I want to compliment the analysis done by Declan Butler in the Nature news blog about the open access shot heard round the world. I’m referring to the announcement that three top-shelf life science foundations– the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Wellcome Trust (WT), and the Max Planck Society (MPS)– are intending to fund the launch of a premier journal without an author processing fee (at least to start). Declan made many good initial observations and was honest with his reservations. Probably every open access blogger wants to add to the conversation and not parrot the insights of others.
I immediately thought of the European Research Council commitment to public access that set a guideline for a tolerable non-open embargo by publishers for EU-funded research at six months. The U.S. National Institute of Health Public Access Policy, well intentioned and certainly precedent setting, is nevertheless fixed for NIH funded research at a political compromise of 12 months. Two-thirds of this partnership are the leading foundation advocates for the benefits of open research knowledge in Europe. HHMI has also embraced the philosophy of public accessibility and in its Research Policies of freely available and down-loadable on-line research results within six months of publication. The assembled partnership for this endeavor seems to be on the same page, comfortable with the idea of using their not-for-profit ethos and funding capability to assert the merits of open knowledge for the needs of the research community and extend the boundaries of scientific knowledge that can be immediately accessible and inspire students and researchers anywhere. At least that is the goal.
The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2009 and 2010 was proposed twice in the U.S. Congress to move toward the a reduced non-open embargo of six months and expand the qualification of any research to all federal agencies that spend more than US$100 million in extramural research, including the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Energy, to name a handful granting agencies. The Senate version of the bill was “Read twice and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.” The House version of the bill was re-introduced in 201o and “Referred to the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives. “ The general paralysis of our federal legislature has drawn attention away from both the merits of expanding public access in the U.S. and the notion of parity on public access with a European counterpart. But now three not-for-profit organizations, unencumbered by politics, are making a statement about non-governmental advocacy.
We live within a global scientific community and communication network. As a statement of global open scientific knowledge solidarity, the announcement of this future journal returns attention in the life sciences world to the practical merits of open knowledge. And a shudder must be felt among publishers, not so much at the most credible open access pioneers with unquestionable commitment to peer review, but among commercial publishers that were relying on their own status or credibility to launch gold open access options while maintaining traditional submissions from scientists that still considered an accepted publication as a golden ticket, regardless of their ability to share it or whether they owned the copyright or how much their library paid for electronic access to that journal. I foresee a noticeable uptick in interest to understand open access publishing options in the life sciences and also understanding qualitative factors among a growing variety of open access publishing choices.