Nature’s new position statement on open access

Nature Publishing Group (NPG) have just issued a new position statement on open access. It aims to give a useful of the company’s current activities in open access, and it sets out their policies and viewpoints with respect to open access.

Let’s face it, “self-serving press release” is a tautology.  The statement is a cunning mix of public relations and information.   To be fair to them, NPG do have  liberal policies permitting self-archiving and they have taken some bold steps, like establishing a full-OA journal and a high-level hybrid OA journal.  Last month they also added OA options to several of their academic journals. NPG have cooperated with UKPubMedCentral too and are working with the EU’s PEER project, which is looking into the effect of self-archiving on scholarly communication.

At the core of the statement though is NPG’s self-justifying mantra:  “one size does not fit all… Scholarly communication [is best] served by a mix of models”.  Hence, when discussing their own high-impact, low-acceptance rate journals NPG say that “it seems fairer to spread the costs across the large number of readers, rather than the much smaller number of authors”.  Note that they say “it seems” – in other words no evidence or rationale is provided, it is just an article of faith at NPG. Despite the recent discussion about submission charges these are barely mentioned.

It is interesting to note that there is no mention of last year’s controversy about the price increases charged to the University of California, beyond a veiled statement that “subscription prices can be controversial” and an assurance that NPG “keep prices as low as possible”.

On the other hand, another press release issued yesterday announced some new options for accessing NPG content. Articles from some journals are now available on the DeepDyve platform (see my post for more info about DeepDyve). Low cost access options are also now available on the nature.com iPhone app. Martin Fenner has welcomed both of these options, though takes issue with the pricing.

I was interested to read what the statement says about Nature Communications, NPG’s only Nature-branded open access offering:

It has a higher acceptance rate than other Nature titles, and accepts some manuscripts previously rejected by the Nature research journals (subject to independent editorial review). Along with digital-only publication, this reduces the costs per manuscript published, and so an APC of $5000 is viable. Nature Communications was born-hybrid, and currently 40% of its content is open access, much higher than most other hybrid open access journals at this time.

It had always struck me that Nature Communications was an uneasy compromise between high-impact (with the magic Nature brand in the title) and high-volume (necessary to keep the article charges reasonable).  It seemed to go against their mantra that OA is not possible for high-impact journals, and also seemed a tad hypocritical in view of their earlier comments on PLoS ONE (see also here and here).

The statement ends with its most interesting news, the announcement of another new launch:

In 2011, NPG will expand its open access publishing programme with the launch of Scientific Reports. This will be born-digital, fully open access (with Creative Commons non-commercial licences), with an acceptance rate significantly higher than Nature Communications. Scientific Reports will enjoy all the benefits of the nature.com platform, while offering authors the choice of a highly-affordable open access publishing option.

This looks very like NPG’s answer to PLoS ONE. I look forward to seeing reactions to this announcement.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we slip from print through to electronic information resources.
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6 Responses to Nature’s new position statement on open access

  1. Frank says:

    Martin Fenner has posted about the new journal, over at PLoS Blogs. He christens it Nature ONE! Haha!

  2. Grace Baynes says:

    LOL. Frank, it reminds me of your ‘Twitcher’ blog post 😉
    http://blogs.nature.com/franknorman/2009/03/31/journal-surprises

  3. Frank says:

    Grace – haha, yes! Further comments, including some from Cameron Neylon and Bjorn Brembs, are linked from here.

  4. rpg says:

    HAHA! I’d forgotten about ‘Twitcher’. Of course some, not a million miles from where I work, might readily embrace that model…

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