Paying the Price for Open Access

Some “open access” journals come at a price, in the form of a fee paid by the author (or the author’s employer or some other fund) to make the content immediately available open access to the world. Harvard University recently became one of five leading universities to sign the Compact for Open Access Publishing Equity, agreeing to establish mechanisms for underwriting publication charges for articles written by its faculty and published in such journals. See Inside Higher Ed’s “Breakthrough in Open Access” for some interesting commentary about the project and SHERPA/RoMEO’s Publishers with Paid Options for Open Access for an idea of publishers that use such a fee-based model.

Coming off the heels of the public unveiling of DASH, this announcement is an exciting advancement in the university’s open access activities.

2 thoughts on “Paying the Price for Open Access”


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    Regardless of the size of the asking price (“reasonable” or unreasonable), it is an enormous strategic mistake for a university or research funder to commit to pre-emptive payment of Open Access Journal Publishing fees (Gold OA) until and unless the university or funder has first mandated Green OA self-archiving for all of its own published journal article output (regardless of whether published in OA or non-OA journals).

    There are so far five signatories to the “Compact for Open-Access Equity.” Two of them have mandated Green OA (Harvard and MIT) and three have not (Cornell, Dartmouth, Berkeley). Many non-mandating universities have also been committing to the the pre-emptive SCOAP3 consortium.

    If Harvard’s and MIT’s example is followed, and Green OA mandates grow globally ahead of Gold OA commitments, then there’s no harm done.

    But if it is instead pre-emptive commitments to fund Gold OA that grow, at the expense of mandates to provide Green OA, then the worldwide research community will yet again have shot itself in the foot insofar as universal OA — so long within its reach, yet still not grasped — is concerned.

    Harnad, S. (1991) Post-Gutenberg Galaxy: The Fourth Revolution in the Means of Production of Knowledge. Public-Access Computer Systems Review 2 (1): 39 – 53

    Harnad, S. (1995) Universal FTP Archives for Esoteric Science and Scholarship: A Subversive Proposal. In: Ann Okerson & James O’Donnell (Eds.) Scholarly Journals at the Crossroads; A Subversive Proposal for Electronic Publishing. Washington, DC., Association of Research Libraries, June 1995.

    Harnad, S. (1999) Free at Last: The Future of Peer-Reviewed Journals. D-Lib Magazine 5(12) December 1999

    Harnad, S., Carr, L., Brody, T. & Oppenheim, C. (2003) Mandated online RAE CVs Linked to University Eprint Archives. Ariadne 35.

    Harnad, S., Brody, T., Vallieres, F., Carr, L., Hitchcock, S., Gingras, Y, Oppenheim, C., Stamerjohanns, H., & Hilf, E. (2004) The Access/Impact Problem and the Green and Gold Roads to Open Access. Serials Review 30. Shorter version: The green and the gold roads to Open Access. Nature Web Focus.

    Harnad, S. (2006) Opening Access by Overcoming Zeno’s Paralysis, in Jacobs, N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects. Chandos.

    Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: Anna Gacs. The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age. L’Harmattan. 99-106.

    Harnad, S. (2008) The PostGutenberg Open Access Journal. To appear in: Cope, B. & Phillips, A (Eds.) The Future of the Academic Journal. Chandos.

  2. Thanks, Stevan! I had actually thought of linking to your commentary, but I saw that you had already included it as a comment in the Inside Higher Ed entry referenced. Thanks for including it with our posting as well. We appreciate your thoughts.

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