“The recent launch of the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity (COPE) has attracted both plaudits (e.g. here and here) and criticism (e. g. here and here).
What is COPE? It is a call to universities and research funding agencies to “recognise the crucial value of the services provided by scholarly publishers, the desirability of open access [OA] to the scholarly literature, and the need for a stable source of funding for publishers who choose to provide open access to their journals’ contents.”
Signatories to COPE are asked to commit to, “the timely establishment of durable mechanisms for underwriting reasonable publication charges for articles written by its faculty and published in fee-based open-access journals and for which other institutions would not be expected to provide funds.”
Specifically, signatories are invited to create Gold OA Funds to assist researchers to pay to publish their papers in OA journals — which instead of charging readers to read (via a subscription), impose an author-side article processing fee (APC). The deal is that by paying a fee an author can ensure that the publisher will make his or her paper freely available on the Web for anyone to read, and thereby increase its impact.
COPE is the brain child of Harvard’s Stuart Shieber, a professor of computer science, and director of the university’s Office for Scholarly Communication. Shieber outlined the thinking behind COPE in an article published in August in PLoS Biology. COPE is necessary, he explained, because OA journal publishing is currently “at a systematic disadvantage relative to the traditional [subscription, or Toll Access (TA)] model”.
The implication is that authors would be willing to publish their papers in an OA journal, if someone else was prepared to pay the associated publishing fee.
Universities need to support OA publishing, concluded Shieber, in order for it to become “a sustainable, efficient system”. Only then, he added, can the two journal publishing systems (OA and TA) “compete on a more level playing field.”
To date five universities have signed up to COPE, including Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell, University of California at Berkeley, and Dartmouth University. …”