Ivy Anderson and Jeff MacKie-Mason, who co-chair the team overseeing UC’s publisher negotiations strategy, have provided the following response to a recent open letter in which a number of commercial and society journal publishers voiced their opposition to a policy, rumored to be under discussion by the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, that would require federally funded research be made freely available to the public immediately upon publication, rather than within 12 months as current policy stipulates. 

The University of California believes the public should have access to publicly-funded research, freely and immediately upon publication. We are deeply disappointed in the decision by these societies and publishers to sign this letter, which opposes progress in that direction.

The letter also includes misleading statements such as:

  • The publishers write: “Under a legacy regulation that is still in force today, proprietary journal articles that report on federally funded research must be made available for free within 12 months of publication.” Characterizing journal articles as the “proprietary” intellectual property of publishers obscures the fact that they represent the work of individual researchers, which is often funded, at taxpayer expense, by government research grants. 
  • Moreover, current policy only requires free access to the pre-publication, author-owned manuscript within 12 months. There is no requirement to make publisher-owned versions freely available, ever.
  • The publishers also write: “In the coming years, this cost shift would place billions of dollars of new and additional burden on taxpayers.” The truth is that most current subscription payments to publishers already come from taxpayer funds that universities receive to cover their research infrastructure. Changing publishing, as proposed by UC, so that these institutions pay for publication services rather than for subscriptions does not increase taxpayer expenditure; it just repurposes those taxpayer dollars to pay for publishing in a way that allows the public to freely read the results, too.

We note that the signatories include some publishers with whom we, and others, are working to advance open access. Despite our strong disagreement with this letter, we hope that it will not stand in the way of substantive progress towards transformative open access agreements.

Publishers and research institutions need to work together to develop sustainable approaches to open access publishing. Each open access agreement advances that transition — not only by enabling public access to more research, but also by allowing open access publishing business models and workflows to be tested and refined. Transforming the way the publishing industry does business is complex, and those steps matter. 

If the Administration is indeed preparing to declare that federally funded research should be freely and immediately available to the taxpayers who paid for it, we can only applaud. In the meantime, UC looks forward to continuing to develop partnerships with any publishers who share our commitment to open access and are willing to work together to achieve those goals.

Learn more about how UC evaluates opportunities to partner with publishers on transformative open access agreements.

Ivy Anderson is the associate executive director of UC’s California Digital Library. Jeff MacKie-Mason is the university librarian and chief digital scholarship officer at UC Berkeley, where he is also a professor in the School of Information and a professor of economics. Anderson and MacKie-Mason co-chair UC’s Publisher Negotiation Task Force, representing the faculty senate’s University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC), the Council of University Librarians (CoUL), and the California Digital Library (CDL).


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