Friday, June 11, 2010

Anti-OA spin on Inside Higher Ed

Update June 15, 2010: Oxford University Press has issued a revised press release, which clarifies that the spin is indeed coming from OUP.


Through the Oxford Open initiative, launched in July 2005, Oxford University Press (OUP) has experimented with open access models and has been carefully monitoring and sharing results. Today, six Oxford journals are fully open access and over 90 are hybrid open access, where authors of accepted papers are given the option of paying an open access publication charge to make their paper freely available online immediately.

In 2009 the average uptake of the open access option for participating journals fell to 5.9%, compared with 6.7% in 2008. This reduction was due to a lower uptake amongst 11 new titles joining Oxford Open in 2009. On a like-for-like basis, the average uptake in 2009 for journals which entered the scheme prior to 2008 was stable (6.7%, compared with 6.8% in 2008).


From 2005 to 2010, based on this information, OUP has transitioned from a fully subscription model to a point where 6 OUP journals are fully open access, and 90 are hybrid open access. The Oxford Open option greatly understates open access, as it does not take into account author self-archiving, as explained in detail by Stevan Harnad at Open Access Archivangelism. From this press release, it appears that journals that have been participating for some time have a stable participation rate. OUP could be reporting open access success, but has chosen to focus on the negative.

In addition to what is obviously some success in moving towards OA at OUP, supplemented by author self-archiving, another factor to take into account is that authors desiring full open access might be choosing different journals. OUP charges article processing fees, while the vast majority of OA journals do not use this business model. Of the journals that do charge APFs, OUP may not be competitive on a cost per quality basis. Then, too, libraries that are supporting OA via APFs are often refusing to support hybrid journals.

I am not sure why OUP has chosen to focus on the negative. Their academic library customers are eager for change, and it appears that OUP is in a great position to take advantage of this desire. Why not market OUP as an alternative OA solution?

Here is Quick Take from today's Inside Higher Ed, repeated in full for purposes of scholarly critique:

Academics remain reluctant to allow their journal articles to be deposited in open-access repositories, according to the Oxford University Press. The press announced Thursday that the percentage of Oxford Press articles authorized for re-publication in its open-access repository decreased overall from 6.7 to 5.9 percent between 2008 and 2009. Officials attributed the decrease to a relatively low rate of opt-ins from 11 new journals to which the option was extended in 2009; putting those new titles aside, the proportion of authors allowing their work to be made freely available stayed roughly the same. Still, the stagnation of that rate indicates that researchers are still wary of endorsing an open-access model, Oxford officials said in a release. Humanities scholars were the least willing to participate in Oxford Open, the press's open-access initiative, opting in at a rate of 2.5 percent. Life sciences scholars were the most generous with their work, with 11.4 percent allowing their papers to be freely accessible.


Why the spin? According to this information, OUP has a stable rate of participation in Oxford Open for journals that have been participating for a while, and a lower rate of participation for journals that have just joined the program - hardly surprising, as the journals that were most keen to participate were likely part of the original group. Why add the numbers and spin this as if it were decreasing participation? If a statement like this were made in an article submitted to a journal for peer review, any journal worth its salt would refuse to publish the article unless the statement were revised. Note that I cannot find any such press release on the Oxford University Press site. My comment on the Inside Higher Ed site requests the original release to which this Quick Take is referring.