SHERPA/RoMEO: Publishers with Paid Options for Open Access

SUMMARY: non-Green publishers. On no account should any author or institution ever have to pay money to a publisher in order to be able to comply with a mandate to provide Open Access (OA). That would be a perverse distortion of the purpose of both OA and OA mandates; it would also profoundly discourage funders and institutions from mandating OA, and authors from complying with OA mandates.
    SHERPA has an outstanding record for supporting and promoting OA, worldwide. The OA movement and the global research community are greatly in their debt. However, SHERPA alas also has a history of amplifying arbitrary, irrelevant and even absurd details and noise associated with publisher policies and practices, instead of focusing on what makes sense and is essential to the understanding and progress of OA.
    I urge SHERPA to focus on what the research community needs to hear, understand and do in order to reach 100% OA as soon as possible — not on advertising publisher options that are not only unnecessary but counterproductive to the growth of OA and OA mandates. Authors and funders who are foolish enough to squander their money on paying non-green publishers for OA (instead of just depositing their postprints anyway and relying on the IR’s “email eprint request” Button during any embargo) can find out the prices for themselves. SHERPA/ROMEO is not a publishers’ price catalogue.

The Green on immediate OA self-archiving then the right strategy for the author is to deposit the refereed final draft in their institutional repository anyway, immediately upon acceptance for publication.

Access to that deposit can then be set as Closed Access instead of Open Access during the publisher embargo, if the author wishes. The repository’s semi-automatic “email eprint request” Button can then provide all would-be users with almost-OA during the embargo.

Most OA mandates tolerate an embargo of 6-12 months. Once immediate deposit is universally mandated by 100% of funders and institutions, that will provide at least 63% immediate-OA plus at most 37% almost-OA, immediately, for a universal total of 100% immediate-OA plus almost-OA.

After OA mandates are adopted universally, the increasingly palpable benefits of the resulting OA for research, researchers, and the tax-paying public will ensure that the rest of the dominos will inevitably fall of their own accord: Access embargoes will soon die their natural (and well-deserved) deaths, yielding 100% immediate-OA.

SHERPA has an outstanding record for supporting and promoting OA, worldwide. The OA movement and the global research community are greatly in their debt. However, SHERPA alas also has a history of amplifying arbitrary, irrelevant and even absurd details and noise associated with publisher policies and practices, instead of focusing on what makes sense and is essential to the understanding and progress of OA.

I urge SHERPA to focus on what the research community needs to hear, understand and do in order to reach 100% OA as soon as possible — not on advertising publisher options that are not only unnecessary but counterproductive to the growth of OA and OA mandates.

Charles Oppenheim, U. Loughborough, replied:

Stevan misunderstands the purpose of SHERPA/ROMEO.  It is there to report publishers’ terms and conditions, to help authors decide where to place their articles. To argue that it should not list those publishers that are not “green” is akin to asking an abstracting service not to record those articles that the editor happens not to agree with.
Some funders, such as Wellcome,  encourage the applicant for funding to include the cost of paying a “gold” journal in their funding bid. If it is to perform a useful information function, SHERPA/ROMEO has to reflect current reality, not ideal future scenarios

I can only disagree (profoundly) with my comrade-at-arms, Charles Oppenheim, on this important strategic point!

I certainly did not say that SHERPA/ROMEO should only list Green Publishers! It should list all publishers (and, more relevantly, all their individual journals).

But along with all the journals, SHERPA/ROMEO should only list and classify the journal policy details that are relevant to OA, OA mandates, and the growth of OA.

Those four relevant journal policy details are these:

(1) Does the journal endorse immediate OA self-archiving of the refereed postprint? If so, the journal is GREEN.

(2) Does the journal endorse the immediate OA self-archiving of the unrefereed preprint only? If so, the journal is PALE-GREEN.

(3) Is the journal neither GREEN nor PALE-GREEN? If so then the journal is GRAY.

(4) If the journal is PALE-GREEN or GRAYdoes it endorse OA self-archiving after an embargo? If so, how long?

That’s it. All the rest of the details that SHERPA/ROMEO is currently canonizing are irrelevant amplifications of noise that merely confuse instead of informing, clarifying and facilitating OA-relevant policy and decisions on the part of authors, institutions and funders.

Amongst the irrelevant and confusing idiosyncratic publisher details that SHERPA/ROMEO is currently amplifying (and there are many!), there are two that might be worth retaining as a footnote, as long as it is made clear that they are not fundamental for policy or practice, but merely details for two special cases:

(i) What version is endorsed for OA self-archiving: the author’s final draft or the publisher’s PDF?

(ii) Where does the journal endorse self-archiving: the author’s institutional repository and/or central repositories?

The reason these details are inessential is that the default option in both cases is already known a priori:

(i) Self-archiving the author’s final draft is the default option. A publisher that endorses self-archiving the publisher’s PDF also authorizes, a fortiori, the self-archiving of the author’s final draft. (IP pedants and pundits might have some fun thrashing this one back and forth, citing all sorts of formalisms and legalisms, but in the end, sense would prevail: Once the publisher has formally authorized making the published article OA, Pandora’s box is open [sic], and residual matters concerning authors’ prior versions or subsequent updates are all moot [as they should be].)

The default option of self-archiving the postprint is sufficient for OA, hence the PDF side-show is a needless distraction.

(ii)  Self-archiving in the author’s institutional repository is the default option. A publisher that endorses self-archiving in a central repository also endorses, a fortiori, self-archiving in the author’s own institutional repository.

The default option of self-archiving in the institutional repository is sufficient for OA, hence the matter of central deposit is a needless distraction. (Where direct central deposit is mandated by a funder, this can and will be implemented by automatic SWORD-based export to central repositories, of either the metadata and full-text or merely the metadata and the link to the full-text.)

Hence (i) and (ii) are minor details that need only be consulted by those who, for some reason, are particularly concerned about the PDF, or those who need to comply with a funder mandate that (neelessly) specifies direct central deposit.

There is absolutely no call for SHERPA/ROMEO to advertise the price lists of GRAY publishers for paid OA! I can only repeat that that is grotesque. Let authors and funders who are foolish enough to squander their money on paying those non-GREEN publishers (instead of just relying on their tolerated embargo limits plus the Button) find out the prices for themselves. (SHERPA/ROMEO is not an abstracting service; nor is it a publishers’ price catalogue!)

Peter Millington, SHERPA, replied:

PM:It is a pity that Prof. Harnad is only interested in “default” and “sufficient” options, and not in the best options, or indeed the most appropriate options. While author’s final post-refereed draft is sufficient and acceptable for open access and research purposes, it is not the best.”

OA is the best for research purposes. We don’t yet have it. And it’s long overdue.

I’m not sure whose purposes the publisher’s PDF is best for, but whoever they are, their purposes are getting in the way of what is best for research purposes.

PM:The best is the published version (publisher’s PDF if you will). At the very least, this is the authoritative version vis-à-vis page numbers for quoted extracts and the like.”

This issue has been much discussed in these pages: OA is needed (urgently) for all those users who can’t afford paid access to the publisher’s PDF. What these would-be users lack is access to the text, not a means of quoting extracts. Extracts can be quoted by paragraph number. Pages are on the way out anyway. What is urgently needed is access to the text. Publishers are far more willing to endorse self-archiving of the author postprint than the publisher’s proprietary PDF. Hence author postprint self-archiving is the default option (if maximal OA, now, is the goal).

PM:Also, it significantly expedites deposition to be able to use the publisher’s PDF rather than having to generate your own, with all the complications that that may entail.”

Significantly expedites deposition of what, where, by whom? I have deposited nearly 300 of my papers in the Southampton ECS IR. It takes me 1 keystroke and 1 second to generate PDF from TeX or to generate PDF or HTML from RTF. What complications do you have in mind?

PM:In my view, the publishers who permit the use of their PDFs deserve to be applauded for their far-sightedness. Other publishers should be encouraged to do likewise.”

The publishers to be applauded are the ones that are Green on immediate OA deposit of the postprint, regardless of whether they specify the author’s postprint or the publisher’s PDF. That’s the line separating who is and isn’t on the side of the angels regarding OA. The rest is trivial and irrelevant.

PM:SHERPA therefore makes no apologies for having published our ‘good list’

SHERPA ROMEO could do a far, far greater service in informing authors and institutions, and in promoting OA, if it at long last got rid of all its superfluous categories and colour codes (yellow/preprint, blue/postprint, green/preprint+postprint, white/neither, and now “good”/PDF) and simply published a clear list of all the journals that endorse postprint self-archiving, regardless of whether the postprint is author-draft or publisher PDF and regardless of whether the journal also happens to endorse unrefereed preprint self-archiving — and call that GREEN.

That, after all, is what OA is all about, and for.

PM:(Some may concur with Prof. Harnad in regarding the Paid OA list as the “bad list”, but I couldn’t possibly comment.)

The only thing authors need to know about these journals is that they are GRAY (and perhaps also how long they embargo access-provision).

PM:As for where material may be deposited, Prof. Harnad states that permission to deposit in institutional repositories should be the default, implying that this would be sufficient. However, as before, institutional repositories alone are not the best option. Surely the best policy must be to be able to deposit in any open access repository – institutional and/or disciplinary.”

No, the best policy is to allow deposit in any OA repository and to explicitly prefer IR deposit wherever possible. That is the way to integrate institutional and funder OA mandates so as to generate a convergence and synergy that will systematically cover all of OA space quickly and completely.

PM:In any case, SHERPA/RoMEO has no choice but to reflect/quote the terminology for repository types used in the publishers’ open access policies, CTAs, and related documentation. These are often wanting in clarity and are not always fully thought through. If the publishers do better, it follows that SHERPA/RoMEO’s data will also improve.”

Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if SHERPA/ROMEO could lead publishers toward clarity, rather than just following and amplifying their obscurity (and their often deliberate obscurantism)?

This is all said in the spirit of unabating appreciation for all that SHERPA does do for OA — but with an equally unabating frustration at what SHERPA persists in not doing for (and sometimes unwittingly doing against) OA, even though it would be ever so easy to fix.

This continuing insistence upon amplifying incoherent publisher noise simply because it is there cannot be described as a service to OA. And SHERPA does have a choice: It can do better for the research community without waiting for publishers to improve.

Andria McGrath replied:

AM: “It may be foolishness on the part of the funders, but I’m afraid it is the case that ALL the UK medical funders do insist that articles reporting research funded by them are posted on UK PubMedCentral within 6 months.”

I have a simple solution, both for individual authors and for institutions who are trying to comply with a funder mandate to self-archive centrally articles that are published by journals that only endorse institutional OA self-archiving:

(1) Deposit the (refereed) postprint institutionally, immediately upon acceptance for publication.

(2) If the journal is Green on immediate OA, make the deposit immediately OA (otherwise rely on the “email eprint request” Button).

(3) If setting access to the deposit to OA is embargoed, set the access to OA when the embargo is over.

(4) If a funder requires deposit in UK PubMedCentral, set up SWORD for your IR so it will export the deposit to UKPMC at the requisite time — and then let UKPMC worry about access-setting for the UKPMC version.

The author has complied with the funder mandate by depositing in his IR immediately upon acceptance for publication, and by setting access to the IR deposit as OA at the end of the publisher embargo. 

That’s all there is to it. Funders cannot mandate any more of an author. And if the funder wants to pay publishers for the right to make the central UKPMC version OA, let them pay the publisher themselves.

The funder mandates are deposit mandates, not payment mandates. Comply by depositing institutionally, providing OA institutionally, and exporting the deposit to UKPMC. That’s all there is to it.

AM: “I have just been going through Romeo trying to determine which of the major publishers allow this without the payment of article processing charges and there are very few. So far I have come up with BMJ Publishing, CUP, Company of Bioloigsts and Nat. Acad. Sci. that do allow this.”

Fine. When those IR deposits are exported via SWORD to UKPMC, there will be no charge to be paid. For publishers other than those four,  there may be; that is not the problem of the author or his institution. And anyone construing the funder mandates as implying that it is the problem of the author or his institution, and that the mandate entails any further expense to the author or his institution, is profoundly misconstruing the mandate, the rationale for the mandate, and the rationale for OA.

Andria, you will have to get used to the fact that steps have been taken without carefully thinking them through. The funder OA mandates were very timely and welcome, and extremely important historically. But some (by no means all!) of them were also vague, careless, and, to a great extent “monkey see, monkey do” (many taking their cue from NIH and the Wellcome Trust, who themselves had not thought it through carefully enough). 

MRC simply adopted the wrong (because inchoate) mandate model. Other RCUK councils (such as, ARCBBSRCSTFC) picked a better one. So did Europe’s ERC, and now the EC, based on the EURAB model, which is the IDOA mandate model, the optimal one, and leads to none of these nonsensical consequences.

Good sense will eventually prevail, but until then, those who are trying to implement the existing mandates should not try to put themselves through impossible hoops — and on no account should they lead their authors and institutions into grotesque and gratuitous expenses or constraints that were never the intention of either OA or OA mandates.

Just follow the sensible steps (1) – (4) above, and the rest will take care of itself as a matter of natural course.

AM: “As far as I can tell, Elsevier, Humana, Int Med Press, Wiley, Karger, Kluwer, Royal Soc and Springer do not allow self archiving in UK PMC by authors within 6 months, so that all authors funded by the medical charities are going to be forced into paying article processing charges to comply with their funders requirements if they publish in these publishers journals or in fully open access journals that make charges, like BMC.”

Not only is it pure absurdity to imagine that the funder mandates were actually mandates for authors and their institutions to pay publishers for paid OA, but it is equally absurd to imagine that they were mandates for authors to publish only with publishers who endorse central self-archiving

Every single one of the eight publishers you list is on the side of the angels as regards OA: They are all Green on immediate deposit in the author’s institutional repository, and the immediate setting of access to that deposit as OA.

Did anyone really imagine that OA was about more than that? That it further required publishers to consent to deposit in central repositories, for someone’s capricious reasons? (The saga is made even sillier by the fact that if the blinkered centralists had sensibly targeted universal IR deposit first, then the dominos would — and will — fall for central repositories soon enough anyway! But instead they are creating gratuitous obstacles for OA itself, by putting centrality itself before OA — and for absolutely no good reason, since all OA IRs are fully interoperable and harvestable anyway.)

And don’t even get me started on the fatuousness of having decided to copycat PMC with a UKPMC! As if there were another category of biomedical research, consisting of UK biomedical research, requiring a central repository of its own: “Let me see now, what is it that British researchers — and British researchers alone — have found discovered about AIDS.” (I hope no one replies that “one can search across PMC and UKPMC jointly,” because that is the whole point! Search is done across distributed contents, not by going to — or requiring — one particular locus-of-deposit. Think OAIster, Citeseer or Google Scholar, not UKPMC! At most, UKPMC could simply be a harvester of UK biomedical output, for actuarial purposes, wherever its physical locus might happen to be.)

AM: “In view of this I do find it useful to have the extra information that Romeo is adding, and I would welcome even more specific info about publisher’s policies re PMC. If I have any of this wrong I would be very grateful if people would let me know.”

I think you have a good deal of it very, very wrong — but it’s not your fault, and you are not alone. I just wonder whether we will persist in bumbling in this misdirection for a few more years, yet again, until we discover we have goofed, or we will manage — mirabile dictu — to rally the good sense to fix it in advance…

Your weary and fast-wizening archivangelist,

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum