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White House announces new US open access policy
February 23, 2013 4:00 PM   Subscribe

"In a long-awaited leap forward for open access, the US government said today that publications from taxpayer-funded research should be made free to read after a year’s delay – expanding a policy which until now has only applied to biomedical science."

"Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research" - Dr. John Holdren in response to the whitehouse.gov petition, "Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research."

"Second shoe drops: new White House Directive mandates OA" - Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard Open Access Project
posted by brundlefly (35 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
I saw this the other day and could not be more pleased.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:07 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not being a scientist myself, I've mostly been following this issue through the blog "Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week" which often discusses open access.
posted by brundlefly at 4:18 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why the year wait? Or is this addressed in one of the links?
posted by cjorgensen at 4:22 PM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Aaron Swartz is what comes to mind for me. I'm still waiting for the correct response to those White House petitions requesting removal of those two Federal attorneys in Massachusetts.
posted by Galadhwen at 4:25 PM on February 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


YES!
posted by klangklangston at 4:30 PM on February 23, 2013


about dang time!
posted by rebent at 4:31 PM on February 23, 2013


Good! (I'm personally in a field that puts up preprints on arxiv, so you can already go read all my work for free, should you feel so inclined. But that should be true for every discipline).

On the other hand, this reminds me, I have a referee report to write. Ah, peer review.
posted by nat at 4:34 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Note that for studies funded with NIH money this has been going on for some years now over at PubMed Central.

Until tenure committees stop paying attention to the journals that young scientists publish in, and there's some other way for a manuscript to be ranked according to it's impressiveness at the time of publication, current journals will continue to have great influence over this process, and we're going to be stuck with the one year waiting period.
posted by Llama-Lime at 4:36 PM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is excellent.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:52 PM on February 23, 2013


My question: why just the sciences? People in the humanities take government grants too.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:57 PM on February 23, 2013


Interesting and promising!
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:58 PM on February 23, 2013


Waiting on Swartz petition.
posted by pallen123 at 5:05 PM on February 23, 2013


Not nearly far enough in my opinion. Commercial open access journals charge massive upfront fees. If governments set up their own, modern publication systems, even if it cost them hundreds of millions a year (which it wouldn't), they would save billions annually.
posted by Dreadnought at 5:07 PM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Speaking as a scientist: It's about freaking time. And I'm hoping this applies retroactively.
posted by Mercaptan at 5:10 PM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


My question: why just the sciences? People in the humanities take government grants too.

That's actually an interesting question. The majority of science journals are published by large commercial publishing houses (or scholarly societies that act like large commercial publishing houses). Humanities journals are more likely to be run by smaller scholarly societies with fewer resources to react to changes in publishing models (and, if you are championing gold over green OA, the researchers rarely have the money to pay author fees to make stuff OA). Morally, they might be the same, but practically, the Humanities have their own issues. Nationalizing scholarly publication would be one way to go, but it could also sink the smaller Humanities societies who are tied to a single journal.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:13 PM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't really quite articulate the dissonance I feel about the administration when I read stories like this and find articles to the effect of "omfg we're killing everyone we don't like with drones."

But yes, this is pretty badass.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:23 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Woo hooo!

My posting history will show that I paid my $5 to complain about the outrageous price of journals. I am a scientist in industry. No institutional subscriptions. This will make job soooooo much easier.
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:30 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why the year wait?

If the government is not going to become the actual publisher, then private publishers like Elsevier and their journals will still be necessary. And it is the journals that take on the costs of peer review and publishing (at least in my discipline). So for these journals to exist there needs to be a reason why an institution or an individual would subscribe to that journal. The one year wait to access the published information for free is that reason.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:46 PM on February 23, 2013


private publishers like Elsevier and their journals will still be necessary

[citation needed]
posted by erniepan at 6:10 PM on February 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yes! I signed that petition! The system works!
posted by Tsuga at 6:12 PM on February 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Given that most published papers are likely to be wrong anyway (see also), you're probably better off waiting for a year to see if they still hold up, than you are paying to get them when they're hot off the press.
posted by memebake at 6:29 PM on February 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm a bit confused about how this works. Does it mean that journals are obliged to make their content open access after a year?
posted by spacediver at 7:04 PM on February 23, 2013


YES YES YES MOTHERFUCKING YES

Not enough? Of course it's not enough. Is it better than what we have now, and a huge leap towards progress? YES IT IS.
posted by KathrynT at 8:05 PM on February 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


And it is the journals that take on the costs of peer review and publishing (at least in my discipline).

That's interesting... because in my discipline, unpaid volunteer editors email the papers to unpaid volunteer reviewers using their university-provided email accounts. The unpaid reviewers print out the papers on their private printers, edit them, and then send the back to the unpaid editor, who transmits the comments to the unpaid volunteer author of the article, who returns camera-ready copy to the publisher, plus a fee (usually) to cover the cost of printing. The publisher does carry the cost of printing a thin chapbook, four times a year, which it then sells on to the libraries of all those unpaid volunteer workers for seventy bucks a pop. So there is that.

Humanities journals are more likely to be run by smaller scholarly societies with fewer resources to react to changes in publishing models

I'd actually be interested to hear more about this, because my sub-discipline (in the humanities) doesn't really have these societies... or at least it does, but they don't seem to do anything other than publishing journals. I often hear this raised as an argument against university or government-led online publishing, and I've never quite grasped how replacing these societies with a humanities corner in science-funded online publication systems would be a loss, if all they're doing is publishing journals. Because, you know, the journals would be sort of obsolete, if you see what I mean...

Are there scholarly societies who use their journal publishing profits to subsidise substantial non-publishing activities? What kind of thing do they do?
posted by Dreadnought at 8:28 PM on February 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


spacediver: "I'm a bit confused about how this works. Does it mean that journals are obliged to make their content open access after a year?"

In the biomedical field, most major funding, public and private requires submission of electronic copies of final manuscripts. Most journals acknowledge this and allow it. Presumably because if they do not, they will receive no submissions, and publish nothing of merit. As long as the journal market is sufficiently competitive, this is the outcome I'd expect for everything else.
posted by pwnguin at 8:47 PM on February 23, 2013


This is great in the long run, but journal publishers' monopoly will die with one last gasp, and that gasp will be ramping up publication fees. They're going to lose tons of revenue with this open access deal, so they're going to squeeze as much (federal grant) money as they can out of scientists who NEED to publish in the big journals to get good grants. It's going to be painful in the short term, when big-name journals are still the necessary citations for marking good work. Now, people doing top-flight research in their respective fields look at open access journals as, "Oh, couldn't get into J Neuro or Neuron, huh?" In that respect, science moves slowly.
posted by supercres at 9:25 PM on February 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


thanks pwnguin :)
posted by spacediver at 10:06 PM on February 23, 2013


The other good news is that this could provide yet more impetus for a rethink of the UK's asinine Gold OA publishers' subsidy jamboree approach to the problem. Fingers crossed.
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:35 AM on February 24, 2013


Okay, how about if any films, novels or albums are made with the help of government tax exemptions or grants, the copyright expires after 7 years.
posted by empath at 4:41 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


private publishers like Elsevier and their journals will still be necessary

[citation needed]


The existence of the arXiv is hardly an argument. The arXiv has been in existence for more than 20 years. As far as I can tell, it hasn't dealt a death blow to any journal. Why? Because it's not attempting to replicate the function of a journal. It's replacing the 'mail people you think might be interested pre-prints' step and 'write to someone and ask for a copy of their article', at least for the people who are scrupulous about putting their stuff on the arXiv.

What the arXiv does mean is that stuff is available in the absence of open access. Springer will 'helpfully' let you pay to make your article open access, which does you no good unless you have money for publication costs. Except there are loads of subjects where the typical publication cost is $0, so people don't have money for that. But you probably put it on the arXiv and you hopefully put the revised version on the arXiv.

On the other hand, the existence of journals independent of a major publishing conglomerate is an argument. There's software for running your own journal out there, so not only can you avoid needing to know something about publishing by existing only online, you can avoid having to write the website yourself. It presumably takes more effort to run a journal in the absence of paid staff, but there are a couple of all-volunteer journals out there.
posted by hoyland at 5:19 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The more I think about this, the less I think it's going to change anything in the sciences. (For the public, yes.) University libraries will still subscribe to the major journals, because for academics, that year wait IS critical. I can't imagine waiting a year between publication of something controversial and and sort of reply or follow-up from other labs.
posted by supercres at 6:17 AM on February 24, 2013


A significant amount of research is done outside of universities. I do atomic and optical physics research for an aerospace company, because atomic clocks and optical gyroscopes are useful for navigation, and atomic gyroscopes could be someday... Our research is government funded. But it is huge pain getting the papers I want read. Costs $40 a pop, and I don't know if they're useful till we buy it, usually.

But I want the entire existing archives to become free...
posted by OnceUponATime at 6:53 AM on February 24, 2013


Aaron Swartz is what comes to mind for me. I'm still waiting for the correct response to those White House petitions requesting removal of those two Federal attorneys in Massachusetts.

Speaking of Swartz: Feds Used Aaron Swartz’s Political Manifesto Against Him

DOJ Used the Open Access Guerilla Manifesto to Do More than Justify Prosecution, They Justified a Search of Aaron Swartz’ Home
posted by homunculus at 12:10 PM on February 24, 2013


hoyland: "The existence of the arXiv is hardly an argument. The arXiv has been in existence for more than 20 years. As far as I can tell, it hasn't dealt a death blow to any journal."

No, but the publishing atmosphere in the Physics/Math world is so much less toxic than it is anywhere else. The journals actually function as academic collaborations, rather than big businesses.

I have to think that arXiv, and the community's unspoken "put everything in public" ethic are at least somewhat responsible for this state of affairs.

Journals and academic societies still have roles to play, but "gatekeeper" should not be one of them. Especially not when we're the ones paying their bills.
posted by schmod at 6:56 AM on February 25, 2013


No, but the publishing atmosphere in the Physics/Math world is so much less toxic than it is anywhere else. The journals actually function as academic collaborations, rather than big businesses.

How so? As far as I know (I could well be wrong), every complaint about the publishers still applies to their math journals. The main difference I know of is that math journals don't charge for publication as is the norm in some subjects, but that's not on the usual list of complaints. The boycott of Elsevier originated with mathematicians. The arXiv (and the fact mathematicians almost universally have websites) certainly mitigates the effects of your library not being able to afford the journals you need, but it doesn't make the journals so problem-free that the math department of the publishing company isn't functioning as a big business. (Math does have at least one totally free, volunteer-run journal, but as awesome as that it is, it's not making much of a dent.)
posted by hoyland at 6:15 AM on February 26, 2013


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