Publishers Hop on Board the Open Access Bandwagon
With momentum building for the open release of academic materials, the American Association of Publishers has offered up a new framework for a clearinghouse that could make open access to research data easier for the public.
With open data becoming an increasing concern in the world of research, a number of efforts have been made to ensure that everyone—researchers, publishers, and the public at large—is on the same page.
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) is now throwing its hat in the ring, unveiling an industry framework intended to make peer-reviewed material more publicly accessible.
The driver: The public eye turned to the topic of open access after technology activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide in January. The issue—something Swartz cared deeply about—became a particularly hot topic after the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy responded to the petition launched shortly after his death with a memo requiring large federal agencies to make research openly available on the web within a year of its publication. AAP backed the memo’s goal of access, but the association did not support the proposed Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act, a legislative effort that sought to mandate open-access policies for federal agencies.
The plan: To follow up on its prior statement of support, AAP last week announced the launch of the Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS), a framework for a potential partnership between the public and private sectors to offer access to peer-reviewed publications. The plan is to create “a streamlined, cohesive way to expand access to peer-reviewed articles reporting on federally funded research,” according to the statement from AAP. The effort, which the association says was worked on with a number of publishers and the nonprofit CrossRef, is a direct response to requests set out in the White House memo. By plugging into CrossRef’s international databases for scholarly publication metadata, ScienceMag’s Jocelyn Kaiser suggests the platform would be cheaper to implement than other proposed methods.
Are educators pleased? Reaction to the news about CHORUS was tentative and generally mixed, but there were some particularly negative responses. Writing about the initiative, University of California, Berkeley, biologist and Public Library of Science founder Michael Eisen suggests that the association has an inherent conflict of interest. “Given that the AAP clearly thinks that public access policies are bad for their businesses,” Eisen argues, “they would have a strong incentive to make their implementation of a public access policy as difficult to use and as functionless as possible in order to drive down usage and make the policies appear to be a failure.”
Meanwhile, Columbia University’s Rebecca Kennison, who leads the school’s Center for Digital Research and Scholarship, said it was too soon to fully judge the effort, but expressed concern that educational interests didn’t come first. “CHORUS addresses well the publisher piece of the infrastructure, but ignores almost entirely the rest of the research ecosystem,” Kennison told Library Journal.
The AAP’s announcement comes less than a month after the technology association IEEE launched a “mega-journal” intended to expand access to technology research.