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2014 – A good year for Open Access publishing?

2014: The year is off to a good start for the Open Access movement. In the US, Congress passed legislation to require that all research funded by public funding bodies be freely accessibly, at least in the author’s final version and with a 12 month embargo after publication. (Peter Suber has a good summary of the legislation in his blog: http://goo.gl/Pmlkg1 ) Will this continue a trend started by the National Institute of Health and its public access database PubMedCentral (PMC –http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc ) to increasingly direct readers to the pre-typeset version of an article? Phil Davis of the Scholarly Kitchen ( http://goo.gl/fJq8Of ) found significant PMC traffic in 2012. The publishers have lobbied hard for these exemptions, but are they doing themselves a favor with this strategy? Might it not be the case that repositories such as PMC will increasing improve their ability to display these “raw versions” and therefore take on the role of the publisher in creating an attractive display for scientific writing? They might even do better than some publishers – see their PubReaderTM for example. So where does that leave the publishers? In many ways with the policy of releasing only the author’s final version they are putting pressure on the repositories to take on the role of publishers – and in effect making themselves obsolete. I predict that 2014 will continue to see a rise in ever more sophisticated repositories that publishers cannot afford to opt out of, but which increasingly call their role into question.

The rise of the preprint can be seen as one response to embargos with the potential to undermine the publisher’s role similar to the compromise of publishing the author’s final version. In the physical sciences arXiv ( http://arxiv.org ) has become so prominent that many never bother to “publish” their paper elsewhere and 2013 saw several new preprint servers for the life sciences enter the market (bioRXiv, figshare, PeerJ). Could it be that pushing authors to make their work public prior to peer review in order to avoid embargos could encourage new services which reveal the curating activities of the publishers as overvalued? My own project ScienceOpen – www.scienceopen.com , as well as F1000 Research, Libre and The Winnower are all new publishing services which are rethinking this function and offer publication paired with a public post-publication peer review. By lobbying for restrictions, the publishers have opened up the field for new experiments. I predict that we will see more new players in 2014.

The publishers fought hard to limit access to only the author’s final version 12 months after publication. Was it worth it?