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Open Access at Springer

Despite some philosophical/moral issues, I do a fair amount of work with commercial publishers. I just was co-Program Chair for the CPAIOR conference, and was delighted to publish the conference volume in Springers Lecture Notes in Computer Science series (despite the fact that LNCS has been dropped from the ISI indexing). I am considering starting a journal with Elsivier. Overall, while I prefer journals offered by professional societies (like INFORMS), I recognize the role commercial publishers play in supporting a field.

Still, I was taken aback by Springer‘s “attempt” at open access when I recently had a paper accepted in Annals of Operations Research. I had the option to make the paper open access. Here is what I was offered:

Upon publication, your article will be available to all subscribers of this journal. If that is what you want, click the button ‘No Open Access’ below. However, if you want your article to be available to everyone, wherever they are, whether they subscribe or not, then you should publish with Open Access. Springer operates a program called Open Choice that offers authors the option of having their articles published with Open Access in exchange for an article processing fee. The standard fee is US$3000. If you want to order Open Access, please click the button ‘Yes, I order Open Access’ below.

Fascinating, and somewhat appalling (though I might feel differently if I was paying in euros). I wonder if they ever get anyone to take that choice. I actually now feel worse about publishing with Springer: I would rather they simply take the position that publishing with them involves a transfer of copyright than to be offered such terms. It looks to me that this is just an attempt to provide an “open access” veneer rather than a serious attempt to face the intellectual property issues of commercial publishing.

{ 7 } Comments

  1. Don Kleinmuntz | May 31, 2008 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I agree with your unease with Springer’s approach to open access. However, my comment is in response to something you mentioned, almost in passing: that you were considering starting a new journal with a commercial publisher (cue the Darth Vader theme music from the Star Wars series?).

    Before you go fully over to the dark side, I guess the question I have is whether you have considered proposing this project to INFORMS? One of my personal pet projects for the next few is to encourage INFORMS to encourage our capable, active, energetic membership to step forward and take the lead in proposing and developing new INFORMS journals. I think this could be an important and useful way to promote the growth and development of the field, and to stay competitive with the commercial publishers.

    Here is my rationale: If I look back over the last several decades of activities and decisions by INFORMS, I think that among the best decisions that we made were the decision to launch new journals, in the 80s with Marketing Science, Organization Science, Information Systems Research, and the Journal on Computing, which are all well established and respected journals. More recently, INFORMS launched Manufacturing & Service Operations Management and Decision Analysis, which probably both too young to call them “established” but are both doing well in attracting quality research.

    As a founding Editor of Decision Analysis, I am particularly conscious of the fact that in the two years following the launch of the journal in 2004, the INFORMS Decision Analysis Society, which sponsors the journal, DOUBLED in membership, during a time when overall INFORMS membership was essentially stable and most other INFORMS subdivisions either remained stable or lost members. The DA Society leadership has not been able to identify any cause other than the connection between the journal and the Society.

    Of course, I can’t guarantee that other INFORMS communities would see this kind of growth, but wouldn’t it be an interesting experiment to try to find out?

  2. Jim Till | June 1, 2008 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Springer provides both “Gold OA” (via Open Choice) and “Green OA” (via self-archiving) options. The “Green OA” option is, I believe, a much more cost-effective one than the “Gold OA” option. For information about the “Green OA” option, go to: http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo.php?colour=green

    On that webpage, search for “Springer”.

  3. Michael Trick | June 1, 2008 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Here is the text of what I can do in self-archiving:

    An author may self-archive an author-created version of his/her article on his/her own website. He/she may also deposit this version on his/her institution’s and funder’s (funder designated) repository at the funder’s request or as a result of a legal obligation, including his/her final version, provided it is not made publicly available until after 12 months of official publication. He/she may not use the publisher’s PDF version which is posted on http://www.springerlink.com for the purpose of self-archiving or deposit. Furthermore, the author may only post his/her version provided acknowledgement is given to the original source of publication and a link is inserted to the published article on Springer’s website. The link must be accompanied by the following text: “The original publication is available at http://www.springerlink.com“.

    All this seems pretty reasonable, and can be done at no charge.

  4. Louisville Interior Design | June 2, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Ouch, I sure wouldn’t pick that choice!

  5. Matthew Saltzman | June 3, 2008 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m generally a supporter of open source and open access, as a matter of principle. I’m not an expert on the publication business, but I probably know just enough to be dangerous as a result of volunteer involvement with INFORMS’s IT operation over the last several years.

    Running a quality publishing operation on any significant scale is not cheap, even if no paper copies are involved. The publisher needs to fund Internet access adequate for the traffic, servers and disk farms, day-to-day backups, reliable permanent archives, copy editors, typesetters, system admins, administrative personnel, graphic designers, and production people–not to mention profit. The only savings for electronic-only publications is printing and mailing, and some significant portion of that cost is replaced by IT infrastructure and support for new services.

    There are plenty of examples of e-journals that run on a shoestring, but they are generally not that large, they don’t necessarily participate in a global e-publication infrastructure, and they often benefit from hidden institutional subsidies (such as Internet access). They frequently are not as polished as professional operations.

    It seems to me that there are only a few large-scale models for sustaining a commercial publishing industry: reader (or reader’s institution) pays, author (or author’s institution) pays, or public/philanthropic funding. In a large-scale open-access world, only the latter two models apply (and I don’t believe the last is sustainable on a large scale in the US in today’s society, at least not in the form of direct payments to publishers).

    If OA was widely accepted, library subscription costs would be lower, and the savings might be used to fund the institution’s authors’ publication fees. Because it’s not, yet, the author charges tend to be born by the authors. Some institutions may help authors pick up the tab, and it might be permissible to charge author fees back to grants, but it’s not yet happening on a large scale–because OA isn’t yet a large-scale commercial model. (Converting from the current model to OA might be problematic for institutions. As subscription costs decline, there will need to be a recognition of the need to fund author fees instead of just cutting library budgets.)

    I don’t know enough to venture a guess about whether $3000 is an appropriate author fee. I do know that the pool of authors is small compared to the pool of readers, though, so the fixed costs will be amortized over a smaller group and the per-article costs won’t be amortized at all.

    Having said all that, I’m also somewhat uncomfortable with Springer’s offer. I don’t know if it is opportunism or a genuine effort to initiate an OA component to their products. I don’t know how the $3000 figure was arrived at or what it supports. And I don’t see this service as a path to a large-scale OA environment in commercial publishing. I’ve heard that some other publishers are offering similar deals on an experimental basis (and not widely publicized), and that the fee schedules are in the same ballpark as Springer’s.

    The self-archiving option seems reasonable (and makes me feel a little more charitable about Springer’s motivation), but it’s not quite what I think of when I think of an open access journal. The open version is not linked from the journal site, the journal version is not open, and it’s not exactly the same document (although that has advantages and disadvantages).

  6. Matthew Saltzman | June 9, 2008 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    BTW, I wrote this column on OA when I was INFORMS Online Editor in 2005.

  7. Irv Lustig | July 3, 2008 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Way back (and I mean way back) when I was a publishing faculty member, I remember having to pay fees to get paper reprints of articles. Isn’t the $3000 open access fee similar?