Peter Suber has mailed the new SOA-Newsletter. This issue takes a close look at a bill moving through Congress that would require open access for NIH-funded research.
Even though immediate OA is in the public interest, I’m willing to accept some embargo. Publishers like to say that they add value by facilitating peer review by expert volunteers. This is accurate but one-sided. What they leave out is that the funding agency adds value as well, and that the cost of a research project is often thousands of times greater than the cost of publication. If adding value gives one a claim to control access to the result, then at least two stakeholder organizations have that claim, and one of them has a much weightier claim than the publisher. But if publishers and taxpayers both make a contribution to the value of peer-reviewed articles arising from publicly-funded research, then the right question is not which side to favor, without compromise, but which compromise to favor. So far I haven’t heard a better solution than a period of exclusivity for the publisher followed by free online access for the public. This compromise-by-time is buttressed by a second compromise-by-version: publishers retain control over the published edition for the life of copyright while the public receives OA to the peer-reviewed but unedited author manuscript. Publishers who want to block OA mandates per se, rather than just negotiate the embargo period, are saying that there should be no compromise, that the public should get nothing for its investment, and that publishers should control access to research conducted by others, written up by others, and funded by taxpayers.