While “open access” is the more widely
used term, the government prefers the
term public access instead to distinguish
itself from the interest groups that advocate for open access, according to Salmon.
“The government puts emphasis on its
public responsibility versus its openness
responsibility,” he said.
There are two main reasons why
public access needs to exist, according to
Salmon. One of them is to increase the
diffusion of knowledge and, as a result,
accelerate discovery and innovation or
the common good. The second reason, he
explained, was stated most eloquently in
an editorial by The Economist 12 years
ago, which noted that when research
is funded by taxpayers or charities, the
results should be available to everyone
without charge. According to the magazine, academic journals were raking in
huge profits by selling content that was
supplied to them largely for free, and in
the process restricting public access to
valuable research to just those willing
and able to pay the subscription, which is
known to be costly.
“The answer to this, what The Economist termed ‘absurd and unjust situation,’
is simple—governments and foundations
that fund research should require that
the results be made free to the public immediately,” said Salmon. “The Economist
sets up nicely this debate of free access
immediately versus the interest and needs
of the publishing community to stay in
business, and it’s what the government
that is putting together public access programs have to take into account.”
Types of public access
There are two types of public access—
green and gold. With the more widely
used one—the green model—authors
deposit their final peer-reviewed, accept-
ed manuscript into an institutional or
centralized repository. The public access
is typically enabled after an embargo pe-
riod of 12 months. After that period, the
publication is freely accessible.
In the gold model—authors pay a fee
to publishers to make the article immediately available upon publication. The
fee varies from several hundred dollars to
several thousand, according to Salmon.
The payment of the fee is asked up front,
since it’s a way for publishers to regain
the publication costs without a subscription charge, because the article then
becomes accessible for even those without
a subscription. According to Salmon, the
government prefers the green model of
public access and adopted it immediately
four years ago.
In a memo on February 2013, John
Holdren, the director of the White House
Office of Science and Technology Policy,
told federal agencies to prepare plans to
make their research results free to read
within 12 months after publication.
“The Obama Administration is committed to the proposition that citizens
deserve easy access to the results of
scientific research their tax dollars have
paid for,” the memo said. The OSTP also
told agencies to maximize public access
to non-classified scientific data from
research they fund.
“Public access is a global movement
and most nations are following this so-
called green model,” Salmon added.
The DOE permits the gold model
where the author pays a fee as an option,
“We would rather stick with the other
model and save $90 million for further
research,” he added.
In large numbers, nations are choosing
either the exclusive green or a permissive
approach to the gold model, similar to
Salmon agreed that there is an argument for immediate access and foregoing
a year’s wait period, but it comes at a
considerable cost, and those two concerns should be taken into account and
While the 12-month embargo period has not been without controversy in
the publishing community, the medical
community is used to it and the scientific
community has been in large in collaboration and cooperation as well, he said.
“We believe the tradeoff—embargo in
exchange for free access and saving $90
million is worth it. I’s worked for NIH
for years,” said Salmon. “We’ve done the