Saturday, June 14, 2008

STM response to Science Foundation Ireland OA policy consultation: critique

Thanks to Peter Suber for pointing to, and commenting on, the STM anti-OA response to the Science Foundation Ireland's open access policy consultation. As usual, I agree with Peter's thorough and thoughtful comments, and would like to add that there is a serious factual misstatement in the STM response (a claim that only 30 journals make articles freely available after an embargo period; the evidence suggests that the actual number is hundreds or thousands of journals).

Excerpt from the STM Comments.

"An alternative route to open access involves making the article freely available online following publication after some embargo period, typically six, twelve or more months in duration. This approach assumes that an article has little value after its embargo period. For the vast majority of journals this is a dangerous and fallacious assumption. Data from the DC Principles Group of Publishers shows that only about 1% of active learned journals have business models that allow this approach: even in this small group of titles very few indeed, 0.1% (30 journals) make content available by the embargo period in SFI’s draft policy." No citation provided.

Here is what the DC Principles group says on the DC Principles website:
Principle 3. As not-for-profit publishers, we have introduced and will continue to support the following forms of free access:
* The full text of our journals is freely available to everyone worldwide either immediately or within months of publication, depending on each publisher’s business and publishing requirements.

If the DC Principles Group is making back issues of their journals freely available, and they are not the only ones to do this - how many journals are there?

Here are a few indications of what the numbers might actually be:

There are more than 3,400 fully open access journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. DOAJ is a vetted list which includes only fully open access, peer reviewed journals. The Electronic Journals Library is a more inclusive list, including journals with free back issues; Electronic Journals Library lists over 18,000 free journals. Highwire Press lists 42 completely free sites, and 249 sites with free back issues. Over 400 journals make their articles freely available in PubMedCentral; as of March 2008, 321 made these articles freely available immediately on publication. For the analysis, see this post on IJPE.

In sum, while I don't have the exact figures for how many journals make back issues freely available, clearly the numbers are in the hundreds (Highwire, PubMedCentral), or thousands (Electronic Journals Library) - not just 30!