are the majority of them demanding immediate OA? For a subscription journal, customers could mean readers, libraries, advertisers and authors. For what it’s worth, none of the journals I’m familiar with derives the majority of its income from page charges (far from it, really).

I’m hesitant to discuss other publishers’ models publicly, which is why I didn’t bring up specific examples here.

Also, I think, there is a difference between saying it is possible to make gold OA journals desirable, viable, and profitable in a mixed sub/green OA/gold OA economy; and saying the whole system has to change. I’m arguing for the former; and not engaging with the latter. And in competition with a subscription journal with significant page charges, I can make a marketing claim that, if one is already paying, why pay a page charge in a subscription journal when you can get gold OA (in a similarly prestigious journal) for a smaller charge? Once we’re in a marketplace like this, I’d submit, OA becomes the competitive advantage. (And in this case, authors are clearly the customers, and that prestige imprimatur is one of the biggest services such a journal offers them.)

It seems to me cost on behalf of the author plays little role in selecting a journal. Prestige, is number one. The most prestigeous journal in a discipline draws the readership that the author desires. The prestigeous journal attracts grant monies and consulting.

There is a finite amount of money for OA publishing and an ever expanding number of scientists wishing to publish. The OA money will be difused within the authorship market. This has happened in the past with grant money. A university president at a lessor institution appeals to his/her congressperson who puts some pressure on a granting institution and all of a sudden a grant flows to secondary or tertiary research and primary research finds just a little less available. The same will happen with funding OA authorship.

The prestigeous journals will remain above the fray. Publishing is like retailing. Nieman Marcus does not seem to suffer during down times!

With the advent of the web, important findings are shared with those interested almost immediately. Like minded or like interested scientists learn of results via e mail. Publication is in many instances for the not so interested. Journal articles are the archive, they are what gives “legitimacy” to what has been accomplished. Even an OA article is late to the game.

Agree 100%. All other things being equal (speed of publication, costs to the author, perceived prestige of the journal, journal audience and appropriateness), then OA is definitely a competitive advantage.

The question will be how often those sorts of factors are in balance, particularly given that for many (most?) journals, the page charges are well below the rates charged for an APC. And where that proves to be the case, wouldn’t the journals losing subscriptions drop their page charges (or eliminate them altogether) to re-balance the field in their favor?

Kent: While bioscience journals from commercial publishers may have more prestige, that is certainly not the case in physics and chemistry, where the society publishers clearly are publishing the higher-prestige journals.

Interesting stuff. Doing a quick sum and average, you get costs for Non-OA at $1109 per paper, Gold OA at $1408 per paper and Hybrid OA at $2274 per paper.

Some caveats though–this spreadsheet only lists papers for which there were costs. There could be hundreds or thousands of papers published by this group for which there were no page/color charges, and these are not accounted for in these numbers, so likely the Non-OA figure should be much lower. Similarly, any papers published OA in journals with no APC (e.g. eLife) would not have been included here, offering a potential reduction in Gold OA numbers as well.

These numbers are also limited to science papers, a subset of the overall academic publishing market, and limited to the types of science funded by the group releasing them.

right David, but …

a) if publishers would disclose their real subscription prices (per paper) we could include and compare them

b) that is correct, we currently have no idea what is the share of OA papers without APCs

c) we have some ideas on OA books because of our funding programme that allows average costs of €16.000 per book, and around 60 of them p.a. are archived here: https://e-book.fwf.ac.at/search_object?0_0_field=-4&0_0_vocabulary=cmodel:PDFDocument&search=1

You may be confusing costs to publish a paper with costs to read a paper, at least in point a) above.

Page charges (and color charges) seem to me something of an anachronism, a left-over from the days where print was the dominant medium. I suspect that as things continue to (slowly) shift online, we’ll see them go away. This will, of course vary depending on the field, how well it is funded, and how crowded it is with journals and authors. In a competitive field, page charges are seen as a disadvantage. If you have a choice of two roughly equivalent journals, many authors prefer to go with the one that doesn’t charge them additional fees.

On the other hand, it would also be natural for page charges to morph into APCs instead of “going away.”

It would be natural if 1) you’re willing to abandon subscription revenue and 2) you don’t see charging authors as a competitive disadvantage. I get what you’re saying, but think it would mean a much bigger shift in business plan than that.

I agree with most of this but the corollary is that the big challenges ahead have to do with getting the US Public Access program right. That program is still veiled in secrecy, but by all accounts different US agencies are planning very different approaches. If so then conforming to the complexity will be far from free, nor can all be right.

Then there is still the monster issue of establishing embargo lengths that are not economically damaging. So if you are right then the community’s focus should be on the US Public Access program, not experimental gold OA models. I do not yet see this focus, but perhaps the picture will change when the secret US agency plans are finally announced.

Interestingly, in the eight hours since I made the above point we have had nothing but the usual discussion of the details of gold OA. This seems to miss Kent’s basic point, unless I have misunderstood it, which is that the future of OA lies in delayed green access. Perhaps the green reality is just not as much fun as the golden dream.

Kent you bring up some interesting arguments. I suggest that another problem is the lack of a market for that which is published. The audience for the vast majority of journals is very small. In fact, many would not be around if libraries had not been well funded in the past. Now that library funding is stagnant if not decreasing it may be time to cull the journal herd. Regarding OA in this light one can argue (and I have) that costs will only go up and with them APC fees.

According to Eisen the new director of PLos : “We are working to evolve all of PLOS towards a world where papers are only rejected when they are scientifically in­valid,” says Eisen. PLoS ONE already adopts that approach, but the publisher has six more-selective journals, including PLoS Medicine and PLoS Biology. Marincola will not be drawn on whether these might become less selective, although she says that in the longer term, “we would like very much to be able to move away from our current system of peer review altogether”. The organization’s research arm, PLOS Labs, founded this year, aims to develop and test concepts for peer review after papers have published” .http://www.nature.com/news/plos-profits-prompt-revamp-1.14205

Although couched in terms of everything should be published for the good of science, it seems to me that she is seeking more and more papers in order to cover ever increasing costs which comes with publishing more papers.

I have not researched the number of papers rejected by PLos, but if one ceases peer review prior to publication, I am sure they will have more to publish. Thus, they will generate more money. To think, after publishing some 30,000+ papers in one year they made $7,000,000 in profit. That profit can go up without peer review but of course quality will go down! Pergaps PLos wants to be the Walmart of scientific publishing.

Harvey, PLOS is not looking to do away with peer-review prior to publication. PLOS Labs is focused on testing and implementing lots of ideas related to publishing, one of which is Open Evaluation–an open peer-review tool. Pre-publication peer review and open peer-review are not mutually exclusive.

Also, the argument that they’re looking to make more money isn’t very relevant here, as all the money they’re making as a non-profit is poured into projects like PLOS Labs rather than shareholder profits.

Being a non profit does not mean they are profitless, witness the 7 million. What they decide to spend the excess on is up to PLos management. They may decide to raise salaries, have nice dinners, what have you, but they are no more noble than a company that gives out dividends to a share holder. Perhaps they should pay back the grant givers so that they can use the money to start more non profits even ones that compete with PLos!

I am still of the opinion that if one lessens the criteria to publish that one publishes lesser articles. I think the drive to publish more has resulted in the decline of the IF for PLos.

Harvey, thanks for the laugh. I worked at PLOS and let me tell you, the fanciest we got was the occasional catered meal, hosted when a long-time employee was leaving the company. (For example, when Mark Patterson left us for eLife.) As for executive pay, I would posit that company profits could be better spent elsewhere.

That aside: your focus on PLOS ONE’s “lesser” impact factor is a telling one. Marincola, the new PLOS CEO, points out in the Nature article you quoted from that journal prestige is an outdated convention, and the impact of individual articles is better understood through article-level metrics.

>> they are no more noble than a company that gives out dividends to a share holder <<

And this is where we fundamentally disagree. PLOS's mission is to open up knowledge and accelerate scientific discovery, and they funnel their profits accordingly (for the most part). For-profit publishers serve one primary mission: to maximize profits by extracting as much money as possible from libraries and scientists (often by double-dipping / hybrid OA publishing).

Stacey: I worked in both the commercial S&T world and the association/society world. I found little difference except one – in the association world they talked a better game but still had to deliver excess monies.

As an aside, I will bet that soon we will have the PLos Foundation. A place to put those excess monies.

I suggest you read the mission statements for various commercial ST&M publishers. You will find they sound as “high falutin” as that of PLos.

I guess when one is dropping in IF numbers, that number becomes less important and something that does not exist (individual article matrics) becomes important. That is called management spin!

To be fair to Harvey, PLOS did at one point famously (infamously?) pay to produce a television commercial, and San Francisco is not exactly the cheapest place in the world to have offices. If I recall correctly, PeerJ made some statements about not having centralized/expensive offices, and in an increasingly online world, that may serve as one area where cost savings are available.

If you have specific information on what PLOS is doing with their profits, I’m sure all would be interested in hearing it. From their latest financial report (http://www.plos.org/about/plos/progress-update/), they’re only dedicating 1% of revenue toward research and development (page 21). I would suspect that they’re using their current profits to build a nest egg, a smart business strategy to provide funds for future expansion and developments, as well as offering security against potential changes to the market. PLOS should not be faulted for doing this, it’s part of being a successful business, and one that is built for the long term. But it is not quite the same thing as funneling one’s profits back into academia.

I think funders like Wellcome/Planck/Hughes have sent a clear signal that they do still care about prestige and about editorial evaluation; most clearly by founding a high-prestige journal—eLife. If not—why go through the exercise of founding and positioning this journal this way? Why not go the PeerJ route?

Your view of for-profit publishers certainly does not reflect its history accurately. Are you seriously going to claim that houses like Scribner’s and Knopf existed solely for profit maximization? Better go read some of the history of the publishing industry.

Great analysis! From a university standpoint, Gold OA works only if everybody does it. Otherwise, you pay subscriptions and APCs. Either way, the amount of publication money (library plus research budgets) does not seem to be growing.

In a zero-sum game, subscription models have one big economic advantage Gold OA does not: a market pricing mechanism to determine value. You have to publish enough quality papers to keep selling subscriptions.

Regardless of whether the author is the publisher’s customer or not, the more important reality is that s/he is the sole producer of the essential raw material in this market. Without this raw material, nothing else happens.
The compensation received by academic authors and, thus, their motive to produce is extremely difficult to conceptualize fully but understanding that motive is essential to re-forming scholarly publishing for the digital age.
Skeuomorphism based upon print isn’t working.

Whether produced in print or electronically, the motive for publishing on the author’s behalf remain the same and it never was for pay. Rather the motivations are a combination fame, prestige, promotion, grantsmanship, or job security to name a few.

One reason that Green OA is a good middle-ground approach is that it can satisfy the different needs of different audiences at the lowest cost. The general public can be satisfied with the open access to new ideas and basic information found in Green OA articles; not many general readers will have needs that only the version of record can satisfy. Students using articles for course assignments also generally don’t require the version of record; their teachers should not insist that they must consult the VoR when they are writing term papers. And even for many scholars the Green OA version suffices for most purposes. Only the scholar who is writing an article that quotes and cites from an earlier article will need the VoR, and probably the vast majority of those scholars are located at the major research universities that subscribe to the most journals.

Hi Sandy,

“Students using articles for course assignments also generally don’t require the version of record.” I disagree. The college students I talk to like to read and learn from the version of record.

“their teachers should not insist that they must consult the VoR when they are writing term papers.” Good luck with that. Most professors, instructors and teachers I know want their students to read and cite the final published article. While I agree that some might use the green OA literature (and cite the final VoR), they would prefer to have access to the final published verison.

“Only the scholar who is writing an article that quotes and cites from an earlier article will need the VoR, and probably the vast majority of those scholars are located at the major research universities that subscribe to the most journals.” I disagree. What evidence do you have to support these two points? I think it is pretty clear that there are many, many researchers (and students, public policy wonks, and medical professionals, etc.) who are not affiliated with major universities have been downloading, reading, learning from, and citing the gold OA literature.

I do agree that it generally costs less to provide green OA versions of articles, but most students and faculty that I talk to would prefer greater access to the final VoR.

Actually the green US Public Access program, which Kent says is redefining OA, will deliver VoRs via CHORUS. How many is unknown because the program is very fluid at this point. But your comment seems anachronistic. Green OA does not preclude VoRs, at least not not delayed green. That is the CHORUS breakthrough.

This is not something attributable to CHORUS but is instead due to the policies of individual publishers (which CHORUS will reflect). OUP for example, makes everything in most of our science journals freely available after 12 months, VoR included. We deposit the VoR in PubMed Central, and this has been our policy for a while now.

How very interesting. By this account CHORUS has no value at all, other than aggregating existing publisher policies. Surely not, as this would be unnecessary. My understanding of CHORUS is that it will organize the publishers to meet the Federal requirements. That is, meeting the Federal requirements will be a necessary condition of joining CHORUS. Which is it?

You might consider signing up for the upcoming CHORUS Webinar–it’s mostly about technical implementation but there is some overview material which might help some of the confusions you may have about CHORUS.

CHORUS is deliberately organized to be a neutral party, a facilitator for compliance, modeled after other publisher collaborations like CrossRef and ORCID. It has been designed in consultation with a wide variety of stakeholders (including government agencies and officials) to provide a means for meeting the objectives outlined in the OSTP memo.

I am already signed up but I think I understand CHORUS, since I have worked with it and written about it from the beginning. My concern is that it may have drifted into a state of mission confusion. The original idea was that by aggregating access to non-medical articles on publisher’s websites the agencies would not need to go the PMC route. The central requirement was that the publishers so aggregated meet the agency embargo requirements, which very few do at this time, OUP to the contrary notwithstanding. If this has changed then CHORUS may be going in the wrong direction.

Perhaps we should make clear that you are on the board of directors of CHORUS while I publish a newsletter about it at http://insidepublicaccess.com/. Thus our discussion is rather more than academic. However, given that the agency plans are as yet unknown the discussion is necessarily somewhat conjectural. But I think that Kent is right that the US Public Access program may well redefine the OA movement. That is why I am tracking the US program so closely.

I spent some 40 years in the US Army – regular and reserves – and went to too many conferences where every noun was an acronym. So tell me, what does CHORUS stand for?

It has been a significant amount of time since you did any work for CHORUS, and in the intervening time, CHORUS has become more defined, with vague concepts crystallized into practical implementation. This has been done with constant communication with government officials and other stakeholders to make sure their needs are best met. The core confusion you may be under is a vision of CHORUS as an enforcement regime, rather than as a facilitator and technology solutions provider.

From the Fed’s point of view FundRef is a powerful compliance tool and thus so is CHORUS. The CHORUS dashboard is certainly a compliance tool. If CHORUS wants to be part of the Federal system then it cannot avoid the compliance function.

Perhaps the difference between us is merely one of perspective. I am looking at CHORUS as part of the US Public Access system. My background is in US Federal system design. If CHORUS wants to do something else then I wish it well, but I would be concerned if that something else compromises its role in the Federal system.

Hi David,

I was responding to the points that Sandy was making. I know that repositories can hold versions of record, but currently, most versions of record are in the hands of publishers. Thus, I don’t see how bringing in a discussion of CHORUS responds to my criticism of Sandy’s points where he says that “students using articles for course assignments also generally don’t require the version of record,” etc. My point is that students want to use the versions of record, and so do lots of researchers and scholars who work outside of big universities.

Joe, I was referring to your seeming assumption that green OA did not provide the VoR. If the US Public Access program and CHORUS actually get together the the publishers will in some cases provide the VoR in a delayed green mode. In other words the assumption that green OA equals repository OA may no longer hold, because the publishers may play a major role in delayed green OA. That is to some degree the point of Kent’s post.

Put another way there are now at least 8 basic kinds of OA so the concepts of green and gold no longer work. See my https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/11/11/open-access-on-the-sea-of-confusion/ and the discussion thereto.

My reasoning, Joe, is that student term papers do not generally get “published,” hence there is no need to be concerned that page references cite the VoR or that quotations are made of passages that may have undergone some copyediting. I don’t see what value added there is in the teaching context to requiring students to consult the VoR; the Green OA versions are surely close enough to suffice for pedagogical purposes. And for others outside academe who merely want to obtain information, ideas, etc., what difference does it make whether a copyeditor has made the style consistent? For these uses they are not quoting material or page numbers directly for others to rely upon in the way that scholars must. I ran an experiment for Against the Grain, having a group of volunteer copyeditors check the Green OA versions at Harvard’s DASH repository against the VoRs to see what differences there were, and on the basis of that evidence I feel comfortable in saying that for all but the purpose of scholarly publication the Green OA versions can adequately meet the needs that all other types of users have.

Thanks Sandy for the clarification. Good to see that the DASH versions and the VoR articles are not that much different (for the set you studied.) I have run across some articles in the arXiv that are substantially different from the VoR, but I would guess that most content in the arXiv is very similar to the VoR.

Thanks, Joe

I think a more predominant fool’s gold is the academy paying high profit premiums on journal prestige that it provided most of the value and labor for. Maybe the direction of the puck is an ethos that questions this.

Maybe that could fuel a new generation of transparency strategies that OA may be well suited for.

As of now the green US Public Access program will deliver some VoRs via CHORUS. But how many is unknown.

The so-called “gold” OA model has been a disaster. Bogus journals that will publish anything for a fee have proliferated, leading to a hail of emails begging me to submit papers to journals I’ve never heard of. This outcome was entirely predictable. There’s also the problem of double charging with some journals. Those who advocated the “gold” model (an appropriate term only as far as the publishers are concerned) should be ashamed.

I think you are overstating the case against gold OA. If the goal is to provide immediate access it is the only business model that works. Nor is a journal that publishes anything for a fee bogus. It is just not very good. There is nothing necessarily dishonest about a vanity press.

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