Cornell Open-Access Publication Fund

Five universities — Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, and the U. of California at Berkeley — are participating in what is termed the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity. This is an agreement by the five institutions to pay reasonable publication charges for articles written by their faculty and published in fee-based open-access journals when other funding sources are not available. From Cornell University’s 15 September, 2009 announcement:

Cornell University Library and the Office of the Provost are contributing $25,000 each for a pilot program to pay publication fees in open-access journals for Cornell faculty, researchers, staff and students.

Most scholars receive no compensation for research papers they contribute to journals. But high subscription costs that pay for peer review management, editorial services and production can limit access to research. The current shift from the traditional print model of scholarly information dissemination to low-cost digital distribution has the potential to remove all access barriers to research.

“Open-access journals are scholarly journals that are available online to the reader without financial, legal or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the Internet itself,” said John Saylor, associate university librarian for scholarly resources and special collections. “Successful, highly regarded open-access publishers include BioMed Central and Public Library of Science, and there are more every day.”

To pay for their operating expenses, open-access journals look to sources of income other than subscriptions, such as foundation support, subventions, in-kind support and, increasingly, publication and submission fees (often called author fees). . . .

The Cornell Open-Access Publication (COAP) Fund will underwrite processing fees for scholarly peer-reviewed articles in open-access journals for which funds are not otherwise available. Cornell faculty, postdoctoral researchers, staff or student authors can apply for COAP funding of up to $3,000.

One thought on “Cornell Open-Access Publication Fund

  1. Fund Gold OA Only AFTER Mandating Green OA, Not INSTEAD

    (Full posting here)

    Underlying the proposed “Compact” is the usual conflation of the access problem with the affordability problem, as well as the conflation of their respective solutions: Green OA self-archiving and Gold OA publishing.

    Open Access (OA) is about access, not about journal economics. The journal affordability problem is only relevant (to OA) inasmuch as it reduces access; and Gold OA publishing is only relevant (to OA) inasmuch as it increases access — which for a given university, is not much (today): Authors must remain free to publish in their journal of choice. Most refereed journals are not Gold OA journals today. Nor could universities afford to pay Gold OA fees for the publication of all or most of their authors’ research output today, because universities are already paying for publication via their subscription fees today.

    Hence the only measure of the success of a university’s OA policy (for OA) is the degree to which it provides OA to the university’s own research article output. By that measure, a Gold OA funding compact provides OA to the fraction of a university’s total research output for which there exist Gold OA journals today that are suitable to the author and affordable to the university today. That fraction will vary with the institution, but it will always be small (today).

    In contrast, a Green OA self-archiving mandate provides OA to most or all of a university’s research article output within two years of adoption.

    There are 5 signatories to the Gold OA “Compact” so far. Two of them (Harvard and MIT) have already mandated Green OA, so what they go on to do with their available funds does not matter here, one way or the other.

    The other three signatories (Cornell, Dartmouth and Berkeley), however, have not yet mandated Green OA. As such, their “success” in providing OA to their own research article output will not only be minimal, but they will be setting an extremely bad example for other universities, who may likewise decide that they are doing their part for OA by signing this compact for Gold OA (in exchange for next to no OA, at a high cost) instead of mandating Green OA (in exchange for OA to most or all their research articles output, at next to no extra cost).

    What universities, funders, researchers and research itself need, urgently, is Green OA mandates, not Gold OA Compacts. Mandate Green OA first, and then compact to do whatever you like with your spare cash. But on no account commit to spending it pre-emptively on funding Gold OA instead of mandating Green OA — not if OA is your goal, rather than something else.

    Stevan Harnad
    American Scientist Open Access Forum

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