Sunday, February 12, 2012

PLoS ONE is in the lead...but could a well thought out noncommercial approach give a competitor an edge?

PLoS ONE has often been the source of attention on IJPE and elsewhere, becoming in 2010 the world's largest journal then doubling in size in 2011, publishing close to 14,000 articles that year.  No wonder PLoS ONE is leading the new tendency to competition in open access, attracting a number of clones.

No doubt many a competitor is wondering how they'll ever get a edge when PLoS ONE is so far ahead - that's my guess as to why Mary Anne Liebert is starting out by providing free publishing services

So here is a thought - could  a well thought out noncommercial approach give a publisher an edge over PLoS ONE, with its insistence that all authors accept the CC-BY license? There just might be something to this. My own perspective is that as an open access advocate of course I want to freely share my work - but not for sale! My preference for including the noncommercial element in a CC license is by no means unusual - my understanding is that NC is the most popular of the CC elements. I've even been thinking that when I next get around to doing some writing to submit for publication, I just might go for Nature's Scientific Reports rather than PLoS ONE - much as I like PLoS and PLoS ONE, Nature will let me have my preferred NC license, and PLoS ONE won't.

When we scholars come up with our own open access mandates, sharing our work, "but not for a profit" is part of the deal, as illustrated by the leader with this approach, Harvard, and MIT. This kind of suggests that scholars don't want to give away their work to just anyone to sell for a profit, doesn't it?

So what would a good noncommercial policy look like? First of all, if authors are paying to make their work open access, then it should be open access, and the copyright (including any reserved commercial rights) should belong to the author. This would protect the publisher from having a competitor take their whole journal and use it for commercial purposes that would undermine the working publisher's revenue streams, while making it clear to authors and funders alike that the purpose is not to sneak in other enclosures for the purpose of making more profits.

This is a concept I am just starting to explore. Comments are welcome, via email at hgmorris at sfu dot ca. This post is part of the Articulating the Commons series.