Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Content sharing is *not* open access and why NPG is committed to both

It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’ve been overwhelmed this week with the response to our announcement that we are enabling sharing of subscription content on nature.com. We anticipated that people would be interested, and hoped some of our readers and library customers would welcome it.  We want to help researchers share papers they are reading, and our goal was to make that easier.

This initiative has been welcomed by many, but it has also raised some concern and confusion.  Digital Science’s Managing Director, Timo Hannay, eloquently captures our intentions, and deals with some of the issues raised over on his blog post.

One of the most discussed aspects has been about open access. Open access, and NPG’s support for it, is such an important issue that we want to definitively address it here.

So that there is no confusion:

  • Nature Publishing Group is committed to supporting open access, open data and open research
  • That commitment is shared by Macmillan Science and Education (our parent company) and our sister organizations Digital Science and Palgrave Macmillan
  •  The content sharing initiative we announced this week is *not* open access
  • We continue to increase our OA options, from Nature Communications and Scientific Reports to our new Nature Partner Journals and much more.
  • We continue to encourage authors to self-archive, in line with our policy, and to help them to do so

This is not a step back from open access or an attempt to undermine it. We see content sharing as an additional offering to open access, not instead of it.

We’ve been active in open access since 2004 (more on that later), so we know that open access is a lot more than something being free to read.  But this can be confusing for the uninitiated. What’s the difference between “free” and “open”?

There is no better explanation than Peter Suber’s overview. But briefly, an open access article is free to all immediately on publication, and forever, and allows reuse and redistribution rights. To many, “open access” means licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY license. We offer CC-BY on all the open access journals and hybrid journals we own, and the majority of titles we publish on behalf of societies.

For authors and readers who want open access to research:

•       Nature Publishing Group publish 64 journals [http://www.nature.com/libraries/open_access/oa_pub_models.html] with an open access option (we publish just over 100 journals in total)

•       Our fastest growing journal is the open access Scientific Reports, publishing more than 7,000 papers to date in 2014

•       In 2013, 38% of the research we published was open access; we expect that to hit 50% in 2015

•       Nature Communications is to become our first Nature-branded fully open access journal in 2015

•       This year we launched Scientific Data, an open access publication to support open data and open science

•       We have launched more than 10 open access journals this year alone (including our rapidly growing Nature Partner Journals).

Authors can opt for a Creative Commons Attribution license on *all* our fully open access journals, and all NPG-owned hybrid journals

We have encouraged self-archiving of accepted manuscripts since 2005, and since 2008 have deposited thousands of manuscripts in PubMed Central on behalf of authors, free of charge. These are all in the PubMed Central open access subset, as we have licensed them for non-commercial text and data-mining. Where we do not deposit direct, we encourage authors to deposit their manuscripts in appropriate repositories as well as share the link to their research.

Content sharing is quite different – the 49 journals participating in this initiative are mostly available only to subscribers. We are offering something additional for subscribers at no additional cost, as an experiment, to learn how to meet the needs of researchers better. As Timo says, “everything you could previously do to access and share journal content you can still do today”.

We remain convinced that we are trying something new to help researchers collaborate, and provide the public with a way to read scientific content that has not been available to them before. We are very clear that this is complementary to, not an alternative to, our many open access and open research activities (in Boolean logic: “AND” not “OR”).

We welcome feedback and informed debate on whether this experiment is useful and interesting. We’re learning much from the criticism, although speaking honestly it is difficult for people here to see cynical motives ascribed to us, and our many open access developments disregarded in the heat of the debate.

We know that many people have read the Nature news piece on this topic. That is an editorially independent news piece, not an announcement. Our announcement is here. We have also published our guidelines, terms of use, and some videos to help explain.

Steven Inchcoombe, CEO of Nature Publishing Group and Palgrave Macmillan

Grace Baynes, Head of Communications, Nature Publishing Group and Palgrave Macmillan

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