Back in February, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memorandum to federal science agencies on public access for research results. Federal agencies with over $100 million in research funding have until August 22 to submit their access plans to OSTP. This access includes research publications, metadata on those publications, and underlying research data (in a digital format).
A collection of academic publishers, including the Association of American Publishers and the organization formerly known as the American Association for the Advancement of Science (publisher of Science), has offered a proposal for a publishing industry repository for pubic access to federally funded research that they publish. This would be a one-stop shop, rather than a collection of agency repositories along the lines of PubMed Central, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) repository for public access versions of research publications produced from NIH funded research. Besides directing traffic to publisher websites, the group believes that its proposal would cost less than a comparable federal system.
I have yet to find a description of the plan, called the ClearingHouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS), that hasn’t been issued by someone signed onto the program (as of this writing, most hits on a search engine for CHORUS and publishing describe an unrelated content management system). Of course they’re going to be positive about the idea, as it mitigates what they anticipate to be their losses from a public access repository that doesn’t link directly to their publications. [Insert preaching to the choir (or CHORUS) joke here…]
There appears to be a major hole in the proposal. It does not address the other part of the public access plans in the OSTP memo – digital research data. Now, this isn’t necessarily an oversight on the part of publishers, as they may not been in a position to deal (or interested in dealing) with research data not included in the articles they publish. But agencies are obligated to care, and the government may consider CHORUS insufficient unless it can operate with whatever systems are set up to handle digital research data. And that’s where cost savings, and an incentive to
prop up the scientific publishing industry support CHORUS, may well disappear.