All posts by Pat Thibodeau

Update on Public Access to Research

Several new developments are happening in terms of supporting public access to research within the United States.  One comes from a granting agency (HHMI) and the other is new language in current legislation before Congress.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) just announced that it will require its scientists to publish their original research articles in scientific journals that allow the articles and supplementary materials to be made freely accessible in a public repository within six months of publication.   This policy expands upon the current policy requiring HHMI investigators to share published research materials, databases, and software in a timely and useful manner.The new policy applies to all manuscripts submitted on or after January 1, 2008 where an HHMI investigator is the major author.  What’s a major author?  If the HHMI scientist is listed first or last on a paper, or is designated the corresponding author, than the HHMI investigator is considered the major author.  However, HHMI strongly encourages all its investigators and collaborators, whether or not the major author, to comply with the public access policy.For those in the biomedical sciences, PubMedCentral (PMC) developed by NIH and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is the designated free digital archive.  If the article is in a journal outside biological sciences, then deposit must be made in a comparable repository within 6 months.To help authors with this process, HHMI has entered an agreement with Wiley Publishers for uploading manuscripts to PubMedCentral, paying Wiley a fee for each upload.  This goes into effect as of October 1.  In addition, the American Society of Hematology, publisher of Blood, has extended its open access option to HHMI authors as of October 1, 2007.

 NIH Policy may become Mandatory

The other big development is the inclusion of language in the House and Senate bills for the 2008 NIH appropriations that would require the submission of research articles funded by NIH to PubMedCentral within 12 months after their appear in a journal.  This would make the current NIH policy mandatory and sets the submission deadline of no later than 12 months after publication.  Publishers have already started experimenting with NIH on submitting author manuscripts directly to PubMedCentral on behalf of researchers. 

This has been a long awaited change to the NIH Public Access Policy.  The Public Access Working Group and the NLM Board of Regents recommended mandatory submission over a year ago, and numerous library and consumer groups have been advocating for this language to be include in the NIH 2007 appropriations and reauthorization bills.   

Watch this blog for more information when the final bill is passed and NIH issues its new policies and procedures.

Publishing Mergers –Not Good for the Market or Libraries

The consolidation of the publishing industry through mergers and acquisitions has caused quite a few concerns for libraries and universities.  Economists who are studying this market have found that it does not act like the market for most common goods.

 The academic journal market is very inelastic — there are no perfect substitutes for a scholarly journal.  Each journal has its own unique content and emphasis.  For example, an academic health sciences library needs to subscribe to both PEDIATRICS and JOURNAL of PEDIATRICS; it would be difficult, if not impossible, to rely on just one of these publications.  

 When a large publisher buys a smaller one, it can raise the cost of subscriptions and libraries still have to purchase the subscription.  Historically, prices have increased after mergers and acquistions.

As a publisher increases the number of titles, the library begins to pay more and more to that publisher instead of several smaller ones.  With the creation of “big deal”,  discounted packages of all or a portion of the publisher’s journals, a library can be faced with spending all its funding on a few big packages and not having money to purchase journals from smaller publishers.  Acquiring new titles to support facult and students becomes more and more difficult since funds are tied up by these big deals.

With consolidation and larger market shares held by a few publishers, it also becomes more difficult for a competitor to enter the market. 

The library community through the Information Access Alliance has been working with antitrust lawyers and economists to study the dynamics of mergers on the marketplace.  They have also been alerting the US Department of Justice to the potential impact of current and future mergers.  Read their special report Publisher Mergers: A Consumer-Based Approach to Antitrust Analysis to find out more about the impact on the marketplace.  There is also a document describing the most recent acquisition of Blackwell Publishing (a publisher of society journals) by Wiley. 

If you are a member of a journal editorial board that is involved in a merger or acquisition, you may want to ask whether this is not only good for the journal, but also good for academic access to information.