Open access, take it or leave it
23 June 2006
The Royal Society, UK, is trialling a hybrid author-pays/reader-pays publishing model. The RS has been a stern critic of open access publishing in the past, and says there is an absence of evidence to support the author-pays model.
Using the hybrid model, authors are offered a choice: they can pay £300 per A4 page to make their paper freely available immediately; or they can pay nothing and wait 12 months for their paper to become freely available (the current model).
Papers written by authors who choose the first option, called 'EXiS Open Choice', will be placed in the PubMedCentral repository.
The RS was prompted to test the hybrid model after frustrations that its call to the publishing sector to produce a study of different models was ignored, said a spokesperson for the society. In November 2005, the RS was critical of commercial open access publishers for profiting from publicly-funded research (see Chemistry World, January 2006, p6). 'We haven't changed, we're in the same position,' Bob Ward told Chemistry World. 'We've always recognised the potential benefits of OA, but we're also aware that there are some potential drawbacks.'
The first paper to be published under the new system will be in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It is Wellcome Trust-funded work by Neil Roach from the University of Nottingham, UK. In October, the Wellcome Trust will demand that all the research it funds is published openly. Ward said the Wellcome link is coincidental.
Sally Morris, chief executive of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers applauded the 'very sensible' move by the RS. The only way to test open access is to give researchers the choice, Morris told Chemistry World. 'Open access isn't the complete answer,' she said. She predicts a collective 'racking-of-brains' by publishers to come up with other imaginative publishing models.
Robert Parker, editorial director of RSC publishing, another learned society publisher, said the RS model was 'an interesting variant on the hybrid model'. The RSC is looking closely at the model's progress. 'My concern would be that it would look to authors like a page charge, and most people are looking to move away from that,' said Parker.