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Cancer patients are taxpayers, and JCO could afford an open access experiment

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The Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO), published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology(ASCO), is considered a top shelf medical journal, ranked 4th for impact in oncology by the current Journal Citation Reports.  JCO follows the historical standard of requiring assignment of author’s copyright to the publisher upon article acceptance.  Authors submit manuscripts with the understanding that, if accepted, the copyright of the article, including the right to reproduce the article in all forms and media, shall be assigned exclusively to ASCO. Posting articles on institutional repositories is prohibited.

The leadership of JCO certainly believe in their mission and want their journal to remain respected and useful to the clinical oncology research community. Here’s how they tell it, in very nice suits.

From the medical library viewpoint, the 2010 cost for a JCO institutional subscription is somewhere in the middle, neither cheap nor expensive, though some hospital libraries would be hard pressed to pay:

What if you are at a hospital that cannot afford a subscription to JCO?  To view a full-text article without a subscription, you can purchase access to the article for 24 hours at a cost of $19.00 per article.

By the way, ASCO had an extremely good year in 2009, ending up with a $7,800,000 surplus and net assets of nearly $50,000,000:

Excerpt from ASCO 2009 Annual Report

Yes, cancer care and research is big business. Now, before you start to think that those ASCO assets are going into ASCO-sponsored scholarships and research funding, you should be reminded that  there is an independently-operated ASCO Cancer Foundation which raises research funds and distributes grants and scholarships.

So what does the ASCO do with a $7,800,000 surplus and net assets of nearly $50,000,000?

According to the video you might have just watched above, their flagship journal JCO wants to be “the one journal that every hematologist/oncologist has to read.” So what if the cost of that journal’s subscription prevented some hematologist/oncologists in certain hospitals from reading it?  I bet there are plenty of oncologists that understand the critical nature of their research findings and would be willing to use a portion of their grant funding to publish in author-fee based open access journal, the more prestigious and noticed by colleagues, the better. PLoS gold open access has made this point.

My modest proposal is that ASCO use some of its prosperity to fund an experiment in gold open access and test the waters for those that are willing to pay for universal access to their results.  Perhaps even price this gold experiment with the additional waiver of copyright assignment and permission to place the paper on an institutional repository.

There are certainly many major publishers that are trying to maintain revenue while testing the waters of the rising tide of open access with a model such as this.

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Wed, July 28 2010 » Uncategorized

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