Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Who benefits from the University of Calgary authors' fund?

Who benefits from the University of Calgary open access authors' fund? This was a good question, raised by an audience participant at a talk this Monday by Andrew Waller. Obviously, the U of C's OA Authors' Fund at $100,000 is not meant to cover a full switch to open access publishing-by-article-processing-fees at the U of C.

My thoughts are that there are two main groups of beneficiaries. First, U of C faculty and students who wish to publish in an open access journal that charges article processing fees at least have a place to submit a request for assistance. Contrast this with a recent message from a librarian friend of mine, who had a grad student come to the library wishing such help, but the library had no procedures in place at all to help. It is quite possible that no other department on campus had a means to assist the student, either.

Second, we all benefit from this pilot project. I was very glad to hear that U of C has figured out that it makes sense to support fully open access journals, such as Public Library of Science, BioMedCentral, and Hindawi, and also hybrid journals that recognize the revenue from author fees and lower subscription fees for libraries accordingly, such as Oxford and the American Institute of Physics. This is a great model for other libraries. If others develop open access funds with similar criteria, then the odds that other publishers will develop responsible policies lowering subscription fees to reflect OA revenue are that much greater. If subscription fees go down, libraries will have more money to pay open access article processing fees; a potential positive cycle to replace the vicious cycle of the serials crisis.

Another useful question was whether researchers would offload traditional page charges onto the library. Andrew pointed out that such charges would not fit the criteria for the program, so would be rejected.

Approaching an authors' fund as U of C has done in a pilot manner, with a limited fund and soft launch, gives the library time to reflect on such questions, and develop really good procedures to address these questions.

Please note that the vast majority of open access journals do NOT charge article processing fees. This should not be a barrier to finding creative ways to support those that DO. It is also not necessary to publish in an OA journal to make your work OA. The green approach, publishing in a traditional journal and self-archiving for open access, is another perfectly good approach, and one recommended as appropriate by the U of C as part of the authors' fund process.

These are reflections on a talk by Andrew Waller at the University of British Columbia this Monday, November 17, coordinated by the BC Research Libraries Group. Andrew will be posting his presentation in the U of C D-Space and E-LIS in the near future, and so I will refer readers there for the full presentation (highly recommended). A recent presentation by Andrew at the U of C law school is available in the U of C D-Space.

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access series.