Nature Still Not Keen On U.S. Open Access Policies

Nature recently ran this editorial describing how U.K efforts in open access policies are doing three years after its government announced a push for so-called ‘gold’ open access for research results funded by the U.K. government.  This kind of open access would make a research article available for free immediately on publication.  The U.S. system is better characterized as a ‘green’ system, where free access is usually provided after an embargo and to a version of the article deposited in a repository.

The U.K. effort, like the U.S. effort, has had bumps along the road.  The first 16 months of the U.K. policy are covered in this review from the Research Councils U.K.  Released in late March, the report discusses the needs for effective evidence gathering in order to effectively measure compliance with and the impact of the policy.  This would allow for future discussion of how licences, embargos and other access considerations should affect the policy.  Additionally, there needs to be continued communication with stakeholders about the policy.  Confusion persists about what is expected in terms of compliance, data collection, and how to handle circumstances like collaborative work.

The Nature editorial staff is not keen on how the U.S. effort has unfolding, describing it as:

“[L]oitering with little intent, and mandating only delayed access to an author’s version of a peer-reviewed manuscript — a ‘green’ form of open access that ultimately benefits science less (see Nature 494, 401; 2013).”

Truly, the persistence of an embargo rankles many in the open access community.  The publisher-led CHORUS system is also not gold-friendly, and, at least to me, does not strike me as helpful in complying with the research data aspect of the U.S. Public Access Policy.  I would have liked to see the government push for a more uniform open access policy, one that does not maintain dependence on journal publishers that still resist opening access to research that they did not fund.  But I can’t deny that several agencies now have open access policies that didn’t before, and some of these policies follow the National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy and strike out on their own or intend to share the NIH repository.

But, as some in the U.K. remind me, open access is a journey, not a destination.


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