Replies to Questions of Retiring Editor of Poultry Science

Colin G. Scanes Editor-in-Chief Poultry Science (Poultry Science Association) wrote:

[T]here is self-interest from journals… whether… profit… or non-profit… in not supporting free open access. Equally there is strong self-interest in university libraries… supporting open access because they are likely to reduce their costs of purchasing journals.

— There are also the interests of research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public that supports the research and for whose benefit it is conducted and published. That interest is in making the research accessible, immediately upon acceptance for publication, to all would-be users, not just those whose institutions can afford subscription access.

Hitchcock, S. (2010) The effect of open access and downloads (‘hits’) on citation impact: a bibliography of studies

1. Who is to pay the very real costs of producing journals with this move to open access? Should it be the researcher, and, if so, where is the additional funding to come from? Is it realistic to consider that journals should absorb the costs

— Open Access means free online access to published journal articles, not necessarily Open Access publishing. Authors can provide Open Access to their conventionally published articles by self-archiving their final refereed drafts free for all online.

2. At what point do libraries cease to purchase subscriptions for journals if their contents are available by open access?

— No one knows whether and when libraries will cancel journals. Till they do, institutional subscriptions pay the cost of peer review and authors make their final drafts free for all online. If and when journal cancellations make subscriptions unsustainable because users prefer to use the free online drafts, journals will cut costs and downsize to providing peer review alone, paid for, per article, by authors’ institutions, out of their windfall subscription cancellation savings.

Harnad, S. (2007) The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition. In: The Culture of Periodicals from the Perspective of the Electronic Age, pp. 99-105, L’Harmattan.

3. If library subscriptions to journals are an essential part of the business plan of a journal or a professional society, how many journals will disappear if we go to a completely open access approach?

— No journals will disappear as a result of Open Access. Open Access is provided by author self-archiving (now being increasingly mandated by their institutions and funders) and if and when subscriptions fail, journals will downsize to peer-review service provision alone, paid for on the open access publishing service-fee model.

4. As a journal editor with, at present, a positive cash flow, we can and do waive page charges from papers from institutions in developing countries that cannot afford to pay these. We will not be able to continue this if there is a major reduction in revenue. Forcing journals to adopt an author-pays model would have a stifling effect on the publication of work from authors in developing countries.

— No need to change anything (except to make sure the journal endorses rather than obstructs author self-archiving). Universal self-archiving and self-archiving mandates will provide universal Open Access, and the rest depends on how long subscriptions remain sustainable, and on whether and when the downsizing and transition to the Open Access cost-recovery model occurs.

5. What is a reasonable embargo period between publication and the paper being available by free open access?

— What is optimal for research — and for researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public that supports the research and for whose benefit it is conducted and published — is no embargo at all. What is helpful from publishers is if they endorse Open Access self-archiving by authors. The rest will all come as a natural matter of course either way (i.e., with or without publisher endorsement), as a result of Open Access mandates by institutions and funders. The Green publishers will simply have the historic satisfaction of having been on the side of the angels all along.

Poultry Science’s self-archiving policy is not in Romeo and does not appear to be among the 63% of journals that endorse immediate Open Access self-archiving by its authors. It would be helpful if this were remedied:

Poultry Science Copyright Release: Copyright laws make it necessary for the Association to obtain a release from authors for all materials published. To this end we ask you to grant us all rights, including subsidiary rights, for your article. You will hereby be relinquishing to the Poultry Science Association all control over this material such as rights to make or authorize reprints, to reproduce the material in other Association publications, and to grant the material to others without charge in any book of which you are the author or editor after it has appeared in the journal.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum