Do Nature's Publishers Even Read Their Own Articles About Open Access?

from the funny-that dept

Just a few weeks ago we wrote about scientific publishing giant Nature’s somewhat abhorrent open access policy, where it’s telling researchers at universities that require open access publishing that they need to get a waiver from that policy. So it seems rather strange to see that very same Nature, just days later, publishing an article about open access, in which it talks about how two of the largest funders of scientific research today, Wellcome Trust in the UK and the National Institute for Health (NIH) in the US, are starting to punish grant recipients who don’t follow through on open access obligations. Both of those organizations require certain open access standards, but apparently have mostly just trusted researchers to follow through. Not any more:

Now they are done with just dangling carrots. Both institutions are bringing out the sticks: cautiously and discreetly cracking down on researchers who do not make their papers publicly available.

Neither agency would name those who have been sanctioned. But the London-based Wellcome Trust says that it has withheld grant payments on 63 occasions in the past year because papers resulting from the funding were not open access. And the NIH, in Bethesda, Maryland, says that it has delayed some continuing grant awards since July 2013 because of non-compliance with open-access policies, although the agency does not know the exact numbers.

The report notes that this has resulted in a “noticeable jump in researchers following the rules.” That makes sense.

Of course, nowhere in the Nature article does reporter Richard Van Noorden ever bother to mention that his own publication is fighting against those requirements. In fact, the article reads as if it’s a strong supporter of open access rules:

Some scientists are not even aware that they could be penalized. Nature‘s news team contacted Sheila MacNeil, a tissue engineer at the University of Sheffield, UK, who has published hundreds of articles, including a March 2013 paper on making stem-cell lattices for corneal repair that was funded by the Wellcome Trust (I. Ortega et al. Acta Biomater. 9, 5511–5520; 2013). Nature pointed out that the article should be open access but is not. “This is new to me,” responds MacNeil, who plans to make the paper available. “Agreeing with open access is easy — making it happen, less so,” she says.

Perhaps the Nature “news team” should take a look at how their own publisher is forcing researchers to ignore their open access obligations.

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Companies: nature, wellcome trust

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Comments on “Do Nature's Publishers Even Read Their Own Articles About Open Access?”

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Dustin (profile) says:

This doesn’t surprise me, though I’m glad to see that some universities are starting to actually enforce open access rules. I spent ten years in these corporate world before returning to college to continue my education. Before I returned I picked up and extremely technical hobby and constantly ran up against institutional firewalls when trying to access even the most basic journal articles on techniques and research. Since returning to college? Not so much, because my university pays for the fees.

As a result I find myself hoarding articles that are even of remote interest to my hobby, because I know that as soon as I’m no longer a student I won’t be able to afford to access them.

They say that the era of the independent scientist changing the world is over. What they don’t say is that is, in large part, because they’ve been priced out of the conversation unless they have the backing of large business’s or universities.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately, even the backing of large universities doesn’t mean as much anymore. Even wealthy Harvard has had to cut their academic journal subscriptions because their library budget couldn’t support the rising subscription costs.

A few years ago the American Chemical Society raised their prices 200% and promised yearly 15% after that. My university with only 2000 students (and 9 chem majors) was already paying almost $6000/year before the hike. Several other journals have raised their prices by 30-35% this year. Increases like that are depressingly common.

Richard Van Noorden says:

Hi ? I reported this story for Nature?s news team. to be clear, the news team ? the journalists ? write our stories independently of the policies of the journal and of its publisher, Nature Publishing Group. It may not be immediately obvious, but the publication Nature operates both as a ?journal? ? which publishes manuscripts ? and as a ?magazine? ? which has a separate team of reporters writing news and comment.

I?m commenting here because you wrote: ?nowhere in the Nature article does reporter Richard Van Noorden ever bother to mention that his own publication is fighting against those requirements?. Well, I didn?t mention it because it?s not true: the journal is not fighting against those requirements. If you publish a paper in Nature, it is easy to comply with the open access obligations set down by Wellcome Trust and NIH.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: from NPG

From your link:

If we do not request a waiver, the general language of this policy means that Duke University has the rights not only to archive the manuscript in Dukespace, but also to distribute and publish to the world at large the final version of a subscription article freely, in any medium, immediately on publication.

Correct me if I am wrong here, but isn’t that basically saying “We support Open Access, as long as it’s not TOO open.”

Doesn’t that also interfere with the author’s ability to publish their own work on their own websites after 6 months or is the waiver only for the six month period?

Dr. Asoka Misra says:

OA Publishing

Why worry about so many things at the same time ? Rather, leave the whole lot of difficulty at your back and just keep yourself busy with the RESEARCH that you like THE MOST by Quick & Hassle Free publishing in at almost NO cost. At the end of the day People will come to know your work by the strength of your findings and not really if it got published in a creamy Journal or not. Fortunately their days are now numbered whether you like it or not. Bright sun shine is now in favor of Scientists / Researchers due to the Global Media in this time of Global Village. Time is life and progress, therefore, let’s make the best use of the same without pondering too much into the debates of so many aspects of OA.

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