FRPAA and paying publishers to self-archive

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 15:02:35 +0100

The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) proposes to mandate that
all federally funded researchers must make all their research journal
articles reporting federally funded research openly accessible (OA) to all
users by self-archiving them free for all on the web within 6 months of

Peter Suber has announced in OA News, that a publisher (Springer) has
recommended to the sponsors of the FRPAA that because a 6-month embargo on
self-archiving is too long for researchers and too short for publishers,
the FRPAA should instead mandate immediate self-archiving and pay the
publisher to do it. The recommendation does not mention the amount that
the publisher should be paid, but currently publishers are charging
between $500 and $3000 or more for making articles OA (Springer charges

I would like to make some comments on this suggestion. Please note that
they contain some nested contingencies:

    (1) If the federal funding agencies have the extra cash, and
    are willing to pay publishers whatever amount they ask today
    (or to impose a capped amount of their own), and the FRPAA can be
    successfully passed as an immediate-OA mandate in this way, this
    would be a perfectly fine outcome -- acceptable to research and
    researchers as well as to publishers.

    (2) If, however, the federal funding agencies do not have the extra
    cash to pay publishers the amount they ask today (or an acceptable
    capped amount), and/or if the FRPAA cannot be successful enacted
    into law if burdened with a commitment to pay publishers the amount
    they ask today (or an acceptable capped amount) for OA, then the
    suggestion that FRPAA should be revised to do so is just another
    way to delay or doom the passage of the FRPAA.

    (3) The present version of the FRPAA does not propose to pay anyone
    anything: it merely mandates that federally funded research must be
    made OA by the fundee, by self-archiving it, within (at most) 6 months
    of publication, in the fundee's own institutional repository (or a
    central one).

   (4) To date there is no evidence at all that self-archiving reduces
   publisher subscription revenues; and the two publishers whose authors
   have been self-archiving the longest and the most, the American
   Physical Society and the Institute of Physics, both report that they
   have (4a) no detectable subscription declines and are (4b) unopposed
   to an immediate (no-embargo) OA self-archiving mandate.

   (5) The objective, empirical way to test whether there is any truth
   to other publishers' hypothesis that self-archiving will reduce
   subscription revenue -- and the only way to find out how much and how
   fast it would reduce subscription revenue if ever it did so at all -- is
   to adopt the FRPAA and to monitor its outcome annually, making further
   adjustments only as and when there is evidence that they are necessary.

   (6) It is true that a 6-month embargo is bad for research; but
   an interim way to minimize that damage to research is to require
   immediate deposit and to allow only the date at which access to the
   deposited full text is set to Open Access (OA) to be delayed (for up
   to 6 months) where necessary (Closed Access until then).

   (7) 94% of journals already endorse setting access immediately to OA.

   (8) For the remaining 6% of articles set to Closed Access, the
   article's bibliographic metadata will still be visible to all
   immediately, and the self-archiving repository software provides a
   semi-automatic feature for individual would-be users to request -- and
   authors to provide -- an individual eprint of the full text by email.

   (9) This immediate-deposit/delayed-OA compromise is the preferable
   one if the federal funding agencies do not have the extra cash,
   or are unwilling to pay publishers whatever amount they ask today
   (or to impose a capped amount of their own).

   (10) At the moment, institutional subscriptions are paying the costs of
   peer review. If/when subscription revenues were indeed ever to decline
   to unsustainable levels because of institutional cancellations, the
   institutional windfall savings from the cancellations would themselves
   be a natural candidate source for covering the peer-review costs of
   the institution's own researchers, rather than any arbitrary amount
   requested from federal research funders today -- especially as
   subscription decline would first generate pressure toward publisher
   cost-cutting, downsizing and readjustment to the new reality of OA
   publishing, and hence a more realistic, market-driven figure for the
   true costs of peer review (which publishers manage, but researchers
   themselves perform for free).

Stevan Harnad

> Springer's unexpected response to FRPAA
> I've learned --and Jan Velterop has confirmed-- that Springer has sent
> a letter to Sen. Susan Collins, chair of the Senate committee
> considering FRPAA, raising an unusual objection to the six-month
> embargo allowed by the bill. The letter argues that six months is too
> short to satisfy publishers and too long to satisfy researchers. In
> its place, Springer proposes a policy that would require full-text
> open access immediately upon publication --provided that the policy
> makes clear that publishing in peer-reviewed journals is an
> inseparable part of research and therefore that the funds for doing so
> (article processing fees) will be available to researchers as a
> special overhead on their publicly-funded research grants. The letter
> proposes that the new policy might be phased in after a short grace
> period to give publishers a chance to modify their business models.
> Permanent link to this post Posted by Peter Suber at 6/14/2006 12:54:00 PM.
Received on Thu Jun 15 2006 - 16:08:49 BST

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